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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Helping your child deal with the death of your dog

 

As much as we hate to think of it, every life eventually ends and there comes a time when every pet owner has to face the death of his or her pet. The average lifespan of a dog is 10 – 13 years. Even if you have one of the breeds that can live to around 17 years such as a Chihuahua, health issues or accidents can occur along the way that can mean your dog’s life is brought to an end earlier than that typical of the breed.  This can be devastating to pet owners and can be particularly hard for children to deal with. As a parent, you want to help your child learn how to tackle what life brings whether happy or sad and helping them to cope with the death of a pet fits into this category. So, this somewhat sombre post considers how you can make things easier for your child during the saddest of times.

Child walking dog

 

What to say to your child when a pet dies

Your child may see the family dog as not only a family member but also a best friend.  The pet is often a source of comfort when your child is upset, so how can you help your child through this time when that source of comfort is now the source of their biggest grief?  A lot of how you will approach this depends not only on the age of your child but also on the level of maturity.

If your pet died as a result of illness, don’t avoid talking with your child about this.  Explain that the dog was very sick and that the veterinarians tried everything possible to help him.  Telling your child that the dog dying was the kindest outcome, because if the dog lived he or she would be in too much pain can make it more bearable. Don’t confuse younger kids by using phrases such as “put to sleep,” as this can send mixed messages and children should view sleeping as a good thing, not something with scary consequences.

If your dog has died because of an accident, that can be more of a shock for everyone as it is an entirely unexpected event. Be truthful about what has happened, explaining events in a calm way, but keep it simple and don’t go into elaborate detail.

Although the death of a pet is difficult, it is a way for children to learn about how to cope with loss later in life.  It is important for them to learn that they can work their way through grief.

 

Why is dealing with a dog’s death so intense? 

When your dog dies, your entire daily routine is affected.  It is not always as easy to have the grieving time normally afforded to those who lose a human family member. For many people, who view dogs as their children, it is the same feeling as losing a family member.  Children sometimes view their dogs as they would a sibling, so it can be similar to losing a brother or sister for them.

As with any loss, the grieving process may mean going through a whole series of emotions at different times, ranging from sadness at the loss itself, guilt for not being a better pet owner, and anger that nothing could be done to save the pet. Let children know that it is perfectly OK to feel all these emotions and that they are not alone with that because other family members are feeling the same way too.

Sad child being comforted

Moving on

Having a small memorial ceremony to remember your pet can be helpful. Some families like to put together a memory book so that they can look through it together and remember the good times. Explain that you’ll always have happy memories of your pet and talk about some of those good times together.

Child hugging dog

 

If you have helped your child through this experience, please share what was helpful for you and your family during this time.

Dog's live are too short

 

 

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Love Me, Love My Dog!

Change can be hard.  This is true for people and dogs alike and as we progress through our lives with inevitable changes along the way, we may encounter some interesting situations with our loved ones, whether human or canine. Dating or embarking on a new relationship can be one of those times.  Relationships are complex and if there are animals involved, things can get more complicated. A study published in a British newspaper in 2012suggested that dogs can cause more than 2,000 arguments in a household over the dog’s lifetime. In a poll conducted in October 2010 by the Associated Press-Petside,approximately 14% of people would choose their dog over their own spouse.  These remarkable statistics prove that Shakespeare was not wrong and “the course of true love never did run smooth.”3  If you’re reading this and seeing some parallels with your own life, what can be done to make things a little less choppy?

Is your partner a dog lover?

a-house-is-not-a-homeWhether your partner is a dog lover or not is a question that ideally needs to be answered at the beginning of a relationship, because if he is not and you are, there could be trouble ahead.  Some people cannot possibly imagine being without a dog in their home, whereas others cannot imagine sharing their home with a pet.  It can be very difficult for someone who does not like (or is perhaps afraid of) dogs to adjust to having a pet in his or her space. If your partner is allergic to pets, it can be downright disastrous. A dog sensing fear or dislike from your partner does not make for a comfortable situation. Determining what will work for you both at the outset, could be a smart move in the long term.

