In recognition of Dog Bite Prevention Awareness Week, here are a few steps you can take to avoid getting bit:
Space Recognition – Recognize that dogs need their space. Avoid invading their space without their permission. If they have a yellow ribbon tied to their leash, this is a sign the dog may be fearful of strangers and could become aggressive around people it does not know. Cross to the other side of the street or adjust your body language to appear less threatening. See our blog detailing the Yellow Ribbon Campaign.
Body Language — Did you know our body language and the way we move tells a dog how we feel about a situation? By stepping back or turning your body sideways or crouching down, you are taking up less of the dog’s space and will appear less threatening to the dog. Another good move is to keep your arms at your side and avoid eye contact. Looking a dog right in the eye can be seen as a challenging action.
Be Respectful – Always ask the owner’s permission before approaching a strange dog. The dog will recognize that their owner has granted permission and will therefore be more relaxed as you move toward them. If they are not receptive, you can give them space to decline the offer and walk away from them (see illustration below).
Don’t Surprise a Dog – This is one of our biggest pet peeves when we walk dogs. Joggers or cyclists rarely respect a dog’s space when zooming past them in close proximity, scaring the dog and resulting in a possible attack. The best approach is to give a wide berth of space between you and the dog, or better yet, cross the street. Dogs do not understand why people are running or biking toward them or behind them. They are surprised, scared and sometimes protective, so when you put dogs in this position, the likelihood of getting bit increases. Even well behaved dogs will sometimes react aggressively if you violate their personal space.
Prey Drive – Did you know some dogs enjoy chasing things, including people? The best way to deal with a dog with a big prey drive is to avoid eye contact, stop moving and stand tall. The dog will usually just sniff you and leave, as you are not seen as a threat. If the dog does run after you, curl up in a ball, protect your hands and be still. The dog will eventually lose interest and move on.
Be Wary of Invisible Fences – Dogs behind a fence sometimes view their property as a zone to protect and will defend it against anyone who is nearby. If they see you as a threat, they may run through the barrier and attack. This is particularly the case when you are walking by with another dog. The best approach is to turn around or cross the street so as not to appear as a threat.