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Dog Bite Prevention Tips

Learn how to help prevent dog bites.

Dog bites can be scary, traumatic, and painful. They can even be life-threatening. Here are some things to know that can help you and your loved ones avoid being bitten by a dog. If you are a dog owner, be sure you check out the section on how to keep your dog from biting someone.

How to Avoid Being Bitten by a Dog

Here are some basic things to keep in mind when dealing with dogs that will help you avoid a bite:

  • Always be respectful of a dog's personal space.
  • Never, ever tease a dog.
  • Don't approach dogs that are behind a fence, on a leash, in a car, or otherwise confined.
  • Don't pet a dog that hasn't been allowed to check you out by sniffing first.
  • Don't bother a dog that is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or treat, or caring for puppies.
  • Don't approach new dogs from the front or bend down overtop of them.
  • Don't look at unknown dogs directly in the eyes.

Body Language Is Key

Pay attention to the body language of any dog near you, whether they are approaching you, you are approaching them, or they are simply nearby. Dogs that might bite often display one or all of the following body language cues:

  • Tense muscles.
  • Stiff tail held down or straight out.
  • Ears pulled back or laid flat.
  • Intense stare.
  • Yawning.
  • Backing away.

What to Do If a Dog Attacks You

If you believe that a dog is about to bite you, try to stay calm. Don't scream and run, but stay still and do not make direct eye contact with the dog. Keep your hands down and wait. Once the dog moves away or otherwise shows that he's lost interest, back slowly away.

If a dog attacks you, try to give him something to bite instead of you, like a purse, hat, wallet, or another object. If you fall down, curl up in a tight fetal position, and cover your ears and face with your arms. Try to remain quiet and as still as possible.

How to Teach Children to Avoid Being Bitten by a Dog

Kids should be taught from an early age how to treat dogs, both their own and those of strangers. Respect for animals and gentle treatment are important for kids to learn. They should also be taught never to approach dogs they don't know and to follow the rules in the first section here on avoiding dog bites.

Small children should never be left alone with dogs. They should always be supervised and separated if there is no adult present.

Kids should be reminded routinely that teasing dogs or treating them roughly is disrespectful, unkind, and dangerous. You can learn more here: "How to Introduce Dogs and Children."

How to Reduce the Chances of Your Dog Biting Someone

First, it's important to understand that any dog can bite. Even if your dog has never shown any indication that he might bite someone, it could happen at any time. Here are three ways to help reduce the risk of your dog biting someone:

  • Have your dog spayed or neutered. A dog that is sexually intact is often more likely to bite out of territorialism.
  • Be sure that your dog is well-socialized. Having your dog exposed to lots of new situations, people, and other pets from a young age can help him react more calmly to things as he gets older, resulting in a dog that is less likely to bite.
  • Be realistic and pay attention to your dog's behavior. If your dog shows any type of aggression, even if it seems to be related to fear or protectiveness, see your veterinarian or a canine behavior specialist right away. If your veterinarian tells you that he or she sees signs of aggression in your dog, take heed.
  • Don't expose your dog to situations that trigger aggression or fear. If your dog behaves fearfully or aggressively in certain situations, refrain from exposing him to those as much as possible. For instance, if your dog is afraid of crowds, don't take him to busy events. Work with a professional to learn how to help your dog, but in the meantime, don't take any risks.

What to Do If a Dog Bites You

If you receive a dog bite, wash it well with warm water and soap, and then see a doctor right away. The bite should also be reported to your local animal control agency so they can investigate the situation and determine whether the dog has been vaccinated against rabies.

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