About 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S., with about one million people needing medical attention. Of that number, 750,000 each year are children and about 12 people each year die as a result of those bites.
Most victims of dog bites are bitten by familiar dogs (i.e. their own dog, a neighbor’s dog or a friend’s dog), usually not from stray dogs. Most, if not all, breeds of dogs can be properly trained and socialized to be gentle and tolerant of others. Dogs should be trained to obey basic commands such as sit, stay, come and down. Unfortunately, not all dogs you encounter are properly trained and socialized.
What do you do if you encounter what appears to be an aggressive dog?
If the dog is being walked on a leash by its owner then you can simply stay a safe distance from the dog by simply crossing the street or by giving yourself plenty of space between you and the dog. However, if you encounter an aggressive dog that is unleashed and running free with no owner in sight, there are some basic precautions you can take.
- You should stand still and not make any sudden movements, as these could be interpreted as an attack by the animal.
- Also do not make eye contact with the dog, as the dog will accept this as a challenge.
- Further, do not smile, because the dog may think you are "baring your teeth," which is viewed as an invitation to fight.
- Respect the aggressive dog’s wishes; if he is barking and growling the dog is expressing his definite displeasure with your presence and actions. Barking and growling are warning signs that the dog will bite if threatened. Hopefully the dog owner will appear; if so then wait for the dog owner to come and restrain their dog.
- As a last defensive measure, it is beneficial for you to carry a small container of pepper spray whenever you go out for a walk or run. This could protect you if you were to encounter an aggressive dog, but only when an attack is imminent and you need to fend off the dog.
- In the event of an actual attack, keep your fingers in a fist and your arms and legs close to your body, this will prevent the dog from grabbing onto your extremities and pulling you down.
- If you are been bitten by a dog you should always seek medical attention, even if you only receive minor scratches or bites to make sure the wounds are properly cleansed, bandaged and sutured by medical personnel.