BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – One source claims that as many as 48 million U.S. households include at least one canine family member. 

This is not surprising as dogs are highly valued for their intelligence, companionship, and for possessing a near human-like depth of empathy. 

In fact, according to Psychology Today, two London scientists performed an experiment that seemed to prove dogs have the ability to feel empathy for humans who are in emotional pain, regardless of whether or not the dog has a bond with the distressed human. 

WHY DO DOGS BITE HUMANS?

That said, because dogs have such a vast array of emotions, there are many occasions when they express their displeasure or desire to be left alone by resorting to biting. 

The animal’s feelings of anxiety, anger, illness, hunger, and even aggressive playfulness can lead to biting incidents. 

According to the Centers of Disease Preventions and Control (CDC), this is no small matter as dog bites not only hurt, but can become infected and spread diseases. 

The CDC says nearly one in five people who are bitten by a dog require medical attention and that children are the most common victims. 

Adults who work in industries that frequently put them in contact with dogs may also be susceptible to such incidents. 

The U.S. Postal Service, for example, recently revealed that in 2021, more than 5,400 of its employees were attacked by dogs, and this year alone, 15 incidents occurred in Baton Rouge.

WARNING SIGNS THAT A DOG MAY ATTACK   

So, what can a person do to avoid being bitten or attacked by a dog? 

Experts say one of the first things to do is learn to be alert to a dog’s mannerisms and behavior. In other words, gauge the creature’s mood to determine whether or not it’s likely to attack. 

Some warning signs that a dog may attack or bite are territorial behavior such as: snarling, raised fur, growling, assuming a tense stance, aggressive barking, and mouthing/nipping. 

Another warning sign is fearful behavior, which includes: backing away, hiding, retreating, snarling, growling, whimpering, scratching, biting, and pouncing. 

FOUR WAYS TO AVOID DOG ATTACKS

When a canine displays the above behaviors, experts say the following four solutions may be helpful to avoid being bitten:

  • Don’t Stare a Dog Down

Eye contact with even the friendliest of our four-legged companions can be perceived as a threat. So, when a dog is aggressive and direct eye contact is made with the animal, the dog may feel even more threatened and attempt to protect itself by biting. 

  • Try Yawning

According to some experts, when a dog postures and acts like it’s poised to attack, a human can calm the situation by turning sideways, looking away from the dog, and yawning. Interestingly, yawns often signal a “no threat here” vibe that can successfully calm a canine. 

  • Make Like a Tree 

Some say aggressive behavior from a dog can be negated by refusing to engage. Instead of reacting, a person can cross their arms, stay quiet, and stand still, like a tree.  

  • Change the Conversation

Just like a potential argument between two people can be avoided by changing the topic, a potentially volatile situation with a canine can be curbed by changing the “conversation.”

Experts suggest using a non-threatening toy (such as a tennis ball) or a pleasant noise to distract the dog with play can change their perception of the situation. 

For example, gently tossing a tennis ball behind you or simply saying, “Where’s your ball/toy?” in a friendly voice may be enough to get the dog to calm down and begin looking for her toy.   

In addition to the tips above, it’s often a good idea to avoid trying to play with or tease dogs who are sleeping or eating and strange dogs that are chained.

For more information, follow the U.S. Postal Service here and view information regarding its annual National Dog Bite Awareness Week, which began Sunday, June 5.