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A critical dog bite FAQ

Do you worry when you go for a jog and you see a dog in someone's yard? What if it's coming toward you on a leash? Maybe just the sight of a dog makes you nervous when you're walking down the street with your kids, knowing how vulnerable they are.

Your worry is justified. Dogs are pets, but they're also animals. They can and do attack. These incidents take lives and leave people with permanent injuries every year. To help you, here are a few questions posed to a professional dog behaviorist:

1. How can you avoid a dog attack in the first place?

The key is to remember that any dog, no matter how nice it appears, may pose a danger. Stay away from dogs you do not know and never touch one without asking the owner's permission first. You also want to avoid approaching it suddenly. You may just feel excited, but that energy can make the dog very nervous.

2. Do dogs give off signs before they bite?

They do. For one thing, a relaxed dog will look it -- they'll move with a loose, carefree manner. If the dog's body appears stiff, it is nervous or angry. You also want to watch out for a dog that appears cornered, that cowers down, that bares its teeth or that raises the hair on its back.

3. Is a dog safe if it's tied up?

Not necessarily. In fact, the dog may actually feel more exposed and vulnerable. They know they can't run. If you frighten them or approach quickly, they may think they have no choice but to bite.

4. Are owners obligated to protect you?

Yes, they definitely are. They need to make sure that the dog is behind a fence and a gate. If not, they should tie it up. They have to keep it on a leash in many areas while going for a walk. If the dog has a history, they need to be aware of that and take steps to keep it away from people.

5. If the dog attacks, should you run?

No. The key is to stay calm and avoid panic. That's easier to say than to do, but you must try. Running or fighting often makes the dog more angry and aggressive, and you cannot outrun it anyway. Stay calm, always try to face the dog, and protect yourself if you can. For instance, if you have a coat or an umbrella or a purse, put it between you and the dog and allow the dog to bite that. After doing so, it may stop attacking.

Remember, if you get attacked and you suffer serious injuries, you do have rights. You may be able to seek financial compensation.

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