As we mentioned in our previous post on dog bite liability – any dog, no matter how well-trained, can become aggressive or bite under certain circumstances. Everyone should respect the wild nature of dogs and follow certain safety precautions when interacting with them. These simple precautions should also be taught to children, so they can learn the proper way to interact with dogs.
What Should I Do If a Strange Dog Approaches Me?
Dogs are naturally territorial and can be aggressive if they feel you have invaded their space. If you happen to walk into an area the dog feels is their territory – they may come toward you in an aggressive posture. If this happens, do not scream and run toward or away from the dog. Your best course of action is to “Be a Tree”. This method is generally taught to kids, but adults can benefit from this method, too.
“Be a Tree”
- Stop (don’t move)
- Fold your branches (arms crossed over your chest and be still)
- Watch your roots (look at the ground)
- Count in your head until help arrives or slowly back away
How Should I Approach a Strange Dog?
Stay away from any strange dog that does not have an owner around. You don’t know the dogs background, whether it was socialized or not, or whether it is aggressive or not.
Ask the owner if it is okay to approach and pet their dog.
This is a great rule to follow and teach kids. If the owner tells you or a child not to approach the dog, they probably have a pretty good reason and the request should be respected.
Do not approach the dog face to face.
Dogs don’t like to be stared at, as this makes them feel threatened. When approaching, your best bet is the keep your side turned toward the dog.
Do not move your hand or fist toward him or hover over him.
By doing this a dog may think you are trying to hit or hurt him. Instead stand still with your hands down at your sides until the dog has a chance to sniff you.
Don’t make threatening or fast moves.
Keep your movements slow and to a minimum. Don’t make any sudden or quick movements and keep your voice low. Quick movements, loud noises and shouting will startle a dog and make them feel threatened.
Let the dog approach you first.
Be still and allow the dog to come to you for an inspection, which in a dog’s case is a sniff test. You may allow him to sniff the back of your hand (with a closed fist), provided you are moving cautiously and slowly.
Pet the dog the correct way.
Once a dog performs his sniff test on you and you see he is responding favorably to you, you may pet it. Petting should be done calmly and slowly, as to not overly excite the dog. Don’t pet a dog on the top of its head, as he may perceive this as a threat. Instead, pet from the bottom of his head, under the chin, or even the chest area and the sides.
How Can I Tell If a Dog is About to Bite?
Learning the language of dogs is your best defense in preventing a bite. If you encounter a strange dog, be on the alert for these telltale signs that a dog may bite:
- Tense body
- Straight and pointed tail
- Wrinkled nose, pulled back to reveal teeth
- Ears pinned back
- May growl or snarl
- Hair on back may be raised
Conversely, a dog who has performed a sniff test on you and is now at ease with you will appear as follows:
- Tail down or wagging back and forth
- Mouth and lips are relaxed (may appear to be smiling)
- Tongue may be visible in mouth
- Ears are neither back nor forward
- Hair will lie smooth along its back