Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C.

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Can you recognize warning signs in a dog’s body language?

Being bitten by a dog, especially a dog that is not yours, can be a traumatic experience. Dog bite injuries can be extremely painful, can be prone to infection and can spread nasty diseases like rabies.

Although it is ultimately the dog owner’s responsibility to control the behavior of his or her pet, there are some ways you can help prevent being bitten by someone else’s dog. One way to do this is to pay attention to the body language of any nearby dogs.

What signs should I look for?

Dogs, like many animals, communicate primarily with body language. Before biting, a dog may provide several warnings. By recognizing those warnings, you can act sooner to try to prevent the dog from biting.

Some possible warnings a dog may give before biting include:

  • A stiff tail
  • Drawn back ears
  • A tensed body
  • A furrowed brow
  • Backing away
  • Yawning
  • Flicking its tongue
  • Staring intensely

What should I do if I notice those signs?

If you recognize the warnings that a dog may bite, do not run away from the dog or scream. These behaviors may provoke the dog.

Instead, try to remain still and calm. Try to position yourself so the dog is partially or completely on your side, and avoid direct eye contact with the dog.

The dog may eventually lose interest and walk away. However, if the dog tries to attack you, try to put something between you and the dog. You could use a purse, bag, jacket or other item. If the dog knocks you to the ground, roll into a ball and cover your ears and neck with your hands.

If the dog has bitten someone before or if the dog’s owner did not take reasonable care to control the animal, the owner may be responsible for your injuries. You may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with your injuries.

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