How to prevent dog bites

How to Prevent Dog Bites

Do you know how to prevent dog bites?

No?

Well, you’re lucky because today’s blog post is all about promoting awareness about dog behavior and dog body language.

Those elements are key factors in understanding a dog’s intentions, and ultimately in preventing a dog bite from happening.

And dog bites DO happen!

There’s about 70 million dogs in US households, and 4.5 million people get bitten by dogs in the US every year. And 1 out of 5 dog bite victims requires medical attention.

Children, seniors, as well as Postal Employees are the most commonly bitten.

Ready? Let’s jump right in!

Bonus: Tools to help deter a dog who’s about to lunge and possibly bite!

How To Prevent Dog Bites

How to prevent dog bites

Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you. 

Preventing dog bites requires a combination of responsible ownership, proper dog training, and understanding canine behavior.

Dog Socialization

Early socialization is key to preventing aggressive behavior in dogs.

So make sure to expose your puppy to various people, other dogs, different environments, and situations during their critical developmental period.

Feist mix Wally and Mutt Fonzie
Puppy Fonzie (right) hangs out with my adult Feist mix Wally

That’s between 3 and 14 weeks of age when they’re most impressionable.

Doing that helps them become well-adjusted adult dogs.

You can also enroll your pup in puppy classes and playgroups. That teaches them how to interact with other dogs and humans in a positive way.

Remember, a fearful dog is much more likely to develop anxiety around strangers and potentially bite them!

Boxer mix Puppies Missy & Buzz socializing with people and another pup
Puppies Missy & Buzz socialising with a friendly Beagle mix and other humans

Teach Children How to Interact

Educate children on appropriate ways to interact with dogs.

Emphasize the importance of approaching calmly, asking the owner for permission before petting, and avoiding sudden movements or loud noises.

Children should also know to avoid disturbing dogs who are eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.

Teach them to NEVER run up to a strange dog, which is something I’ve personally witnessed a number of times!

I’ve also experienced kids immediately reaching out to pet our dogs when we happened to walk past them.

That’s never a good idea as most dogs don’t appreciate being approached and touched by a stranger!

So on that note, teach your kids to always ask for permission before petting a dog.

Know Where To Pet A Dog

Never invade a dog’s personal space & don’t hug her, especially a dog you don’t know.

From a dog’s perspective, this is an extremely rude and aggressive approach!!

Also, did you know that many dogs actually don’t enjoy being petted on their heads?

While some tolerate it, others interpret it as an invasion of their personal space.

So instead, opt for gentle strokes on the back, their shoulders, chest, and their neck.

Many dogs also appreciate a good scratch behind the ears or under the chin.

Here’s a picture of our friend’s daughter giving Missy gentle chest scratches. That’s where she likes to be petted the most!

Help prevent dog bites by teaching your kids where to pet a dog

Observe And Understand The Dog’s Body Language

Dogs communicate using body language, and understanding their signals can go a long way in preventing dog bites.

Signs of stress or discomfort in dogs include growling, baring teeth, raised hackles, and a stiff body.

If you recognize these cues, you’ll be able to give the dog space and avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Always avoid reaching over a strange dog’s head, as this can be perceived as threatening.

Always approach slowly and allow the dog to initiate contact.

Each dog is unique, so pay attention to their individual preferences!

Below’s a picture of me with one of my former client dogs, gentle giant Shaun.

He was a Great Dane who LOVED head snuggling up next to you and then expected to get kisses and scratches on his long neck.

His owner shared that valuable piece of information with me, and I highly recommend you reach out to people to learn all about their dogs BEFORE you interact with them!

With one of my favorite client dogs, Great Dane Shaun

Don’t Stare Into A Dog’s Eyes

Also never stare directly into a dog’s eyes! Some dogs interpret that as extremely aggressive on your end.

Instead, let the dog approach you on her own terms, and give you a good sniff.

She will let you know if and when she is ready to be petted.

Supervise Dog-Kid Interactions

Never leave a dog, especially one you’re unfamiliar with, alone with small children.

Both dogs and children can be unpredictable, and close supervision ensures a quick response in case of any signs of discomfort or stress from either party.

We recently watched a friends’ 6 & 9 year old kids for a few days.

Although they’re familiar with the pups & the pups are gentle with them, I still didn’t take any chances as far as supervising everyone!

So I took the pups along to the bathroom with me whenever I had to go. That way, the pups & the kiddos weren’t alone unsupervised.

Respect Boundaries

Teach your dog to respect personal space and train them to stay calm when they’re meeting new people or animals.

If a dog is showing signs of anxiety or stress, give them a quiet space away from potential triggers.

That’s why I personally swear by dog crate training!

Feist mix Wally in his wire home dog crate
Feist mix Wally hangs out in his crate

Bonus: Tools To Help Prevent Dog Bites

Back when I worked as a professional dog walker, I learned to carry two tools on me whenever I walked a dog.

Regardless of whether they were my own or my client dogs.

Especially after I moved from DC suburbia to rural North Carolina which had much less leash rules:

You can also use a dog deterrent device that features LED lights and ultrasonic sounds.

It’s great to deter dogs from lunging and running at you, and works for a distance of up to 27 ft!

How To Prevent Dog Bites: Bottom Line

Overall, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

By taking proactive steps to socialize and train your dog, respecting their boundaries, and educating others, you can create a safe environment for both your furry friend and the people they encounter.

Remember, a well-behaved, exercised and socialized dog is a happy and safe dog.

For some more information on dog bite prevention, check out this page on the ASPCA.

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


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3 responses to “How to Prevent Dog Bites”

  1. DZ Dogs Avatar

    Great post!!

  2. Julie Smith Avatar
    Julie Smith

    I have been attacked while with Cocoa many times and it makes me so mad!! People need to be more responsible with their dogs. And sometimes people will say can I pet your dog but they are already touching her!! I want to yell at them NO!! Why are you asking if you are already touching her!!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Wow, that is terrifying. It’s like everyone feels entitled to touch any dog at whatever time and has no respect of/for other living beings whatsoever. I am now carrying a storm whistle on my neck whenever I’m outside, both with my own pups as well as with client dogs. It’s super loud and works well to stop people and other dogs running up to us. I’ve used it several times lately:

      http://www.amazon.com/Markwort-Storm-Safety-Whistle-Blister/dp/B001MKMFU0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1464004009&sr=8-1&keywords=storm+whistle

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