Imagine you are a misplaced dog on a different planet. A two-legged creature with sticky paws lunges at you. This little monster suddenly screeches and whirls an inch from under your nose. The repulsive stranger corners you. "It" squeals, darts wildly, then tumbles over.
Panic sets in.
Distraught, you search for a familiar face in the crowd, hoping for your knight in shining armor to appear. Options to escape the madness are slim to nil. To your right, lurks a man sporting a unibrow. To your left, towers a lady doused with cologne. She holds a enormous clutch.
Claustrophobic and defenseless, a low growl emanates from your jaws, but is drowned out by confusion. The screaming kid becomes louder than a runaway jet plane slamming on its brakes. When retracted gums fail the advance, you reveal teeth. Unfortunately, fangs don’t seem to stop the toddler from its frenzy.
You lash out.
Abruptly, things go from bad to worse. The last thing you remember is a glimpse of the massive purse, the lady, and a blow to your cranium.
Everything else goes black.
Congratulations, you are now labeled an aggressive danger to society. Your breed is prohibited, and parents of children all around the world hate you.
Though most dogs are friendly and love appropriate human touch by polite people, not all dogs are friendly. We often forget that dogs are animals. Animals with innate behaviors; some, once—or twice over—neglected; others, over-bred and traumatized.
Most dogs have a history attached to their collars.
Even friendly dogs can become unpredictable if over-stimulated. If we want to communicate with courtesy and cohabit with these beasts we often refer to as ‘man’s best friend’, we should not take dangerous risks. Instead, we must be safe with the animal we call “dog.”
“May we approach your dog?”
A waving tail is not always a wagging tail. Pricked ears don’t necessarily express interest. These signals are telling, but only half the story. Observe the dog’s entire body language and learn its warning signs. If a dog’s body quickly turns from fluid and relaxed to stiff and tense, beware.
Stay your distance
“Is your dog friendly?”
Respect a dog’s need for space and safety. Allow the dog to make the first move. Even with permission, never approach a dog. The dog may be unsure of you or its current circumstance. Keep a distance from the “bite zone” (over mouth, face, or head) and do not go near a dog if they are tethered or resting in a crate.
If a dog wants to greet you, they will. Remain certain with fingers closed inside a loose fist. Never come on too strong. If a dog isn’t ready for a “hello”, move along.
Avoid menacing eye contact. A stare down is interpreted as dominance.
Keep quiet and calm
“Does your dog welcome visitors?”
*50% of all dog bites are fear related. Earn a dog’s trust by speaking and behaving gently. Do not make frightening noises or sudden movements.
Most tragic instances come from dogs people know. Just because a dog is a member of the family is no excuse for rude or thoughtless behavior. Children who are confident and cautious are much safer than children who are taught to be fearful. If we exude confidence and move steadily, it is less likely to provoke a dog to attack.
Responsible dog owners practice proper handling skills and regular exercise. Obedience, socialization, and environmental training is also beneficial. But, before we expect our dogs to be “good”, we must discipline ourselves about the species.
Seek out a recognized trainer or animal behaviorist to help keep your family safe.
Christina Bournias resides in Michigan with her 3-pack; three new beautiful adopted miracles. As her “Angelwriter”, Nicodemus (1997-2010) is the wisdom behind the stories she shares. Christina champions the magnitude of building the bond between a dog and their person(s) by means of respectful communication and enduring admiration.
2012 © !woof Nicodemus™
August, 2012: American Pet Magazine | V1 Issue3, Page 28,29
Carole Schatz, Dog Behaviorist
“Common Dog Aggression Problems: Why Dogs Bite” by Jacque Lynn Schultz, C.P.D.T., Companion Animal Programs Adviser