All of us have at one time or another has been confronted by an aggressive dog. Since few people enjoy the possibility of actually being bit, what can be done to minimize the potential of a bite to ourselves or a member of our family?

One of the best protective measures is to be informed with the knowledge of how to act in a confrontation with an unfriendly animal. Adults and especially children need to be aware of the do’s and don’ts to prevent injury.

  • Any dog can bite. Mean looking dogs and even the smallest, cutest dogs can deliver a painful bite. Always be a little cautious when dealing with any dog.
  • Be careful around any dog that you don’t know. Approach such an animal in a friendly, non-threatening way. Crouch down and allow the animal to come to you. Keep your actions slow and deliberate and your voice at a lower volume. Offer the back of your hand to a friendly animal so it can smell you and can respond calmly to your presence.
  • Never interrupt a dog that is sleeping, eating or taking care of puppies. The animal can easily feel threatened in these situations and react in an aggressive and protective fashion.
  • Everyone should already know that it is unwise to approach a barking or growling dog. But there are other signs that a dog is not comfortable with you close by. Learn to take clues from the animal’s body language. Any dog that looks away often, is licking it’s lips without food being present, who appears nervous, or has the hair on its’ neck or back raised , should be given its’ space.
  • Use extreme care if you approach, give aid or attempt to move an injured dog. An animal in pain may quickly bite at anyone trying to touch it. Although it is hard to see an animal in distress, leave this to a professional.

Don’t mistake a dog that is wagging its’ tail for a friendly dog. When a dog is happy it wags, not only its’ tail, but its’ whole body as well. If a dog is wagging the tail but the rest of the body appears stiff and nervous, the dog is probably uncomfortable with the situation and should be avoided.

I personally learned this as a child when a small, cute dog approached my bicycle as I rode past his house. As I slowed down to greet the dog, he calmly walked up to me wagging his tail. The next thing I knew , he was  trying to eat a piece of my ankle for lunch. So, extra caution is needed when even a seemingly friendly strange dog comes near.

Children are most at risk. They are often, either overly friendly or overly fearful of dogs. Teach the friendly kids to act quietly and slowly around a dog. Remember that for generations dogs have been conditioned to hunt for their food. When a child or adult feel unsafe near a dog and run away the dog is programmed to chase the runner.  A friendly dog is happy to play the” chase” game but an aggressive animal could easily be prone to bite the fleeing person. Both types of dogs will look dangerous to the child and will encourage more of the same wrong behavior. And perhaps the most important rule for parents is to never leave your child alone with a dog for any reason.

If you are cornered by an aggressive dog, never run or scream. Do not look the animal in the eye. This can be understood as a challenge by the animal. Be as calm as possible and slowly back away to diffuse the moment.

In the event you are knocked down by a dog, fall on your side in a fetal position protecting your stomach. Protect your face, throat and head with your hands and arms.

What To Do If You Receive A Dog Bite

If you do get bit be a dog there are four things you should do:

  • Try to not get bit again. Do what is necessary to avoid more damage.
  • Ascertain just who owns the dog. If it is possible try to use your phone’s camera to get a picture of the dog. Remember that in most developed countries the owner of a dog is responsible to register the dog and provide for the proper course of immunization shots. You could also be facing medical bills that are ultimately the responsibility of the dog’s owner.
  • Wash the wound with soap and water if possible.
  • Seek medical attention immediately. An animal bite that breaks the skin will expose the recipient to plenty of bacteria that can cause dangerous infections and may need professional cleaning, wound closure and antibiotic treatment. Any dog not properly inoculated for Rabies can be a potential carrier of the disease. Rabies is a severe and often fatal viral infection that will involve a complex and costly series of treatments.

Dogs are great animals that are quite social in nature. Many are trusted and valuable companions to their owners. However, it is often easy to get into trouble with an unfriendly animal. Everyone should know the proper ways to defend themselves and diffuse a potentially dangerous situation for their families and for their own protection.