How people should protect themselves from dog attacks

Each year in California, many people are seriously injured or killed when they are attacked by dogs. Dogs can be unpredictable, and it's important for people to know what they should do around strange dogs as well as when a dog attacks.

Dogs attack for several reasons. Some are agitated, some are territorial and some are aggressive. People sometimes mistake a dog's wagging tail to mean that it wants to be approached, but if the wag is stiff and high, it can be a sign that the dog is on alert and is agitated. People should stay away from dogs that are tied up, as they may be upset about being restrained.

If a dog is running loose, experts advise that people not make eye contact with the dog or smile, as the dog may perceive either as a challenge to them. When a dog charges at a person, people should not run but should instead stay still. If a dog does attack, people should offer their weaker arm so that they can keep their stronger arm free to fight the dog off. They should scream for help, and if the dog knocks them to the ground, they should get in a fetal position and protect their head and face.

Dog attacks and bites can cause serious injuries to those who are bitten. Dog owners should not allow their dogs to run loose and should try to keep them away from other people. A person who is injured in such an attack may be able to hold the dog's owner personally liable through a personal injury lawsuit. Damages that are often sought in this type of civil action include compensation for lost income, medical expenses and ongoing treatment needs.

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