It’s a natural reaction: When you see a cute dog, you want to pet it. Many of us feel that way! But not all dogs want to make new friends, or they may not be in the mood to get attention at that particular moment. It’s important to remember that, so you don’t upset the dog—and for your own safety.
Each year, there are over 4.7 million dog bites reported in the United States. The good news is that with education, dog bites can be prevented!
Dog bites by the numbers: 50% of all dog bites are by the victim’s family dog. Only 10% of bites occur from an unfamiliar dog. Children ages 5-9 are the most at risk. Senior citizens are the second most commonly bitten group.
A dog may bite for many different reasons. There’s a lot to know about animal behavior and how animals defend themselves. But the most common reason a dog will bite is fear. In a stressful, uncomfortable, or fearful situation, a dog may bite to defend itself or territory.
Bites may also happen if a dog is protecting something of value, such as its food, owner, or toys. Dogs who are sick or injured may also bite in an attempt to protect themselves, because they are in pain, or to be left alone.
When a dog is nervous:
- They will lick their lips when no food is nearby.
- They will pant when they’re not hot or thirsty.
- They will move away from you.
When a dog is happy:
- They will wag their tail fast and high.
- They will play bow.
- Their mouth will be loose with their tongue hanging out.
Everyone can work together to prevent dog bites, whether you are the dog’s owner or just someone who loves pups of all shapes and sizes.
How to meet a new dog:
- Ask the owner for permission before petting a dog.
- Allow the dog to sniff your hand before you pet them.
- Pet the dog gently on the side of their neck and back.
- Avoid reaching over the dog’s head.
- If the dog backs away from you, don’t follow them.
- Thank the owner and walk away.