Spring is most assuredly on its way in Pennsylvania, which means that dog walkers are going to be back out in droves. Unfortunately, not every dog owner is courteous enough to keep their dogs on leashes -- and that can spell trouble for anyone who happens to encounter them.
Do you know how to handle an encounter with an unrestrained dog? Do you know what to do if you're bitten? Or what to do if your own dog is attacked?
Here are some sobering facts: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 4.7 million people end up the victims of dog bites every year -- and around 800,000 of those bites require treatment. To protect yourself, your children and your own pets, here's some advice about how to handle strange dogs when you encounter them on your walk:
- Don't run or jump in response to the dog's movements. That may trigger a reaction in the animal that makes you a target.
- If at all possible, calmly walk out of the dog's path and put something between you and it -- like a parked car. You want to seem as nonthreatening as possible to the animal.
- Keep a tight control on your dog's leash and issue the "sit" command.
- If necessary, address the other dog in a firm voice, using a word that is likely to be recognized, like "No!"
- If your dog and the other dog start to fight, do not attempt to get into the middle of the fight -- that's almost guaranteed to get you bitten.
Some experts say that you can safely break up a dogfight by grabbing the back legs of the aggressor dog "wheelbarrow" style -- but that's still pretty risky. It's probably wiser to call 911 to get help rather than put yourself in danger.
Dog bite injuries can be very serious. They can cause terrible infections and leave the victim with lifelong scars. If you have been bitten, consider taking legal steps to get the compensation you need for medical bills and more.