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Learn how to avert a dog bite attack

Each year, stray dogs and beloved family pets are unnecessarily euthanized because they bit strangers, visitors or family members. On the opposite end of the spectrum, countless injuries and fewer deaths occur from dogs that attack and maim people.

But what if there were a way to reduce the likelihood of people suffering dog bites? As it turns out, there already is. All it takes is learning how to interpret canine communications.

Dogs use their bodies to "talk"

Considering that dogs have no way to say, "I really wish you would stop doing that around me," they actually are quite effective at transmitting that message through their body language. Learning how to interpret a dog's signals can reduce the frequency of dog bite attacks.

Most people realize that a dog that is growling and showing its teeth means business.

But fewer know that dogs that won't meet a person's eyes or that yawn or lick their lips are also transmitting subtle warning signs that all is not right.

How to tell when a dog is uncomfortable

The above behaviors all can signify that a dog is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with a situation with a human. Maybe a small child has come too close for comfort or a person has moved too close to a food bowl or a favorite toy or ball.

Many times, shy dogs will try to get out of the interloper's way. But sometimes they can't. They may be tethered to a leash or chain, or be backed into an area they cannot leave. A cornered dog can become an angry, attacking dog in the wrong circumstances, so beware of those potential signs of an attack.

Watch out for the "whale eye"

If you see a white sliver of sclera in a dog's eye, take note. This is known as "whale eye" and signifies an acutely alert dog that is not happy with the status quo. Back off and remove children from the area near the dog.

Raised hackles

A dog with the fur standing up on its neck and/or back feels threatened by something or someone in its immediate environment. Avoid an animal that is showing you this telltale sign of a pending bite.

Stiffly wagging tail

Dogs often communicate with their tails. A wildly waving tail, often moving in a circular motion, usually indicates a happy, friendly pup who is delighted to see you and wants to play.

But if the tail is stiff and extended or moving back and forth slowly while the body remains still, consider this to be your early warning sign that a bite attack may ensue.

Stiffened body

A friendly dog that is excited and happy to see you will often wriggle all over, barely able to contain its joy. Conversely, a dog that is still and rigidly locked into position may be about to lunge for your jugular.

After a dog bite occurs

While the above tips can teach you how to better interpret dog communication efforts, they do not guarantee that you might not still get bitten by a dog.

If you suffered injuries in a dog attack, you may need to file a claim for damages against the dog's owner or the owner of the property upon which the attack occurred.

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