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 herself look bigger. Her ears may be up and forward, the fur on her back and tail may stand on end or puff out, and her tail may be straight up, it may even wag. She may have a stiff, straight-legged stance and be moving toward or staring directly at what she thinks is an approaching threat. She may also bare her 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 herself look smaller. She may shrink to the ground in a crouch, lower her head, repeatedly lick her lips, put her tail between her legs, flatten her ears back and yawn. She may look away to avoid direct eye contact. She may stay very still or roll on her back and expose her stomach. Alternatively, she may try to turn away or slowly move away from what she thinks is an approaching threat. If she can?t retreat, she may feel she 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 realise 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 neighbour’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 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 his closed hand. Then taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, he can pet the dog’s shoulders or chest.
- 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, he should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.
- If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, he 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, he should curl up in a ball with his knees tucked into his stomach, and fingers interlocked behind his neck to protect his neck and ears. If a child stays still and quiet like this, the dog will most likely just sniff him 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 he has for the dog to grab onto or anything he can put between himself and the dog.