Over thousands of years, humans and dogs have formed a bond unmatched by any other species, dubbing them, “man’s best friend.” While most canines naturally offer companionship and loyalty, they are still animals whose actions and intentions cannot be completely controlled or predicted.
The American Humane Association reports an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur annually in the United States, almost 800,000 of which require medical care. Sadly, on too many occasions these attacks are unprovoked, and many of them happen to children. Those same statistics show that two-thirds of dog bites happen to individuals who already know the animal. Because of this, it is crucial to learn and follow the steps to take in order to avoid a dog bite.
Steps to Take to Avoid a Bite
Whether the dog is your own or one you pass on a walk, keep the following tips in mind in order to prevent and avoid being bitten by a dog.
Be polite – Like humans, dogs require a certain amount of respect and personal space to feel comfortable in their surroundings. Crowding a dog can instantly make them feel threatened, which will only increase the probability of attack.
Take cues from body language – Watch for any of the following signs that the dog is defensive:
- Ears are back
- Stiff tail
- Whites of eyes are showing
- Backing away
- Intense stare
- Tensed body
- Flicking tongue
- Teeth are barred
If a dog is about to attack
- Do not scream
- Do not run – remain still
- Avoid eye contact
- Wait until the dog loses interest, then slowly back away
- Offer a piece of clothing, purse, or anything that you can put between you and the dog
- If you fall, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless
Following these steps could mean the difference between sustaining a serious, life-threatening bite and getting away relatively unscathed. It is vital that each of these tips is observed, even if you do not believe that something as small as making eye contact with a dog is important— dogs are instinctive creatures that pick up on any detail that could spell danger to them.
Children should be sure to avoid pulling on a dog’s ears, their tail, or attempting to play while the dog is sleeping or eating, as these can all put the dog on the defensive and a small child can get seriously hurt or killed from a bite wound.
What to do if You are Bitten by a Dog
The first reaction may be panic, but fighting this urge can help you or your loved one survive. Keep a cool head and following these steps if you are bitten by a dog:
- Clean the wound immediately with cool water
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible
- Apply gentle pressure to the wound with a clean cloth until you are able to make it to the doctor
- Gather as much information about the dog as possible, such as vaccinations, recent bites
- Determine who the dog’s owner is
- Report the bite to animal control