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Protect yourself from a dog attack

Even if you are a dog lover, it can be difficult to determine whether an unfamiliar dog will bite. After all, given the right (or wrong) set of circumstances, even a friendly family pet will lash out with bared teeth.

Dog bites can produce devastating and disfiguring injuries — and some can be fatal. Whether the dog is your own, a family member's or a strange canine on the street, it's a good idea to learn how to recognize signs of potential aggression.

Warning signs that a dog might bite

While all dogs have different personalities and breed-specific traits, there are certain universal indicators that they may become aggressive. They include:

  • Growling
  • Baring teeth
  • Stiff, upright or slowly wagging tail
  • A hard stare
  • Widespread front paws
  • Showing white half-moons of eyes
  • Erect ears
  • Stiffened carriage

What you can do

Never approach a strange dog that is chained up in a yard or building. Restricted conditions can make even the most docile pet turn surly. If the dog is loose, don't stare directly at it, which is perceived as a challenge.

You also should not run away from a dog. That is how prey behaves, and even good-natured canines love a good chase and takedown. Don't appear to be a threat to it, and back slowly away and out of its territory.

It should go without saying that you should never approach or attempt to interact with a mother dog and her pups, which is a recipe for disaster. Impress this upon your children, as most children want to pick up and hold adorable puppies.

If an attack is imminent

Sometimes, despite all of your precautions, you may encounter an aggressive dog that is ready to attack. This is a highly dangerous situation, but it still may be possible to minimize damage from the attack.

You should attempt to put anything that you can between you and the dog's mouth. Toss a trashcan at it and fend off the attack with the lid. Shove your purse, briefcase, backpack or umbrella into its open mouth. Even a sweater or jacket will work, although if it is already on your body, it may be better to leave it on to deflect some of the damage.

You should do all that you can to remain upright on two feet. Most deadly dog attacks occur when the animal manages to take down the person. If you do get knocked down, curl yourself into the tightest ball possible, with your hands curled into fists protecting your face and throat. Lie face down so that the dog does not have access to your abdominal area. It is far better to be bitten on the limbs or back than it is to be attacked in the more vulnerable anterior area.

The aftermath

If you are the victim of a dog bite attack, your injuries might be extensive and your recovery grueling. It may be advantageous for you to take legal action against the dog's owner or the owner of the property on which the attack occurred.

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