While dogs provide unconditional love and companionship, even the sweetest of dogs can bite when overly stressed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 4.9 million dog bites reported in the United States every year.
Knowing the signs of a distressed dog and how to avoid getting bitten is the key to preventing dog bite injuries.
Signs of Distressed Dog
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Before a dog bites, it will usually show signs of stress. If you observe any of the following signs, you should retreat slowly, especially if the dog doesn’t know you.
A dog may be distressed if it is:
- Has pinned-back ears
How to Prevent Dog Bites
While some dog bites are unexpected and give victims little time to react, many can be avoided by learning how to act around a dog that is exhibiting stress, territorial behaviors, dominance and/or fear.
Follow these tips:
- Never take a bone or food from a dog.
- Do not approach a dog while they are eating, sleeping, or nursing.
- Never leave a small child alone with a dog, even if it’s a trusted family dog.
- Approach a dog slowly and calmly.
- Let a dog sniff you and come to you before petting it.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog. That can be perceived as a sign of aggression.
- Back away slowly if a dog is exhibiting aggressive behavior. Don’t run ― that could trigger the dog’s “chase reflex.”
- Always ask for permission ― and teach your child to ask for permission— before petting an unfamiliar dog.
What to Do if You Are Being Attacked by a Dog
Unfortunately, some dog attacks happen even when all precautions are taken. If you or a child is attacked, there are several things to do to protect yourself:
- Try to keep your back to the dog if you’re still standing up.
- If you’re on the ground, curl up into the fetal position or a small ball and protect your face with your arms. Try to hold as still as possible.
- Place something as a shield between the dog and your body.
- Do not hit or push the dog.
What Can I Do if I’m Injured by a Dog?
If you are injured by a dog, you should seek medical care immediately and report the bite. Then you should contact an experienced dog bite attorney.
In New York, a dog owner is strictly liable for damages when a bite is caused by a previously identified “dangerous dog.” Under New York law, a dangerous dog is one that acts in a manner that a reasonable person would believe constitutes a threat to safety, or that attacks and injures without justification.
You can still seek compensation if a dog has not yet been declared dangerous. An owner can still be held liable if you can prove that he or she was negligent. For example, failing to leash or safely confine a dog that went on to bite someone could be negligence on the owner’s part. However, certain factors, such as whether you tormented or provoked the dog that bit you, could limit the owner’s liability.