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Attention to body language may prevent dog attacks

There are few things as heart rending as when someone falls victim to a brutal assault by a dog. Very often the victim is an unsuspecting small child or frail senior citizen. The dog doesn't have to be a giant mastiff or German shepherd. Little dogs can attack just as viciously as big ones. The trauma inflicted can be devastating.

In Connecticut the standard of strict liability may make it somewhat easier to hold a pet's owner accountable for the damage done. Of course, there's a lot to be said for doing all you can to prevent an attack from taking place in the first place. Following are some insights from the experts at the Humane Society of the United States on some preventive measures you can take.

Start by respecting the space of any dog you encounter. Politeness is a characteristic we appreciate human to human. The same goes for dogs. If you don't know the dog you're approaching, assume you might be seen as a threat. Don't try to pet a dog without first being sure it sees you and has sniffed you.

Dogs and humans both use nonverbal cues to convey feelings. A person might actually tell you with words but dogs can't, so it helps to understand canine body language. Signals that indicate canine discomfort include:

  • Yawning
  • Flicking the tongue
  • Tense body
  • Stiff tail
  • Intense staring
  • Eyes rolled to the extent that the whites can be seen.

Other indicators are more direct. If a dog backs away or pulls its head or ears back, those are signs of discomfort.

If you decide to give a dog its space, don't turn your back and run. Instead:

  • Remain silent and still.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Back away slowly after the dog loses interest.

If you are attacked, give up a jacket, purse or something else to put something between you. If you fall, curl into a ball and cover your head. Put your hands over your ears and try to stay silent.

After an attack, wash with soap and warm water, see a doctor and report the encounter to animal control.

Source: HumaneSociety.org, "How to Avoid a Dog Bite," accessed Sept. 30, 2015

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