There are many causes of dog bites. While most people just assume a biting dog is mean, bites out of pure meanness are rare. The biggest reason a dog will bite is out of fear. Biting is the instinctive way to keep predators at bay and stay safe. Dog bites are not only scary, but are painful and can cause infections and other complications. In my time as a dog trainer, I have learned that there are several ways you can avoid a dog bite. Following these tips will keep you and your family safe in the face of any dog.
Clear the Approach With the Owner
Some dogs are just biters. All dogs can be unpredictable. NEVER pet a dog until you clear it first with the owner. If a dog is very protective of its family, there’s no use trying to make friends at first. Just steer clear. The owner should let you know if it’s safe to approach.
Never run up quickly on a dog, whether it’s a dog you have known for a while, or are just meeting. Approach calmly, with a low, quiet voice and soft, relaxed body posture. This will let the dog know that you are not a predator.
Address the dog with a low, quiet voice. Use their name if you know it. Say hello, and reassure them that you are a friend, and are not out to hurt them. I am an avid bike rider and pleasure walker, and have had many angry dogs come at me and nip at my ankles. I stop what I am doing and try to make friends. A kind word and gentle voice is usually enough to get them to let me pet them and stop being scared.
Hold Out Your Hand
Many of my clients say “Hold out my hand? That’s an invitation to bite me!” Not really. When you hold out your hand, it gives the animal a chance to smell you and get to know you. Dogs communicate largely with their nose. Never rush your hand to a dog’s head to pet them – that is seen as a sign of predatory aggression. Give the dog a moment to sniff your “human calling card” and get accustomed to your smell. He should then open up to you.
Remove Yourself from the Situation
If the above tips fail and the dog still wants to taste your leg, remove yourself from the situation. Leave the area, or have the dog’s owner secure the dog. Sometimes, no matter what you do, a dog is not going to want to be friends. Read the dog’s body language and be aware of how he’s feeling before you try to force your friendship upon him.