It’s almost summertime—when you can enjoy the outdoors and relax. It also means more dogs will be outside. You may be used to playing with your pets at home and expect all dogs to be as friendly as Goldie or Rover. However, many dogs don’t enjoy attention from an unknown person. Some are even afraid of strangers and may attempt to nip at or bite the perceived threat.
If you know the dog you want to pet, let the dog come to you and sniff you first, that way the dog has time to recognize you and know that you aren’t dangerous. If the dog is out on a walk with their owner, ask the owner’s permission before approaching the dog. Even then, let the dog see and sniff you first. Dogs are territorial animals, and it’s better to leave a dog alone than to corner them, even if you just want to pet them. You know you have good intentions, but the dog may think you’re trying to hurt them.
Study the dog’s body language before approaching. Are they stiff with their tails at mid-staff? Are they attempting to get away from you? Pay attention to the dog’s face. If the dog has their ears perked back or a furrowed brow, they think they’re in danger. Check out the dog’s eyes. Are they staring right at you or showing the whites of their eyes?
Dogs also show discomfort with their mouths. They may frequently flick their tongues or yawn. Just because a dog isn’t in an obvious fight-mode doesn’t mean they trust you. Most dogs will bite you if they think they’re under attack.
If you are near a dog showing threatening body language, do not turn and run away, or the dog may instinctively chase you. Instead, stand still, keep your hands to yourself and don’t look the dog in the eyes. Eye contact is a sign of aggression with dogs. Wait until the dog is uninterested in you before slowly backing away.
If the dog still thinks you are a threat and does attack, distract them. Toss them your jacket, your bag, your bike, etc., so they will chew on that and not you. If the dog pushes you over, curl up, place your hands over your ears and remain still and quiet. Your goal is to make yourself as little of a threat as possible to get the dog to leave you alone.
If a dog bites you or your child, stay calm. Thoroughly wash the wound with warm, soapy water to clean out any germs. Call or meet with your physician for additional care or advice.
Once you’ve tended to the wound, report the incident to your local animal care and control agency. Tell them what the dog looks like, who owns the dog (if you know) and any other needed information. If the dog is a stray, describe the dog’s appearance, where you last saw them and where they might have gone.
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Remember: dogs attack when they feel threatened. It is always better to admire a dog from afar than to risk a dog bite by getting too close.