CHAMPLAIN Dogs may be mans best friend, but according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, canine companions are also responsible for more than 4.7 million dog bites per year. Who are the most frequently bitten? Small children, the elderly and postal carriers, in that order. To help reduce the number of preventable dog bites, the United States Post Office partnered with the American Veterinarian Association and CDC to mark National Dog Bite Prevention Week during the third week in May. During a demonstration at the Champlain Post Office, Pat Sullivan and Diane Solarte of the Clinton County Canine Club were on hand with their own dogs to discuss the right and wrong way to interact with dogs. According to Sullivan, the main reason dogs bite or attack is fear. That risk can be even greater if one happens upon an unsuspecting dog. The last thing you want to do is surprise a dog, said Solarte. Therefore, people are advised to make noise when approaching a property honk a car horn as mail carriers do, perhaps to make sure everyone, including the dogs, know you are coming. Its not the size of the dog that determines if they will bite or be aggressive, Solarte also noted. Although large breeds like Rottweilers and pitbulls can do more damage if they do attack, theyre not necessarily more likely to bite than smaller breeds. Small dogs can be very aggressive and territorial, she continued. Speaking to the gathered postal employees, the pair stressed the right way to approach a dog. Always ask [the owner] first, advised Sullivan. When greeting a dog, she recommends extending the back of the hand or fist to allow the dog to sniff. If the dog takes even a slight step away, back off thats the dogs way of saying no go! If the dog doesnt hesitate, its okay to pet the dog under the neck, finally sliding around to pet the dog on the back. Still, be aware of any signs of resistance a dropped head or backing away and be prepared to back off. A dog can change its opinion of you just like that, explained Solarte with a snap of her fingers. Both agree an unrestrained dog should never be approached. If encountered, stand your ground and allow the dog to sniff you if it wants. You dont want to scream; you dont want to run, said Solarte. Dogs are prey animals and you cant outrun a dog. Instead, keep your eye on the animal and slowly back away. Finally, never believe the owners who say my dog wont bite, they noted. All dogs can and do bite, emphasized Sullivan. You never know what will set them off.