Last week, we talked about dog safety and how to ask the dog’s permission before greeting. We’ll continue talking about safety this week in honor of National Dog Bite Prevention month!
In case you missed it, you can read the first entry on “red light” signals here. Today, let’s explore a few more red light signals.
The dog is obviously in pain: pain elicits aggression. If you don’t believe me, you should have been at the Lomonaco household last week when I was struggling with a few different infections and kidney stones. If a dog is noticeably in pain, best to leave him alone.
Growling and barking: Dogs bark and growl for a number of reasons. Both of these behaviors can be seen in play, but they may also be associated with fear, anger, or an imminent bite. If a dog is barking or growling at you, keep your distance!
Wrinkly head: when a person is worried, you may notice crinkles in her forehead. Similarly, when dogs are nervous or in cases where a bite may be imminent, you may notice the dogs head gets extremely wrinkly – look for creases around the forehead and mouth.
Watch that mouth!: If the dog displays teeth or if you notice the corners of the mouth (commisure) are pushed forward so that they wrinkle and/or form a “c” shape, or if the dog “air snaps” (an intentional warning and precursor to a bite), give him space.
He doesn’t want to share with you: If a strange dog is in possession of a toy, bone, or other prized resource (which may include food or the owner), he may feel threatened by your approach which creates the optimal environment for resource guarding. Allow him space. We resource guard too. Have you ever slapped the hand of a friend who tried to steal your fries when you were hungry? Would you let me take a million dollars from you? To dogs, piles of poop may be as valuable as a million dollars might be to you or I. Keep that in mind!
The dog is off leash, tethered or behind a fence: Only greet dogs that are under both the verbal and mechanical control of their handlers. By mechanical control, I mean on leash, where the handler is able to get her hands on the dog if necessary. Do not approach off leash dogs.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the right way to greet a new dog friend once you’ve received permission from both dog and handler.