NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With several children bitten by dogs each year, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital is cautioning safety around “even the cutest canine.”

This week marked the start of Nation Dog Bite Prevention Week, which is dedicated to educating people about preventing dog bites each year during the second week of April.

“Most dog bites are preventable,” Stacey Pecenka, MPH, CPH, manager of Monroe Carell’s Trauma Injury Prevention Program said in a press release. “Any dog can bite, especially if provoked.”

Over the past three years, Pecenka said nearly 200 children have been treated at the hospital for dog bites. While an average of 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, she said children are the most common victims.

“It usually happens with familiar dogs and occurs during everyday activities,” Pecenka said.

Nearly one in five people bitten by a dog require medical attention, with children often suffering more severe injuries. Less severe injuries may be treated in the Emergency Room or in clinics with individual primary care physicians.

However, there are several steps that can be taken to prevent dog bites. Injury prevention experts at Monroe Carell encourage people to ask the dog’s owner if they can pet their dog before approaching the animal.

A dog’s body language can quickly be a sign of whether it is aggressive or friendly, according to the release. If a dog acts afraid or aggressive, thank the owner and leave.

People should also remember to not startle the dog and make sure it sees them before the interaction. Holding out your hand for a dog to sniff is “kind of like a handshake for dogs,” the release said.

| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Nashville and Davidson County

In addition, experts suggest petting dogs on their backs as sometimes hands near their faces can be frightening. People should never pet a dog while it is eating, sleeping or chewing on a toy.