How to greet a dog to prevent dog bites

It's easy to get excited whenever you see an adorable, fluffy canine. You and your child may just want to jump in and cuddle that dog! But the act of greeting a dog -- one you've just met or one you're even familiar with -- could go awry. Dogs of any breed or any size may find that kisses and hugs, pinching of their cheeks, or hands are thrown in their face as an invitation for a sniff can be alarming acts.

According to an animal behaviorist and veterinarian Dr. Sophia Yin, "The truth is that the majority of bites are actually due to fear, and they occur because humans fail to recognize the signs of fear in dogs. To make matters worse, people often assume that dogs should be friendly with all people all the time and consequently they greet and interact with unfamiliar dogs in a way that is rude or scary." Fortunately, learning how to greet a dog while practicing bite prevention can be fairly simple: learn to read a dog's body language and control your actions.

Learn to Read Dog Body Language
It's not far-fetched to assume that just like you may have a bad day, a dog may, too. Never approach a dog that is:

  • yawning
  • pulling back his head/ears
  • has a tensed body
  • staring intently at you
  • has a stiff tail
  • is showing the whites of his eyes
  • backing away

If a dog wants a pet, he will lean in toward you. Just give him space and time, and he may eventually let you pet him.

Control Your Actions
Assume that dogs see you as an intruder. You need to earn a dog's trust. Make sure that you:

  • Don't thrust your hand out at a dog, bend over him, or reach for his head. Fearful dogs are intimidated by these actions. Kneel down. Let the dog approach you, then scratch under his chin.
  • Stand to the dog's side.
  • Don't stare into a dog's eyes.
  • Don't make loud noises.
  • Never pull or tug at a dog's ears or tail.

Most dog bites aren't spontaneous. There may be something in you or your child's own body language that pushes an intimidated dog to the edge. Bite prevention can be as simple as thinking about how the dog feels, keenly observing his body language, and letting him approach you first.


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