Tips for Approaching Strange Dogs

I recently had an experience with a dangerous dog and I can’t tell you how often it is that I pick up a newspaper to hear about a dog attack.

May 2011 was National Dog Bite Prevention Week, part of a global campaign to help reduce dog bites. Celebrities had been teaming up with the postal service to try to make people more aware of dog bites and how people can keep their dogs from harming anyone. Education and dog bite victim support are being used to make people more aware of how to avoid dog bites. Even the sweetest, gentlest dogs can bite someone under certain stressful circumstances. It’s also important for all of us to know how to act around dogs that we don’t know. There are some tried and true strategies to use when approaching strange dogs:

• Don’t run past a dog. Dogs have a natural instinct to chase after prey and try to catch it. When you run past a dog, you may switch on a dog’s prey drive.

• Don’t look a strange dog in the eyes. In the dog world this can be seen as a challenge to fight.

• If you are wearing sunglasses in the vicinity of a strange dog, you should remove them. Sunglasses can accentuate your eyes and may spook or challenge a strange dog, causing him to attack.

• If you are wearing a ballcap or other hat around a strange dog, consider removing it. Hats are viewed with suspicion by many dogs and may put a strange dog on alert, especially if they haven’t been socialised to them.

• If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves. Then move away slowly until the dog is gone from view.

• Do not approach a strange dog, especially if he is tethered or confined in some way as he may feel cornered and attack to protect himself.

• If you do attempt to pet a dog that is unknown to you, allow him to see and sniff you first, before trying to pet him. This includes dogs that are with their owners or with your friends.

And, of course, you should take special care with children and the elderly around unknown dogs.

It’s estimated that about 250,000 dog bites occur in the UK each year.

Dog owners can help by making sure that their dogs are well-socialised from a young age. Socialisation helps dogs be accepting of strangers and become comfortable in different situations and locations. You should also keep your dog leashed when your dog is off your premises, and you should supervise your dog’s interaction with others.

Just a little good sense from both the public and dog owners can go a long way to preventing dog bites.

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