Dogs can attack when they feel provoked or when they think their owner might be threatened. It is important to know how to behave around dogs, how to read their body language and how to react in the case of an attack.
Let’s start with the basics
When it comes to preventing dog attacks, the first thing you need to do is ensure you are respecting the dog’s personal space - never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who’s tied or confined behind a fence or in a car. You should always assume that dogs who don’t know you may see you as an intruder or a threat.
Do not disturb a dog while they are sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or caring for puppies. It is also important that you allow a dog - even your own - to see and sniff you before you pet them.
Pay attention to body language
Dogs go through a series of displays and postures when they feel threatened, these displays are an early warning so that a confrontation is not required. Put a safe amount of space between yourself and a dog if you see the following signals indicating that the dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite:
Eyes directly staring at you; ears erect and forward; lips curled; snarling, growling and exposing teeth and gums; head rigid and held high; hair raised on its neck and back; tail raised (sometimes wagging); standing its ground (still front legs); barking; scratching the ground; stiffened body (walking as if on tiptoes); leaning forward (often with one paw raised).
When putting space between yourself and a dog who might bite, never turn your back on him and run away. A dog’s natural instinct will be to chase you.
If you think a dog may attack
If you are approached by a dog who may attack you, follow these steps:
Resist the impulse to scream and run away.
Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight.
If the dog does attack, "feed" him your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.
If you’re bitten by a dog
If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, try not to panic. Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water and contact a health professional for additional care and advice.
It is important that you report the attack to your local Council. Make sure you tell the Council everything you know about the dog, including the owner’s name and the address where he lives. If the dog is a stray, tell the Council what the dog looks like, where you saw him, whether you have seen him before and in which direction he went.
What happens when I report a dog attack to Council? A dog owner may be issued with a written warning or an infringement notice, and the dog could be classified as dangerous or menacing. Depending on the severity of the attack, Council may prosecute the owner of the dog. In some cases, Council’s Animal Control Officers can work with owners to prevent attacks happening again.
Council are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding Animal Control. You can get in touch with the Council team by phoning 06 374 4080 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.