Two viscous dog attacks in both ends of the state last week have animal experts on alert. One happened in Marion County, seriously injuring an 11-year-old boy, and another near Memphis killed a five-month-old boy and his two-year-old sister.
With those attacks in mind, we met with a local veterinarian and a dog trainer to find some ways pet owners can keep themselves and their dogs safe.
While each dog breed is different, they all have the tendency to bite.
Even if your dog is naturally be more aggressive or high-energy, there are signs to look for and training techniques to consider.
“Lips kind of pulled back, ears back and tight, really tensed kind of crouched, all those things say ‘hey, I am not comfortable in this situation, please don’t push me,'” said Marisa Shulman, veterinarian .
Marisa Shulman is the medical director and veterinarian for Riverview Animal Hospital. She says there are a lot of stereotypes around dog breeds, including pitbulls, which is the breed involved in both attacks last week.
“I will tell you, dog bites can happen from any breed. Pure breeds, mixed breeds, well breed, poorly breed — I mean it can happen across the board,” said Shulman.
Local dog trainer John Hayes agrees with with Shulman, saying one of the most important things an owner can do is be aware of your pet’s behaviors.
Pay attention to their body language when introducing them to other people or other dogs.
“Showing a tooth… growing, maybe shying away and hiding behind you, and when that happens, its time to go. They’re just asking you to give them some space,” said Hayes, Owner of The Dog Wizard.
Shulman and Hayes tell us using physical punishment on a dog to correct behavior is not the answer.
“If there are loud noises, or there is some physical punishment, that can often make that anxiety and that need to retaliate worse,” said Shulman.
Instead, Hayes suggests rewarding pets through positive training and giving them outlets to release their energy, like playing fetch or going on regular walks. But understanding how your pet tends to act around other people and dogs will let you know their limitations.
“Don’t go to the dog park on a beautiful Sunday and say ‘oh my dog doesn’t like other dogs, but I’m just introducing them.’ Just throwing them out there, that’s really overwhelming and can be super dangerous,” said Shulman.
Shulman reiterates each dog is different, but encourages owners to reach out to the American College of Veterinary Behaviorist.
There is a team of vets there who can help answer any and all questions about your pet.