|by Susie Aga
Most humans are not aware that some of
their body postures when greeting an unfamiliar dog are
perceived as a threat in the dog world.
For example: typical human behavior when
greeting a dog is to say over and over again, "it's ok,
it's ok," as they extend their arm out to reach over the
dog's head to give them a pet. This is a threatening posture
in the dog world. Always let the dog approach you in their
own time, especially if it does not want to meet you.
When they are comfortable with you and are allowing you
to touch them, then, rather than reaching to pet their
head go for under their chin, and pet their chest or the
shoulders. If a dog is running at you and you think it
might be in attack mode, then stand sideways. If you pay
attention next time you see two unfamiliar dogs approach
each other, you'll notice they keep their body in a neutral
position by standing side by side.
Does a wagging tail mean "hey, I am friendly,"
or can it also mean "Hey, come over here - I want bite
you"? Yes, both. A dog can be wagging its tail to greet
you or wagging its tail because it is weary of your presence.
A dog with its tail way up in the air, stiff and moving
rapidly back and forth, could be feeling a little dominant
or feeling the need to defend itself. If you get mixed
messages from a dog, to be on the safe side, do not approach
Dogs that are tethered or chained are more
likely to be aggressive and are prone to more behavioral
problems. The reason for this is usually lack of socialization
with humans and other dogs.
There is a frustration factor here that
has been building up for some time. These dogs have a
chase instinct that is constantly challenged by the boundaries
of their restraint. The largest percentage of serious
bites come from dogs that have broken free from a restraint,
and children are usually their victims. I suggest never
approaching a dog on a chain or one that is tied up unless
you know the dog well. There are more dog bites reported
from family pets than from unfamiliar dogs. The reason
more dogs are likely to bite a family member is that the
family member more than likely has pulled their tail,
stepped on their foot, or taken a bone or toy away and
then ignored the warning growl. Children are the main
culprits of this behavior. They sometimes unknowingly
provoke a dog bite. Children are at eye level with dogs,
and so can be perceived as posturing back at them, which
the dog sees as a challenge or a threat. Some kids constantly
jerk things away from dogs, and this causes the dog to
want to have possession over something. This behavior
is called resource guarding, and dogs have many warning
signals when they are guarding their resource. You must
be aware of what the signals are and take warning from
them to avoid a dog bite.
Children should always be supervised when
playing with a dog and need to be taught to be respectful
of them and their territory. Just like we teach children
how to greet another human we also need to teach them
how to greet an unfamiliar dog.
About the Author
Susie Aga Atlanta
Dog Trainer Susie is the featured Pet Expert for Turner
Broadcasting and hosts The Animal Hour radio show on AM1650.
She is a member in good standing with the Association
of Pet Dog Trainers. She has four rescue dogs and donates
much of her time and services to rescue organizations.