While Placer County Animal Services doesn’t track the number of animals bitten by dogs, the county department recorded 499 dog bites to people in Placer County. And Animal Services responded to 353 calls for services in 2017.
Any stray dog behaving in an aggressive manner has the potential to bite, according to Placer County Animal Services manager Katie Ingram.
Just last week, there were reports of aggressive dogs running through a Lincoln Hills neighborhood. In Roseville, near Auburn Boulevard, a 70-pound dog pounced on a neighbor’s leashed 20-pound dog and its owner on a walk one block away. The attacking dog bit the smaller dog three times and crushed his tissue, nearly killing the dog, and knocking down the owner trying to protect his pet.
Attacks by aggressive dogs happen frequently throughout Placer County.
“On average, we see a few cases a week of a dog bitten by another dog,” said Dr. Christina Venable from Sterling Pointe Veterinary Clinic in Lincoln. “Some bites are minor, some are very severe.”
Those cases are from dogs bitten throughout the county.
Anyone trying to separate a dog from its attacker will probably be bitten too.
“Dog bites can be very serious, especially to the hands/arms,” Venable said “Use an object nearby to try to separate the dogs. If your dog is attacked by another dog, seek medical care right away.”
Fortunately, dog bites can be prevented though training, according to the animal experts.
“The single most important thing that any dog owner can do is attend a training class with their dog and practice the skills learned on a regular basis. Dog training not only helps the dog learn basic skills but it allows the owner to control their dog when out on a walk or meeting new people and animals,” Ingram said. “Additionally, owners can learn a lot about their dog during training (do they like other animals, strangers, kids, etc.) so that they can be prepared for how their dog might react in certain situations. It is important for an owner to have control over their dog and to not put their dog in situations where they may react out of fear, insecurity, aggression, etc.”
Venable also recommends training for all ages, as early as when a puppy finishes its vaccine series.
“Early training and socialization helps the puppy be exposed to various situations and other dogs, which helps with developing a stable dog that is less likely to attack another dog,” Venable said. “The trainer can recognize early red flags with a behavioral disorder and work with you and your pup to help correct that behavior. Some of these red flags can be growling at other dogs or fearful reactions to new stimuli. Neutering at the appropriate age can also help decrease potential aggression.”
Training is also recommended for anyone adopting an older dog with an unknown history.
“Again, getting the new dog into training is key. The trainer will be able to evaluate temperament and work with you and the dog to help correct any fearful or aggressive behaviors. There are several trainers in the area that have special classes just for reactive/fearful dogs,” Venable said. “Sometimes aggressive behavior can be more than a trainer can correct. In this case, we recommend seeing a behaviorist. They have more specialized training and can employ the use of medications to help balance the dog’s mental state while in training. A behaviorist can do further temperament testing to see what underlying triggers the dog has and how to work to change the behavior.
Both Venable and Ingram urge dog owners to be proactive with their dogs.
“If you know you have a reactive or fearful dog, be mindful about taking them out in public where they are likely to be exposed to other dogs,” Venable said. “Being proactive about your dog’s behavior can go a long way to preventing a bite.”
Being proactive also means owners keeping their dog on a leash at all times when out in public, Ingram said, and sometimes placing their dog in a separate area of the house when guests visit.
“Some dog bites occur because dog owners push their dogs into situations where the dog is not comfortable (i.e. meeting new dogs, kids, strangers, etc.) and the situation could be avoided by better reading your dog’s body language and being OK with them not having to participate in every meeting,” Ingram said. “Some dogs bites also occur when dogs get loose and people who mean well attempt to pick up or capture a stray dog. In these situations, it is best to try to confine a dog to a fenced yard (where no other pets or people are present) instead of trying to touch or grab them. Animal Control officers can also be called to safely handle the dog.”
Placer SPCA’s Behavior Department coordinator Meghan Oliver gave two factors for a dog’s behavior: genetics (nature) and nurturing.
“The hard part is knowing what’s nature and what’s nurturing. If it’s something that’s genetically programmed in them, you might not change DNA but you can modify the behavior to make it lessened,” Oliver said. “If it’s something learned, that might be easier to be trained. There are quite a number of obedience trainers. The really important thing in finding the right trainer is to interview them like you’d interview a nanny for your children or loved one.”
For a list of certified behavior consultants in the area who deal with aggressive dogs, Placer SPCA representatives recommend the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants’ website at iaabc.org or American College of Veterinary Behaviorists’ website at dacvb.org.
Legal ramifications for an owner and a biting dog
What Placer County Animal Services does with dogs that bite depends on the circumstances of the injury and who was bitten, according to Ingram.
“If the bite was on another animal and the bite was minor and the pet was on leash or on their property, we may only take a report and educate the owner on safe animal interactions,” Ingram said.
“If the bite was on another animal and the bite was severe, we may pursue a Potentially Dangerous or Vicious Animal Designation as outlined in Placer County Code 6.08.030 and 6.08.040 and we will document and investigate the instance,” Ingram said. “If the bite on another animal occurs off of an owner’s property and the biting dog is off leash, we will also cite the owner and ensure that they are in compliance with licensing.”