No one wants to believe that a cuddly dog or cat could ever hurt them. However, the reality is that domesticated animal attacks are unfortunately common. Each year in the U.S., there are over 4.5 million dog bite victims along with 400,000 cat bites. While many people assume that only stray or sick animals would ever bite or attack, the vast majority of animal bites come from animals you or your children know, such as a neighborhood pet. Fortunately, animal attacks are also preventable. By following these four tips, you can ensure you avoid potentially serious injuries this autumn:

1. Get to know the pets in your neighborhood

If possible, help your kids get familiar with the dogs in your community who they are likely to encounter from time to time. Teach them how to greet these dogs without provoking anxiety or defensiveness by standing still and quiet while they sniff them. If the dog seems comfortable, they can slowly extend their hand to pet its body – never the dog’s head.

2. Don’t pet unfamiliar cats or dogs

Teaching your children not to approach animals they don’t know is essential for preventing a dangerous encounter. You can warn them to stay away from pets out in their yards or animals displaying anxious or hostile body language. In particular, dogs are very territorial, so don’t try to pet one that is behind a fence, eating food or with its puppies.

3. Don’t run if a strange animal approaches you

While your first instinct may be to run or bike away from an animal chasing you, the best thing to do is stand still if a strange animal approaches you. Avoid making direct eye contact with the animal or any sudden movements. By standing tall and still, the animal should lose interest in you and leave you alone.

4. Avoid all undomesticated animals

There are plenty of cute undomesticated animals in nature, so be sure to talk to your kids about the dangers of interacting with these animals as well. Rodents and other wild animals such as raccoons can carry an array of serious diseases that could be transmitted to humans.

If a pet or undomesticated animal bites your child, remember always to have the wound looked at by a medical professional. However, by understanding proper animal-etiquette, you can help keep your family safe from harm.