Dog safety tips

Staying safe around dogs

Over summer more dog owners are out and about in busy places. Everyone has a responsibility when it comes to being safe around dogs. Dog owners have legal responsibilities and the public have responsibilities to learn appropriate ways to approach a dog. Always ask permission from the dog owner before fussing a dog.

If you or your child is given permission to pat a dog, always be gentle and pat or stroke the dog under the chin. Dogs can perceive a pat on top of the head as threatening and can get scared and react badly. Even with dogs that you know it is always best to approach them in this way.

To find out more about dog owner responsibilities, visit our website.

Scroll for some dog safety tips:

Never leave a child alone with a dog, even if it is one you know

Around a third of all dog attacks in New Zealand are on children under 12 years of age. Over 70 per cent of bites are from a dog the child knows and loves. Always supervise the interaction between dogs and children.

Many dogs appear to tolerate children handling them because they are trying to be well-behaved.

It is up to the dog owner and the parent to recognise and intervene when a dog might not want to play, even if the dog is good-natured enough to allow it.

Never approach a dog without permission

  • This applies to adults as well as children. A dog tied up outside a shop, or watching you over your neighbour’s fence, may not be as friendly as they look.
  • Dogs feel more vulnerable when tied up. Unless you know the dog and can read the dog, it is safer not to approach it.
  • Most dogs don’t want to bite but do so because they tried to protect themselves in other ways.

Know how to react if a dog approaches you when walking or cycling

  • STOP. Stand still and allow the dog to sniff you. Move slowly and speak softly as quick movements and loud voices can scare a dog.
  • Avoid looking directly at the dog, which it may perceive as threatening. Never run away or keep moving, as the dog’s instinct is to chase, even if it is friendly.
  • Use firm and simple commands in a calm voice such as “no”, “stay” or “down”.

Know how to read a dog’s behaviour and body language

  • The best protection for you and your children is to understand when a dog might be a risk.
  • Being able to read body language gives you a better idea of what the dog is thinking, so you can act appropriately.
  • Often, after someone gets bitten by a dog, they say that the dog gave no warning.
  • In most circumstances, the dog tried very hard to ask the person to leave them alone, such as eye rolling, yawning, lip-licking, barking or growling, or simply turning away

Unfortunately, because most people are unaware of these signs, the dog feels it has no other choice but to bite.

Staying safe around dogs