(WHEELING, W.Va.)-WTRF What would you do if a dog approaches you outside? 

Is the dog’s owner nearby or is the dog astray?

One of the best options local experts say is don’t put yourself in panic mode.

According to Belmont County Animal Shelter Assistant Dog Warden Alexandria Rees, a dog oftentimes receives eye contact as a potential threat.  

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Rees says looking down is better than looking at a dog directly. 

She says to use your peripheral vision when encountering a dog you don’t recognize. 

Rees says, “Keep your arms to your side. Stay calm and try to back away slowly while still using your peripherals. A lot of times if you reach your hand out they will take that as a threat. So, just be really careful, be cautious and slow and get a read for them.” 

She continues, “You just want to keep your arms to your side, stay calm and try to back away slowly.” 

Primarily, dogs will try to bite the back of a person’s legs, hands, or face. 

Rees says it’s really about remaining cool, calm, and collected. 

According to Rees, “It’s more of your bodily actions. If you were being approached by them, you don’t want to take off running and screaming. You want to be calm, so they don’t chase you and react to that because they’re definitely going to react. Sudden movements or anything that jars them may frighten them and you don’t know what they’ve been through.” 

Rees says you have an obligation as a dog owner to be responsible.

She says you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the fence putting both you and your pup in a precarious position. 

“Go out and check your fencing. If you’re using a lead, make sure it’s not rusted so it doesn’t snap off. If you have fencing go around make sure and check on that. Make sure there are no spaces. They can escape because they can escape through very, very small spaces and if there is a way to get out they will find it. So, you definitely have to take prevention and figure out if everything is safe because they have to be under control for you,” says Rees. 

Rees says educating people, especially children, is so important when you come in contact with a dog you don’t know. 

She also says, “It’s just like people. Nobody wants somebody so close to your face…in your bubble. So, you constantly have to tell them. Be careful what you’re doing and don’t be in their face too long. They can take that as if it’s a threat or it may just frustrate them.” 

Rees advises that if a situation doesn’t seem right and you see a dog approaching all by itself contact authorities for both your safety and that of the anxious animal. 

Rees says, “If there’s a dog at large you definitely want to call your dog warden so we can reunite them with their dog owner. Make sure the dog is safe and make sure that the community is safe around that dog because we definitely don’t want anybody hurt and we don’t want any animals hurt.” 

“If there’s more dogs out, there’s more of a chance of getting bitten,”  says Town and Country Animal Hospital Veterinarian Doctor Krystal Schmid.

Doctor Schmid says during the summer months more dogs are outside and that traditionally means more dog bites.  

According to Doctor Schmid, “Dogs are just more anxious. Fireworks, noises…just like we get anxious and irritable and just like when we get hot, dogs get hot and can’t sweat normally as people can. So, again a lot of times they’re stressed out. Even though they can’t say it, they’re actually stressed too especially with the temperatures and the environment.” 

This veterinarian says to treat your dog like you treat your child and she also says parents should always watch their children around a strange dog to avoid a sticky situation. 

“Don’t go up to a dog really fast. A lot of children really love to grab a strange dog and hold them just like they were their family dog. A lot of times dogs don’t like to be hugged. They don’t like to be kissed because that is kind of an invitation to get bitten. Dogs are uncomfortable with that and just like you don’t want a random person coming up and kissing you on the cheek, just like your mom would, you don’t want a random person doing that. If you treat a dog like you would treat people, just giving them their space usually things will be fine,” says Doctor Schmid.

 Also, Doctor Schmid says one of the most important tips is to always be respectful of a dog’s personal space. 

She adds, “You always ask the owner if it’s okay to pet the dog. Never run straight up to the dog. Kind of try to read the dog’s language the best you can. Just like people get uncomfortable in environments that they’re in people get irritable because of heat and loud noises, dogs are the same way. So, I think the biggest thing is respecting their personal space. A lot of dogs don’t have any issues, people coming up, petting them, but there are a lot of dogs, just like people, who like their personal space. So, it’s always better when you go up to a dog just like a person that you approach them slowly. Don’t startle them and just be very respectful of the personal space and usually if you do you can cohabitate well in outdoor settings.”

Following these tips, according to these two local experts, can help you in the case of a close encounter, but on the flip side, Dr. Schmid offers some great tips in the unfortunate event you get bitten by a dog.”  

“Most of the time a dog isn’t going to attack you. If you do get bitten, I think it’s a good idea as soon as you can to go wash that cut out really well. If you have any underlying medical conditions, go call your family practitioner. Go to urgent care. Just get it checked out. It never hurts to get things checked out because you don’t want to get sick. Make sure the dog is up-to-date on the rabies vaccine. For rabies vaccinations, we require proof of the actual rabies certificate, not just if somebody says they’ve had the vaccine. We actually require proof of the rabies certificate and all vets should be keeping medical records like we do, that they have an up-to-date rabies vaccine.” 

Bottom line, Dr. Schmid says, the rabies vaccination is a state law in all fifty states, and please remember, she says, that rabies is a fatal, but preventable disease. 

“There’s no cure for rabies,” says Doctor Schmid, “If a dog bites somebody that is unvaccinated, that dog has to go into quarantine and that person has to get a possible rabies shot. It’s just not worth the risk for a vaccine that’s not very expensive and could save the life of a person and your pet.”