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Beyond fluffy ears and tail wags: Dog bite safety for everyone

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2024 | Dog Bites

We’ve all seen them—the adorable golden retrievers in parks, the playful labradors fetching sticks, and the cuddly pugs waddling down the sidewalk. These breeds often earn reputations for friendliness, lulling some into a false sense of security. But the truth is any dog, regardless of breed, can bite under the right circumstances. In New Jersey, where dog owners are held strictly liable for bites, the importance of responsible dog ownership and understanding dog bite safety becomes crucial for everyone.

Don’t judge a book (or bite) by its cover

Genetics do play a role in temperament, but it’s important to remember that training and socialization are the real game-changers. Even breeds stereotyped as ‘friendly’ can exhibit aggression if not properly trained or managed.

Fear, frustration or excitement can trigger a bite in any dog, and New Jersey’s leash laws serve as a constant reminder – all dogs in public places must be leashed (no longer than six feet) unless in designated off-leash areas. This regulation highlights the importance of responsible ownership but also underscores the need for public awareness.

Protecting yourself from unexpected encounters

Here’s how you can stay safe around unfamiliar dogs, even those exhibiting friendly behavior:

  • Read dog body language: Learn the signs of canine discomfort. Growling, baring teeth, flattened ears or a stiff posture are signs that a dog may feel threatened and could bite. Avoid approaching, petting or making eye contact with a dog displaying these signals.
  • Ask before you pet: Never assume a dog is okay with interaction, especially if you don’t know the owner. Always ask permission before petting, and approach slowly with the back of your hand extended for the dog to sniff cautiously.
  • Respect boundaries: If a dog seems hesitant or withdraws, give it space. Don’t crowd, corner or chase a dog; be mindful of children who might unintentionally provoke a reaction.
  • Be mindful of leash laws: Not all leash laws are strictly enforced, but they exist for a reason. Be wary of unleashed dogs, especially in crowded areas. If you see a dog running loose, maintain a safe distance and avoid making eye contact.

Every dog is an individual. While responsible ownership goes a long way in preventing bites, remaining cautious and respectful around unfamiliar dogs is critical to staying safe. In New Jersey, where the law holds owners accountable, public awareness is just as important as responsible pet care. Everyone can enjoy positive interactions with furry friends by understanding canine behavior and taking basic precautions.