Blending households

Introducing a new person into a household can be extremely confusing for dogs who are pack animals and enjoy the comfort of knowing where everyone sits in the pecking order.  Your dog’s home is his territory and he will protect that territory as much as possible. Introduce a partner gradually with initial contact being on neutral ground.  By the time you get to the moving-in stage, your partner and your pet should be very used to being around one another. When the partner does move in, try to make sure that the pet’s normal sleeping areas are not compromised, as dogs are creatures of habit and will not necessarily feel comfortable with lots of change.  If you are blending households that both contain pets, you have another variable to add to the equation.  Again, make sure that initial pet introductions are done on neutral ground.  The pets should be very familiar with each other before living under the same roof.

cake-topper

Compromise

For many dog owners, the dog is often treated like a substitute child or grandchild, but just as parents would with regard to raising children, owners should discuss how they both feel about dealing with training, behavioral issues, and how much time, money, and attention should be devoted to the dog.  As with any relationship, compromises should be made while respecting wishes on either side.  Disputes over the dog can include who should walk the dog, where the dog sits in your vehicle, money spent on the dog, feeding the dog from the table, or damage caused by the dog, to name just a few.  Sit down with your partner and determine what the issues are in your household and how you can resolve them. For example, pets on the furniture may be acceptable to one person, but not to the other.  This is particularly an issue if you like your dog to share the bed, but your partner doesn’t. Talk about what you can both tolerate and when you decide on a household rule, stick to it.

dogs-on-the-bed-cartoon

Don’t expect your partner to love your pet as much as you do.  As long as your pet is treated well by your partner and your pet is friendly in return, that can be OK.  Try to share out tasks involved in the care of your pet between you, but if your partner is just not keen, be prepared (and content) to take on the lion’s share of the work.

Coping with jealousy

You mean everything to your dog and you mean everything to your partner! Sometimes it can be difficult for your dog and for your significant other to see affection being directed elsewhere.  Don’t neglect to spend time with your dog after your partner has moved in and try to ensure that your partner also builds a relationship with your dog by spending time, giving treats and other attention.

Tackle issues before they escalate

If your normally well-behaved dog starts acting out or behaving badly, that could be a sign that your pup is not happy with the new situation.  Don’t allow your dog to get away with bad behavior, and try to tackle the issue as soon as possible.  It may be that you need to call on the help of an expert, whether a trainer or a veterinarian, to see if there is an underlying concern that needs addressing.

Whatever the problems that you encounter, don’t just let them fester.  Communicate with your partner so you are aware of each other’s feelings.  If you are comfortable talking with friends about your situation, they might be able to assist in problem resolution. If this doesn’t help or is not a good option for you, a licensed marriage and family therapist, who will be familiar with these kinds of issues, could help steer your relationship to a better place.

If you’ve had some pup-induced relationship challenges, why not share how you were able to resolve them?

Sending love to all our Pet Barrier blog readers this Valentine’s Day.

dog-with-rose-in-mouth
Hope your Valentine’s Day is pawsome!

References

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2084835/Mans-worst-friend-Average-dog-causes-2-000-family-arguments-lifetime.html#ixzz4W2PLYhQ2
  2. http://www.apgfkpoll.com October 2010.
  3. Shakespeare, W. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act 1, Scene 1. 1600.

Manners Matter: Etiquette at Pet-Friendly Hotels

Dreaming of your next vacation?  When you start making firmer plans, why not include your dog?  Only 10 years ago, if you wanted to stay in a hotel, it was a little difficult to take your dog with you on vacation, but things have definitely changed for the better for dog owners. With far more hotels accommodating pets, people are increasingly welcoming the opportunity to take their canine friends with them on their adventures.

Regardless of whether you are going to be staying in a 5-star resort, or a basic motel room, it is important that the way you (and your pet) behave will ensure that pets will always be welcome at these hotels.  So, what is the best way of achieving your dream vacation and ensuring you will be able to return for future visits if desired?

kid-and-dog-in-hotel-room

Before you go

When you make your reservation, ensure that the hotel is aware that you will be bringing a dog or multiple dogs.  This is important as pet-friendly hotels also welcome those without pets, so you may get a more dog-friendly room location if you can let the hotel know about your dogs ahead of time. Be aware that although some hotels allow dogs to stay free, others have additional charges and these fees can vary greatly from one hotel to another. Make sure you know exactly what the fees are ahead of your visit and whether the charge is per room or per dog. Ask how many dogs are permitted in your room. There may be a one-dog or two-dog limit per room, so do check on that if you want to have multiple animals with you.

At certain hotels, although dogs are welcome, they may not be permitted to remain in the hotel room unattended.  If that is the case for the hotel you are interested in, ask about local pet sitting services for days when you cannot take your dog with you on excursions.

Some hotels, particularly the larger chains, may offer a pet welcome package with items such as dog bowls, pet food mats, and dog treats, but not all do. It is preferable to bring your own pet food, and bedding as this allows the dog to feel at home right away with familiar tastes and scents to provide comfort and reduce her stress levels.  If your dog sleeps in a crate at home, try to bring it with you. Don’t forget to add waste collection bags to your packing list too!

 Checking-in

FlLovesDogs

If you arrive at the hotel by car, make sure your dog has traveled there securely at the rear of the vehicle. It can be a shock for the valet to open the car door and have an unrestrained pet leap out.

