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Dogs Becoming Part of the Family: Dog Bite Injuries Decreasing

Amenia, NY (PRWEB) May 19, 2013

Americans live closer to their dogs than ever before. According to the newest American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, more than two-thirds of American dog owners consider their dog a member of the family, up from the 53.5% of owners who had said as much five years earlier.

According to the American Pet Products Association, the total dollar value of the national income dedicated to pets has increased every year without interruption, including through the economic gale of The Great Recession. Americans spend money on what they care about.

At the same time, research is accumulating showing that family dogs who live as part of a human household are friendlier, easier to train, and less aggressive than those who have more distant relationships with people. By their very nature, dogs are predisposed to form close attachments with human beings, in the way that other social animals form attachments with members of their own species. Responsible dog owners afford their family dogs the opportunity to form these important attachments.

It is no surprise, then, that as owners’ attachment has grown, the number of dog bites reported has declined.

Strengthening attachment to dogs has been accompanied by a decline in dog bite-related injuries. In American cities, reports of dog bites to public health agencies have declined by as much as 90% since the 1970’s. In the ten-year period between 1993 and 2003, the annual rate of bites (per 100,000) to children fell by almost 50%.

The number of persons in the U.S. seeking medical attention for a dog bite has remained steady since the 1990’s, while the human and the canine population have both increased substantially. This shows that the rate of such injuries – per 100,000 persons and per 100,000 dogs – has declined.

Dogs are good for the family.

Dog owners are amply rewarded for the affection and resources that they bestow on family dogs. Dog ownership carries tremendous benefits for health. The American Heart Association recently released a report stating that dog ownership reduces a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and increases the survival prospects of someone already suffering from CVD.

In addition to the well-documented benefits to physical health, the Centers for Disease Control points out that the companionship of a family pet can decrease feelings of loneliness, as well as provide opportunities to meet other people.

Responsible owners are good for dogs.

Regular, positive interaction with dogs enriches their lives, as well as the owners’. A stimulating, complex and rewarding environment literally changes the brain for the better. This is true not only for humans, but also for dogs, the animal with whom humans share so much history in common.

Following a responsible pet ownership model can make the good news about dog bites even better.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 19 – 25) provides an excellent occasion to remind Americans of sound guidelines for safety around dogs. A number of qualified experts and organizations will publicize those guidelines again this week, including the demonstrated effectiveness of teaching children simple guidelines for staying safe around dogs. NCRC recommends that parents and pet owners act on this good advice, both for their benefit, and for the benefit of their children.

NCRC also wishes to highlight the simple principles of responsible pet ownership which have been demonstrated to reduce problems between dogs and people, especially dog bites.

1. License and provide permanent identification for pets.
2. Spay or neuter pets.
3. Provide training, socialization, proper diet, and medical care for pets.
4. Do not allow pets to become a threat or nuisance in the community.
5. Procure pets ethically and from a credible source.

Dog owners have a responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens, young and old, and for the welfare of dogs. As dog owners improve dogs’ lives, dogs improve theirs. Responsible pet ownership necessarily entails affording dogs the opportunity for regular positive interaction with people. When owners do so, dogs grow closer to them, more at ease with people’s strange (to them!) idiosyncrasies, and more able to cope with an environment that humans control completely.

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The mission of the National Canine Research Council (NCRC) is to preserve the human-canine bond. NCRC publishes, underwrites, and reprints accurate, documented, reliable research to promote a better understanding of our relationship with dogs. Visit to learn more.


See “Resident Dog v. Family Dog: What is the difference?” at

Media Contact: Donald Cleary, Director of Communications and Publications, (973) 699-3573

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