The holiday season can be stressful for people and their pets, and the stress of holiday events can cause even well-behaved dogs to lash out. Most dog bites happen to people who are already familiar with the dog, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although many people are used to being around dogs and might shrug off the danger of dog bites, it is important to recognize that dog bites can cause serious injuries and infections. Roughly one in five people who have been bitten by a dog require medical attention, the CDC reports.
Here are some tips to consider when visiting the homes of dog owners this season:
- Always ask for permission before petting a dog, even if you were given permission in the past.
- Allow the dog to sniff you before you begin petting it.
- Do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
- Avoid encouraging a dog to play aggressively.
- Do not allow small children to be unsupervised with a dog.
Holiday parties can be especially disturbing for pets because of the loud noises and number of guests. If you notice a dog looking agitated or showing signs of aggression, consider asking the pet owner if the dog can be put in another room for the rest of the event. Having the dog in another room can prevent it from biting anyone, while providing a safe space for it to calm down and avoid dealing with the chaos of the party.
What to do if you are attacked by a dog
If you are approached by an aggressive dog, stay calm. You should not make loud noises or run from the dog. Instead, you should avoid direct eye contact and stand sideways, waiting for the dog to go somewhere else.
If a dog starts attacking you, attempt to separate yourself from the dog by putting something between you and the dog, such as a purse, bag or jacket. If the dog attacks one of these items instead, it might be distracted long enough for you to slowly back away to safety. If nothing else, the object will help keep a little distance between you and the dog.
If you are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and neck. In general, remember to always protect your face, chest and throat.
If something does happen and you or a loved one are injured by a dog, seek immediate medical care and contact your local police department or animal control agency to report the injury. In Wisconsin, a dog’s owner is liable for any injury his or her pet caused, so if it is possible, you should also exchange contact information with the dog’s owner and any witnesses.
This winter keep in mind that pets can be stressed out by the holiday season. This is why it is often good to give dogs a little extra space at holiday events, while being mindful of the other ways you can avoid getting bitten.