As a lover of dogs, I write this out of concern for the safety of both our animals and our neighbors. When our pet is in a vulnerable state or has been exposed to abuse in the past, it is possible they will become aggressive and potentially dangerous to others. As a strong believer in rescuing strays when possible, I have come in contact with a good number of dogs that have an unknown past. One of my favorite pets of all time has some questionable scars and a mean temper when I take her into the city around other people. I am not sure what has happened to her, but it is evident that someone has mistreated her resulting in a fear that transforms into pure aggression. With me, she is sweet, cuddly, and always smiling with her ears back; however, with my 10-year old nephew, she is defensive and ready to attack. It is a sad situation to know she has a sensitive side but can’t let down her walls with strangers because of what’s been done to her.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. every year. Despite our long 12,000 year history living side by side with these loyal creatures, we still experience a backlash when we least expect it if the dog feels threatened. That feeling of insecurity can result in minor to severe injuries to the victim. It is important to be self-aware around dogs you don’t know. Here are three ways to prevent dog bites:

  1. Remain at least 5 feet away from dogs you aren’t familiar with.
    1. Keeping a safe distance is always practical rationale when you are in the vicinity of an unfamiliar dog. This will allow the dog the space it needs to feel safe and calm.
  2. Allow the dog to smell you before getting too close to build trust.
    1. If the dog’s owner permits you to approach the animal, then allow the dog to smell your hand before beginning to pet. Often times, dog owners are aware of how their pet will react to a new person and can heed the warning to avoid a preventable accident.
  3. Move slow – quick movements will spook animals of all kinds, including us humans!
    1. If the dog is comfortable with your approach, move slowly and avoid sudden movements. As it is with most animals, slow approaches are necessary to avoid unnecessarily surprising them.

What happens when it’s too late, and you’ve already suffered an injury from a dog bite? Well, hopefully, you are ok and not in much pain; but, if the incident was serious enough to file a claim against the owner, then you may want to consider hiring a personal injury attorney to help you out. You have plenty of options out there, but be sure to do your research and find one with a proven track record in winning these types of cases. If you feel your current attorney isn’t doing the job, consider swapping lawyers and finding one that can get you the compensation you deserve.