You’re out for a jog. Maybe you’re riding your bike. All of a sudden, a dog comes running at you from the side or, worse, from behind. You panic like anyone would. What in the world are you supposed to do?
Being approached by a strange dog is frightening. Even if you see an owner shouting and waving their hands, chasing their pet, you have a right to be anxious. Some dogs simply like to chase and mean you no harm. Others want to take a bite out of your leg. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to figure out which type of dog you are being chased by.
The way that you respond when approached by a dog you don’t know can make the difference between being bitten and going on about your day, minus any teeth marks. The following tips will work in most situations, but not all. If you are bitten by a stranger’s dog, a personal injury attorney can help you recoup any financial losses.
Like we’ve said, some dogs simply like to chase. They have a high prey drive and believe that anything or anyone moving away from them is up for a good game. Other dogs are simply aggressive. When approached by a dog you don’t know, do not run.
Any dog has a natural instinct to chase a running human. By stopping and standing still, you may cause the dog to lose interest. If the dog continues to approach instead of turning and going the other way, slowly back away. Even a slow-moving human is less interesting than one speeding by. Walking will put some distance between you and the animal and allow you to make your next move if necessary.
You don’t have to be a famous dog trainer to know how to “speak” to dogs. There are a variety of calming signals you can send without having to say a word. You may have heard that you should act “big” when encountering wild animals. Standing tall, waving your arms and screaming your head off might work with some animals, but not with dogs.
The best thing you can do is remain as calm as possible. Look over the dog’s head to avoid eye contact but still be able to see any moves it makes. Stand sideways to the animal, yawn and lick your lips. These actions will tell the dog that you don’t mean to fight it.
If the dog is still approaching, bend down slowly and pretend to pick up a rock or stick. This is a last resort. A dog may become more aggressive when you make this movement, but many will hold their ground and stop advancing. For some reason, this seems to signal to the animal that a painful attack is impending and stop them in their tracks. Of course, if there really is something laying on the ground near you, pick it up in case you need to defend yourself.
If you are in a neighborhood and the dog just won’t go away, consider yelling for help. Residents may hear you and come out of their yards or houses. Some may know the dog. If you luck out, one of them will be the owner. At worst, people will stand and stare at you. At best, a good Samaritan will rush to your aid should the dog attack.
There are very few good things that will come from encountering a pack of dogs. A dog by itself may take a chance on an attack, but a pack of dogs almost assuredly will. Dogs give each other confidence thanks to their instinctual pack mentality. If you see a pack of dogs in a distance, even if its a pack of two, turn and walk in the other direction. Never assume that a pack of dogs will make noise before they attack — many packs will flank a victim silently.
When encountering a strange dog, keep in mind that a wagging tail does not always mean that the dog is friendly. A tail that is held in a natural position and wagging, with ears held forward and eyes a normal size signal a calm, happy dog. Anything else and you are looking at trouble. If you walk or bike frequently, take a few minutes to search the Internet for canine body language. Having even a little bit of knowledge could help you the next time you encounter a dog you don’t know.
If you are bitten by a dog in West Palm Beach, you have legal rights. Call our office today to schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation. We will review the details of the attack and advise you of your options. You may be entitled to damages for medical bills and more.