Blog: Dog Bite Prevention Part 2

Dog Bite Prevention Part 1

by Alexandra Mittner DVM

Dog bite prevention is an important topic to discuss both for dog owners as well as the general public, as dogs are seen in more and more public venues in today’s society. The USA is leading  in terms of recognizing the importance of the human-animal bond and viewing the animals we live with as an interactive part of the family, and not simply a possession or working tool. There is also a rise in the incidence of animal related injuries seen every year by human healthcare services. Google reports, “Each year, more than 350,000 dog bite victims are seen in emergency rooms, and approximately 850,000 victims receive medical attention. Data that the CDC collected in the USA between 2001 and 2003 indicated there were 4.5 million dog bite victims per year, but that figure appears to be rising.”  The goal of this blog segment is bring awareness to the behaviors that lead up to a bite, and some techniques that can help prevent bites from occurring. Last time we went over the body language associated with fear and aggression and how to recognize the difference. Dogs commonly show subtle cues that say they are nervous or uncomfortable with a situation. When we understand the body language that precedes a bite, we can change or remove the threatening circumstances, so everyone  can stay safe. It’s extremely important to teach small children what, generally, makes a dog nervous.

During part two, we will talk about techniques for greeting dogs to help prevent a bite.

The most important thing to remember is always ask the owner before petting their dog or letting your dog meet them. Greetings involve multiple parties, and it doesn’t matter how friendly you or your dog is if the other party is uncomfortable. For most situations, if you treat a dog like a person in terms of etiquette, you are more likely to have positive interactions. This means just like you wouldn’t run up and hug a stranger on the street,  you shouldn’t run up and grab/hug a dog.

When introducing yourself to any dog follow the 90-10 rule, you go 90% and let the dog come the other 10% toward you to initiate the greeting. If the dog is shy or fearful approach slowly and offer a side profile toward the dog to make yourself look less imposing. Crouching down the their level and extending an arm to reach that 90% mark will send a message to the dog that you are not a threat. However, always judge the situation, if the dog is a potential fear-biter do not put yourself in a compromising position where you can not move away quickly. Try to avoid direct eye contact so as not to be perceived as threatening, but always keep a watch from the corner of your eye on the dog’s body language. Should the dog accept your offer and reach out toward your hand, you can then slowly and gently stroke the underside of the neck and chest, If the dog leans in and is acting friendly then extend the pet up from under the neck to scratches behind the ears or petting along the side of the shoulder. Keep in mind some dogs may not like their ears touched. Dog do not like being pet/patted on the head by strangers. The gesture people make while reach down or up to pet their heads can be seen as a threat like you are about to hit them. Think about a stranger reaching out to wipe something off your face, they may have good intentions but most people will recoil from that interaction, as will dogs.

If the dogs is lunging on the leash/barking and trying to reach you do not approach. Ask the owner if their dog is friendly and just excited or if the dog does not like people. If the dog is reported to be friendly inform the owner you would love to meet their dog and ask if the dog knows the command for sit.  Once the dog is sitting calmly, approach slowly and allow interaction as long as you and the dog both are comfortable and happy. If the dog is a jumper, turn away and dog not offer attention until the dog has returned to a four on the floor stance or sit. It is extra important with excitable dogs to do long stroking pets down the underside of the neck. Coming from above the dog will entice them to jump up for more and short quick strokes or scratches often will increase excitement. 


  1. Always ask permission
  2. Follow the 90-10 rule
  3. Long soothing strokes under the neck and chest.

4)  Do not interact if you are uncomfortable or perceive the dog to be.

Hopefully all your interactions will be friendly and happy.