Preventing dog bites

Last Updated : 27 May 2024
Dog bite prevention

Every year, hundreds of people need medical care for dog attacks in Auckland, with most bites happening in the family home. Children under nine are most likely to be seriously hurt, and their injuries can cause scars that last a lifetime.

The good news is that dog attacks are preventable, and we can all play our part in stopping them from happening. Follow these tips to help keep our tamariki, ourselves and our communities safe from dog attack harm.

Why do dogs bite?

Even the friendliest dog can bite for all sorts of reasons, but it often happens when they’re overexcited or scared. There may be warning signs a dog is about to bite, or it might happen suddenly. This is why you should always be alert around dogs, especially if children are around.

Here are some common reasons a dog might attack:

  • They are surprised suddenly
  • they are not used to being around children or other animals
  • they feel like they are in danger
  • they are roaming outside their property in unfamiliar surroundings
  • they are trying to protect something like a toy, food, or their home or owner
  • they are playing and get over-excited
  • they are frustrated, sick, or in pain.

Tips for parents and guardians

Tamariki aged 0-9 are more likely to need hospitalisation following a dog attack, as they are most often bitten on the head, face or neck. Most dog attacks on children are by the family pet or a friend’s dog so children must never be left by themselves around dogs, even if the dog is usually friendly.

✓ always keep young children and infants within arm’s reach whenever a dog is around
✓ remind tamariki to stay calm and be gentle around dogs
✓ ask the owner’s permission before letting a child pat their dog
✓ let dogs approach first and sniff the child. If the dog is friendly, encourage gentle pats on the body, not head
✓ watch out for signs the dog is scared or angry, like raised fur, growling, or ears pinned back, and separate your child from the dog if you see these
✓ when introducing a baby to your whānau, allow the dog time to adjust, then introduce slowly on a leash and give lots of praise.

Don’t let a child:
✖ approach a dog first, let the dog sniff them
✖ touch or put their face close to the dog’s face
✖ touch a dog while they are eating or playing with a bone
✖ startle or touch a sleeping dog
✖ run around or shout near a dog
✖ pull a dog’s hair, tail or ears, or sit on it.

Tips for dog owners

If you’re a dog owner, it’s up to you to stop your dog from attacking or acting aggressively. Below are some things you can do that will help to keep our communities safe.

  • Keep your dog under control at all times, especially around children.
  • Keep your dog contained in a fenced-off area when at home, and never let them roam.
  • If unfamiliar children or large groups are visiting, consider securing the dog in a quiet space away from the action.
  • Give your dog plenty of care and attention, and make sure they’re getting enough food,
    water and exercise.
  • De-sex your dog. This will make them less aggressive and easier to train.
  • Train your dog to feel comfortable around other pets and people, and teach them simple commands like “sit,” “stay,” “no,” and “come.”
  • Register your dog as soon as you get it and renew this registration each year.

What should you do when a dog attacks?

If you’re faced with an aggressive dog, try to stay calm and follow the tips below:

  • If a dog is behaving aggressively, calmly retreat to a safe space and call the council’s
    Animal Management team on 09 301 0101 or 0800 462 685 for help.
  • Don’t turn your back on the dog, run, make direct eye contact or yell. This can excite the
    dog even more.
  • If you’re attacked or bitten, don’t struggle or pull away. Curl into a ball if you’re knocked
    over and protect your face, chest and throat.
  • Get somewhere safe as calmly as you can.
  • Call 111 for emergency help if the wound is serious.
  • Control bleeding by applying pressure to the wound.
  • For minor wounds, wash the wound with warm water and mild soap for around 5 minutes.
  • Visit your doctor as soon as possible to prevent the wound from becoming infected.

Report a dog attack

If you have experienced or seen a dog attack/bite, you should report this to the council as soon as possible by calling 09 301 0101 or 0800 462 685. If you can, get the name and address of the owner and provide as much detail as you can about the attack, including a description of the dog and owner, and any supporting details, such as the address where the dog was last seen.

Auckland Council will protect the privacy of anyone who reports a dog attack.

Why report?
If a dog has bitten once it is likely to bite again. That’s why reporting dog attacks to the council is the right thing to do for our communities, especially our pēpi and tamariki.
Reporting a dog attack does not mean that the owner will lose the dog or that it will be put down. In some cases this can happen, but more often the council will work to educate owners and put safety measures in place to stop the dog from attacking again.

Read more on OurAuckland & Auckland Council website:

Dogs - OurAuckland

A guide for dog owners 

Problems with dogs

Control your dog

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