Almost five million people get bitten by dogs every year, but experts say at least half of those bites could be prevented if we knew the facts behind these three dog-behavior myths: 

  • Myth #1: It’s okay for kids to hug dogs. That’s False. Certified Dog Trainer, Colleen Pelar, says that, from a dog’s point-of-view, hugs are not signs of affection. Dogs view a hug as an act of domination, because when one dog tries to dominate another, they put their head or paws on the other dog’s back, which feels like a hug. And hugs are what lead to children and adults being bitten in the face. 

  • Another dog myth: When you greet a strange dog, you should hold out your hand to let them sniff it. False. Melissa Berryman is the founder of the Dog Owner Education and Community Safety Council. And she says that some dogs see a hand held above their head, or in their face, as a threat, and threats tend to be bitten. You’re much better off crouching down to the dog’s level, and tapping your hand against your thigh to see if the dog will come to you. If they don’t come, it means they’re not sure yet whether you’re a threat or not, so, leave them alone. Let them come to you.

  • And the last myth that increases our chances of a dog bite: Only “bad breeds” with irresponsible owners bite. That’s a dangerous misconception. Animal behavior expert Madeline Gabriel says that any dog that feels threatened can bite, or if they think someone is taking their food or toys, or attacking their owner. Which means, giving the owner a hug could get you bitten. So if you’re approaching someone with a dog, even a good friend, ask first if it’s okay. The dog may react differently out in public than it does at home.