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When dog owners are responsible, they enjoy constant companionship and affection. When dog owners are negligent, they put others at risk in the event their pet lashes out.

According to Healthline, a serious dog bite can cause nerve damage, bacterial infection, bone fractures, and more. Victims of dog bites are also at risk of developing rabies, which is often fatal when timely treatment is not sought. While you cannot make negligent dog owners behave responsibly, you can reduce your chance of being bitten by a dog by taking the following steps when approached by an unfamiliar, possibly aggressive dog.

Speak in a firm, forceful voice

Even an aggressive dog may respond to forceful commands. When issuing commands, do not scream or panic, which might frighten the animal. Instead, speak clearly and firmly and command that the dog sit or stay. Using common commands ensures the dog will understand them and possibly comply.

Distract the animal

If you have food with you, throw it towards the dog and away from your body. The dog may become curious and go after the food, giving you time to get away. Throw the food as far away from you as possible to give you more time to get away safely.

Do not run

Running is likely to inflame the dog’s predatory instinct. Additionally, it is unlikely that you will be able to outrun the dog. If there is a car or some other object that you can climb onto, do so and wait until help arrives.

Put something between yourself and the dog

Place a backpack, shopping cart, bicycle, or any other accessible object between you and the attacking animal. Doing so might spare you a potentially dangerous bite. Do all that you can to prevent the dog from latching on to your arm or hand while you position the object between you and the animal.