April 12 – 18 2020 is Dog Bite Prevention week. To begin our understanding of this serious issue, let’s go over the statistics.

There are an estimated 78 Million dogs residing in the US. 38% of homes have at least 1 dog. 4.5 Million people are bitten by dogs each year. One of the top states for dog bites is California. Children are the most common victims of bites and are far more likely to be severely injured. 56.7% of dog bite victims were under 16 years old between 2000 – 2015. Insurers paid out $675 Million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog injuries in 2018. Over 10 years, 2009 – 2018, more than $1.1 Million was paid by State Farm insurance for dog bite related claims.The average cost for dog bite insurance claims in 2018 was $39,017. Updated stats can be found here.

Any dog can bite.

Yes, even the smallest breeds, and in my experience, they are most likely to bite, not so much large ones. It’s important to study and understand dog body language before petting any dog. Here is what to look for when a dog is fearful, and hence,  potentially dangerous:

– Cowering, crouching low
– Lip licking
– Brow furrowed, Ears flattened or back on head
– Panting
– Whale-Eyes, lots of white shown
– Yawning when dog isn’t tired
– Hypervigillance
– Backing away
– One front paw lifted
– Moving in slow motion
– Pacing
– Suddenly won’t eat

body language of fear in dogs

Signs That a Dog IS Approachable

Here are signs that a dog IS approachable and likely friendly, but please always ask it’s walker if it’s OK to approach & pet him. If no handler is near the dog, always assume it doesn’t want to be petted.:

– Attentive, ears up, puppy dog eyes soft, begging for food
– Wiggly body, wildly wagging tail, submissive stance, low to the ground or on the ground, belly up
– Downward dog pose, butt up in air, front legs stretched out in front of dog
– Head tilted in curiosity

dog bite prevention

And now some tips on how to greet a dog properly:

– If dog is loose, always wait until his handler is found and ask if you can pet him
– If dog is being walked on a yellow leash/has yellow collar on, this is a sign he is NOT approachable or in training
– WITH permission, let the dog sniff your closed hand that’s close to your body, then IF dog is sniffing your hand, you may pet shoulders or chest, not on top of head
– Stay away from a dog who is barking, growling, loose ,behind a fence or tied up
– Teach your kids how to be safe by “being a tree” – fold hands close to body, watch feet/stand still, count in your head until dog goes away or help comes


Never do these:

1. Don’t lean over the dog and stick your hand in his face

2. Don’t lean over a dog and put hands on his head

3. Don’t grab or hug/kiss

4. Don’t touch a dog who is sleeping, eating or chewing a toy

how to to greet

I hope these tips help even one person avoid being bitten. Bites are serious, and can not only cause severe pain and suffering, but could result in disfigurement and psychological trauma as well. Be safe, always ask first. But learn about dog behavior and body language to empower yourself, as even if a handler says a dog is safe, you must be sure yourself before petting any dog. Please share this blog post, especially to parents with young children.

Dog bite Inforgraphic