While media frenzy and general paranoia may have exaggerated the real danger of dog attacks, it is nevertheless wise to exercise caution when dealing with strange dogs, particularly when children are involved. Many local authorities now run educational programmes aimed at increasing the public’s understanding of canine body language and providing information on the correct way to interact with dogs. If you have kids, however, it pays to impress upon them a few simple rules:
- Always ask the owner for permission before approaching and petting a dog
- Approach the dog slowly and from the side if possible.
- Offer the back of your hand gently for the dog to sniff
- Stroke the dog on the chest or shoulders – avoid the neck and face and remember to be gentle
- Stand-still if you are approached by a strange dog and you are frightened. Move slowly and quietly away.
- Don’t rush up to a dog, especially head-on.
- Don’t stare at the dog in the eyes, particularly as you are approaching – dogs find this very threatening or may read it as a challenge.
- Don’t hug the dog around the neck or wrap your arms around its body – this can be very threatening.
- Don’t approach a dog that is eating or sleeping.
- Don’t try to take toys, bones or any other items off a dog you don’t know.
- Never tease or annoy a dog, such as pulling its tail.
- Never kiss or put your face close to a dog’s face.
- Don’t run around and scream or shout near a dog.
- If you are approached by a strange dog and you are frightened, do not run and scream as this will incite the dog to chase you and it may bite out of excitement.
- Don’t approach a bitch with puppies as she may be particularly protective of them.
Canine Body Language
Dogs give plenty of warning before they are going to attack and in many a cases, a tragedy was preventable if the person had noticed and paid attention to the cues being given. If a dog is showing any signs of fear or unease, particularly if it is cornered or restrained and cannot run away, move away from it immediately as it may be provoked into fear aggression. Here is a summary of the common signals dogs give to convey their state of mind: (remember, a wagging tail does not always mean a happy dog!)