Since the beginning of time we’ve said that dogs are a man’s best friend. Dogs have been used for farming, hunting, protection, and of course their unconditional love and companionship. Even though dogs cannot speak, we understand that our dogs love us by the way they greet us at the door, protect our children, and lay with us at night.
So why can’t other owners see that their dog is dangerous and that it may bite someone?
The truth is, dogs provide us with behavior and nonverbal communication that warn us of their attitudes and future actions. However, we simply ignore it or do not understand it. At Finney Law Office, LLC, we understand that dog bites are becoming an unwanted trend. In 2013, St. Louis alone had over 300 reported dog bites. By learning how to communicate with dogs, we can mend the gap that allows for negative behavior, and most importantly, dog bites.
Dogs use their body language to speak to each other and to other species. The ASPCA has provided information on dog body language that can help eliminate unwanted injuries and dog bites. By recognizing your dog’s posture, body carriage, and facial expressions, you can begin to understand what they are thinking.
When we look at a dog, one of the first things we want to do is pet it. Whether your dog has a long, thick coat of fur or a short, smooth coat, it can provide some insight on how your dog is feeling.
If a dog is aroused, scared, or feeling threatened, it is common to see their hairs near their spine spike up. It is commonly referred to as “raising their hairs” or “raising their hackles.” Some dogs may do this every time the door bell rings, or only if they are feeling particularly threatened. Before you try to reach out or pet a dog, be aware of the dog’s coat.
In addition, dogs are most likely to shed more when they are nervous or threatened. If your dog is shedding and showing signs like the ones below, be sure to be careful.
Dogs don’t only use their tails for happy emotions—it can be used when they are presenting their dominance, submissiveness, or fear.
Typically, a dog’s natural tail posture will be below his or her bum and their back hock. When a dog is submissive or nervous, he or she may lower it or place it between its legs. Contradictorily, a dog that is aggressive and wants to show dominance will hold its tail higher than its natural position, and may wag its tail more rapidly than normal.
Tails that are higher or lower than normal should send you a clue that the dog is uncomfortable and that you should stay away.
A dog’s face can provide you with more insight than you may expect. You must look closely at your dog and understand what small signs can lead to.
Like us, dog eye colors range beautifully from hues of light blue to the darkest of browns, and they can either melt your heart or chill your bones.
A dog in its natural and happy state will have round eyes that fill its eye lids, but a dog that is feeling threatened or scared will have a larger or smaller eye. If a dog is frightened, his or her eyes may appear big. If a dog is agitated, his or her eyes may be smaller and show the whites encompassing their eyes. If you can see the white in your dog’s eyes, you should move slowly and immediately leave them be. Seeing the whites in a dog’s eyes is a very distinct sign that a dog may act upon his agitated behavior.
In addition, if you are unfamiliar with a dog or if your dog has behavioral issues, it is better for you to not stare into your dogs eyes. Many dogs will take that as a challenge, especially from other dogs. Typically dogs do not mind to stare at humans, but if they are showing any other signs, it could be that you are now an unwelcome threat.
A dog can non-verbally speak with its mouth and it is important that we listen. When a dog is relaxed, the muscles in the mouth and the tongue will be loose and he or she may have his mouth closed or slightly open.
When a dog is becoming frightened, it may still keep its mouth closed in addition to licking feverishly, and yawning, trying to cool down its body. If a dog is feeling threatened, he or she will pull its lips back to expose the front teeth. If a dog’s teeth are showing and the top of the muzzle is wrinkled, you should take caution immediately.
Ears are some of the most visible indicators of animal behavior. Like horses, cats, and bunnies, dogs use their ears to listen and react to the world around them. While some dog ears stick straight up, and others hang low to the ground, one should be able to distinguish between a happy listener and a guarded dog.
If a dog’s ears are perked up, the dog is alert and may lean his or her ears toward their point of interest. If the ears are pushed forward and high off their natural stance, a dog may feel threatened. And if a dog’s ears are pinned back to its head and completely flattened, it may also feel threatened.
So what does this all mean? As you can see, a dog’s nonverbal communication is complex and can advise you on how to react around him or her. If a dog’s ears are pinned back, his eyes big, and tail between his legs, then he is probably frightened. If a dog is alert, her hair raised, tail high and wagging rapidly, then she is most likely agitated and feeling threatened.
While a dog may not show all of these signs at once, it is important that you are able to identify when a dog is feeling uncomfortable. Dogs tend to bite when they feel threatened (whether it be their food, toys, property or owners), lack socialization, are in pain, are scared, or are uncomfortable. If you are new to a dog or are greeting a dog in a new environment, it is essential that you keep a close eye on the dog’s silent communications.
It is also important to look out for these key behaviors when children are around dogs. Children simply cannot understand body language like adults can, and may not understand that a dog is feeling threatened or scared. While many parents and dog owners always tell their children to be careful and to not put their faces near dogs, children are curious and most likely will. We must be on the lookout for any behaviors that will endanger a child, especially when they cannot do it on their own.
At Finney Law Office, LLC, we want to provide you with information that will limit the possibility of dangerous dogs and dog bites. If you have been hurt from a dog bite in St. Louis, you shouldn’t have to face the repercussions alone. Contact us and let’s work together to eliminate unwanted dog bites in our city.