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Do you know how to tell if a dog is about to attack?

You're out for your nightly run and suddenly are confronted by a large, unfamiliar dog. Is it friend or foe? It can be difficult to tell unless you have a good understanding of canine behavioral cues.

It's generally safest to assume that any unfamiliar dog might bite. However, dogs send signals that can give you a clearer idea of what they may be about to do.

If you are jogging, stop running. The reason for this is clear -- dogs perceive flight as prey behavior. Even friendly dogs will give chase to something running past because they see it as all part of a new, fun game. Below are some warning signs that dogs often transmit prior to an attack:

  • Straight, stiff and slowly wagging tails. This is very different from the wags of a friendly pup. Think of it as a raised antennae signaling intent to attack.
  • Wide, spread-pawed stance. When dogs do this, it means they feel threatened and are attempting to make themselves look larger.
  • Direct stare. Dogs that stare at you directly with "hard" eyes are challenging you for dominance. Look off to the side while you slowly back away.
  • Showing teeth. This is often accompanied by a low, throaty growl. This is the absolute last warning sign you will get before the dog pounces on you for an attack. Heed it.

The above teeth-baring snarl is far removed from the goofy-looking "smiles" so frequently seen in those "guilty dog" videos on the internet. You will know the difference immediately.

Dog bites can maim and kill, especially when the victims are very young or elderly. If you were bitten by a dog here on Long Island, it's important to understand your rights under the law to pursue compensation from a negligent dog owner.

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