Key signs to be aware of to avoid being bitten by a dog

Inspector Clouseau: Does your dog bite?

Hotel clerk: No

Inspector Clouseau: [bending down to pet dog] Nice doggie

[Dog bites Clouseau on the hand]

Inspector Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!

Hotel clerk: That is not my dog

 

Inspector Clouseau dog bite sketch
The dog bite sketch from The Pink Panther Strikes Again

The above quote and image are taken from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976) and it is one of the funniest skits that Peter Sellars played in his role of Inspector Clouseau.  In real life, dog bites are no laughing matter.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites occurring in the United States every year.  Regrettably, in 2016 there were 41 dog bite-related fatalities in the US. Even dog lovers who have grown up with dogs and are used to being around dogs are not immune to being bitten.  So what can you do to protect yourself?

Signs that a dog is about to bite

Just as with people, you can tell a lot about a dog’s mood by the body language he is using.  Dogs can bite in 1/40th of a second, so knowing what to be aware of in the lead up to that can be helpful. There are 9 key signs to look for that can indicate when a dog may be about to bite.  Some of them are subtle and may easily be confused with other moods.

Low growling

A dog may growl for a whole range of reasons, and not all of these are a sign of bad things to come.  If you start to hear a quiet, low growling sound, this can indicate that it is time to be concerned that the dog is going to be aggressive. If he is also snapping at the same time you need to take action.

Showing front teeth

When a dog bares his teeth, this may be for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes it is because he is being submissive, but other times it is because he is being aggressive.  An aggressive “smile” is often accompanied by other behaviors as given below, so look out for a combination of all of these things.

dog showing teeth

Rigid body

If the dog’s body suddenly stiffens and the tail raises slightly, you are being given a warning sign.

Direct eye contact and whales eyes

Whale eyes

The above image shows a dog whaling his eyes.  If a dog is showing more of the whites of his eyes than usual by turning his head away but is still staring at the thing that he feels is threatening him, it is a clear signal that the dog is uncomfortable.

Shaking and drooling

A dog may start shaking from the adrenaline rush from the stressful situation.  The stress can also cause a dog to drool more than usual.

Wagging tail

Commonly thought of as a sign of happiness, this is not always the case. If the dog’s tail is raised higher than the normal wagging position and his body is perfectly still, you know there is a potential for a problem.

Canine body language

Licks lips, turns away, and averts gaze

Dogs will tend to lick their lips when they are nervous. A combination of all three of the above movements can indicate trouble ahead.

Raised fur

The hairs on the back of the dog suddenly become raised erect and the dog may even smell differently as odors from glands are released.

Dog with hackles raised and other signs

Whiskers twitch

Due to tension in the body and the face, a dog’s whiskers will begin to twitch.

If you observe any of the above 9 behaviors in a dog, remain motionless, do not run or scream, and avoid direct eye contact with the dog. Especially if you are encountering a large dog, it is easy to get knocked over by the dog. If you are knocked over, it is best to roll yourself into a ball covering your ears and neck with your hands and arms.  Continue to avoid making eye contact with the dog.

 

How to prevent yourself from being bitten by a dog

Once you recognize the signs that a dog is about to bite, what can you do to prevent provoking this behavior in the first place?  One initial suggestion is not to approach a dog that is unfamiliar to you. Secondly, you should not run away from a dog, or appear to be panicked.  If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog, do not move, run, or scream, and make sure you don’t make direct eye contact.  Thirdly, you should never disturb a dog if she is eating, sleeping, or when caring for puppies.  Fourthly, don’t pet a dog before she has had a chance to sniff and smell you.  Following this, you should never pat her on the head, instead just scratch her under the chin. Finally, it is never advisable to engage in rough, aggressive play with a dog.

Steps to take to prevent your dog biting others

We’ve considered what to do about being bitten by someone else’s dog, but how can you stop your own dog from being a threat to you and your family or to others.  Before choosing a dog for your family pet, try to do as much research as possible and ask a professional such as a vet or a dog trainer, so that you can find the breed that best meets your family’s needs.  In addition to looking at dog temperament and exercise requirements, you should also consider that certain breeds have much stronger bites than others.  Bite strength is measured in pound-force per square inch (PSI).  Examples of breeds with the strongest bite are the Kangal and the Doberman.

 

Kangal
Kangal

 

If you are considering adopting a rescue dog, you may not know much about the dog’s history or whether it has aggressive tendencies.  In this case, it is better to spend plenty of time with the dog before adopting him, to make sure the dog is a good fit for your home.  This is especially important if you have young children at home or if you have relatives or friends with young children regularly coming to your home.

