In 1989, Denver banned pit bulls within the city after they attacked 20 people between 1984 and 1989. While that may have seemed to be the ultimate way to prevent dog attacks, currently, the residents are learning that dogs will bite for different reasons, regardless of the breed. Therefore in early February 2020, even The Denver City Council voted to pass a bill that would repeal the pit bull ban. Unfortunately, Mayor Michael Hancock said in his good conscience, he could not overturn the law; thus, he vetoed it because he would be doing a disservice to Denver’s residents if ever one was harmed. So how come even without the pit bulls Denver is still experiencing a 200% increase in dog bites? Read on to find out.
The pandemic is to blame
Denver reported 47 cases of dog bites in March 2019. The number went up to 141 in March 2020, which Lieutenant Josh Rolfe of The Denver Animal Association has tried explaining as being due to the stay-at-home order. We have assumed that our pets are enjoying the extra attention we are giving them now that we have no choice but to stay at home, but Josh reasons that it is to our downside too. According to him, the dogs are biting those they are mostly in contact with, not strangers.
Strangely, even if they are biting familiar people, the dogs are being quarantined at home, with the same people they are attacking, but away from other dogs and strangers. Before you start pointing fingers at pit bulls, because there are still some in Denver despite it being illegal, according to 9News of the 518 dog bites reported in 2019, 54% were from Labrador retrievers. German Shepherds followed closely at 49%, and the pit bulls came in fifth at 38%.
Nevertheless, we cannot make a case for pit bulls because other reports show that they are the top three of breeds that inflict level 4 and 5 injuries, which are the most severe. Level 4 bites are those that include 1-4 punctures from a single bite, with one puncture going as deep as more than half the length of the canine tooth. Level 5, on the other hand, includes many bites with at least two level 4 bites. With such statistics, it is no wonder that Denver is not the only state that banned pit bulls; in countries such as New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Canada, and France, among others, the dog breed is illegal.
Why do dogs bite?
It is not because Denver’s residents are now spending more time with their dogs that the canines feel the need the bite. Unless a dog is sick, every time he bites, there is a reason behind it. Usually, as much as we want to give them attention, even dogs need some time alone, and if they feel you are not backing down, they will force you to retreat by biting you. Therefore respect their personal space.
Also, being unable to understand your dog’s language will make simple tasks such as putting away their beddings to be interpreted as taking something they highly value, and they will be aggressive. Matter of fact is even staring at your dog for long may appear to be inviting them to a confrontation, and they will defend themselves the best way they know how, which is by biting. For this reason, if your dog suddenly seems uncomfortable around someone, it is advisable to keep a distance between him and that person.
In other cases, it could be due to their health; therefore, if your friendly dog becomes unpredictably hostile, have him tested for heart disease. Additionally, if you have too many dogs competing against one another, that aggression will most likely be directed towards you. Besides, an animal in pain will react by biting, so even if you want him to move out of the way, be gentle.
How to prevent dog bites
It is better to be safe than sorry, so instill some discipline in your pet by training him from as early as possible. You can start by letting him get used to different sounds so that noises do not cause him to fear and react by biting. Also, allow your canine to socialize with diverse groups of people from children to the elderly and disabled, so no one spooks him. Most of all, always ensure that you raise him in a positive environment, which means that you reward good behavior and avoid negative reinforcement.
When going out, keep your dog on a leash, and when meeting new people, caution them if he is not in his friendly behavior. You can also put a muzzle on the very aggressive dogs and ensure that the canines are vaccinated against rabies.
What if your dog bites someone?
Whole Dog Journal informs us that you have options when your dog bites, one of which is ensuring that he does not have an opportunity to bite again. Just like the quarantine that Josh Rolfe is putting dogs in Denver under, you should also keep your dog away from people and only allow adults he is familiar with to feed him or groom him.
You should identify what is causing the unwanted behavior, which can be hard if maybe the dog has just joined your family. Consequently, utilize the help of a behavioral therapist and do not give up since your persistence and commitment will go a long way in helping improve the behavior.
When none of these options work, you might have to put your dog down. Even Denver had to resort to this sad alternative because, in 2005 and 2006, the state had to euthanize 1,453 pit bulls. Although records go up to 2002, it is estimated that in the ten years before, at least 3,497 pit bulls had to be put down. It may leave you in grief, but it is better than always having to worry if your dog will attack someone again every time.