There are approximately 80 million dogs owned in America, and almost 50% of households have at least one dog which truly makes them man’s best friend. Perhaps the only thing worse than losing your beloved pooch to old age or forced abandonment is when Fido suddenly turns on you… or worse, someone else. But each year almost 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and at least half of those who receive medical attention are kids.

No sane person ever wants to be on the losing end of a potentially dangerous animal, and science proves that even the largest and most aggressive dog breeds can become tame, playful, and loving members of the family with the right nurturing and care. Still, a little self-preservation goes a long way with any animal, and here are some of the best ways to prevent having to involve a dog bite attorney and possibly end up putting down your best friend in the process.

Be a Good Pet Parent

Puppies sure are cute but they grow, and often at alarming rates. Unless you’re a professional and licensed breeder, be sure to spay or neuter your dogs early. Aggression and pointy teeth don’t mix well, especially when little ones are lurking about. Older dogs also tend to develop developmental conditions like dementia which result in confusion, fear, and aggression. Keep up on vet care for continued shots, diagnosis, and treatment throughout the dog’s life.

Notice the Dog’s Body Language

It’s a common human impulse to see an adorable pup, even one we know or have seen before, and want to run up and shower it with attention. But that’s often a huge mistake. Approximately 92% of dog attacks involve male dogs who are not neutered, but female dogs can also be aggressive when scared, pregnant, or nursing. Their body language is often the first sign of trouble. If the dog has a tense body, stiff tail, intense stare, is backing away or you can see the whites of its eyes and very little color, avoid approaching at all costs. But don’t around and run, either, or they’ll chase you on instinct.

Use Caution Around a Strange or Stray Dog

Stray dogs can seem so helpless, and it is human nature to want to reach out and offer a home. But those animals are often carriers of disease or highly aggressive due to previous abuse or neglect. Never approach an unfamiliar animal. If a stray dog approaches you, try to remain still until he relaxes. Let him use his senses to gauge your intentions. Don’t make any loud or sudden noises. And if you don’t want to interact with a stray dog, avoid direct eye contact.

Avoid Disturbing or Surprising a Dog when Sleeping or Preoccupied

Even the sweetest, most loving fur baby can transform into Cujo in the right (or wrong) situations. Regardless of how cute your pooch looks while sleeping, never shock her awake by lying on her or making loud noises nearby. Avoid handling the pup when she’s eating and make it a household rule with nasty chore consequences so the kids don’t break the rule and get hurt in the process. Pregnant dogs, especially, can become aggressive out of nowhere, and dogs caring for their own pups will put the safety of those babies over your own. An unexpected bite can lead to pain and suffering for the entire family for years to come. Avoid the trouble and potential calls to your Michigan personal injury attorney by being safe and practical around man’s best friend.