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​How to Avoid Being Bitten by a Dog

The number of dog attacks being reported in the UK is increasing every year.  Being bitten by a dog is a horrible experience so it’s really important to know the best way to stay safe.
 
Many dog attacks happen because animals haven’t been trained properly or are left alone with strangers when they shouldn’t be.  If you have a dog who is likely to become aggressive around new people or in public places then make sure you have them on a lead.  It is not other people’s responsibility to know how to behave with your dog, it is your responsibility to make sure your dog is properly trained and kept out of the way.
 
Understanding why a dog may become aggressive helps us know how to act around them so we can avoid being bitten or attacked.
 
 
Reasons why a dog may be aggressive
 
Barking, stiffening up, holding their tail high, staring and snarling are all signs of aggression in dogs.  They may see you as a threat or you may have wandered into what they consider to be their territory.
 
Dogs who are quite territorial may have become more confident in this aggressive behaviour as they see it working.  When the postman delivers letters, they bark, and the postman goes away.  When they are in the park they will bark at cyclists or joggers and again it looks like their action is working as people cycle or run past.
 
Aggressive behaviour mostly comes from fear and a barking dog is probably just worried that you are going to come too close.  If a dog is tied up then their barking and snarling will get worse as they get more and more frightened and can’t run away.
 
There are certain breeds that are more prone to aggression and sometimes dogs are actually trained to be vicious to strangers.  If you don’t know a dog then don’t approach it, especially if it is tied up, unless the owner says it’s OK. 
 
It’s very common for dogs to be aggressive to each other and a lot of bites happen when owners are trying to split up a fight.  When dogs are fighting they aren’t thinking properly.  If someone suddenly grabs them they will often lash out assuming it’s the other dog.
 
 
How to approach a strange dog
 
Lots of people approach strange dogs with their hand out while staring them in the face.  They may then pat them on the head which most dogs actually hate!  For dogs that are used to our strange ways this won’t be a problem, they will grin and bear it.  But for dogs who aren’t well socialised then this behaviour looks very threatening and they may try and bite.
 
Never approach a strange dog unless the owner is there.  Always ask permission before touching a dog you don’t know.  If it’s OK then go up to them side on and try not to look them in the eye.  Let the dog come to you and don’t pat them on the head or crouch over them.  Once they are sniffing you then offer your closed hand to them to say hello.  If they don’t want to play then don’t force them, this can mean they are scared and if you keep talking to them they may bite.
 
What should I do if approached by an aggressive dog?
 
If a barking, snarling dog comes charging up to you then the first thing to do is not panic!  It’s really important to stay calm.  Screaming or shouting are totally the wrong things to do if a dog is feeling scared, it will just make things worse as you will look more frightening to them.
 

Don’t run!  A dog’s instinct is to chase and catch things and you won’t be able to run faster than them. Keep your hands closed in a fist and your arms by your sides.  A waving arm is an obvious target.

 
Instead you should stay still, turn away and don’t look at the dog.  This way you are showing you aren’t a threat.  The dog may come quite close and sniff you, but if you are not behaving threateningly then they are unlikely to bite.
 
This is a very difficult thing to do in such a stressful situation but in dog language ‘look away’ shows that you aren’t a threat.  If a dog looks like it’s going to jump, then turn your whole body away and this will normally stop them. 
 
Try distracting the dog with something else like a bag, coat or sandwich. Throwing this down will give them something to attack and you will have time to turn around and walk away slowly. If you have your own dog and are lucky enough to have a pocket full of treats then scattering these on the ground will help get the dog away from you.
 
If the dog is not backing away then you can try using a strong commanding voice to tell them to ‘go home’ or ‘go away’.
 
If a dog does start to bite you, try not to pull away as that will make your injury worse.  If there is someone else around then a bucket of cold water can shock the dog into stopping.  If someone has a strong stick or umbrella handle then this can be slid between the dog’s teeth to pull apart their jaws.  If you need to defend yourself further then remember that a dog’s nose is more sensitive than their head as they have very thick skulls.
 
If your dog starts fighting another dog then the best thing to do is not get involved. It’s highly likely you’ll be injured.  If you really have to do something then try and grab their back leg and pull them out of the fight.  This works best with two people pulling the legs of both dogs. Even better would be to use a slip lead on the leg to pull a dog out, although it may be difficult to get this on.

 
The best way to avoid a dog bite is to stay away from dogs that might be aggressive.  If you are unlucky enough to be faced by an angry dog who wants to attack then try to think like them. They are scared of you and want you to go away.  By keeping calm and doing everything you can to make yourself as unthreatening as possible you will have a good chance of walking away unharmed.