As warm weather sticks around for a while in Missouri, you and your family might come across more dogs out at parks and around your neighborhood. As tempting as it might be to pet them all, there is always the potential that your greeting might startle the dog.

Unfortunately, a startled animal could turn petting a cute dog to a dangerous situation in a matter of seconds. To keep you and your children safe, you can take proactive steps to prevent a dog bite or attack.

Here are four ways you can create safer interactions with dogs:

  1. Ask the owner first: This might seem like common sense to you, but kids and adults alike sometimes approach pets with their heart first instead of their mind. Unfortunately, as friendly as a dog might seem, the pet might not have received training on how to behave during social encounters or take kindly to strangers.
  2. Let the dog smell you: Instead of rushing up to the dog, try letting the animal sniff your hand first. Dogs take in the world around them through their nose. To put it in perspective, dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors, while humans have 5 million. So, if they aren’t willing to sniff or move back when you offer your hand, then it’s probably best to end the interaction there.
  3. Don’t interrupt the dog: If you are trying to write an email and a friend or family member continually bombards you, then you’d probably mention something out of annoyance. In a similar sense, you shouldn’t interrupt a dog that’s in the middle of sleeping, playing, barking or eating. They are more likely to cause a fuss if they aren’t anticipating a greeting from you.
  4. Avoid petting certain areas: Most dogs don’t like being pet near their tail or paws. Again, checking in with the dog’s owner is always your safest bet, because the dog could be recovering from a back or tummy injury or illness that makes safer spots more sensitive too.

If you do fall victim to a dog attack, medical attention should be your first priority. From there, a personal injury attorney can help you heal through medical compensation.