Running away from a dangerous dog feels like the most natural thing in the world. The dog charges and you turn and sprint in the other direction. Maybe it’s just instinct. After all, you’re trying to protect yourself. Maybe you think the dog just wants you out of its perceived territory and you’re showing it that you’re getting out.

No matter why you run, it’s actually the wrong idea. Dogs have a very strong chase reflex. Anyone who has gone for a jog with their pet knows how this works. The dog may seem tired out after a few miles but, if a squirrel runs across the sidewalk, the dog suddenly has a burst of strength to pull on the leash.

The same is true no matter what the dog is chasing. That’s a dog’s first instinct. It may just have barked at your before but, if you run, now it wants to chase. That escalates the entire situation. The dog may chase you down and bite you specifically because you ran.

So, what should you do instead? The key lies in lowering the energy of the situation by staying calm, not reacting emotionally, and facing the dog while standing still. Many dogs will then stop, as well, even if they keep barking. You can slowly back away, showing the dog that you’re not a threat and that you are not prey to be chased. This is the best way to avoid a bite, even when it’s difficult to do at that key moment.

Of course, whether you run or not, getting bitten by a vicious animal is not your fault. It can lead to catastrophic injuries, and you need to know what options you have to pursue compensation after a dog bite.