How to Avoid Being Bitten by a Dog

There are nearly 75 million dogs in the USA alone.

A survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (“CDC”) concluded that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S. population — more than 4.7 million people annually. (Sacks JJ, Kresnow M, Houston B. Dog bites: how big a problem? Injury Prev 1996;2:52-4.)

Almost 800,000 bites per year — one out of every 6 — are serious enough to require medical attention. (Weiss HB, Friedman D, Coben JH. Incidence of dog bite injuries treated in emergency departments. JAMA 1998;279:51-53.)

These are only a few of the statistics. How reliable are statistics? In some States, even a scratch from an untrained puppy if reported, can be considered a dog bite. A law is only as strong as the person creating it. One must also consider what the situation of the bite really is. Did the dog in question bite a veterinarian out of fear of being handled? Did someone reach under the bed for the dog or attempt to grab a dog as they ran out the door? How many people have an out of control puppy that jumps on children and issues a “play” bite? All of these, if reported, are considered dog bites. The one thing all of these laws do have in common is the skin must be broken. How broken in the case of a scratch is another issue.

Child playing with puppy

I have read many articles over the years and almost all of them recommend that you “put your hand out” to a dog that you don’t know. In my opinion, this is not a means to introduction, rather if the dog is aggressive, you are giving them five fingers to choose from. If you feel compelled to do this, at least ball your fist and give them the back of your hand so if they do bite, it will be more difficult for them to grab a chunk of skin.

dog biting hand

What you really need to know is how to recognize the difference between a “safe” dog and a dog that may pose a threat. I meet new dogs almost on a daily basis and I never reach toward a dog in any manner. I make an evaluation of the dog and I take my time doing this. Many times the highest chance you have of getting bit follows the words from the owner “he won’t bite”.

Dog looking up

There are different kinds of aggression. Don’t assume that a dog protecting his home, property or owner is a dangerous dog. This is a dog who feels he is doing his job. However when a dog is showing any signs of aggression and they are not working, there is no reason to try to make up to a dog like this.

Refer to post “What tale does the tail tell you” to find out more about reading a dog.

If you find yourself in a situation with a stray dog that you feel may be a danger, there are steps that must be taken to ensure you get out unscathed.

1. If you see a dog stray while walking, keep an eye on the dog. Make sure they hear you coming. A cough or clearing your throat is all the sound you will need. Most dogs will not approach. It’s true that they are as unsure about you as you them.

2. However if they do approach, stop. Do not keep walking. Stay still. This means don’t move your hands or body.

3. Speak softly and quietly to the dog.

4. If the dog begins to move around you, be sure you move around slowly with the dog. Do not let the dog get behind you. You are much stronger to the dog facing head on. Do not look the dog in the eye, this can be confrontational.

5. I understand it’s very difficult to not run or move away quickly when you feel threatened by a dog. However this is exactly what they are looking for. Most dogs will not attack a person if you remain stationary.

6. Slowly back away from the dog never turning your back. If the dog begins to move toward you again, stop. When you can, move away until you are out of harms way.

Aggressive dog

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