“Ohhhhh, look at the cute doggie! Come here puppy!” It’s a phrase we have often heard exclaimed and one we have probably uttered on many occasions as we quickly approached the dog who we are sure will be thrilled to meet us. As pet lovers, too often we assume every dog and cat is approachable and friendly. Far from the case, attempting to pet a frightened, nervous dog or cat may result in injury for you or a loved one as well as severe repercussions for the pet.
May is Dog Bite Prevention Month so SPCA Florida has three tips to help you and your family stay safe when interacting with your family dog or any new dog. Following these tips will also ensure the cats or dogs you encounter are not forced into bite quarantine or another unfortunate fate.
- Always ask permission before you approach or pet a dog. Even if the owner gives you permission be mindful of the dog’s body language (see tips below). Remember, not every dog needs to be petted. It’s best to err on the side of caution and stay safe!
- Pay close attention to the animal’s body language as there are some tell-tale signs the pet is scared or does not want to be petted. See if the ears are back or the fur on the neck is raised. If the dog is cocking his head sideways and not making eye contact that could indicate he’s stressed and it is best not to approach him. A dog’s tail between his leg may also indicate he is frightened or uncomfortable.
- If you receive permission to pet the dog and you do not observe any of the above warning signs, it’s best to let the dog approach you. Squat down away from the dog—do not bend over the dog as approaching from above or behind the head may startle an otherwise friendly dog—and ball your hand into a tight fist, extending it out from your body for the dog to first smell. Again, go slowly and let the dog approach you first.