Preventing dog attacks in the community

A dog of any size or breed can become aggressive when defending its territory. Even a friendly dog may guard the area on or around its property. Most dog attacks in public places occur on the footpath or road bordering the attacking dog's property.

It is important to know how to approach dogs safely and what to do if you are approached by an aggressive dog. In particular, children need to be taught how to behave around dogs, and parents need to be aware of the importance of active supervision. Children, particularly those aged 0 to 4 years old, are most at risk of serious dog bite injuries.

Tips for dog owners

  • Confining dogs to their property could prevent 80 per cent of dog attacks in public places.
  • You can be fined if your dog isn't securely confined, or if it rushes at or attacks a person or animal.
  • Your yard must have a closed gate, escape proof fencing and visitors must have safe access to the front door.

What happens if your dog attacks

If your dog rushes at or chases someone, you can be fined and your dog declared a menacing dog. If your dog attacks a person or animal, penalties can include:

  • court action
  • fines
  • damages
  • declaration of your dog as dangerous
  • your dog may even be put down.

Research shows that 80 per cent of hospitalised dog attack victims are bitten in private homes by their own dog, or that of a friend or neighbour.

Know what to do if approached by an aggressive dog

It is important to know how to approach dogs safely and what to do if you are approached by an aggressive dog. Children, particularly those aged 0 to 4 years old, are most at risk of serious dog bite injuries. Children need to be taught how to behave around dogs and parents need to be aware of the importance of active supervision.

  • Stand still, don't run.
  • Keep your hands by your side.
  • Stay quiet, try not to make any noise.
  • Avoid eye contact with the dog, look at the ground.
  • Once the dog has lost interest, slowly back away.


Stand still


Hands down


Stay quiet


Avoid eye contact

Know how to approach dogs safely

  • Always ask the owner if you can pat their dog.
  • Approach the dog from an angle, rather than directly from the front or rear.
  • Slowly extend the back of your hand with your fingers curled under and allow the dog to sniff.
  • Stroke the dog on the side of the chest, the shoulders or under the chin (not on top of the head).
  • Don't continue patting the dog if it backs away or doesn't sniff your hand.


Walk up slowly


Ask permission


Allow dog to sniff


Stroke the dog

Page last updated: 05 Jan 2021