Inform the hotel staff at check-in that you have your dog with you. This is a good time to find out where they prefer guests to take their dogs to go potty. Also find out if there are areas of the hotel that are no-go zones for dogs. The concierge is a mine of information, so take the opportunity to ask about dog-friendly restaurants, beaches, or other attractions in the surrounding area.

During the stay

dog-in-hotel-room

Check your room for any hazards and put these out of reach of your pet. If your dog has a penchant for drinking from the toilet, try to keep him away from the one in the hotel room as the chemicals used could be toxic.

Follow all the rules and regulations set by the hotel.  They have been set for a reason, so please respect them. Just because the hotel is pet-friendly doesn’t mean that there will be access to all areas. Don’t take your dog to areas of the hotel that are off-limits. If pets are allowed in the dining areas, do not allow your dog to eat from the plates.

You may be a dog lover, but not all people are. Chances are that in a pet-friendly hotel the staff are likely to be comfortable with animals and happy to be around them, but the same may not be true of the other hotel guests. Be respectful of other guests by keeping your dog at a distance, unless they are keen to introduce themselves to your dog. For everyone’s benefit, try to ensure that your dog does not bark incessantly in your hotel room or in common areas of the hotel.

Plan to take your pet out on excursions with you where possible, but there may be some days where that is not possible.  On those days, and if the hotel permits dogs being left in rooms, the following tips may help to ensure your pooch is content during your absence.

  • Leave the lights on, so your pet is not alone in the dark.
  • Leave the TV on during the day, to keep your dog relaxed and distract him from noise in the hallway.
  • Ensure that your pet is left with plenty of fresh water.
  • Make sure your dog is not bored when you are out.  Items such as chew toys and treat puzzle balls can help distract a dog from your absence and ensure that he chews on them and not the furniture in the room.
  • Keep your pet leashed or crated when you are out of the room

treat-puzzle-ball

On vacation, your daily routine may be dramatically different from usual, but don’t neglect to walk your dog in the way you would at home.  If your dog normally requires two long walks every day, then do the same while on vacation.  It’ll be good for you too!

Checking-out

At check-in, you will probably have been required to leave credit card details to which a security deposit may have been added.  Be honest and if your pet has caused any damage, report it and be prepared to pay for repairs.

It might also be helpful to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff, who may have had extra work to do in your room.

dog-on-bell-boy-cart

Stop dreaming about your next vacation and make it a reality. Wherever your travels take you, may your vacation be wonderful and memorable with your favorite pooch alongside. Keep the above tips in mind and keep America’s pet-friendly hotels pet friendly.

What experiences have you had when staying at hotels with your dog? We’d love to hear about them and see vacation pictures!

To pet or not to pet: That is the Question

 

When asked to consider animals who assist people, most of us immediately think of dogs that aid blind or partially sighted individuals. This is thanks to organizations such as Guide Dogs of America and The Seeing Eye who work hard to ensure that those with vision challenges receive assistance. Over the last couple of decades, different types of animals are increasingly used to help people dealing with a broader range of physical and behavioral conditions.  The benefits of using these animals are numerous, with the result that they are being employed more widely and with greater frequency. Today, chances are that you are more likely to meet service animals in your daily routine than in the past. As they are actually “at work” and are not pets, what are the best approaches to take when encountering these animals?

Categories of assistance animals

Assistance animals fall into differing categories depending on the type of assistance required.

Service animals

Service animals are specifically trained to perform tasks relating to the handler’s needs. Not just for the visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf, and mobility dogs have become available allowing people with differing needs to be able to go about daily tasks with a greater level of autonomy and liberty than in previous generations.  People dealing with issues such as seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, anxiety, and diabetes also benefit from using service dogs.

Working dogs

Police or military dogs are in the working dog category. Sadly, with terror threats being a more common occurrence over the last 15 years, we tend to see more of these dogs on duty.  This is particularly true at airports where they are now an intrinsic part of the security process, rather than just used to detect contraband at customs.

airport-security-dog

Therapy animals

In recent years there has been a rise in the number of therapy dogs used in various settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and even in courtrooms. These dogs differ from service dogs in that they are used to provide affection and comfort to people, helping to reduce anxiety, stress and sometimes acting as an intermediary between the care recipient and professional staff.

dog-with-person-in-hospital

Emotional support animals

Typically used by people with specific behavioral health conditions requiring extra support and comfort, these animals may accompany an owner or may be employed by a business to help improve customer experience.

Only dogs allowed?

According to an article in the Huffington Post,¹  the cost of a service dog in 2016 was around $20,000. At that time, one Web site that places 75-100 service dogs a year, had a wait list of 1,600 people. This equates to a potential wait time of 16-22 years, which for people requiring assistance is simply too long.

