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All Dogs Can Bite ...

But they’d rather avoid it ...

Dog being aggressive

10 tips to help prevent you – or your children – being bitten by a dog.

  1. Read the signs. Watch your dog’s body language signals: licking, yawning, head turns, shaking as if wet. A dog does these things if they feel unsettled. Read more about dog body language and how to interpret it in this fab article.

  2. Do not expect a growl. Many dogs decide that growling is a waste of time. Why? Because when they growl, they get punished. They’ve learned to skip the growl and may now go straight to bite instead.

  3. Biting is a sign of patience pushed too far. Unless a dog has been taught to bite, it would usually rather get away from a situation. Give the dog an escape route; try and ensure your dog has a quiet, calm space it can get to to de-stress.

  4. Teach your children well! Help your children understand how to behave around dogs. Dogs are NOT toys, they have teeth and can hurt. The Dogs Trust have an excellent leaflet on teaching children to be safe around dogs ("Be Safe Be Kind - Learning about dogs and how to be safe around them").

  5. If a dog has bitten once, it may do so again. This doesn't mean you should panic and rush for euthanasia or rehoming. But rather be aware of what situation/s triggered the bite. Get professional help from a qualified behaviourist immediately.

  6. Hugging and kissing isn’t always fun for a dog. Obvious? Not to many. Most dogs tolerate it but not all enjoy it. It’s humans who enjoy hugging, kissing and petting the dog! Watch 2 dogs playing together and see if they hug or kiss each other? Nope! Learn what your dog enjoys, not what YOU enjoy.

  7. Dogs have bad days too! How can we tell if a dog is in pain, has a bad tummy, or is really tired or achy? Usually dogs will not show the signs until the pain is extreme. Be ready to help your dog by taking them to the Vet if you see signs of unusual or grumpy behaviour.

  8. He only nipped. Not a dog bite then? A snap is often a deliberate miss. Take action by getting professional help now. Your dog was clearly feeling under pressure and needs your help to feel less stressed.

  9. Socialise and habitualise. Get your dog used to people and their weird ways from early puppyhood; but do this gradually and sensitively – ensure your dog isn’t FORCED into situations and ALWAYS give your dog an exit route so s/he can get away if feeling overwhelmed.

  10. Do not assume that your dog would never bite. Your dog has sharp teeth – your dog can bite if put in the right (or wrong!) circumstance.

The excellent graphic below by Dr Sophia Yin shows some common body language signals that dogs display to try and communicate with you that they are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. She has one for cats too. Get good at learning these signals – it’ll help you create a calmer, safer environment for your pet and for your family.

Dr Sophia Yin's dog body language on fear
© Dr Sophia Yin

And finally...

Do not be overly alarmed if you start seeing some of these signs. My dog offers head turns to tell me he’s had enough tummy tickles! But noticing these signs means we can stop things from getting dangerous. So, if your dog is polite enough to give you (or other people) warning signals, be thankful for the message and respect your dog’s needs some space. If you start seeing a lot of these signs together, or if your dog appears to be increasing the use of them, contact a kind, positive reinforcement Dog Trainer or Behaviourist for help.

For more advice on this subject contact us at Joyful Dogs.

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