How to avoid being bitten by a dog

Tips to help you avoid a dog attack or injury if you encounter an aggressive dog.

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March 24, 2017

How to avoid being bitten by a dog

Dogs are beautiful creatures, but unfortunately there are circumstances in which a dog becomes aggressive – this could be due to poor socialisation, fear, the dog’s desire to protect its family or territory, or the dog being uncomfortable and warning signs going unnoticed. Whatever the case, it is devastating when someone is harmed in a dog attack, so here’s some information about how to identify, avoid and survive aggressive dogs.

Signs a dog is aggressive or fearful

The first thing to learn is how to recognise if a dog might be aggressive. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • The dog approaches you directly and/or stares at you with a fixed stance
  • Its tail is up high and perhaps moving stiffly from side to side
  • Ears are up and erect or back if it is scared
  • It is standing tall and its hackles are up (this is when the fur on the top of its back stands on end)
  • Its lips and muzzle are pulled back in a snarl
  • It growls or barks in a deep tone
  • It rushes at you even if it suddenly stops short
  • It is cowering, licking its lips or baring its teeth (signalling fear-based aggression)
  • It is lowering its head or has its tail lowered or between its legs
  • If you see any of these signs, immediately move calmly away to a safe place without turning your back

Tips to avoid dog attacks

Here is some advice to help you prevent a dog attack from occurring:

  • Don’t enter a property over a fence or through a back gate
  • Don’t reach over or through a fence to a dog
  • Before entering a property, look out for a dog or signs of one e.g. a kennel, running tracks around the grass or dog poo
  • Call out before entering a property to check if a dog is there
  • Never enter a property where there is a dog without the owner’s knowledge and supervision
  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar house with your own dog – the presence of another dog can make territorial aggression worse
  • Ask the dog’s owner to introduce you to the dog safely when you are entering a new property – territorial aggression becomes worse if you have not greeted the dog
  • Don’t sneak up behind a dog if it is sleeping, on its bed or hasn’t noticed you
  • Never startle or act unexpectedly around a dog, especially one you don’t know
  • Always ask a dog’s owner if it is ok to pat their dog before you touch it. If it’s unattended, leave it alone
  • Pat dogs under the chin and on the chest – this is a non-threatening area. Avoid patting dogs you don’t know on the head
  • Kids should never chase, hug or climb on top of dogs or grab a dog’s feet or tail or interrupt a dog that is eating

What to do if you encounter an aggressive dog

If you can see that a dog is or might be aggressive, here is how you should respond.

  • Don’t try and scare or threaten the dog away – it could make things worse
  • We want to be as non-threatening as possible towards the dog
  • Don’t turn away from the dog
  • Don’t run away
  • Stay standing, but try to relax your posture – turn slightly sideways so you are not facing the dog full on
  • Do not stare at the dog – this is very threatening. Look off to the side or glimpse at the dog briefly
  • Withdraw slightly in stages without turning away
  • If you need to talk, speak in high-pitched, friendly tones
  • Call out for help to other people around, especially if the dog’s owner is nearby. But try not to sound scared – speak calmly in a friendly tone
  • Retreat slowly into a car or building if possible
  • If you have food with you, throw it in front of the dog, away from you, to distract it

If you can find something to put between you and the dog easily, grab it and hold it low e.g. a stick, bag or chair. Don’t brandish it, just use it to hold between you and the dog if it lunges at you

If you are worried about your own dog acting aggressively, check out my Virtual Training Schools to learn how to work on this issue. We cover dog-dog aggression and human oriented aggression for mild to moderate cases.

If your dog’s aggression is severe, you may require support from our Behaviour Clinic for hands-on training with our experienced trainers. To enquire about this service, please email o phone 09 411 9099.

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