Even the gentlest dogs can lash out when frightened. Whether the dog is in an unfamiliar situation or struggling with an injury or illness, the fear that results might trigger a dangerous response if you approach them incorrectly.
Understanding how to reduce your risk of a dog bite injury will help you stay safe during any encounter with a dog.
Understand body language
A dog’s body language can communicate signs of distress when carefully observed. In cases of fear or anxiety, the dog may exhibit raised hackles, exposing the hair along its back, along with bared teeth and a tucked tail. Getting too close may provoke the dog to growl, which increases your risk of a bite, especially if you attempt to touch the dog. It is crucial to exercise caution and maintain a safe distance in such situations.
A frightened dog is more likely to lash out at you if you approach quickly or aggressively. Stay calm, move slowly and keep quiet to reduce the risk of frightening the dog any further. You can even extend your hand with your palm facing up so that the dog can smell you first, providing an opportunity for recognition or familiarity. If the dog hesitates or growls at your offered hand, keep your hand away and give the dog plenty of space.
Ask for permission
Seek permission before approaching a dog, particularly if it appears apprehensive. Consult the owner or handler about the safest ways to approach the dog. They can also inform you whether it is safe to interact with the dog at all.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 20% of dog bite victims require medical intervention every year. Frightened dogs are more likely to bite if you approach them incorrectly, so you should understand how to minimize that risk. A little bit of caution can help you stay safe with any dog.