Being approached by an off-leash dog can be frightening, even if the owner is nearby. In this situation, simple defensive steps can help lower the risk of an attack by the dog. 

Take these actions when you come across a loose dog in your neighborhood or the local park. 

Remain relaxed

Avoid waving your hands and arms around. This creates a larger silhouette that the animal may perceive as threatening. Instead, maintain a relaxed posture with your arms at your sides. Stay still and keep your fists closed. Turn your body so you face the side of the dog, rather than standing behind or in front of it. 

Look away

Making eye contact with the dog can also spark aggression. You should instead look at your own feet or the dog’s feet. Do not approach the animal. 

Leave the area

Back away from the dog if you can safely do so. Keep facing the dog as you move away. Turning and running away may trigger the animal to attack from behind. 

Stand your ground

If you cannot get away and the dog comes closer, tell it loudly but firmly to get down and go home. If possible, separate yourself from the dog with an object such as a purse, backpack, tree, bike or umbrella. 

Protect yourself

If these steps do not cause the dog to retreat, lay face down on the ground and cover your head. Curl into a ball and yell as loudly as you can for help. 

If you sustain injuries in a dog attack, seek medical help right away. Even if you only have minor damage, scratches and bites can become infected if not cleaned by a doctor or nurse. 

In New Jersey, a dog’s owner is always legally responsible for bite injuries unless the attack occurred when the victim was trespassing on private property. You must file this type of lawsuit within two years of the dog attack.