How to Greet a Dog (And What to Avoid)

Came across this leaflet a couple of weeks back on “How to Greet a Dog (and What to Avoid)” at a local fair for pet owners. Reading it, I realized that I was doing everything wrong when it comes to approaching an unknown dog. I’m guessing that you might be as well.

Did you know, for example that you aren’t supposed to approach an unknown dog directly and look it in the eyes? You are supposed to approach sideways and watch the dog with your peripheral vision.


So head over to Dr. Sophia Yin’s website and fill out a simple form to get the flyer.

While you’re there, there are videos to watch and have your children watch that will teach everyone how to avoid being bitten by any dog, unknown or familiar.

Dog Bite Prevention

For most of us dogs are a part of our household, part of our “family”. We dote on them, spend a small fortune on them (Americans spend $41 billion on their pets each year) and pamper them.

Sometimes, however, our furry friends can turn on us! We tend to forget that they have a mouthful of extremely sharp teeth designed to rip apart meat and if and if certain safety measures aren’t met those teeth can rip into us or our children (Children are the largest percentage of those who are injured).

4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the US each year. 20% of those bites require medical attention. Back in 2006 some 31,000 people had to have reconstructive surgery because of dog bites.

According to the CDC page on dog bite prevention:

Before you bring a dog into your household:

  • Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn what breeds of dogs are the best fit for your household.
  • Dogs with histories of aggression are not suitable for households with children.
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems frightened by dogs, wait before bringing a dog into your household.
  • Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a household with an infant or toddler.

If you decide to bring a dog into your home:

  • Spay/neuter your dog (this often reduces aggressive tendencies).
  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
  • Don’t play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
  • Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g., rolling over to expose the abdomen and giving up food without growling).
  • Immediately seek professional advice (e.g., from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible breeders) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.

To help prevent children from being bitten by dogs, teach the following basic safety tips and review them regularly:

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog or scream.
  • Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”).
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
  • Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.

Check out the CDC page for more information or to listen to a 4:05 minute podcast.

Dog Bite Safety Tips

Prevent Dog Bites Before They Happen

Every year, more than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs, with more than half of all victims younger than age 14.

What Are the Signs That a Dog Is Going to Bite?

A dog’s body language is the key to understanding when it may be preparing to bite. Here are some common signs that a dog is relaxed and not looking to bite:

  • A relaxed dog will hold its head up.
  • The dog’s tail with either be resting, pointed down, or gently wagging back and forth.
  • The ears should be neither back nor forward.
  • The dog’s hair will lie smooth along its back.
  • Its mouth and lips are relaxed, almost appearing as if they were smiling.
  • You can see the dog’s tongue.

Signs that a dog may be readying itself to bite:

  • The dog’s nose may be pulled back and wrinkled.
  • The dog’s lips are drawn back to reveal its teeth.
  • The hair along the back of its neck is raised straight down the spine.
  • You can see that the dog’s ears may lie back or be pushed up forward.
  • Its body may appear tense and cocked.
  • The dog is making noises such as growls or snarls.

Ways to Avoid Dog Bites and Dog Attacks

Good behavior begins with dog owners. Here are some tips to help dog owners encourage safety and prevent dog bites:

  • Know and follow leash laws. This goes for your home, as well as anywhere you may visit. Keeping your dog properly restrained at all times is a way to cut down on dog attacks.
  • Don’t let your dog run loose, even in your backyard. Make sure that the dog is kept on a run, inside an enclosed or fenced area, or wearing an electronic restraint collar. Dogs can easily get loose and bite people if there are no restraints in place.
  • Train your dog. Proper animal education allows the dog to establish positive patterns of behavior. With a solid background of training, your dog will understand basic commands and have a better sense of right and wrong.
  • Socialize your dog with both people and other dogs. Dog parks and doggie daycares are just two of the ways that your dog can gain safe exposure to other animals and humans. The more comfortable your dog is around strangers, the less chance there is that your dog will bite.
  • Train your dog to drop toys on command. Avoid reaching inside its mouth to retrieve toys.
  • Focus on non-aggressive games such as fetch. Tug-of-war and wrestling can encourage aggressive behavior.
  • Never, under any circumstances, leave a small child unsupervised with a dog.

Safety doesn’t just end with dog owners. It’s important for everyone to understand that behaviors can provoke an otherwise gentle dog into attacking. Here are some safety tips when dealing with dogs that don’t live in your home:

  • Teach children to always ask a dog’s owner for permission petting a dog.
  • Respect a dog’s space. Don’t casually place your hands on a dog’s fence or other property. Dogs are territorial by nature and may feel threatened if they don’t know you.
  • Always act with extra caution around a mother dog and her puppies. She will be very protective of her babies.
  • If approached by a dog that has gotten off its leash, do not run away and yell or make loud noises. Stand still, with your arms crossed over your chest, avoiding eye contact with the dog.
  • When you feel that a dog may be approaching your with the intent to bite, toss an object away from you and away from the dog to distract its attention. Then confidently turn and walk away from the dog.
  • Remember that a sick or old dog may be more irritable than a younger animal. Approach these dogs with extra caution.

Are Some Dog Breeds More Dangerous Than Others?

Unfortunately, this question has two very valid answers that contradict each other. First and foremost, it’s not a dog’s breed that makes it dangerous – a dog’s upbringing and lifestyle can makes an otherwise gentle dog turn vicious. In that sense, the answer is “no.”

But some dog owners seek out specific dog breeds for their supposedly aggressive temperaments. Because certain breeds have been targeted by dog owners who encourage aggression, these breeds have become disproportionately represented in dog bite statistics and other sources of information. In that sense, the answer is “yes.”

Fighting breeds may pose a unique threat. Pit Bull, Bulldog, Akita, Bullmastiff, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, Dogue de Bordeaux, Fila Brasileiro, Presa Canario, Shar Pei, and Tosa Inu dog breeds are often coveted as fighting dogs. While they hold no specific threat when raised as a loving family dog, many members of these breeds are raised to be fierce by their owners and thus should be approached with extra caution.

Today’s blog post is courtesy of Ken Oswald

Safety and Security Manager for Plateau