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Dog Bite Prevention Week highlights responsibilities of owners

Dogs are responsible for more than 4.5 million attacks each year. In Maryland, children between the ages of five and nine are most vulnerable to these vicious encounters. Additionally, more than 5,500 postal workers are targeted in dog bite attacks annually.

With this week being marked as Dog Bite Prevention Week, dog owners should be reminded about being responsible pet owners, with an emphasis on the importance of keeping other people safe around their animals.

In many cases, dog attacks are preventable. If the dog owner is willing to provide the dog with proper training, then it is possible that most dangerous dog incidents would not occur.

Obedience training can help teach dogs to behave appropriately around other people, and help owners understand how to control their dogs. Obviously, by teaching a dog to socialize well and by meeting the dog's needs, the dog will be less likely to bite someone.

On the other hand, dog owners should be aware that if they leave their dogs alone for a long period of time or if the dog is left caged in or chained up, then dogs are much more likely to become aggressive.

Once a dog shows a history of aggressive behavior, that dog should be removed from any home with children or other susceptible individuals. Spaying or neutering a dog can also help to lessen aggressive behavior, but any behavior of that kind should be a cause for concern.

Even if a dog has never shown a tendency toward aggressive behavior, it is very important never to leave an infant or a toddler alone with a dog for any length of time in order to prevent a serious or fatal dog bite attack.

Above all, this week is a reminder that dog owners are ultimately responsible for the behavior of their dogs. No one should have to worry about another person's dog committing an unprovoked attack. With that said owners should do what they can to mitigate a dog's propensity to behave aggressively or restrain their pets whenever necessary. Owning a dog can be a tremendously rewarding experience, but it also carries a significant amount of responsibility.

Source: The Oregonian, "Dog Bite Prevention Week a good reminder to teach children safe behavior," Monique Balas, May 22, 2012

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