Last year I wrote two popular photo blogs about reading doggie body language. I’m going to re-post these this week on this blog while perhaps adding additional images along the way because I think they are important and include great examples of body language. Finding ways to expand but not simply re-hash those posts is a little challenging but I THINK I’ve found an angle.
So we’ve talked a lot about reading dog body langage and learning how dogs say no but there are many instances when the dog shouldn’t have to be pushed to ‘say no’. Some of the most common bites happen when dogs are in positions where they should simply not be pet.
Never let people pet a dog who is injured or sick!
A few years ago after an unfortunate accident Shayne had a trip to the ER vet to get 5 staples to close a deep and scary laceration on her on her face. Although she was a real champ who did GREAT with this at the vet and didn’t seem to be in much pain, I was extremely careful about petting her anywhere near her injury. I was also very cautious abou letting anyone pet her until the staples were out. Although she didn’t appear to be in any pain and was acting completely normally–it would have been really risky to allow someone to pet her. What if they accidentally touched her staples and it hurt, what if she the injury made her feel more anxious about being pet and she bit, or what if she there were secondary bruising to the injury that I wasn’t aware of and someone pet her on a bruise and she bit because it hurt.
Dogs who are in pain or who are not feeling well are much more likely to bite. People are the same way–when we don’t feel good or are in pain we are often more snappy. Often times people who are sick are very ‘touchy’ about being touched… they are too hot, they are queazy, they ache… just “don’t touch me.” They can als be really short tempered. I know when I’m sick, it’s not the best time to play a joke on me or to push my buttons because my fuse is often shorter than normal. Dogs are the same way. There are many things you could get away with doing to a dog when they feel good that they would likely snark about if they don’t feel good.
Long story short if you know or suspect a dog is injured (whether or not they “look like” they are in pain) or know or suspect a dog is sick (whether or not they are acting any differently)–be very cautious in your handling of the dog and I would suggest not letting people pet/interact with the dog.
Leave sleeping dogs alone!
This has got to be one of the most common “tried to bite” incidents that I encounter. Look, it’s simple–do not walk up and pet a dog who is sleeping and certainly don’t approach and roughly shake/poke/nudge/pick up a dog to wake him/her up. It really is that simple… just don’t do it. Dogs do have self preservation and if they are woken up from a deep sleep by a physical touch, they may be startled and dogs who are startled are more likely to bite. For all the dog knows you could have been a threat or they could be in danger and flashing a big open scary mouth and growling is their attempt to protect themselves from an unknown threat. This is exacerbated by dogs who are anxious, fearful, stressed out, dreaming, new to the home, or in a home with big recent changes.
This is something that has to be taught to kids because they often want to curl up WITH Fido on his dog bed–which could be a disaster waiting to happen if litte Bobby scares Fido while trying to snuggle up to the already sleeping dog. When dogs are sleeping they are best left alone OR woken up with a sound before being touched, moved, picked up, etc.
If Fido falls asleep on your lap while you are petting him there is certainly less chance of him being startled by your touch. I know when Shayne curls up with me and I rub her neck/chest that she will fall asleep and I’m not worried about continuing to pet her while she rests…but I wouldn’t walk up to her while she has been sleeping/dreaming on her dog bed and pick her up or poke her to wake her up. This type of dog bite or “almost bite” is so preventable.
Don’t touch a dog who is eating
This is something I harp on all the time but it’s important. Do not try to pet Fido when he is eating or has a chew. Do you want someone rubbing all over you as you try to enjoy your meal? People think they are preventing food aggression by being able to pet Fido while he eats, well I’m here to say that you can create food aggression by not allowing Fido to have a safe place to eat his meal. YES, you want it to be safe for people to walk past Fido when he eats… YES, you want it to be safe if someone accidentally bumps into Fido while he’s eating but you don’t need to give your dog a rub down while he dines to make those things happen. Kids (yes even toddlers) can learn rules regarding dogs and food/chews. If a dog is eating, they shouldn’t be touched. Leave them alone to eat their food in peace.
Besides not petting dogs–food bowls are not toys to play with. If a dog is eating from their bowl, don’t put your hands in there and mess with the food just to prove a point. Yes, you want to be able to take his bowl if there were ever some sort of emergency regarding the bowl/food/dog…but just shoving your and in there while he’s eating is asking for trouble–there are safe ways to teach fido that hands near his bowl is a good thing that don’t risk the health and well-being of your 10 fingers!