How to Avoid a Dog Bite
More than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than half of all dog bite victims are younger than 14 years of age and 150,000 of these bites are serious enough to require a visit to the emergency department.
How do you avoid getting bit by a dog? Start by being polite and respecting the dog’s personal space. Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who’s tied or confined behind a fence or in a car. Don’t pet a dog—even your own—without letting him see and sniff you first.
Don’t disturb a dog while she’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or caring for puppies. Be cautious around strange dogs. Always assume that a dog who doesn’t know you may see you as an intruder or a threat.
Pay attention to the dog’s body language
Put a safe amount of space between yourself and a dog if you see the following signals (illustrated in the video above) indicating that the dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite:
- tensed body
- stiff tail
- pulled back head and/or ears
- furrowed brow
- eyes rolled so the whites are visible
- flicking tongue
- intense stare
- backing away
When putting space between yourself and a dog who might bite, never turn your back on him and run away. A dog’s natural instinct will be to chase you.
What to do if you think a dog may attack
If you are approached by a dog who may attack you, follow these steps:
- Resist the impulse to scream and run away.
- Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
- Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight.
- If the dog does attack, “feed” him your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
- If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.
What to do if you’re bitten by a dog
If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, try not to panic.
- Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.
- Contact your physician for additional care and advice.
- Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control official everything you know about the dog, including his owner’s name and the address where he lives. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw him, whether you’ve seen him before and in which direction he went.
When approaching a dog:
- Ask first. Before petting someone’s dog, ask the owner if it’s okay. Let the dog sniff you first, then pet the dog’s sides or back gently.
- Never sneak up on or pet a dog that is eating or sleeping. Animals may bite when they’re startled or frightened.
- Never pet a dog that is playing with a toy. Dogs are often protective of toys, and may think you are trying to take it.
- Never approach a dog that is behind a fence. Most dogs naturally protect their property and home.
If a dog attacks suddenly:
- Don’t scream and run. Stand very still, try to be calm, and avoid eye contact.
- Distract the dog. Feed the dog your jacket, your purse, or anything that may distract the dog and give the animal something to bite besides you.
- Curl into a ball. If you fall or are knocked down, curl into a ball with your arms and hands over your head and neck. Try not to scream or roll around.
- Never turn your back or run away. A dog’s natural instinct will be to chase and catch you. Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until it is out of sight.