10 Ways to Safely Approach a Dog

dog running in park

When you’re sitting at the park or going for a walk outside, you may automatically want to pet every dog you see. However, it’s important to remember that every dog has a different way of responding to people. Even if you are “a dog person,” you have no idea how an unfamiliar dog is going to react to you.

Ensuring both you and your children know how to safely approach a dog can prevent potential dog bite injuries.

Mistakes People Make When Approaching Dogs

There are several mistakes that well-meaning humans commit against dogs who they are meeting for the first time. Some of the most common mistakes that people make when approaching dogs include:

  • Neglecting to ask the dog’s owner permission to approach or pet the animal
  • Reaching over the dog’s head to pat them
  • Staring at the dog without blinking and approaching head-on
  • Walking up behind the dog to pet it
  • Failing to spot the signs of a stressed, anxious, nervous, or aggressive dog
  • Looming over the dog while standing or squatting
  • Hugging the dog
  • Reaching out your hand for the dog to sniff
  • Rushing up to the dog

How to Safely Approach an Unfamiliar Dog

Now that you know common mistakes made when greeting unfamiliar dogs, here are 10 tips that you should heed to keep yourself safe. Talk to your children about these safety tips too so that they understand proper dog greetings.

  1. Always ask the owner first. Some dogs may be nervous, in training, or overexcited, so you should always ask the owner before you approach the dog.
  2. Don’t approach the dog. Pretend you are ignoring the dog and simply allow the dog to approach you if they are comfortable and relaxed.
  3. Avert your eyes. Staring directly and without blinking at a dog can signal aggression.
  4. Avoid petting the top of the dog’s head. If the dog comes up to sniff your hand, pet the dog’s shoulder, neck, or chest—not the top of the animal’s head.
  5. Don’t face the dog head-on. Facing a dog head-on can be an aggressive signal to the dog, so ensure that your body is turned outward.
  6. Respect the dog’s wishes. If the dog does not approach you, respect the animal’s space and do not approach it.
  7. Either stand or squat, but don’t loom over. Squat or stand straight up, but avoid looming over the dog, as doing so can make the animal feel uncomfortable.
  8. Keep your body loose and relaxed. Put on an easy smile or blink slowly to show that dog that you are not a threat.
  9. Know the warning signs. If the dog begins to back away or looks tense, immediately stop what you are doing and back away.
  10. Be gentle and relaxed. Use a calm, relaxed voice and keep your body language relaxed as well; avoid any sudden or jerky movements that could scare the animal.

What To Do After a Dog Bite Injury

While you can take steps to prevent being bit by a dog, ultimately, dog owners are responsible for 1.) recognizing when their dog is fearful, stressed, or anxious, and 2.) taking the appropriate steps to prevent others from approaching the dog and ensuring the dog does not harm anyone.

If you or a loved one is injured because of a dog bite, you should seek medical attention immediately to reduce the risk of infection and prevent potential scarring on the skin. Additionally, don’t hesitate to contact a Fresno dog bite attorney at Fowler | Helsel | Vogt to ensure your rights are protected.

We will fight the compensation you need to physically and emotionally heal after a dog bite attack. Contact our firm at (559) 900-1280

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