"Oh sure go ahead, my dog doesn't bite"

If you're a pet owner I am sure you've caught yourself saying that before. Someone visits your home or you and your furry little friend are out for a walk in the park, it is not uncommon to be asked, "may I pet your dog?" or "does he bite?" And almost certainly with pride you invite the person to go ahead and pet your dog, after all Sparky is well behaved because, well simply, because he is your dog and of course he is friendly - you wouldn't have it any other way.

The truth is though no matter how gentle and kind Sparky may be to you and perhaps even to others he has encountered in the past, dogs - and animals in general - can and will frighten just like people do. And animals do get spooked which may cause them to respond in ways that shock even you. This is especially true around the holidays. Why? Well the holidays are stressful for everyone, including your four-legged furry family members. Excitement and newness abound, unfamiliar friends and families are coming and going, and this can be both thrilling and nerve-wracking for animals, particularly dogs.

Generally, dogs love to be with their owners, which means they are often in the center of activity. So are children. Because of this, children are often at risk of getting too close to our four-legged friends.

Here are some gentle reminders for adults and children alike when encountering man's best friend this holiday season:

1. Never approach an unfamiliar dog

2. Do not run and scream excitedly toward a dog, even one you know. This can startle them and make them defensive.

3. Never approach a dog, familiar or otherwise, when they are sleeping or eating. This can make them defensive.

4. Do not approach a dog from behind, as it may startle upon your approach.

5. Do not wrap your arms around/hug a dog. They can find this confining and uncomfortable, even scary.

6. Do not stand over a dog, especially one that is already cowering, with its tail between its legs and its ears down.

7. Do not pat the dog on the head or shoulders.


· Be polite by asking the owner if you can pet the dog before approaching.

· Be polite of the dog's personal space.

· Read body language - Dogs often smile, with their mouths open and their eyes either relaxed and calm, or even squinted, like when you have a really big grin on your face. Dogs who are relaxed will have loose bodies. Dogs who are nervous, feel threatened, or aggressive are stiff, usually with raised ears, raised hackles, and even baring of teeth. Scared dogs often put their tail between their legs and try to back away.

· Present the dog with the back of your hand to sniff

· Pat the dog on the sides of its chest or under the chin

In the event of a dog bite, immediately clean the wound with soap and warm water, contact your physician for care and advice, report the bite to your local animal care and control agency, including all the information you know about the dog.

Dog bites can be scary for all those involved, and in the event you, your child or someone you know has been bitten by a dog you may be entitled to recovery for your medical care and your pain and suffering. To learn about your rights, you will want to speak to an experienced lawyer. Contact our Media, Delaware County office at 484-442-8750 to request a free initial consultation with one of our dog bite attorneys.