Incidents involving dog bites, or even more severe attacks, especially targeting toddlers, are on the rise. Around five million bites are reported every year in North America -- 4.5 million in the US and half a million in Canada.
Often the problem is that an aggressive dog is not being properly restrained but it's also true that in a percentage of cases, dogs actually become agitated because of the way a human interacts with them.
So, is there anything you can do to cut the risks of a dog attack?
According to John Bastian, who works for TV celebrity and "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Milan, the most important thing to do when confronted by an aggressive dog is to remain calm; that tends to slow them down.
"Don't give in to fear or anxiety," he says, "and don’t start yelling or kicking at the dog."
You should also avoid direct eye contact, standing slightly sideways but keeping the animal in your peripheral vision.
"Once you have successfully used calm assertive energy to keep that dog back, claim your own space," Bastian says.
"If you happen to be carrying anything in your hands, like a cane or an umbrella, place it out in front of yourself to appear bigger and be more in command of your space.
"What this tells the dog with your body language is, 'I don’t want your space, I just want this space that I am in.'"
Usually, this will cause the dog to lose interest in you. But, as the statistics show, the firm approach doesn’t always work -- or you may not have the opportunity to demonstrate calmness in the event of an unexpected attack.
In that case, a first reaction should be to try to remove an item of your clothing -- such as a sweater -- and wave it around, which may distract the animal's attention and give it something to chew on. Even taking your arm out of a sleeve and waving that around could be sufficient.
Even so, it's important to act swiftly to protect your face, chest and throat. Make fists with your hands to protect fingers. In fact, the safest place to be bitten, Bastian says, is the forearm or shin.
If you are bitten, resist the natural urge to try to pull away. This will just make the injury worse through tearing your flesh.
If you get the chance, the best way to disable the dog is to grab hold of its back legs and lift them off the ground.
Read Bastian's advice in full here: https://tinyurl.com/milan-bites