When you see a cute dog walking past, it might be hard to not say hello without petting the animal. But it’s important to keep in mind that there is always a possibility that even the friendliest-looking pup might not be interested in your attention.

To prevent from a tragic dog bite, it’s important to consider the worst-case scenario of approaching a dog and proceed with caution. Specifically, here are three things to consider when petting dogs that you know and don’t know that well:

1.       Always ask for permission

It might seem like a no-brainer to ask someone to pet their dog, but you might not know why this is step is so important. The pet owner should know about the dog’s behavior and whether the animal has had their latest rabies vaccination. If the dog isn’t usually friendly with strangers, the owner should know this and warn you. The owner should also avoid letting you pet the dog if their vaccination history is unknown.

2.       Avoid sensitive areas

When owners feel comfortable with you petting their dog, you should be mindful of how the dog might react depending on where you pet them. Many dogs feel threatened or crowded when you reach for their head or tummy, so try petting the dog’s chest or shoulder area instead. Don’t be rough either. It’s best to gently follow the direction of the dog’s fur as you pet them.

3.       Pay attention to the dog

While petting a dog, be sure to check and see that they are comfortable. If the animal is pulling back or looking away from you instead of leaning in, this is a sign to give the dog some space. When a dog yawns, licks their lips or tucks their ears back, these are also ways to tell that the dog isn’t thrilled to have you so close to them.

If a dog bites you or a loved one, be sure to receive medical attention right away. And understand that there might be compensation available to pay for medical treatment and the pain you may endure.