Some people are more susceptible to being bitten by dogs than others simply because they are not adept at reading dogs' pre-attack body language.
Any animal with teeth can bite, and that includes a friendly little floof gamboling about your ankles. However, it's also true that certain dogs have more of a propensity to bite, either because of inherent traits from breeding or ill-treatment by other humans.
Read on to learn how to correctly interpret canine behavior to make yourself less likely to be a victim of a dog-bite attack.
Growling is their early warning system
A growling dog is sending you a clear and unequivocal message -- "stay away!" Ignoring this obvious signal, as young children might, can end very badly.
But dogs who have been physically or verbally corrected for their barks and growls may suppress growls and transition straight into attack mode. Still, there are usually other signs that a dog is about to attack.
Beware of the whites of their eyes
When a dog shows "whale eyes," i.e., exposing the white sclera portion of their eyeballs, they are expressing their discomfort with a situation. This often happens when a dog is firmly embraced, as they don't like to be constrained by human hugs.
Eye contact, in particular, is a sign of either dominance or submission. Submissive dogs cast their eyes down or sideways, while dominant dogs use direct eye contact to communicate their willingness to challenge a person or other animal.
Tails it is
A wagging tail is not a universal sign of a friendly dog. Stiffly wagging tails can be a pre-attack controlled energy release for dogs.
Dogs that are about to attack also tend to make themselves appear as physically prominent as possible. Their ears will prick up and they will widen their stances by spreading out their paws and thrusting out their chests.
Last chance warning
Dogs often go to great lengths to avoid biting. But if a dog snarls its lip and begins a low, rumbling growl, this is your final opportunity to avoid being bitten. Looking away from the dog and slowly backing away can convey that you are no longer a threat, and thus, there is no need to attack.
Interacting with dogs
Many dog bites occur because people (especially youngsters) don't know how to properly interact with dogs. The following tips may help you avoid an attack:
- Crouch to their level. Dogs are threatened when strangers tower over them. If you need to approach a strange dog, come down to its level to appear less threatening.
- Extend hand palm up. To dogs -- as well as humans -- a hand raised palm down is perceived as a threat, whereas a palms-up gesture is seen as supplication.
- Lower your voice. Loud, high-pitched noises or screams frighten nervous dogs and could set off an attack. Speak calmly in low tones to dogs that appear frightened or skittish.
When dogs attack
Unfortunately, not all situations with aggressive dogs can be that easily defused. Here are some things to do to protect yourself if a dog lunges at you.
- Give it something else to bite. Doesn't matter what -- your purse, backpack, umbrella or grocery bag. Anything to get the dog to clamp down on something besides your body parts.
- Protect face and fingers. These two areas of the body are particularly vulnerable to devastating dog bites. Curling your hands into tight fists and covering your face with your arms can offer some protection.
- Seek immediate medical treatment. Dog bites can cause terrible infections. It's an old wives' tale that dogs have clean mouths. If you don't know the history of the dog that bit you and it cannot be captured, it may even be necessary to start rabies shots.
If you were bitten by a dog, you may be able to file a claim for compensation.