How to Avoid Dog Bites

Maureen A. Strenfel Animal Behaviorist

If possible, cross the street to avoid any loose dog or any group of loose dogs.
If the dog(s) is following you, slowly walk to the nearest house and ask that animal control be called. Remain inside if possible until the animal is contained.
Do not approach or try to pet loose strange dogs; dogs tied up in yards or in front of stores or dogs inside cars or tied in trucks.
Do not tease your dog or strange dog (tease means fur or ear pulling, throwing rocks or sticks at the animal, trying to remove toys, bones or food from the dog's possession, trying to ride the animal like a pony, or slapping or kicking the animal).
Do not chase after a dog that is trying to avoid you or run away from you. Instead let them go away as you walk slowly away from them.
If approached by a loose dog(s), do not reach out your hand to pet the dog nor to let the dog sniff you. Instead stand still and let the dog sniff your shoes or pant leg. Keep your arms quietly at your sides. Keep your voice as normal as possible or say nothing.
Do not stare directly into the dog's eyes; instead look at the ground.
Do not run, yell or wave your arms, instead look at the ground and back away slowly trying to keep your voice as normal and as calm as possible.
If the dog should bite, do not run or yell. Curl into a small ball on the floor and say nothing. If possible wait until the dog is gone and then slowly get up and walk to the nearest house.
Do not play with or pet a strange dog or ANY dog without the owner's permissions first.
Always have an adult present who is directly supervising any interaction a child (12 or under) is having with a dog.
Children should always play standing up so they are taller than the animal. Play simple games that foster cooperation and control. Avoid tug of war, wrestling or play fighting, or any game that encourages the dog to put his teeth on you. Good games include fetch, blowing bubbles, teaching tricks (shakes, rolls over, begs, waves, spins, speak, etc.). Or simple obedience commands like sit, down, or come.
Train and socialize your dog at an early age so he understands how to interact with adults and children alike. An ounce of prevention can save a child's life and a dogs!
Dogs do not bite unprovoked. They usually give very clear warning signs via their body language that they feel frightened or threatened by situations. Warning signs that a dog is unhappy include:

Raised hackles (hair in-between shoulder blades, at abase of tail head and also sometimes on the tail itself will be standing up on end; like a ridge)
Growling or deep throated barking (dog may be backing away as he is doing this, let him.do not follow the animal.back away slowly)
Stiff body that is leaning forward towards the target
Tail held stiffly, high and sometimes very slowly wagging (confident use of aggression)
OR the tail may be tucked completely under the animal's body (fear response)


If you continue to have problems even after you have patiently tried the above, please call the FREE Animal Behavior Helpline at 408/727-3383, extension 753.

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