Preventing Dog Bites

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 4.7 million are bitten by dogs each year. Their instincts tell them to chase prey, guard their territory, protect their young, and defend themselves when cornered. Dogs communicate with the only tools they have - their bodies, a range of verbal sounds, and their teeth. Most dog bites are reported as "unprovoked." However, something causes a dog to bite, and victims are often taken by surprise. There are ways to protect yourself. Here's how:

Learn the warning signs
Most warning signs you see; others your hear. They include:
Growling, snarling or aggressive barking.
Shyness or fear, such as when a dog crouches, has his head low or tail between his legs. Fearful dogs can be just as dangerous as aggressive ones.
Fur raised up, ears erect, body stiff, tail high He's saying, "Stay away from me, or I'll do something drastic!"
An unnaturally still or unresponsive dog. Many fighting breeds have been bred for their ability to disguise aggressive intentions.
A dog in pain will bite anyone who touches him - even his owner
Avoid dangerous situations
Follow these tips to avoid coming face-to-face with a biting dog.
Stay away from dogs that are in cars, chained or cornered. They often feel vulnerable and will fight to protect their territory.
Never run past a dog. Joggers and children on bicycles can trigger their instinct to chase and attack
Don't near a dog that's eating, chewing, sleeping or caring for puppies.
Never tease a dog or play too rough.
Be careful around older dogs. They may be blind, sensitive to touch or hearing-impaired.
Never leave infants or children alone with a dog. According to the CDC, infants top the list for dog-related deaths.
Never try to break up a dog fight with your hands. Use a water hose, stick or throw a blanket over the dogs to disorient them. Children should call an adult for help.
Keep your face away from your dog's, especially when disciplining.
Know self-defense moves
According to Mitzi Robinson, who runs a dog-bite prevention company in San Diego, California, many people are bitten because they unintentionally provoke or escalate an attack. She adds, if you're approached by an aggressive dog, don't make eye contact or move suddenly. This can challenge a dog and cause him to attack. Stand motionless, like a statue. Face the dog but turn your head away. If lunged at, don't try to overpower the dog. If you're holding something, put it into his mouth. "If you don't have anything in your hand, put your arm up to protect your face," says Robinson. If you're knocked down to the ground, don't move or scream. Pretend that you are a turtle: curl up in a ball, face down, and cover your head with your arms. Stay in this position until the dog leaves.
Make your dog people-safe
Take your dog to training classes. Develop his respect for humans
Your dog should be part of the family. Unsocialized "outdoor" dogs bite more frequently that "indoor dogs.
Establish house rules and standards of behavior for you dog. This will make your pet happier, more respectful and safer to be around.
For additional information, contact the U.S. Humane Society at (202) 452-1100.