Safety around dogs

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Managing dog behaviour

Hamilton is a dog-friendly city. Our Council works with dog owners to ensure they care for their dogs and manage their behaviour as outlined in our Policies and Bylaws and under central government legislation. Dog registration helps us to do this, but we also need dog owners to recognise their responsibilities when it comes to their dog's welfare and its behaviour towards other people and animals. Find out about dog registration and microchipping​.

As a responsible dog owner, you need to control your dog so you can ensure your own safety and that of other people and other dogs. People who don't own dogs should also become familiar with how to handle themselves around them and how to recognise and minimise unwanted dog behaviours. 

Find out more about caring for your dog and dangerous and menacing dogs.

We've provided some tips below which aim to help everyone stay safe around dogs. Parents and teachers can also use these tips to teach children about dog safety. 

Use our free dog education services

Education is also a crucial part of staying safe around dogs. Our Animal Education and Control Team provides a wealth of information online about dogs. We also hold regular dog-related events so our community can learn about dogs and safety around dogs in a fun environment - for example, our Paws in the Pool​ event.

Find out more about our team's free dog education services​. Our team can visit your group, organisation or business to talk to you about staying safe around dogs. We can also chat individually with you so you can access the information, support and resources you need - and if you're a dog owner, we can help you find out what you need to do to become a responsible one. 

Report a dog safety issue

Please contact Animal Education and Control Team if you need to report a dog safety issue, for example, threatening behaviour, dogs fighting or attacks on people. You can also let us know if there are any issues related to menacing or dangerous dogs​. If the issue is urgent, phoning is the best approach rather than emailing - we are available 24/7 to deal with these.

If the issue is also related to a more serious animal welfare issue, you can also contact the Waikato SPCA ​ (or your local SPCA) for assistance in that respect.

Dog safety tips

As well as the tips below, you might like to check out the Department of Internal Affairs' Dog Safety website and learn more about courses with Waikato Canine Obedience. Doglinks is another handy website which you can use to find links to useful information and resources across the 'dog community'.

If an unknown dog approaches you

  • Stand still, be like a tree.
  • Let the dog sniff you, this is how it gets to know you. 
  • Move slowly and speak softly - quick movements and loud voices can scare a dog.
  • Don't try to pat it, even if it seems friendly.
  • Don't run away.​​

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​If you are approached by a threatening dog

  • Remain calm and still (like a tree). Quick movements and loud noises can cause a dog to react.
  • Keep hands by your sides.
  • Turn so you are 'side on' to the dog.
  • Keep the dog in sight but don't stare directly at it - look down at your feet or the dog’s feet.
  • Try firm and simple commands such as 'no', 'stay', 'down' or 'go home' in a calm voice.
  • Use the dog's name if you know it.
  • If you have a child with you, keep him or her behind you. Don’t pick your child (or dog) up.
  • Slowly and quietly back away from the dog, keeping it in sight.
  • If the dog is not acting (or stops acting) in a threatening way, confidently and quietly move away.

If you are attacked

Being attacked by a dog is a frightening experience. Our natural reactions to fear may make the situation worse (eg, running, waving arms, squealing and screaming) .

Practise the steps under 'if you are approached by a threatening dog' (see above) and the following steps - and teach them to your children.

  • Put an object between you and the dog, eg, a bag, parcel, bicycle, car door.
  • If a dog leaps at you, cover your face and neck with your hands and arms.
  • Don't turn your back or scream.
  • Never lie down.
  • If you are knocked down, lie down with your face down, curl up in a foetal position (roll up into a ball) and put your hands and arms over the back of your head and neck.
  • If a dog bites you, wash and disinfect the area and see a doctor as soon as possible.
  • Remember to take notice of the dog's details – eg, its breed, size and colour, any collar or tags - and the time, location and (if it ran off) the direction went.
  • Contact us​ to report the incident.

Minimising, avoiding and recognising aggressive behaviour

If a dog is barking, growling or snarling with its teeth showing, it is getting ready to bite. If its ears are laid back or its legs stiff and tail up, it is warning you. The hair on its back will also stand up.

A wagging tail does not always mean that the dog is happy or friendly.


  • face the dog head on, look it in the eye, run or scream
  • try to stop two dogs fighting - always seek help by phoning our Animal Education and Control Team
  • hurt a dog, eg, don't pull its ears or tail or jump on top of it
  • reach your hand into a car window or through a fence to pat a dog
  • enter someone's property until the dog's owner knows you’re there
  • bother a dog when it’s eating or sleeping
  • scream, wave your arms about or run away
  • make a dog feel trapped by cornering it or boxing it in (eg, by suddenly hugging or kissing it)
  • surprise a dog by creeping up on it
  • leave a dog alone with an infant or child
  • approach an unfamiliar dog without the owner’s permission.

Be very careful if you:

  • approach a dog playing with toys
  • approach a mother dog with her puppies. 

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Page reviewed: 30 Aug 2016 2:57pm