Avoiding Dog Bites on the Job

Do you have a job that takes you onto other people's property, face-to-face with strange dogs every day? Dog bites are a problem shared by many industries – postal workers, package deliverers, utility meter readers, and others. Even if you just stop by to visit a friend, you may find yourself staring down an unfamiliar or unfriendly dog. Here's the guide to avoiding dog bites.
Guard dog on duty
A "Beware of Dog" sign is an obvious clue, but there are other signs to look for a resident dog.

Observe and test

When you approach the property, look for signs that a dog lives there. You might see a doghouse, dog toys, or food and water dishes if the dog spends most of his time outdoors. Even dogs who mostly live indoors will leave clues outside such as tracks in the mud or snow, piles of waste, and tie-out chains.

Before you enter the property, spend a few seconds scoping it out, looking for signs of a dog. If you see any telltale signs, try to attract the dog's attention so you can verify whether or not he is outside before you open the gate. You can do this by whistling, rattling the gate, or calling out something like, "Here, puppy!" Doing this will make sure the dog knows you're coming so you don't sneak up on him.

Let the dog come see you, and you can observe his demeanor during the approach. Does the dog look aggressive, passive, or happy to see you? Is the tail wagging? Are the teeth bared?

Once the dog comes over to the gate or the front of the fence, if he appears to be friendly, allow the dog to sniff your hand through the fence. Offer a flat palm or a fist against the fence. Do NOT stick any fingers through the fence. This might present too strong of a temptation for the dog and end up with you losing a finger


Under no circumstances should you approach a dog sleeping or caring for young. These dogs are especially prone to attack. In addition, dogs may become very protective when they are around the children of the family, so be aware not just of your physical surroundings, but also of family members who may be nearby.

Ask for assistance

Once you have verified that a dog is inside the fence, use your cell phone or holler for the homeowner, asking that the dog be put away inside the house while you complete your business. Many people will tell you "my dog doesn't bite," but we never know what's going to set off the dog for the first biting experience. Even if you don't make any sudden or threatening movements, the dog may decide it's time to take that first bite…out of your hide.

Don't settle for having anyone restrain the dog while you enter the property, especially if it is a child doing the restraining. Most dogs are stronger than they look and are single-minded when they want to get loose. Very few people can reliably hold back a dog who really wants to get at you


Once the dog is inside, if you must talk to someone at the door, put your foot against the base of the screen door to prevent the dog from pushing the door open to escape.

Plan your route

As you enter a yard where you know a dog is present, plan your escape route on the way in. Are there a lot of trip hazards that might get you on the way back out? Many people get bitten because they fall down, trying to get away from an approaching dog. Also, the fall itself can cause injuries to bones and joints.

Look for a clear route back to the gate or out to your vehicle as you're entering the property to make sure you can get out in a hurry if need be.

If you are approached by a dog after you have entered the property, walk, DON'T RUN, to get away. Back up, rather than turning your back on the dog, and shuffle your feet to minimize the chances that you will fall.

If the dog is looking for something to chew on, give him something – your clipboard, the package you're delivering, your jacket or umbrella – anything that will keep the animal's mouth busy while you make your escape. If you can, carry a small umbrella that opens with just a click of a button on the handle. Opening the umbrella in the dog's face may startle him into backing up, and will provide something for him to put in his mouth while you back out of the yard. An umbrella designed for just this purpose is marketed under the name of the Bite Terminator. A former meter reader, who knows whereof he speaks, owns the company.

If you are attacked

Despite your best efforts and precautions, dogs often come out of nowhere and surprise you, so you must be prepared to protect yourself during an attack. The most important defense is to stay on your feet if at all possible.

Although we all love dogs, you need to realize that an attacking dog is not your friend. Don't be afraid to use any weapon at your disposal to stop the attack. If you carry a handheld computer device for your job, you may need to "feed it" forcefully to the dog. Use your clipboard or other pieces of equipment you carry to bat the dog away from you.

When escaping from a smaller dog, you may need to climb out of reach, such as into a pick-up truck bed or on top of a car.

If you happen to get knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your ears and fingers. Dog bites to your back will generally be less serious than those to your limbs and face. As much as you can, lie still. Dogs are much more interested in living, moving prey than in something they perceive as dead.

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