Why Does A Dog Bite and How Do You Avoid It?

Dogs will bite people for many different reasons. Sometimes we make a mistake and do something that frightens or angers the dog. Other times the dog may be upset or reacting to something that has nothing to do with the victim, who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a small number of cases the dog may be ill. Typically, the victim did not do anything to directly provoke the attack.

Common sense tells us that avoiding certain circumstances will reduce the chances of your being attacked by a dog. While it would be impossible to list every situation or behavior to avoid, the following are some examples of things you should NEVER do:

  • Hit, kick or beat a dog
  • Tease a dog
  • Growl or threaten a dog
  • Wave your hands or feet in the dog’s face
  • Place your face near the dog’s mouth
  • Corner the dog
  • Cover it with a blanket
  • Pull on its ears, leg or tail, or otherwise hurt it
  • Try to pet a strange dog, no matter how cute it looks

All of these things are easy to understand. Once you think about how to act around a dog, common sense will usually guide your actions. However, there are other things that can prevent dog attacks that are not quite so obvious. The most important of these lessons is how you approach a dog.

Always stay calm and never make sudden unexpected moves. If possible, let the dog approach you, and sniff your hand. Once you sense the dog is comfortable, you can think about petting the dog. How quickly you move to petting will depend on how well you know the dog and its disposition.

As noted above, you should never try to pet a strange dog. However, if the owner is present, then you may let the dog approach you. Let the dog sniff and touch you before slowly extending your hand. If the dog jumps, growls or bares its teeth, remain calm and still, firmly saying the word “No.” Do not scream or run away, as this may actually encourage the dog to attack, and there is little likelihood that you can outrun a dog. One expert suggests teaching young children that if a dog becomes aggressive, the child should play hide and seek and cover their face with their hands.

Most dog attacks occur in the home of the victim. In order to avoid being bitten by the family dog, it is important that the family teach the dog how to be social. This means introducing the dog to as many people as possible at as young an age as possible. If the dog learns how to be comfortable, then you reduce the chances of a dog bite. If a family is uncertain as to the best way to accomplish teaching the dog, an obedience school or program is a good alternative.