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How you can prevent dog bites – Interview with Teresa from Doggone Safe [Audio]

This year I told the story of a young man who got bitten on a playground area for dogs. He was ignoring the signs the dog showed him – and got bitten in his face. 133,683 people, including kids, were bitten in the US in 2001. What are the reasons, and what are we doing wrong? I was doing research and found Doggone Safe’s terrific website. After exploring the site, I wanted to know more about its programs and the organization itself, which was founded by Teresa Lewin and Joan Orr in 1998. Education is key to preventing dog bites!

Doggone Safe teaching children in school

Doggone Safe is a non-profit organization with offices in Canada the US, functioning worldwide, and providing the public with resources, guidance and information to prevent dog bites, ensure child safety around dogs and provide support for dog bite victims. Doggone Safe educated 16.000 children about dog bite prevention last year, and continues its wonderful work in educating the public.

We had the great pleasure of speaking with a passionate and dedicated advocate, Teresa Lewin. We talked about how she began her journey with this cause, about the importance of understanding the body language of dogs, and the valuable programs and events offered by Doggone Safe. And by the way: it’s International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge Month!

Teresa recommends following books and links:

How To Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication By Stanley Coren

For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend

Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind

DogGone Crazy –

Also please download the flyer ‘Talk Dog’ here (provided by the Liam J. Perk Foundation) and pass it around to friends, parents, kids and your community to educate and prevent dog bites. Thank you!

About the interviewee:

Teresa Lewin has had a lifelong interest in animal behavior. While other kids were riding their bikes and playing hopscotch Teresa was training dogs and horses. She has over 20 years experience in the field of animal behavior and training. Teresa has attended many lectures, seminars and university courses and was mentored through her education by Dr Ed Bailey, noted Canadian animal behaviorist. She has trained puppies, pet dogs, tracking dogs, protection dogs and service dogs. In her consulting practice Teresa specializes in rehabilitating problem dogs, particularly those with aggression and anxiety issues. Teresa has been a guest lecturer at several colleges and at the University of Guelph and her articles have appeared in the CAPPDT and ADPT newsletters.

Doggone Safe’s website:

Facebook: DoggoneSafe

YouTube Video about Dog Body Language:

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Animal Stories Articles Get informed and educated Pet Care

When a dog bites – What do I do?

I told him not to get any closer; the dog was very tense and the signs she was showing were very clear to me. I told the guy in the dog park to leave her alone. But he wouldn’t listen…and 3…2…1… he got bitten by the anxious female Doberman. The guy started screaming after he had realized that he got bitten, one good bite right in his face. Yes, his face! Why don’t people listen? He thought he was doing this dog a favor, by patting her and trying to comfort her by sticking his nose in her face.

Yes, this happened today. I just wanted to take Lilly for a short visit at the playground for dogs across the street, a little green area for dogs in Downtown L.A. – some of you might know this place:) Many Downtown dogs come here to play and socialize. Lilly was not in the mood to play and I had already decided to leave when I saw this young guy talking to a scared dog. I walked a little closer, because I saw him trying to pat the dog. The dog was moving backwards to avoid his touch.

This is a picture of a very shy boxer I have met at the North Central Shelter - when you check her body language you can see that she is very uncomfortable with the situation.

The guy kept on annoying the dog and I told him while passing him to leave the dog alone. I said: “Look at her body language, she doesn’t want to be touched by you“. The young man looked at me like, “Who are you and what the hell“. Me again: “she is very tense, she’ll bite you, leave her alone” I just finished my sentence when this beautiful Doberman drilled her teeth in his cheek. The young ignorant man was screaming so loud that some of the people who were walking by came over to see what happened. The owner of the dog stopped reading his magazine and walked over with his cup of coffee in his hand. He started yelling at the dog after I told him that she’d bitten the young man. Then he looked at me for an answer, which I gave: “It was his fault. The dog is innocent. I warned him, and he wouldn’t listen.” He looked down to his dog. “Ohhhh nooo, sweetheart. What did you do?”

A woman came over: “I’m a nurse, let me see, please.” She said: “It’s not too bad, but the skin is broken.” It really wasn’t a bloody scene! The guy screamed louder after he heard that his skin was broken and crying for an ambulance. There was no need for an ambulance… and I had to leave.

