In the United States, over 4.5 million people suffer from dog bites every year. Of those 4.5 million, 800,000 people require medical care after a dog bite. Children are the most common victims of dog bites. Half of those who undergo medical care after an incident with a dog are children.

According to the ASPCA, adults and children alike could benefit from education on bite prevention.

How should you approach a dog?

To prevent a bite, you should not approach a stranger’s dog without permission. When you encounter an unfamiliar dog, you should ask the owner if you can pet the dog. Do not reach out without permission. A stranger’s hand can startle a dog and startled dogs are more likely to bite.

When you approach a dog, you should allow it to smell your closed hand. Once the dog becomes comfortable, you should not pet its head. Instead, pet the shoulders or chest. Be careful not to pet the top of its head.

When should you avoid a dog?

There are instances where you should avoid dogs. For instance, if there is a sleeping dog or a dog who has a toy, do not approach. If the dog has its focus elsewhere, you could startle it. If the dog barks or growls, this may be a warning to you to stay away. Do not approach growling or barking dogs. Likewise, do not approach a stranger’s dog who is loose or fenced in. If a stranger’s dog does happen to approach you, stay silent and do not move. If you run or yell, the dog may attack.