Frannie Says: April 9-15 is National Dog Bite Prevention week.


We’ve all heard the stories and, while dog bites can be serious, most are completely preventable. No breed is more or less likely to bite than any other. Contrary to myths about breeds like Pit Bulls, Bull Terriers, Bullmastiffs, etc., any dog can bite, even dogs you’re familiar with. (By the way, the French Bulldog, who recently surpassed the Labrador Retriever as America’s newest favorite dog, is a member of the “bully breed” group.)

Many things can lead a dog to bite a human. Dogs commonly bite as a defense mechanism, often as a reaction to a stressful situation. Dogs who are scared, threatened or defending their territory, a toy or their food are the most likely to bite. Dogs who are in pain as a result of an illness or injury are more likely to bite as well, regardless of their typical behavior.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), almost half of dog bite victims are children, and children are far more likely to be severely injured by a dog bite. These injuries can occur during everyday activities, even while interacting with familiar dogs.

Bite prevention takes many forms and starts by encouraging healthy behavior as early as possible in a dog’s life. As a pup parent, it is your job to socialize them as much as possible by introducing them to different types of dogs, people, and environments from an early age. Take them on a walk where all dogs are on leashes; go to a dog training class; take your pup to doggy daycare or introduce them to neighborhood kids while on a leash and supervised. It’s also important to remember not to play with your pup in ways that may encourage defensive behavior, like tug-of-war.

Being a responsible pup parent goes beyond socialization. You know your dog best and understand your pup’s stress tolerance better than anyone else. Learn to read your dog’s body language and recognize when they are stressed. Don’t put your pet in situations that are likely to trigger defensive behavior due to stress. Like people, all dogs are different. Not all dogs like to cuddle all the time. Not all dogs like other dogs, and not all dogs like children. Do not risk a dog bite by pushing them out of their comfort zone without proper training.

Your dog should always be on a leash in public. This is true for even the best-trained and best-behaved dogs. Remember, just because you know and trust your own dog’s behavior, you cannot control how another person or dog may react to your off-leash pooch. Additionally, off-leash pups in public can also interfere with service dogs and prevent them from performing their essential duties.

Teaching your child to respect all dogs’ personal space and autonomy, and to only approach and pet a pup with their owner’s permission, is essential to reducing the risk of getting bit. Remind children to never pet or play with a pup while the dog is eating or if they appear to be injured. Also, children and adults alike should be reminded never to try and remove something from a dog’s mouth, even a toy. Young children should never be left unattended with a dog, even your family pooch.

Don’t wait for an accident to happen. If your dog displays any form of aggressive behavior towards anyone or another dog, seek help immediately from a qualified expert. Your veterinarian may have resources for trusted professionals in your area. Remember, a dog bite can be just as dangerous for the biter and bitee. Prevention keeps everyone safe!

Downtown Dogs daycare and boarding is a great tool for keeping your dog’s social life active and introducing them to a variety of other pups. Downtown Dogs proudly welcomes dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes—because we know these variables are not the only factors in determining pup personalities. We have four, spacious playrooms (as well as individual options) so dogs with compatible energy levels, play styles, and temperaments can spend time together. Drop in for daycare anytime! Your pup can stay for an hour or two or for the whole day. No reservations required for daycare after an initial evaluation.

The advice provided is based on many years of experience as dog parents and operators of one of the largest and longest established dog daycare and boarding facilities in the Twin Cities. Always consult your veterinarian. When not sharing advice, our dog bloggers — Frannie, Lyle, and Helen — share a space with their people, Downtown Dogs owner Ralph Bernstein and his wife, Abbe.