Each year, nearly 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs -- 80 percent of them by familiar canines. The good news is that most bites can be prevented by following these simple rules:

1. Before petting someone's dog, ask the dog's guardian for permission. If it's OK, approach slowly and quietly. Let the dog sniff you first, then pet the dog's sides or back gently.

2. Never sneak up on or pet a dog that is sleeping or eating. Animals can bite when they're startled or frightened.

3. Never pet a dog that is playing with a toy or eating. Dogs are often protective of toys and food.

4. Never try to pet a dog that is in a car. Dogs will often protect that space.

5. Never pet a dog that is behind a fence. Most dogs naturally protect their property and home.

6. If a strange dog approaches, stop and stand still (like a tree) with your hands at your side.

7. Never, ever try to outrun a dog. Back away slowly from him instead.

-- The Humane Society