A total of 320 people were hospitalised following dog bites in 2020 and Ireland's largest dog welfare charity fears that number could increase with a recent rise in dog ownership.

Dogs Trust Ireland has launched a safety awareness week to education people on how to interact with pets and avoid being bitten.

The charity says HSE data shows that 64% of people hospitalised were over the age of 20.

It believes the number of people treated for dog bites could be higher because these figures do not include emergency room or GP visits.

An online survey of 1,140 people carried out by the charity found that only 41% of respondents were able to spot a dog exhibiting apprehensive body language.

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The charity's campaign, Be Dog Safe Week, aims to educate people on how to recognise when a dog does not want to be touched or interacted with.

Dawn Kavanagh, Education and Community Manager with Dogs Trust Ireland, said dogs often display certain behaviours when they are feeling stressed

"Some of the signs to look out for are flattened ears, avoiding eye contact, lip licking when no food is present, tucking their tail between their legs, showing the whites of their eyes or growling", she said.

"It’s really important to note that we should never punish a dog for growling, as this will just remove it as a means of communication," she added.

Dogs Trust advises people who notice a dog doing any behaviours that may indicate stress to give them space or provide them with an activity they enjoy.

This could be a sniffing activity such as sprinkling some treats in grass to engage their nose and lower their stress levels.

The charity has guides, advice and information about workshops on its website.