How to safely approach a dog you don’t know

It’s hard to see a cute dog walk past in the street without reaching out your hand to stroke it. But sometimes dogs don’t want the attention, as figures released today reveal that hospital admissions due to dog attack injuries have increased. A study by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) states there have been more than 23,000 admissions in the last three years. Numbers rose by 5 per cent between 2015 and 2018 – an average of 7,693 each year – with children and teenagers under 18 making up around 21 per cent of the total number.

Now doctors are urging for dog owners and members of the public to take extra precautions, with RCS Professor Vivien Lees adding that dog attacks are becoming a ‘public health issue’.

She warned even smaller, less intimidating breeds are still capable of causing significant damage – particularly to babies. Jenna Kiddie, Head of Canine Behaviour at Dogs Trust, told it is essential members of the public are educated on how to correctly approach dogs. She added: ‘It is key for dogs to be properly trained as puppies and that the public, especially children, understand how to behave around dogs. ‘A big focus for us is helping people understand more about dog behaviour, and to recognise behavioural signs that indicate where dogs are distressed or anxious, so that problems can be prevented.’

Dogs Trust’s 8 tips on how to approach an unknown dog:

1. If you do meet a dog when out and about, always approach them slowly, calmly and quietly. Don’t walk directly towards their head or face. Always greet a dog from the side giving them as much space as possible.

2. Ask the dog’s owner if it is okay to say hello to their dog, and ask permission before you touch them. Don’t forget to wait for the owner to respond before doing anything! The Dogs Trust advises to always ask an owner if it’s okay to touch their pet (Picture: Getty)

3. Sometimes the owner will say yes, when their dog is saying no. Take a look at the dog’s body language. If they don’t acknowledge you or they move away, they probably don’t want to interact with you. If that happens, let the dog have their space.

4. If the owner says ‘yes’ then you should stand still, calmly and quietly at the side of the dog with arms by your side, palms forward, and let the dog come to you. Don’t be tempted to reach out or lean forward to try and touch them, as it could be a bit too much of a surprise!

5. If a dog is happy to meet you, they’ll let you know by coming up to you, or perhaps they’ll give you a friendly sniff! If they do this and their owner says it is okay, stay by the dog’s side and stroke them slowly either on their side or shoulder and in one direction. It is advisable to start training your dog while they are a puppy .

6. If the owner says ‘no’ just say ‘thank you’ and move away calmly and quietly.

7. If the dog moves away at any point during your meet, then this should end the interaction and you should move away quietly and calmly.

8. As for staying safe at home – never leave a dog and child unattended


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