When you decide on a dog, make sure you exercise your dog regularly to build bonds, reduce excess energy, and to keep your dog mentally stimulated.  Ensure that your puppy has proper socialization with exposure to as many different people and different situations as possible.  Train your dog so that he understands and responds to basic training commands.

It’s important to educate children on how to behave with dogs appropriately so that they are not bringing out aggression in the dog. Don’t play wrestling games or tug of war games with your dog and don’t allow children to play roughly with him either.

Finally, spaying or neutering dogs helps to reduce aggression and is highly recommended if you are not a dog breeder.

 

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The 5 Biggest Puppy Care Blunders: Are you Guilty?

Whether you received a little bundle of fluff during the Holidays or you’re about to get a puppy as the weather starts to get warmer, you know that there’s going to be a lot of work and fun ahead of you.  Just like having a new baby at home, the first few weeks or months with a new puppy can be tiring and somewhat frustrating. So what are the biggest mistakes that new puppy owners make and how do you get on the right track to raising your new best friend to be an adorable, well-behaved adult?

beagle-puppies

Blunder 1

Not starting as you mean to go on

It’s important to remember that when raising a puppy, dogs think in terms of the dog pack hierarchy. For your dog, where every family member is part of a hierarchy that matters to him, he needs to see you as the pack leader or alpha (top ranked) in the household. You should eat first, go through a doorway first, sit and sleep in the best places in your home. By doing these simple things, your dog understands that you are the boss. It is very difficult to break undesirable habits, so it is better to begin as you mean to continue. You decide on the household rules and if you want your puppy to behave you need to not only enforce the rules but also stick to them. Be firm and consistent with your dog so he knows what you expect.

Blunder 2

Overlooking issues that affect health and safety

puppy-carrying-a-leash

It is so tempting to want to try out the new leash and introduce your lil’ buddy to the neighbors, but unless your pup has received all stages of vaccinations, it can threaten his health. Vaccinations are vitally important. Your puppy’s immune system is in its infancy and needs the protection of the vaccinations to prevent him from contracting diseases from other dogs. If you have an enclosed yard that is not accessed by dogs outside of your immediate family, that is absolutely fine, but don’t be tempted to go for walks yet as he will be susceptible to airborne infections or could even contract something from the sidewalk.  When all vaccinations are completed and you are ready to go out, make sure that your puppy also has a safe area to travel in your vehicle.  Placing him in the rear with a vehicle-specific pet barrier installed is one of the best options for avoiding driving distractions and giving your pup a secure, comfortable area.

travall-pet-barrier-and-divider

Blunder 3

Trying to be the Mom

cavalier-mom-and-pup

There is always going to be a certain amount of separation anxiety when a puppy leaves his mother, but your role is different and it is important to adopt your differing role from the outset.  A puppy should not be allowed to be by your side for every single minute of the day and night, or the separation anxiety will only increase into adulthood. There are many and varied approaches to training puppies. Crate training has become increasingly popular in recent years and for many it just makes sense.  One of the great reasons is that it gives the puppy his own private, safe space to which he can retreat for some quiet time, allowing him to learn to be on his own for short periods.

Blunder 4

Feeding table scraps

dog-eating-toast-from-table

Although we are so easily persuaded to give into big, soulful eyes staring at us longingly while we wolf down a cheeseburger, feeding table scraps is a bad habit to get into.  If you start to feed your puppy scraps from the table, he will come to expect food from your plate (and from others) at every meal.  It is far better for your puppy’s health if he is only fed with dog food and far better for your dinner guests if your puppy is kept at a distance from the table during mealtimes.

Blunder 5

Taking him out of the crate

dog-crate

As mentioned above, crate training is great for giving your dog his own personal space and this can be the perfect place to sleep at night too.  Initially adjusting to being in the crate overnight can take a while as the puppy is used to sleeping with his mother and the rest of the litter. It is common for the puppy to cry in the crate at first, but don’t be tempted to take him out of the crate.  Allow the puppy to fall asleep by himself by covering the crate with a blanket (or a cute fabric crate cover) so that it is darker inside. Sometimes placing a ticking clock outside of the crate can have a  soothing effect on a pup.

puppy-progression-picture

Above all, when training your dog, be kind,  patient, and consistent.  You will absolutely reap the rewards in the long term and will be able to enjoy your precious time together. January is National Train Your Dog Month; what better time to start?

Have you had any hilarious experiences when training puppies? We’d love to hear about them.