Dogs play an essential role in many people’s lives. They bring joy, companionship and have even been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in their humans. But while you may consider your dog to be family, you mustn’t forget that all dogs – regardless of their breed or temperament – are capable of biting.
More than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year, and 1 in 5 require serious medical attention. What’s more, is at least half of dog bite victims are young children.
People love dogs and dogs love people, but there is still a massive language barrier between them. This lack of understanding can often unintentionally lead to a dog feeling frightened or provoked. Fortunately, by learning how to behave around dogs and read their body language, you and your family can avoid potentially serious injuries.
1. Approach slowly and quietly
When greeting a new dog, always ask the owner first for permission to approach. Kids may be tempted to run up to the dog and start petting it, but this behavior can easily make a dog uneasy. Teach your family to calmly and quietly let a dog sniff their hand before touching it.
2. Know when not to approach
It’s critical to be able to recognize when it may be risky to approach a dog. Certain scenarios can cause a dog to act more protective or anxious than usual. If the dog is eating its food, playing with its toy, sleeping, or with its puppies, it’s best just to leave it alone.
3. Understand the warning signs
Though they aren’t always obvious, most dogs will display warning behavior if they feel scared or threatened. Signs such as showing their teeth, raised fur, stiff posture or a tail between their legs are standard signals that a dog not comfortable and may attack. More subtle signs can include excessive yawning, licking their lips or avoiding eye contact.
4. Stay still and calm
If an unfamiliar or provoked dog approaches you or your children, it’s essential that everyone stays calm. Standing completely still and avoiding direct eye contact can show the dog that you are not a threat. If the dog knocks you or your child over, curling into a ball and staying still will cause the dog to lose interest.
Dog bites are dangerous, but they are also often preventable. By understanding how to interact with dogs safely, you can ensure they remain a cuddly companion.