As the weather warms and Iowans spend more time outdoors, many of us will be crossing paths with more canines. This is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Pam Wiese, spokeswoman for the Humane Society in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says even the friendliest of dogs can snap. “Depending on the situation, your extremely happy, sweet, I-love-everybody dog can be set up for failure,” Wiese says. “You can put him in a situation he’s never experienced before where he’s terrified or maybe he feels like he needs to protect you or somebody else, so you don’t always know.”
Always ask the owner’s permission before you pet a dog and do so carefully, she says. Dogs will use their body language to tell you how they feel by the position of their ears, mouth, eyes and tail. All dogs have teeth, Wiese reminds, and all dogs can bite. “If a dog runs away from you, don’t chase it,” Wiese says. “If a dog is in a corner, oftentimes we back dogs into corners, we don’t mean to, but we do, and if he feels like he has nowhere to flee, if it’s fight or flight, he may choose to fight and bite.”
Wiese says the most important message is, if you are approached by an angry or dangerous dog, don’t run. Pretend you’re a tree. “Stand perfectly still. Don’t make eye contact with the dog. Keep your arms down by your sides,” Wiese says. “Don’t make any moves that would prompt the dog to chase or that could be seen as aggression.”
One group that’s especially concerned about dog bites is postal employees. Last year, there were more than 67-hundred recorded dog attacks nationwide on letter carriers. That’s up 200 from the previous year.