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What can you do to avoid a dog bite?

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which is held each year to educate people about how to prevent dog bites. There are approximately 70 million dogs living in American households and, unfortunately, any one of them can bite under the right circumstances. Whether you own a dog, see dogs every day, or only encounter them on occasion, you have a role to play in preventing the serious and traumatic injuries dog bites can cause.

While many of us have probably experienced a painful nip, dog bites can be much more serious than that. Last year, dog-related injuries made up over a third of all homeowners insurance claims, based on amount, and those claims totaled almost $700 million. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, almost 29,000 reconstructive procedures were performed on dog bite injuries in 2016.

Children, the elderly and postal carriers are the groups most commonly affected by dog bites. Last year, 6,244 postal employees were bitten by dogs. Most, if not all, of those bites were preventable.

How to avoid being bitten by a dog

Most dogs behave predictably. You can avoid bites by paying attention and giving the dog lots of space. Don't approach unfamiliar dogs, especially if they are confined. Don't disturb their sleep, meals, toy-chewing or puppy care.

The Humane Society recommends watching the dog's body language for signals that the dog is uncomfortable and could become aggressive. Those signals include:

  • Tense body
  • Stiff tail
  • Head or ears pulled back
  • Eyes wide with the whites visible
  • Furrowed brow
  • Intense stare
  • Flicking tongue
  • Seems to be yawning
  • Backing away

If the dog shows some of these signals, remain calm and back away. Don't turn your back or run -- the dog will probably chase you.

If the dog is growling, barking or seems ready to attack, it's crucial to remain calm. Stay still and avoid eye contact with the dog. Wait for it to lose interest.

What to do if a dog attacks

Try to put an object between yourself and the dog's mouth. This could be a purse, jacket, bike or another object. If you fall down or get knocked to the ground, curl into a ball facing downward with your hands over your ears and remain still. Keep your face down and out of the dog's reach. Try not to further excite the dog by screaming or rolling. Once the attack is over, wash any bites in hot, soapy water and have any serious wounds evaluated by a doctor.

We hope you will never need an attorney for a dog bite case, but a lawyer can help make sure you receive full and fair compensation for your losses.

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