Over 4 million people are bitten by dogs in Canada each year. It is important to teach yourself and your children how to interact with a dog properly, and how to read their body language. To help ensure your safety, follow these tips.
- Ask first: When approaching a strange dog, always ask the owner if it is okay for you to pet them first. Not all dogs are okay with strangers.
- Get permission from the dog: Just because the owner says it is okay, doesn’t mean the dog will think it is okay. Close your hand and offer it for the dog to sniff. If they appear to be calm and relaxed, pet their shoulders or back. Avoid going for the head or tail as some dogs are a little hand shy when reaching above their head.
- Never touch a sleeping dog: If a strange dog is asleep, let them be. If they are eating or chewing a toy, let them be.
- Keep away from a dog that is growling or barking. You should also avoid petting dogs that are behind a fence, tied up, sitting in a car, or roaming loose. You don’t know how these animals react to strangers when the owner is not present — some dogs may become territorial.
- If a strange dog approaches off-leash: Avoid eye contact with the dog and cross your arms. Keep your body language calm and relaxed until the owner comes.
For more information on dog bite prevention, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website, or the ASPCA’s website for more information on canine body language.
Written by: Torbay Road Animal Hospital