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Safety Around Dogs - Knowing The Danger Signs

Safety around dogs is an important concept for everyone in society to become familiar with.

Whether we live with the dog, interact with them on a daily basis, or simply appreciate them from afar, knowing how to communicate with them safely is a valuable knowledge.

Even when you are truly bonded you should ask for your dog's consent before touching them. This should apply to everyone in your family and all visitors and especially children. Touching your dog without their consent is unacceptable and can cause them stress. Before you touch your dog, always look for signs that they are comfortable with you being close and pet them gently if they seem receptive. Avoid getting too excited when interacting with them and always respect their boundaries.

Safety Around Unknown Dogs

We should not expect to touch every dog we meet because some dogs may feel threatened by unfamiliar people, making it unsafe and inappropriate to touch them. Additionally, even if a dog is friendly with their owner, they may be unfamiliar with strangers, creating a risk that the dog could bite or become agitated. Furthermore, not all dogs may be comfortable with being touched, and forcing physical contact on an animal can cause emotional distress.

When approaching a dog we don’t know, it is important to approach without invading their personal space. This means being mindful of our own movements and not making sudden movements that might startle the dog. It is also important to read the dog’s stress signals, such as aggression or submission. When a dog is feeling stressed or hesitant, it is best to back away and give them time to process their emotions, where it's safe to do so.

Signs of Stress in Dogs

One of the most important pieces of information in keeping safe around dogs is understanding the signs a dog might display when feeling stressed. These signs can include growling, shaking, and lunging. All of these behaviours can indicate the dog is feeling scared, threatened, or uncomfortable and is trying to stay safe.. Understanding these signs and responding with respect is crucial to safety around dogs.

Growling is a common behaviour used by dogs to indicate that they need space. It is a subtle way for the dog to communicate that they are not feeling safe or comfortable and would like to be removed from the situation. This form of communication is especially helpful when a dog is feeling threatened by an unfamiliar person or animal. When a dog growls, it is important to respect their wishes and give them the space they need.

It is never wise to punish a dog for growling as this behaviour can be seen as a warning sign of stress, fear, or anxiety. Punishing a dog for growling can make the problem worse, as the dog may suppress the grown and feel they need to bite instead. This can lead to both the dog and guardian becoming more fearful and anxious. If a dog is growling, it’s important to understand what is causing them to feel threatened and provide a safer environment for them, before expecting their behaviour to change.

Signs that a Dog Might Bite

Aside from the common signs of stress in dogs, there are also certain physical cues that may indicate that a dog is getting ready to bite. This can include changes in the dog’s physical appearance, such as ears flattened or hair standing up, as well as certain unwanted behaviors, such as barking, lunging, growling, or showing their teeth. Knowing these behaviors and understanding their significance is essential to safety around dogs.

Other signs that a dog might bite include increased and intense focus on the person or thing they're focused on; tail between the legs and tucked under; lip licking; raised hackles; and a stiff, still body. They may also appear to be running away, but then turn and lunge at the person. When a dog is highly aroused and preparing for a bite, they may also engage in air snapping and muzzle punching, in which the dog scrunches their muzzle and punches the air with a growling sound. Regardless of the dog's size, these behaviours should all be taken seriously and can lead to a serious bite if the dog is not given space to calm down.

Are you passionate about helping dogs and their owners have a safe, healthy, and fun relationship? Then join the National Institute for Canine Ethics and help shape canine ethics on a national level!

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