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Focus on Dog Bites: Preventing Dog Bites

Dogs bite nearly five million people every year, many of them young children between the ages of five and nine. About 17 percent of these dog bites require medical treatment.

As previously discussed, any dog has the potential to bite and dog attacks really do not occur more often with any one breed. The bad rap given Pit Bulls, Rottweillers and Bull Terriers stems mostly from the ability of these breeds to inflict serious damage when they bite. However, Chihuahuas, Golden Retrievers and Labradors are just as likely to attack given provocation.

So, what can you do to prevent dog bites?

When approaching an unfamiliar dog, you should exercise caution regardless of the breed. If the dog is with its owner, ask the owner first if it is all right to pet the animal. This likely goes without saying, but it is worth step-checking yourself and making sure that the owner feels comfortable with your approach.

When preparing to "introduce yourself" to an unfamiliar dog, approach it slowly. Extend your hand and give the dog an opportunity to approach on its own. The dog will smell your hand and, if it feels comfortable letting you approach, it will lower its head and maybe even come towards you.

If the dog seems hesitant and retreats after smelling your hand, it probably wasn't meant to be. Do not force contact.

You should also be respectful of the dog's space. Do not surprise it by approaching from the rear. Do not grab its tail, ears or do anything like blow onto its face. You would likely never do this to a stranger's dog anyway, but you should really refrain from these types of interaction with any pet.

You may also want to refrain from attempting to roll a dog onto its back and scratch its stomach. Some dogs love it. Some are threatened, as this is a very submissive position. It's best to stay away from this with unfamiliar dogs.

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