Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.
The foundation provided tips on how to prevent dog bites, as well as how to reduce the chances of your dog biting or attacking.
Preventing dog bites
To lessen the chances of being bitten or attacked by a dog, don’t run past a dog. This can cause them to become excited or aggressive.
Never reach over or through a fence to pet a dog, as they can be territorial and may feel threatened.
If a dog approaches you to sniff you, stay still. According to the AVMF, the dog will usually leave once it determines you aren’t a threat.
While it’s best to stay still, if you do move, back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
If you feel threatened by a dog, try your best to stay calm. Don’t scream, and if you do speak, use a calm and firm voice.
If a dog knocks you down or you fall, the AVMF said to curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck to protect your face.
Additionally, teach children to never approach strange dogs or try to pet animals in yards. Also teach them to ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting it.
Preventing your dog from attacking
To help keep your dog from biting or attacking, socialize your pet with humans and other animals, but don’t put them in circumstances where they may feel threatened.
If your dog seems stressed or upset, remove your dog from the situation that may be causing the reaction. If the dog is aggressive but seems unprovoked, the AVMF said to see a veterinarian to determine the cause.
Also be sure to keep your pet healthy. The AVMF said that dogs in pain are more likely to bite. Dogs that are spayed or neutered are also less likely to bite than those that are not.
Teach your dog basic commands. Also, don’t play games that will highly excite the dog, like wrestling or tug-of-war.
Always supervise children around pets. The AVMF suggests not getting a new dog until children are over the age of four.
If you are bitten
If bitten by a strange dog, first seek medical treatment before contacting police.
When you contact police, the AVMF said to tell them everything about the dog that you can, including the owner’s name if you know it, the dog’s color and size, where you encountered the dog and if you have seen it before.
The AVMF also suggests asking your physician if post-exposure rabies prophylaxis is necessary.