Understanding dogs body language is a key way to help avoid being bitten. Know the signs that dogs give to indicate that they’re feeling anxious, afraid, threatened or aggressive.
Ask First: When meeting an unfamiliar dog, don't reach out to pet her, ask her pet parent first.
Get Permission: With permission, let the dog sniff your closed hand, then pet her shoulders or chest.
Don't Touch: Don't touch a dog who is sleeping, eating, or chewing a toy.
Stay Away: Stay away from a dog who is barking or growling, as well as one who is loose, behind a fence or tied up.
The most important thing to remember is, if the dog has no owner around, stay away from it, because you don’t know its background and whether it was socialized or not, and whether it is aggressive or not.
Recommendations for Pet Parents
- Adopt from a well-managed animal shelter whose staff and volunteers can fill you in on the dog’s background, personality and behavior in the shelter.
- Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible. Spayed or neutered dogs may be less likely to bite.
- Socialize your dog. The main rule for effective socializing is to let your dog progress at her own pace and never force her to be around someone or something when she’s clearly fearful or uncomfortable.
- Take your dog to training classes. Training opens a window of communication between you and your dog that will help you teach her good behavior.
- Make your dog a part of the family. Don’t chain or tie her outside, and don’t leave her unsupervised for long periods of time.
- Be aware of common triggers of aggression. Common triggers are injury or sickness, unfamiliar places, crowds, and loud noises like thunder, wind, construction, fireworks and appliances.
- If she seems stressed or panicked in crowds, leave her at home.
- If she overreacts to visitors or delivery personnel, keep her in another room when they come to your house.
- Always supervise children and dogs. Never leave a baby or child younger than 10 years old alone with a dog.
- Teach your children to treat your dog gently and with respect, giving the dog her own space and opportunities to rest.
For more information, read up on dog bitting from the ASPCA.