I'd like to pause here and note that this article is being written with the utmost respect paid to bite / attack victims. The purpose of this article is to educate and enlighten dog owners to the indicators present when dogs are losing patience and what to do in such an event.
It must be said that dogs are living, breathing, feeling creatures. They are capable of mood variances and will advise through facial expression and body language when they are scared, uncomfortable, nervous and, happy. When dogs are put into situations where they feel threatened or scared, bad things can and, sometimes will happen.
There seems to be a common misconception that dogs are more than willing to be treated like a jungle gym and actually enjoy being taunted. While usually very loving and accepting of human behaviour, dogs do not enjoy being crawled all over, hugged, poked at, taunted, or, bullied in any way.
Besides being overstimulated, dogs can react quite negatively to joggers, other dogs, bicycles, humans approaching too quickly to greet them and, unexpected loud noises. It's important to watch for signs of escalation during walks, especially for dog/dog meetings.
If you see a dog responding to unwanted stimulus with raised hackles, whale eye, curled lip, lip licking, ducking the head away, or any other clearly readable body language signs, its time to intervene. Calmly.
- Use the "Leave it" cue
- Ask for a sit
- Distract with a toy or favorite treat
- Remove the trigger or take the dog to a quiet space
- Use a sharp whistle or a finger snap
Unfortunately far too many people take for granted that their pet dog will not react and remain placid in all situations. This lack of knowledge and training can result in injury and in extreme cases, death. There is no court hearing to determine the fate of the dog when it has been labelled as agressive. Euthanasia is an automatic sentencing for dogs that have bitten or attacked, regardless if responsible dog ownership was not being practiced.
A dog attack is a most undesirable situation as the victim count only keeps rising for the concerned family. Firstly, the person that suffered an injury, secondly, the dog paying the ultimate price of it's life, and thirdly, the entire family suffers from the incident and fallout.