There are many times we may approach an unknown dog wandering the streets. If injured, it may require help. The animal may need to be removed from a dangerous intersection. Maybe it has been abandoned by someone. Often, it is out of the simple desire to interact with the dog and pet it because we are attracted to cute animals that disaster can strike.  

1. Determine if the Dog Is Aggressive Before Contact

Observe the animal from a distance, but where it can see you. Distance provides time to react if the animal acts unexpectedly and charges.

From your position, look for the dog’s stiff body and stance. Are the animal’s ears pinned back on the head? Is it growling or rumbling? Are the lips pulled back, baring the teeth?

These are all signs of aggressiveness or fear and may cause a dog bite injury. 

2. Do Not Make Eye Contact

Do not make your approach to the dog from the front. Move to the side while avoiding eye contact or prolonged staring. This curtails aggression by allowing the dog to not feel dominated or challenged. If the dog feels that you wish to fight it, they will bite or worse.

3. Gain the Attention of the Dog

The first step in gaining the unfamiliar dog’s attention is simple: stay calm. The dog will sense any nervousness or anxiousness, and you don’t want to pass that on to the animal. Take deep breaths and smile with your lips closed. Do not show teeth. This also can seem aggressive.

4. Allow the Dog to Come to You First

After approaching the dog from the side, kneel facing the same direction it is facing. Allow it to turn to you in its own time. This gives the dog the space to accept this new stranger and to approach.


5. Cease and Retreat if the Dog Becomes Fearful or Aggressive

If everything has failed in your approach, remain calm and slowly back away. Eye contact can be dangerous, and an obstruction should be between you and the hostile animal. This will remove the visual stimulation the dog is experiencing, but this is not always successful.

No matter how scared you may be, do not yell or flail. This will excite the dog and possibly increase its antagonism. If possible, climb on top of something to get away from the dog. As a last resort, back into a corner so the dog cannot get behind you and attack. 

  1. If the Dog Should Bite…

If the dog gets close enough and bites you, remain calm. Curl your fingers and make a fist. A dog bite can easily remove a finger if caught wrong. If it successfully bites your hand and holds it, force your fist further into the dog’s mouth. The teeth may cause significantly more damage on removal and you may choke or frighten off the animal with your fist in its throat.

Once freed, immediately call 911 for emergency care. Even a casual dog bite can be dangerous thanks to the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus in its mouth.

A second concern from a strange dog bite is rabies. The symptom of which would be anxiety, inability to sleep, disorientation, hallucinations, paralysis, and hydrophobia. 

Animal control will hold the aggressive animal for ten-day observation, but if the animal escapes, a doctor may require the victim to receive treatment just in case.

Staph and Strep Infections can also result from a dog bite. Staph symptoms may present as joint swelling, a fever, and cellulitis.

Consider the risks from an unknown dog before approaching it, despite how cute it may be.

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