Fortunately, given the level of need, dogs are not the only animals being used in this capacity. Other animals are also suitable to assist with different medical conditions. Ferrets alert owners of seizures. Boa constrictors (yes, you read it correctly!) are used for seizure alerts, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder. Parrots have a calming influence on those with bipolar disorder. Miniature horses help the visually impaired. The Guide Horse Foundation believes that miniature horses are a great option for people who love horses, for those allergic to dogs, and for people wanting longevity from their service animal.

CUDDLES 11

Capuchin monkeys are great for people with dexterity issues who struggle to pick up or hold items. Pigs can help visually or physically impaired individuals or can act as therapy animals. For example, San Francisco airport employs Lilou a Juliana breed pig to comfort anxious travelers in the terminal.

Dos and Don’ts of interacting with working animals

Dos

Do interact with the owner or handler

Interact with the owner but not with the animal.  The owner and animal are a team and the owner’s life could depend on his team member staying focused on the job.  It is better (and not considered rude) to ignore the service animal altogether. Let the owner know if his dog approaches you, and allow him to correct the situation. Therapy and emotional support animals are slightly different.  For example, if the animal is employed by an airport to help calm passengers, then do ask the handler if it is OK to interact with the animal.

Do be respectful

Be respectful of the owner. Just as a police officer will not be prepared to discuss details of why she is on duty with her dog, other service dog owners will not want to discuss their personal details with a stranger.  If you cannot figure out why the owner needs a service animal, don’t ask them. Equally, if your offers of help are refused, don’t be offended, just accept that this can interfere with the work of the service dog and can confuse commands previously given by the owner.

Do keep your own dog on a tight leash

Keep your own dog away from the service dog completely as other pets can be distracting for the working animal.

Do allow service animals into your business

If you are a business owner in an establishment that normally does not allow pets, make sure you do allow service dogs and their owners to enter. This is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law applies to any service animal that gives assistance when there is a disability.

Do educate children about service animals

Explain to children that service animals and working animals are not like regular household pets and that they have a special job to do to help the owner.  Keep children at a distance from a service dog and do not allow them to pet the dog.

Don’ts

Don’t pet the animal

You may be the biggest dog lover in the nation, but don’t be tempted to pet a service dog unless you have the owner’s permission. Petting the dog distracts him and may prevent him from following out a complete command.  An example of this is with dogs trained to detect seizures, who need to give a 10-minute warning so that the owner can get to a safe place or get help.  If you distract the dog by petting him, he may not be able to warn the owner in time, which could be catastrophic.

dont-pet-me-im-working

Don’t give treats

You may love giving treats to dogs, but please don’t give treats to dogs that are on duty. Not only can it distract the dog, making for a dangerous situation, but many service dogs are on specific diets and should not be given anything that does not meet the diet criteria.

Don’t make assumptions

  • Don’t assume that if a service dog is asleep he is off duty. If he is out with his owner, he is working.
  • Don’t assume that these dogs have a worse life than other dogs.  They have fantastic bonds with their owners and when off duty they get to relax like any other dog.
  • Don’t assume that the owner has a certificate proving the dog is a service dog.  Not all states require such certification and, in the states that do, owners are not always required to carry the paperwork.
  • Don’t assume that only dogs and only certain breeds of dog can be service animals. Many breeds of dog and different types of animal are trained to work.
  • Don’t assume that service dogs are only for adults.  Many children with many different needs benefit from service dogs.  Interestingly, one county in Colorado now uses dogs in the courtroom to help comfort children when giving testimony.

autism-service-dog

Don’t fake it

Don’t pretend to have your own service dog.  You may be tempted to put a special coat on your pet and take him to places where pets aren’t ordinarily permitted, but please don’t. Not only does it confuse the distinction between pets and service animals, it is actually a federal crime.  Allow people with genuine needs to be helped by genuine service dogs.

The best approach

For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of an individual living with physical or mental conditions, which in some cases are life threatening.  If an animal gave you the opportunity to live the fullest, most independent life possible, how would you react to someone interfering with and compromising the hard work of that service animal?

The following YouTube clip shows Windsor, a remarkable service dog, assisting his handler in running errands.

To pet or not to pet: that is the question. The answer?  If you are not the individual receiving therapy or service, do not pet. Encountering a working service animal is perhaps one of the most appropriate situations in life to adopt a don’t-touch approach. Following this guideline and the others mentioned above, we can allow these incredible animals to carry out their invaluable work. You can’t help but be in awe of them – I know I am.

Reference

  1. Lillibridge L. What’s the Harm in Faking a Service Dog? Huffington Post. August 13, 2016