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How to handle it when you encounter a strange dog

On Behalf of | Apr 16, 2024 | Personal Injury |

When you happen to love dogs, it can be tempting to assume that every dog you meet will appreciate a pat on the head and a little praise – but not every dog is friendly.

Just like people, dogs come with all kinds of different personalities and temperaments, and you need to be cautious that your enthusiasm for canines doesn’t lead to a painful encounter. Here are some tips:

1. Ask the owner before you approach.

Before you even consider getting close enough to the dog to pet it, ask the animal’s owner if you have their consent. If they say, “No,” or “I’m not sure how my dog will react,” take that as your cue to leave the dog alone. 

2. Let the dog come to you.

Once you have permission, make yourself approachable and let the dog decide if it wants to come to you. The American Kennel Club says that you should turn to the side as you beckon toward the animal so that you don’t appear like a threat. If the dog is curious about you and comfortable it will come closer.

3. Stay away from their head.

If the dog chooses to engage with you, hold out a hand with your fingers tucked in a fist so that the animal can sniff you first. Once the dog moves closer, pet it on the neck, chest or back – not the head. Most dogs don’t really like strangers touching their heads and they may snap at you in fear.

4. Know when to freeze.

If the dog reacts in any way that indicates it is not welcoming your attention, stay calm and stop moving. Avoid direct eye contact with the animal, keep your arms to your sides and back away very slowly. You don’t want to move too quickly since that can trigger a “chase” response in the animal that can easily turn into a full-fledged attack.

Remember, dogs are still animals, and they don’t know that you automatically adore them all. A dog will respond to threats – real or perceived – in the way that dogs do, and that could easily turn into a bite. If you end up injured by someone’s dog despite your precautions, learn more about your legal options.