How to avoid a dog bite

Most dogs are very welcoming when approached by a human for an ear scratch or a stroke. However, some dogs, for several reasons, may be more wary. Some dogs may resort to a physical attack on a human such as a bite, as a way of saying they do not wish to be approached. 

In this topic we will look at different scenarios and explain if, when and how you should approach a dog and some tips to avoid a bite.

Domesticated dogs on a lead

Quite often we will see dogs being walked on the street, held on the lead by their owners. Although these dogs are domesticated, one mustn’t assume that the dog is friendly or enjoys being approached by strangers.

Ask first!

Always ask the owner if it is OK to approach the dog and stroke it. If they decline, respect their wishes and walk away. If they agree, you should do so the following way:

  • Approach the dog with your hand outstretched. Allow it to sniff your hand, to get to know you.
  • If it seems happy, (doesn’t shy away from you or growl) stroke under the chin first.
  • If the dog continues to be happy, you can move your hand to it’s head or back to continue the affection. 

In any circumstance, never approach a sleeping dog. If you scare it, it could bite you in fright. Do not shout at or run up to a dog. Approach them calmly, slowly and quietly.

under chin dog stroke

Roaming dogs

Dogs in public places not on a lead may be owned by someone nearby or they may be roaming. Roaming dogs can either be owned by someone or a community who wrongly believe it’s ok for a dog to be on the street unsupervised, or the dog may be a stray. 

Stray dogs in particular may be very wary of humans – they may have had little human contact or have previously been terribly treated by people. It is best not to approach a dog who is considered a stray. 

If you want to offer a roaming or stray dog some dog food, you can leave it on a tray somewhere close to the dog in a safe place (e.g. away from traffic or shop entrances). Do not attempt to stroke a dog while it is eating. It may be very hungry and territorial over the food. 

You can watch from a safe distance to see if the dog is injured or looks sick. If this is the case you can report the dog to IWCT. We may be able to rescue it with our experienced handlers and professional equipment. 

roaming dog feeding

In the event of an attack

If you are approached by an aggressive dog, The Kennel Club recommends the following:

  • Be a tree…
    Stop what you are doing, fold your arms, tuck your chin in and stand still. Do not run, scream or move your arms or stare at the dog. Look bored. You are now a tree! When the dog moves away from you, slowly walk backwards to safety. If the dog re-approaches you, become a tree again.
  • Be a stone…
    If you have been knocked to the floor by a dog, become a stone by rolling onto your front, covering your face with your hands, pull your knees up to your chest and tuck your elbows in to make yourself as small as possible. Don’t make sudden moves or noises until the dog has gone away. 

If you can’t be kind, walk away

Just like people, dogs have feelings too. If you have no inclination to be affectionate towards a dog, please do not think it acceptable to be unkind to it. Chasing dogs, throwing things at them or hitting and kicking them is not acceptable. Not only could you scare a dog or injure it, you could cause it to retaliate and attempt to bite you in self defence. 

IWCT runs an Education Programme promoting responsible pet ownership. Even if you do not own a pet you should still be willing to learn how to live harmoniously with animals in your neighbourhood. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to learn more about the basic principles of animal care and respect. 

Download our tips for approaching a dog here: