Dog Bite Prevention

Increasing Safety, Reducing Risks

To reduce the number of injuries from dog bites, adults and children should be educated about bite prevention and dog owners should practice responsible dog ownership.

Understanding dog body language is a key way to help avoid being bitten. Know the signs that dogs give to indicate that they’re feeling anxious, afraid, threatened or aggressive.

  • An aggressive dog may try to make itself look bigger. Its ears may be up and forward, the fur on its back and tail may stand on end or puff out, and its tail may be straight up—it may even wag. An aggressive dog may have a stiff, straight-legged stance and be moving toward or staring directly at what it thinks is an approaching threat. It may also bare its teeth, growl, lunge or bark. Continued approach toward a dog showing this body language could result in a bite.
  • An anxious or scared dog may try to make itself look smaller. It may shrink to the ground in a crouch, lower its head, repeatedly lick its lips, put its tail between its legs, flatten its ears back and yawn. An anxious dog may look away to avoid direct eye contact. It may stay very still or roll on its back and expose its stomach. Alternatively, it may try to turn away or slowly move away from what it thinks is an approaching threat. If it can’t retreat, it may feel that it has no other alternative but to defensively growl, snarl or even bite.
  • Many dogs can show a mixture of these body postures, indicating that they feel conflicted. Remember to avoid any dog showing any of signs of fear, aggression or anxiety—no matter what else the dog is doing.

    It’s important to realize that a wagging tail or a crouching body doesn’t always mean friendliness.

Safety Tips for Children

Be aware of the fact that any dog can bite. From the smallest to the largest, even the most friendly, cute and easygoing dogs might bite if provoked. The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog known to the person—his or her own pet, a neighbor's or a friend's. You can help protect your child from dog bites by discussing with him the appropriate way to behave around dogs. We offer the following tips:

  • Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog who is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened, injured or caring for young.
  • Children should never approach a barking, growling or scared dog.
  • Children should not pet unfamiliar dogs without asking permission from the dog’s guardian first. If the guardian says it is okay, the child should first let the dog sniff the back of a closed hand. Then taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, the child may then be able to pet the dog’s shoulders or chest.
  • Always introduce your hand in a slow upward motion from below the level of the dog’s head, do not bring your hand down from above the level of the dog’s head as they may perceive the action as a strike.
  • Children should not try to pet dogs who are behind a fence or in a car. Dogs often protect their home or space.
  • If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, the child should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.
  • If a loose dog comes near a child, the child should not run or scream. Instead, the child should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away. Once the dog loses interest, the child can slowly back away.
  • If a child falls down or is knocked to the ground by a dog, they should curl up in a ball with their knees tucked into their stomach, and fingers interlocked behind their neck to protect the childs neck and ears. If a child stays still and quiet like this, the dog will most likely just sniff them and then go away.
  • Children should never try to outrun a dog. If a dog does attack a child, the child should “feed” the dog his jacket, bag, bicycle—or anything that the child has for the dog to grab onto or anything that can be put between the child and the dog.
  • Neither children nor adults should blow into the face of a dog.  Many dogs do not like this and may bite rather then turn away.