Dogs | May 14, 2015

Once bitten, twice shy – Tips for staying safe around dogs

A dog laying down in the grass

Have you ever been approached by a strange dog and were afraid you were going to get bitten? About 4.7 million people in the US alone are bitten every year. Many bites are minor and go unreported, but a significant number cause serious damage, especially where children are concerned.

Adults and children alike should be educated in how to prevent dog bites. Many humane societies, animal shelters and even school districts offer programs in bite prevention. Check out your local resources to see what is available.

Realize that ANY dog can bite. Even from the most mild-mannered or tiniest dog, a bite is possible when provoked. The vast majority of dog bites reported are from a dog known to the person who is bitten.

As it’s Dog Bite Prevention Week we put together a few important tips to teach your children how to behave around a dog and avoid getting bitten:

  • Never, EVER chase or tease a dog
  • Never approach a barking, scared or otherwise agitated dog
  • Never hug or kiss a dog on the face or head. Despite some ‘cute’ videos that have circulated showing a dog ‘smiling’ while a child hugs him, the dog’s body language tells another story to ‘stay away!’ The ASPCA has an excellent article on dog body language
  • Never look a dog in the eye. This will make the dog feel threatened and more likely to lash out
  •  Never disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, drinking, chewing a toy or bone, or caring for puppies
  • A moving target can trigger the prey instinct in any dog, so never run away from a loose dog who is approaching you or your child. Stand still until the animal moves away
  • If you or your child are riding a bicycle and a loose dog approaches, stop your bike and dismount it with the bike between you and the dog. Stand still until the dog loses interest and then move away slowly
  • If a child wishes to pet a strange dog, make sure they ask the owner first. If approval is given, teach them to approach the dog with a closed hand and have the dog sniff him. Do not allow your child to then put his hand over the dog’s head to pat him, but better to pat his shoulders or chest
  • Do not approach a dog off-leash outside
  • Do not try to pat a dog behind a fence or in a car. Dogs can be very territorial and protective in these situations
  • If you or your child is knocked to the ground by a dog, curl up into a ball with your knees tucked under your stomach and fingers interlocked behind your neck to protect your ears and neck

Make common sense your guide and you should be able to avoid ever being bitten.

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