Most of the time, the dogs you encounter in your day-to-day life are friendly and well-socialized. However, the harsh reality is that any dog is capable of biting if they feel provoked. On average, dogs bite a staggering 4.7 million people in the U.S. every year.

While fatalities from dog attacks are rare, one in every five dog bites does require medical attention. If you find yourself facing down an aggressive dog or one that seems likely to attack, here are steps you can take to deescalate the situation and remain unharmed:

Preventing an attack

  • Stay calm: While it likely goes against your better instincts, the best thing to do if a dog is showing signs of aggression towards you to stay calm. Running will only trigger a dog’s chase instincts, and it’s a race you won’t win. Rather than screaming or panicking, remaining still and calm will show the dog that you are not a threat and cause it to lose interest.
  • Use your body language: When it comes to aggressive or fearful dogs, you mustn’t look at them directly. Staring directly into a dog’s eyes may inadvertently make you seem like a threat to the dog, resulting in an attack. Instead, avoid the dog’s eyes at all costs and slightly turn your body to the side if it approaches you. By staying rigid and tree-like with your posture, the dog might leave you alone.
  • Find distractions: If staying calm and still hasn’t deterred the aggressive dog, use any items you have on hand as a means to distract it. Whether it be a bag or piece of clothing, giving it to the dog might provide you with time to get away. If not, you might use something like a sweater to conceal the dog’s eyesight and escape.

During an attack

  • Protect yourself: In the event of an attack, try to shield your face and neck from the dog’s mouth. If it knocks you over, roll into a tight ball with your hands in fists next to your ears and call for help. Fighting back may antagonize the dog and make it more aggressive; however, you can try to use your body weight to straddle the dog and hold it down until help arrives.
  • Get the owner’s information: If the dog belongs to someone you know or its owner is nearby, get their name and contact information and ask if it is up to date on its vaccinations – especially rabies. If there are any witnesses, get their information too. If the dog has no owner, you should report the attack to animal control to ensure no one else is injured.
  • Seek medical attention: If you are badly hurt, call 911 immediately. If you have less severe wounds, you should still see your doctor examine the injuries and prevent infection. Be sure to save your medical bills, as you may wish to seek compensation for your injuries.