Nice weather drives people outside. It also brings more dogs outside; thus, increasing the chance of possibly being the victim of a dog bite.
Each year, approximately five million dog bites occur in the United States, nearly 50 percent of which are unprovoked according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Dr. David Ray of Perry Creek Animal Hospital listed a few reasons a dog will bite.
"Fear. Being backed into a 'corner,' kind of a fight or flight attitude. Pain. Poor boundaries of behavior set by the owner when dog is a puppy or the dog is trained to bite," he said.
Most often, a biting dog is a product of poor ownership, Ray stressed.
"Now there are always a few dogs that are just poor dogs to own due to their own behavioral issues," he said. "These are the type of dogs that the 'Dog Whisper' is so famous for."
Ray has an edge in the veterinary profession. Those trained in that vocation soon learn what to be watching for when a dog might be considering an attack.
"Watch the eyes. Curling lips. Head turning away and down," he said. "What is the tail doing? Listen for the low growl. Are you a threat to them? What is your body language like?"
Contrary to popular belief and a city council ordinance on pit bulls, Ray felt certain breeds are not prone to more biting.
"The smaller the dog, the less severe the bite usually is," he said. "But small dogs bite more than bigger dogs. You should know your breeds and how they behave."
If you're walking down the street and a dog approaches you, how you react will depend on the dog's behavior, Ray said.
"If the dog is just walking along with tail wagging and head up, let the animal approach you at its pace," he said. "Allow them to sniff the back side of you hand. If tail and head are still up, then you may slowly pat or stroke the top of the head and behind the ears."
If a dog seems to be thinking about coming after you, walk, don't run, Ray recommended.
"Walk toward a safe place or to an object of protection," he said. "Never run! That is like giving the dog permission to chase and bite."
Siouxland plastic surgeon Dr. Kelly Gallego with Tri-State Specialists, LLP in Sioux City has joined the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) efforts to educate pet owners on the prevention and impact of dog bites.
"I treat one to two dog bite injuries each month just from the area," he said. "While some are relatively minor, other cases are much more serious, requiring multiple procedures and leaving patients and families emotionally traumatized."
Fortunately, fatal attacks are extremely rare. However, dog bites can occur anywhere on the victim’s body. Children sustain more injuries to the head and face while adults typically experience injuries to the upper extremities. Gallego estimated some 30,000 victims nationwide will require reconstructive surgery this year alone to repair injuries sustained from dog bites.
“It is important that victims seek immediate medical attention," Gallego said. “Educating dog owners is vital to decreasing the number of dog attacks."
Ray echoed those sentiments.
"It is important to understand that it's the owner of the animal that is totally responsible for what that animal does," he said. "Owning a pet is a responsibility. It isn't a right."
It's also an entirely different situation if one's family pet becomes aggressive, Ray pointed out.
"A owner should never be fearful that their dog will bite," he said. "If they are, they need to question their training techniques or the type or temperament of the dog they own."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story had the wrong name for Perry Creek Animal Hospital. It has been corrected in this version.