How to safely approach a dog you don’t know

Mature Couple Taking Golden Retriever For Walk
It’s very tempting to stroke every cute dog that passes by (Picture: Getty)

It’s hard to see a cute dog walk past in the street without reaching out your hand to stroke it.

But sometimes dogs don’t want the attention, as figures released today reveal that hospital admissions due to dog attack injuries have increased.

A study by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) states there have been more than 23,000 admissions in the last three years.

Numbers rose by 5 per cent between 2015 and 2018 – an average of 7,693 each year – with children and teenagers under 18 making up around 21 per cent of the total number.

Now doctors are urging for dog owners and members of the public to take extra precautions, with RCS Professor Vivien Lees adding that dog attacks are becoming a ‘public health issue’.
A pug dog stands in the exhibition hall on the final day of the annual Crufts dog show
Officials have warned even small dogs can cause great damage if they attack (Picture: Getty)

She warned even smaller, less intimidating breeds are still capable of causing significant damage – particularly to babies.

Jenna Kiddie, Head of Canine Behaviour at Dogs Trust, told it is essential members of the public are educated on how to correctly approach dogs.

Get Educated. The first step to being an outstanding pet owner, according to Dr. Becker, is taking responsibility. “Nobody ever says ‘I was a lousy pet owner.’ It’s always the pet’s fault.” Learn the peculiarities of your pet’s breed such as how much exercise they need, how gregarious they are, how much maintenance their coat requires, how often they need to go outside, and about new technologies, products, and nutrition that might help you care for your pet. Knowing the basics about your pet’s upkeep ensures you won’t be caught off guard by troubling behavior.

She added: ‘It is key for dogs to be properly trained as puppies and that the public, especially children, understand how to behave around dogs.

‘A big focus for us is helping people understand more about dog behaviour, and to recognise behavioural signs that indicate where dogs are distressed or anxious, so that problems can be prevented.’

Tracy Genever, Head of Education at Blue Cross pet charity, told although it’s difficult to ascertain why hospital admissions have increased, she echoed it is important to notice the warning signs.

She said: ‘Unfortunately, many people may not research the right breed for their lifestyle, or may buy a puppy or dog online with no knowledge of its characteristics.

Little boy is playing with his large dog's ear
Experts add it’s important children know how to safely behave around dogs (Picture: Getty)

‘Without educating ourselves in our pet’s behaviour opportunities for accidents could easily occur when a dog may actually be communicating clearly that they wish to be left alone, or are feeling threatened.’

Tracy added it’s important not to disturb pets when they are eating or sleeping and not to taunt a pet over food or toys.

It's certainly unpleasant to take your dog outside when it's snowing or raining, but don't forget that dogs' paws are just as sensitive to heat as human skin.