To millions of people in the U.S., dogs are an integral part of their families and lives. Dogs are wonderfully loyal and loving companions, but unfortunately, they are also capable of causing severe injuries.
Any dog, regardless of their breed, size, age or gender, can bite – even if it is a dog you know or a dog who has never bitten before. But dogs rarely ever bite out of the blue. In a majority of cases, dogs bite as a reaction to something. If the dog finds itself in a stressful situation or feels threatened by a person or child, it will bite to communicate its unease.
More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States each year, and nearly one out of every five bites requires medical attention. More alarmingly, over half of dog bite victims are children.
While a dog’s behavior is ultimately the responsibility of its owner, it’s still essential to understand how to appropriately interact with dogs to avoid causing a dog to feel nervous or threatened. By educating yourself and your family on how and when to interact with a dog, you can avoid escalating risky situations.
How to avoid dog bites
Just like humans, dogs rely on body language, posture and different sounds to communicate. While you may not speak dog, there’s a good chance you already know what a happy dog looks like. Their tail is wagging, and their posture is relaxed.
When a dog is afraid or feels threatened, their body language will also indicate these feelings. Here are just a few scenarios in which you should teach your family never to approach a dog:
- A dog is barking, growling or appears scared.
- A dog is sleeping or eating.
- A dog is resting with its puppies.
- A dog is behind a fence or in a car.
- A dog is not with its owner, or the owner does not permit you to pet.
- A dog is hiding or seeking alone time.
You may not always understand what a dog is trying to tell you, but in cases of dog bites, there are usually plenty of warning signs before the bite occurs. To protect yourself and your family from severe dog bite injuries, be sure you know when it is and isn’t safe to approach a canine.