When you think about a dog attack, it often conjures up images of a stray, vicious animal foaming from the mouth and targeting innocent victims for seemingly no reason. While some dog attacks are unprovoked and involve sick or unfamiliar dogs, the vast majority of dog bites are from dogs the victim knows personally – including their own pet.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, 63.4 million U.S. households own a dog as a pet. Dogs are virtually everywhere, and while most are inherently good, the reality is any dog can bite. The next time you take a walk or job around your neighborhood, it’s essential to consider what you might do in the event of an attack to avoid serious injury.

Tips for avoiding a dog attack

Dogs rely on body language to communicate when they are fearful, anxious or uncomfortable. The next time you encounter a canine, using these tips can reduce your risk in a variety of different scenarios:

  • Maintain a safe distance when passing by a dog who is leashed. No matter their size or breed, they may lunge at you as you pass by if they feel fearful or excited.
  • If the dog is on a long leash, you can ask the owner to rein in their dog before walking by. This can allow the owner to have better control over their animal if it lunges or snaps.
  • If there is a new dog you want to approach, always ask the owner’s permission first regardless of whether it is on a leash or in their yard.
  • Never approach a dog that is barking, growling, sleeping, eating or nursing its puppies.
  • Don’t stare a dog in the eyes, as this is a sign of aggression between dogs. Instead, you should look away from the dog to show you don’t want to challenge it.
  • Never run from an aggressive dog. You cannot outrun a dog and the chase may excite them more. Instead, stand still or maintain a slow, consistent pace out of the dog’s territory.
  • Familiarize yourself with the less obvious signs of a fearful dog, including licking their lips, repeatedly yawning, avoiding meeting your gaze, cowering, or tucking its tail between its legs.

Dog attacks are terrifying encounters that often end in serious injuries. Fortunately, most dog attacks are preventable. By learning how to read the warning signs and deescalate aggressive confrontations, you can ensure you stay safe around all canine companions.