Dogs are man’s best friend. One of the top household pets, canines come in many different shapes and sizes, from long and lanky to small and fluffy. Regardless of the breed, spotting a dog brings us intense joy, and often a need to pet, pat, or snuggle it.
While we all love our dogs, not all dogs want to be loved. It’s not uncommon to approach a dog and experience barking, growling, or other defensive behaviors. Getting too close to an aggressive dog can result in dangerous situations, and often leads to unwanted bites. If your position requires you to approach an aggressive dog, here are some things you need to know.
First, it’s essential to understand aggressive canine behavior. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, aggression is a natural behavior in dogs; it’s part of their survival instincts. While proper socialization and training during puppyhood can help, domestication does not take away a dog’s natural impulses. There are five tell-tale signs of dog aggression:
- Stance: The dog may stiffen up and lean forward.
- Gaze: Eyes are in a direct stare with a low growl, or wide and looking away.
- Ears: Depending on the dog’s level of fear, they could be up, to the side, or pulled back.
- Mouth: Lips pull back to reveal teeth and wrinkle the muzzle/nose.
- Tail: It could be upright with slightly stiff wagging or tucked under the legs.
Approaching an aggressive dog is more about learning what not to do. When approaching the dog, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t reach over a scared dog. Squat down, turned slightly away, and hold your hand open at ground level.
- Don’t disturb a fearful sleeping dog. Try calling or whistling to it from a distance instead.
- If the aggressive dog is yours, make sure company knows to cooperate with your rules and avoid making the dog uncomfortable.
- Never leave children alone with an aggressive/fearful dog. It is best to supervise children around nice dogs, too!
- Minimize sudden movements and loud sounds.
- Don’t physically punish/correct the dog. This confuses the animal and creates fear.
- Do not approach a stranger’s dog, or allow strangers to approach yours. Instead, allow the dog to approach you first. Remain calm, and pet it gently under the chin or on the chest.
Approaching a scared or seemingly aggressive dog requires time and patience. Even a calm approach may not result in a happy response. In these situations, it is best to leave the dog alone. But don’t worry; there are plenty of dogs in the park!
Also, February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Get tips to keep your dog’s mouth healthy and fresh.