A recent headline in one of our trade journals reads: “AVMA, Postal Service Join Effort to Prevent Dog Bites.” Although this brings to mind an almost comical image of a mail carrier being nipped at by the family dog, anyone who has been bitten, myself included, knows this is no laughing matter.

Two stats from this article are worth noting. Medical expenses for the 5,669 postal employees that were bitten in 2010 amounted to $1.2 million. And one-third of homeowners claims in 2010 were for dog bite-related injuries, costing $413 million!

My two most memorable bites were early in my career. The first was at a clinic where I was volunteering as a teenager. I was holding a large shepherd for an injection, and he whipped around a grazed my shoulder. It didn’t do much damage but seeing how easily my face could have been damaged gave me a healthy appreciation of adequate restraint and the ability to read body language.

The second was a little terrier that I knew was a biter. She seemed relaxed so I carelessly reached into the cage and she bit me right through my fingernail. That little gift from her stayed with me for a good three months!

Biting is one of the most difficult behaviors to correct. Proper socialization and temperament testing can go a long way, so start early with your own pets and educate yourself and your children about approaching other dogs. More in this AVMA brochure.