Don't Say You Didn't See That Bite Coming!

Our relationship with dogs has evolved dramatically over recent years. We consider them a member of our family – so much so that when they behave “doggishly” we don’t understand. Has your sweet innocent loving dog ever snapped or tried to bite someone? It happens. Let me tell you about a recent incident at our house.

We recently moved to our new home. One of the things that we didn’t have was a fenced yard. With 2 active dogs, both hounds, it was a necessity to get one ASAP. I called someone who I used before. I will call him Bob. He is very professional, friendly, and does a fabulous job! I also had Bob divide the fenced area so that I would have a dog run/training area.

The day came for the fence install. I’m not sure who was happier – me or Emmett and Ellie. I leashed Emmett up and took him out to potty and to play in the new dog run. On our way to the run, Bob wanted to meet him (who can resist Emmett?). I took Emmett over to him. A little excited to meet Bob, Emmett sat nicely for some rubs. Bob gave Emmett some great rubs, then put his hands on either side of his face and stuck his face in his. Emmett gave a warning snap and Bob jerked back in shock. I will admit I was a little shocked too, but given the new surroundings, the new person, and Emmett’s excitement over meeting someone new, this was actually a normal behavior for a dog.

Bob came back the next day to finish up some things and we had a discussion about dogs, which led to a short discussion about the “incident”. I explained to him that he should never ever put his face in a dog’s face especially when he doesn’t know the dog. He understood and that was that. But after having the “dog” discussion with Bob, I realized that there are so many who are still unaware of a dog’s warning signs. So many do not understand dog behavior.

Let’s look at this from a “human” standpoint. You meet someone for the first time. They shake your hand, give you some compliments (rubbing the dog), then put their arm around you while continuing to talk (sticking their face in a dog’s face). I don’t know about you, but my reaction would be, “Look. You don’t know me so back off Buddy!” Since a dog can’t talk, he does what is customary for a dog. He gives a warning just like Emmett did.

You’ve heard all of the stories about dogs attacking without being provoked. The truth is, they probably WERE provoked. The human just didn’t realize they were doing it.

When we feel bad or are in a bad mood, we want to be left alone. When we don’t know someone, we certainly don’t want them in our “space”. When someone touches us and we don’t know them, that is not acceptable. We have the ability to voice our dislike. Dogs don’t. The only way they know to show fear, anxiety, or other negative emotions is by giving warning signs. These are not always a “snap” or another obvious sign. They can also include tucking their tail, looking away, shaking, excessive panting, scratching, ears pinned back, or a low growl to name a few. It’s important to understand a dog’s body language to know the warning signs and respect the dog’s space.

Dog Body Language Poster

We must understand that dogs have emotions very similar to ours.  A dog’s interpretation of events and the way they react to the associated emotions is what differs. It doesn’t mean that a dog is bad. It means that they are normal. Would you run up and hug a grizzly bear? Of course not! You know what the repercussions would be. Most, if not all, dog bite incidents can be avoided if we all educate ourselves on dog body language. It’s NOT the dog’s fault. Feel free to print the Dog Bite graphic above, created by Lili Chin, that will help you better understand what to look for when interacting with a dog. The AMVA also has a selection of videos on Dog Bite Prevention for children and children at heart.

If you have any questions about Dog Body Language or Dog Biting or would like to schedule a consultation, call or contact me today at 762-218-3708. We currently serve the Columbia County, GA area.