WASHINGTON (AP) — Dogs of the world: Please stop biting mail carriers.

The U.S. Postal Service is launching its annual dog bite prevention week to try and reduce the 2,863 letter carriers bitten last year.

"My dog doesn't bite," is one of the most common fallacies mail carriers hear, postal officials say. Dogs are protective of their homes and families, and if they think the carrier represents some kind of threat they will take action.

And it's not just mail carriers. Nationally, dogs chomp 4.7 million people every year, mostly youngsters.

Tips from the post office to avoid being bitten:

— Don't run past a dog. The dog's natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.

— If a dog threatens you, don't scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.

— Don't approach a strange dog, especially one that's tethered or confined.

— If you believe a dog is about to attack, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.

And for dog owners:

— When a carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door in another room.

— Don't let your child take mail from the carrier in the presence of your dog. Your dog's instinct is to protect the family.


On the Net:

U.S. Postal Service: http://www.usps.com