August 16, 2015 Photos by: odinkadr/Bigstock
It turns out that we don’t know enough about preventing dog bites. Researchers say that reading canine body language is ineffective when preventing dog bites.
The common wisdom of dog bite prevention: If people learn to understand dogs’ body language, dog bites can be prevented. Well, researchers at the University of Liverpool studied that question and found that body language education is ineffective.
The pilot study included interviews with people who were victims of dog bites. From the study: “Even those who felt knowledgeable about dogs, perceived that a bite ‘would not happen to them’, and so despite the warning signs would continue acting in the same manner, suggesting that education on body language was ineffective as a preventative measure.”
The study’s authors suggest that the better educational outreach – rather than teaching canine body language – is to spread awareness that all dogs can bite and all people can be bitten. One finding from the pilot study is that people need to learn how to lessen the impact of a dog bite injury. In the parallel to car accidents, getting people to wear seat belts to reduce injury has been a more effective approach then preventing the accidents themselves simply because most people default to blaming the other driver. The researchers found that, like car accident victims, the dog bite victims they interviewed were unable to identify high-risk situations and that the victims typically blamed themselves or the dog’s owner for the incident, rather than the dog.
In the study’s recap, dog behavior expert Dr. Carri Westgarth said, “Preventing the situation from arising at all may not always be feasible. Reducing the damage caused when a dog does bite, through careful pet dog selection and training, is something we should aim for.”
Because this was a small pilot study, researchers concluded that more research was needed. Their goal is to spread awareness that dog bites can happen to anyone.
[Source: Science Daily]