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Dog Aggression Warning Signs

Although most domesticated dogs are friendly toward their owners and the people they know, it is always important to remember that dogs are still animals. Although the majority of dogs in North America are domesticated, there are still feral (wild) dogs around and when animals get scared or feel threatened they often bite. Many people consider themselves to be dog lovers and have no fear whatsoever of any dog either wild or domesticated. They feel that they can approach any dog and get that dog to like them. They think they have some type of special relationship with any and every dog. This is flat out foolish thinking and has NOTHING to do with how nice that person is, or what kind of a dog lover they think they are.

Many breeds of dogs have been specifically bred to protect their owners or their owner’s property and regardless of what a great dog lover someone thinks they are, their love for all dogs is no match for the hardwired protective behaviours of many dogs. In fact regardless of dog breed, most dogs are protective of their owners. Approach a strange dog that is protecting someone else’s property or something that the dog holds dear and you are risking grave injury.

Foolish behaviour aside, there may be times when you are faced with a situation where you encounter a strange dog by accident and then that dog starts to exhibit threatening behaviours like growling or snarling. These occasions can happen when you unwittingly enter someone’s backyard for example and quickly encounter their unfriendly dog. Likewise when you are at a friend’s or acquaintance’s house, their dog may seem calm while their owner is right there. If the owner gets up to go to the bathroom however, something that you do may inadvertently trigger an aggressive behaviour. What do you do in these circumstances?

Although it is true that it is possible for a dog to go from calm to aggressive in 1 second, this is usually not the case. Usually a dog will give you warning signs that it is uncomfortable with something that you are doing. Back down under these circumstances. Even if it is a little dog, and you think its ‘mini-aggressive behaviour’ is cute, little dogs can still deliver severe bites. Don’t confront a strange dog. Raised hackles (hair on the back and neck) scrunched up faces, body posture leaning forward, and intense staring are all subtle (or fairly subtle) signs from the dog’s point of view. The dog is telling you that it is not happy, that it is uncomfortable, and it wants you to back down. If you don’t, the next signs are likely to be full on growling, barking and showing of powerful teeth. If you haven’t backed down at this point and still try to interact with the dog there’s a very good chance you will be bitten. Even if the signs aren’t exactly like this or in this order, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to perceive friendly signs and unfriendly signs. Back down.

What does backing down mean from a dog’s point of view? It means IMMEDIATELY breaking off eye contact. It means slowly turning away from the dog and slowly walking away. It means yawning a few times while not looking at the dog. All these are submissive or pacifying gestures to a dog and that’s what you want to do, you want to pacify the dog. Although dogs are mankind’s best friend they are not EVERY man’s best friend, they are usually their owner’s best friend.
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