GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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August 30, 2013

Pet Talk: Tips for preventing a dog attack

Everyone gets frightened of something or someone from time to time, and animals are no exception. Fear is an emotional response to danger and causes our survival instincts to kick into high gear.

Even the most loving and docile of pets can lash out when put in a threatening situation, and the results can often be dangerous. In order to prevent an attack, there are a few things you should always look out for when interacting with any animal.

"The most important things to recognize are if the dog is staring at you, its lips are pulled back so teeth are showing, and it has a stiff tail pointing upward," said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "They also tend to be rigid and move slowly."

If you've noticed this body language and behavior from the animal, it is best to back away slowly and find a way to separate yourself. If you notice that the animal is becoming aggressive, it is best to freeze and avoid direct eye contact, said Beaver.

Just as you would when you come across a bear or other dangerous wild animal, you should never scream and run away or make any sudden movements. Wild animals and pets alike may view you as prey when you run, and it is their instinct to chase after you. Always stand your ground and keep your chest facing them, and your eyes averted.

You should always keep your distance from unfamiliar dogs, despite your urge to pet the unbelievably cute ones. Ask the owner prior to interacting with their pet, as they usually know if the animal handles strangers well. You should also let the dog sniff you or your hand before petting them. It’s best to let them approach you first. 

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