Whether you’re visiting a friend or neighbor, going for a walk in your neighborhood or training a dog at home, it’s important to know practical tips for preventing dog bite injuries.
Pay Attention to a Dog’s Body Language
Learning general dogs’ body language can help you to identify how a specific dog is feeling if you encounter one you think may be dangerous. The Humane Society has named the signs of general dog discomfort, and these are listed below.
- Tensed body
- Stiff, high tail
- Flattened ears
- Bared teeth
- Backing away
- Intensely staring
- Furrowed brow
If you notice any of this type of dog body language, it’s likely that the pup you’re encountering isn’t happy.
Never Invite Aggression by Staring
If a dog stares at you, it’s a sign that the dog is feeling threatened. If you make and keep eye contact, the dog may interpret that as a challenge. Rather than staring direct at a dog, always divert your eyes, which is a sign of submission. If a dog thinks that you’re submitting, it is likely to feel less threatened, and, therefore, be less likely to attack.
Teach Your Kids About How to Approach Dogs
Preventing a dog bite extends beyond just knowing how to approach dogs yourself; you should also practice dog safety for kids.
For example, teach your kids that most dogs—even family dogs that you trust—don’t like the following behavior.
- Having their ears pulled
- Hugs and kisses
- Being disturbed while eating, playing with a toy, or sleeping
Instead, this is what dogs like.
- To smell you first and foremost
- Allowed to approach at their pace
- Having their necks and chests scratched
Avoid Teasing or Aggressive Games
Even non-aggressive dogs can sometimes bite—causing harm accidentally—when they’re teased or engaged in aggressive games. Dangling a toy or treat above a dog’s face, engaging in physical games like wrestling, or playing tug-o-war intensively may lead to a dog bite.
You can reduce your risk of dog bites by remembering that dogs should be respected, and that teasing, threatening, or aggressive playing may encourage violent behavior in the dog.
Give a Dog Its Space
Most dogs will feel threatened or territorial if you wander into their space. If there’s a dog that you’re not comfortable with or is on its turf (i.e., in its yard, bed, house, porch, etc.), keep your distance. Even friendly dogs are known to act aggressively when defending their territory, and may growl, bark, or even nip at you to keep you away.
Keep Your Dogs Leashed
To keep your dogs from biting someone else, remember that you should keep them leashed unless your dog wears an off-leash dog tag issued by the municipality or county in which you live. And if you’re heading to the dog park with Fido, make sure to read our dog bite blog.
Get Your Dogs Spayed and Neutered
If you have a dog or dogs, make sure that you get them spayed or neutered. A spay/neuter helps to reduce aggression in pets, decreasing the risk of a dog bite or dog attack. Your vet can provide you with more information about at what age you should spay or neuter your pets.