I took care of the poor scared dog by putting Lilly’s loose leash around her neck and taking her out of the chaotic situation. I walked her to a calmer place, no dogs – no other people – I didn’t talk to the dog at all – didn’t touch her – nothing.  We waited around the corner and the female Doberman relaxed, sitting next to me and Lilly. The owner was too busy with the guy, but came over after 10 minutes drenched in tears. “She never bit anyone before,” he tried to explain me. “Don’t worry,” I said. “She was only defending herself. She was scared“.

These are my fingers after I got bitten by a dog last year. I tried to separate 2 dogs. It was not a good idea.

People not watching their dogs in parks and playgrounds are one thing and people annoying and teasing dogs they don’t know is another. Why would someone do that? To be loved by every single dog in the dog park? Just to show everyone how much they all love you? No, take care of your dog and set an example for others… show people that you love and know your dog. Don’t sit down and read a book or magazine. As the owner of a shy and uncertain dog, you should never sit down and let your dog take care of herself. That’s what I told the owner, and he agreed. I gave him my phone number and told him to walk home with his dog.

I did my research (content from: and here is a run-down of what you should do first, after someone gets bitten by a dog or a cat.

  1. If necessary, call your doctor
  2. Wash the wound gently with soap and water
  3. Apply pressure with a clean towel to the injured area to stop any bleeding
  4. Apply a sterile bandage to the wound
  5. Keep the injury elevated above the level of the heart to slow swelling and prevent infection
  6. If necessary, report the incident to the proper authority in your community (for example, the animal control office or the police)
  7. Apply antibiotic ointment to the area 2 times every day until it heals.

Will I need a rabies shot?

Probably not. Rabies is uncommon in dogs and cats in the United States (it is more common in wild animals like skunks, raccoons, bats and coyotes). If a dog or cat that bit you appeared to be healthy at the time of the bite, it’s unlikely that the animal had rabies. However, it’s a good idea to take some precautions if you’re bitten by a dog or cat.

If you know the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, ask for the pet’s vaccination record (record of shots). An animal that appears healthy and has been vaccinated may still be quarantined (kept away from people and other animals) for 10 days to make sure it doesn’t start showing signs of rabies. If the animal gets sick during the 10-day period, a veterinarian will test it for rabies. If the animal does have rabies, you will need to get a series of rabies shots (see below).

If the animal is a stray or you can’t find the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, call the animal control agency or health department in your area. They will try to find the animal so it can be tested for rabies.

What your doctor may do to treat a cat or dog bite:
  1. Examine the wound for possible nerve damage, tendon damage or bone injury. He or she will also check for signs of infection.
  2. Clean the wound with a special solution and remove any damaged tissue.
  3. May use stitches to close a bite wound, but often the wound is left open to heal, which can lower the risk of infection.
  4. May prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection.
  5. May give you a tetanus shot if you had your last shot more than 5 years ago.
  6. May ask you to schedule an office visit to check your wound again in 1 to 2 days.
  7. If your injury is severe, or if the infection has not gotten better even though you’re taking antibiotics, your doctor may suggest that you see a specialist and/or go to the hospital, where you can get special medicine given directly in your veins (intravenous antibiotics) and further treatment if necessary

Call your doctor in any of these situations: 

  1. You have a cat bite. Cat bites often cause infection. You don’t need to call your doctor for a cat scratch, unless you think the wound is infected.
  2. You have a dog bite on your hand, foot or head, or you have a bite that is deep or gaping.
  3. You have diabetes, liver or lung disease, cancer, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or another condition that could weaken your ability to fight infection.
  4. You have any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, increased tenderness, oozing of pus from the wound or a fever.
  5. You have bleeding that doesn’t stop after 15 minutes of pressure or you think you may have a broken bone, nerve damage or another serious injury.
  6. Your last tetanus shot (vaccine) was more than 5 years ago. (If so, you may need a booster shot.)
  7. You were bitten by a wild animal or a domestic animal (such as a pet) of unknown immunization status.

How can I prevent cat and dog bites?

Here are some things you can do to prevent bites:

  1. Never leave a young child alone with a pet. They often don’t know how to be gentle with the pet, which can cause the pet to get irritated and bite.
  2. Do not try to separate fighting animals. You may get bit in the process.
  3. Avoid sick animals and/or animals that you don’t know whether or not they are vaccinated.
  4. Leave animals alone while they are eating. Animals are often very protective of their food.
  5. Keep pets on a leash when in public.
  6. Select your family pet carefully and be sure to keep your pet’s vaccinations (shots) up-to-date.

For more information, check here.