Woods Humane Society offers safe dog handling tips

National Bite Prevention Week runs from April 10-16

– In honor of National Bite Prevention Week April 10-16, the Woods Humane Society has created a series of tips to help new dog adopters and the general public avoid the risk of dog bites. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and the most common victims are children.

“Our staff take great care in handling our dogs safely and in advising new adopters on how to handle them safely,” says Neil Trent, CEO of the Woods Humane Society. “However, on rare occasions, bites do occur after a dog is adopted. Often these cases are unintentionally triggered by common human actions that may seem harmless, but actually cause a fear response in many dogs. .

To help the SLO County community avoid these unnecessary risks and interact safely with newly adopted dogs, the Woods Dog Behavioral Training team recently shared a series of short videos and these five tips for safe dog handling. dogs.

1. Leave the leash on

A little known fact to new adopters is that grabbing a dog by the collar can be dangerous. Woods behavior training coordinator Eric Stockam says dogs can be sensitive to being touched or grabbed near the neck, so when people unknowingly reach out to stop unwanted dog behavior, they could put their hand at risk. For this reason, he recommends leashing the dog, even in the house, when you begin to work on behaviors such as barking, jumping on furniture, or getting into the trash or litter box. With this technique, dog owners can safely and easily make corrections and gently lead dogs away from distractions and mischief, without grabbing dogs by the collar.

2. Cookies for passkeys

As new owners get to know their new dogs, behavior training manager Michelle Rizzi says they can start working to desensitize their dogs to collar grabs and neck sensitivities. She demonstrates this by simultaneously offering the dog a cookie or other highly rewarding dog treat while gently and gently touching the dog near the neck or collar. Over time and with practice, the dog will begin to associate the touch of the collar with positive interactions so that an owner can safely grab the collar when needed, rather than leaving the dog on a leash at all times. moment.

3. Let lying dogs lie

For dogs that are new to the family or completely unfamiliar, Stockam says it’s wise to refrain from approaching them when they’re lying down, asleep, or even rolled on their backs. He explains that while the dog may show his belly to you in order to receive a tummy massage, this position is also a sign of submission, which means the dog may be trying to signal that he doesn’t want a confrontation with you. To be sure, he says to call the dog over to you and wait for him to get up and walk for a pet — at his own pace.

4. A warning about head tapping

Dogs don’t like to be surprised, even if we mean well and just try to pet them. To avoid spooking them, Rizzi says to keep in mind what dogs can and can’t see. Petting dogs on the top of their head blocks their eyes and can seem annoying or even threatening to some dogs. To be safe and sensitive to your dog’s feelings, let him sniff your hand before petting under your chin. Also, avoid approaching or reaching out to pet a dog from behind (which could startle the dog), or petting or pulling on the dog’s tail.

5. Hugs and kisses are for humans.

Although many people love their pets as members of the family, Rizzi reminds pet owners that dogs and cats don’t show affection the way humans do. Hugs, which are a sign of love and kindness between people, are like restraints to dogs and can lead to avoidable bites. Likewise, kissing, which involves placing your face very close to a dog’s mouth and teeth, is uncomfortable and potentially threatening to the dog, and therefore reckless and dangerous to the person. Instead, Rizzi recommends using rewards, verbal praise, and gentle pets under the chin to show a dog you care.

The organization also helps publicize a free coloring book, created by the California Department of Public Health and available for download from Woods’ website. The booklet contains information on dog safety, body language, etc., to help children understand how to stay safe around dogs.

For more information on safe handling and preventing dog bites, Woods recommends contacting his training department directly. For educational opportunities for youth and families to learn about animal handling and safety, contact the Humane Education department.

For more information, visit www.WoodsHumane.org or call (805) 543-9316. Woods Humane Society is located at 875 Oklahoma Ave., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405 and 2300 Ramona Rd., Atascadero, CA 93422.