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How to Prevent a Dog Bite

4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. CNN's Holly Firfer explains how to prevent them.
Dogs bite more than 4.7million Americans each year and about 800,000 of these require medical attention.

However, there are steps that can be taken to help prevent dog bites.

We've all heard the expression; a dog is a man's best friend. But to make this relationship work, people need to learn to read a dog's body language to help prevent dog bites.

“Most dogs that bite are only doing so because they are scared and want to warn you to back away,” says dog trainer and behavior consultant Victoria Stilwell. “That's what aggression achieves. Distance.”

So, if you're meeting a dog for the first time:

The most important thing to remember is give it space. Do not go into that dog's space.

Let the dog come to you, Stilwell says.

Turn your body to the side so that you look less threatening, put your hand in a fist and hold your hand down so the dog can sniff your fist.

“When you meet a dog as well, don't stare in its eyes,” says Stilwell. “Don't smile at it. Because staring at its eyes is a challenge. It’s a threat.”

Pet the animal on the back of the neck or on his back and not on the top of the head, Stilwell says.

Yawning and lip licking may be signs that the dog feels uncomfortable and wants you to back away.

Try not to run from a dog or scream. If you do get knocked over, roll into a ball, lie still and cover your head.

When it comes to avoiding dog bites, knowing what to look for in our 4-legged friends can help both man and dog stay safe.

(Holly Firfer for CNN's Health Minute)

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