“My Dog Loves This!” Bite Prevention

Did you know the months of March through May is International Bite Prevention?  Since we’re about half way through, I thought about writing a bit about it and then my sister sent me the video I posted below, so what great timing!

Lately, I’ve been meeting people who have children and are looking into adopting dogs.  While the parents are talking with the shelter or rescue about a type of dog they are looking for, often times, their children are captivated by the dogs in the kennels.  They are eager in meeting their new companion and are readily trusting of the dogs and slide their tiny fingers through the kennel doors.  Children are fearlessly exploring their environments through their senses.  On the opposite end, the dogs confined in kennels during adoption events may be afraid and most certainly, they are stressed out.  They are in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by unfamiliar people and possibly other unfamiliar dogs.  This can make any even tempered dog become on edge which can illicit a fear response such as nipping or even biting a child’s hand which is slipped through the kennel door.  A word of caution which can be a general rule of thumb for all children, “if it has teeth, it can bite”.  Children learn about their sense of awareness through their caregivers who give boundaries on how to proceed.  These boundaries and increased sense of awareness will allow for children in deepening their understanding and appreciation for all things in this world and in this case, the sensitivities of other living beings.

If a family with children makes the commitment in adopting a dog into their furever home, all the adults in the household also make a commitment in creating a mutually respected home between all people, including children and their pets.  In my short tenure as a dog trainer, I’ve worked with many people who have small children and pets.  This isn’t an uncommon phenomenon, but what is uncommon is how the adults perceive what the dogs enjoy and what the dogs are communicating with us.

“On Talking Terms with Dogs” by Turid Rugas, she clearly and quite concisely depicts the canine body language exhibited by dogs.  She coined the behaviors exhibited by dogs as calming signals.  Calming signals such as lip licking, looking away even sniffing the ground are body language signs the dog is conveying to either calm themselves down during a heightened period of stress or help another dog or even a human to take a chill pill.  These appeasement behaviors are classified as lower level calming signals.  A dog may also try to avoid the stress too by walking away.  If a dog doesn’t have a break in the stress, the dog will invariably increase their responses until there is a break.  Sometimes, this results in the dog biting.  The dog bites to make whatever is stressing him out to stop!

The video below is a great example of a dog communicating the stress is too much and its desire to stop it.   The reluctance and even the disregard on the part of the dog owner only perpetuates the situation.

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Baby jumps on dog(PLEASE NOTE – This case was resolved two years ago). To those who might think these situations are funny… Dogs speak loud and clear but when nobody listens and accidents happen, dogs are blamed. WE DID NOT MAKE this video, someone else did, WE SIMPLY EDITED IT and added the dog language appeasement and avoidance signals in order to educate parents and prevent accidents from happening in the first place. We do not support this type of human-animal contact. We are responsible pet ownership advocates.

Posted by Dogue Shop on Friday, December 21, 2012

I don’t know about you (I would like your input), but I was afraid of what could happen not only for the child, but for the dog!  Most dogs do not like hugs, especially the choke hold kinds which children seem to naturally want to give.  Eddie and I had friends over one evening a few years ago.  They had a small child, she was cute and precocious.  At the time, I didn’t have the same book knowledge in dog behavior, but I relied mostly on my gut. During our dinner preparations, the little girl was meandering around our home while her parents were talking with us in the kitchen.  The little girl came across Jack sitting on top of the sofa peacefully napping.  She wanted to engage him and wrapped her arm around his neck.  I came into the room and found her in this position and her next move was pulling him across the sofa.  I calmly, but immediately interrupted the behavior and showed her other way of giving him affection.  If Jack was a different Jack or if his alter ego Boogs came out, he most certainly could have nipped or bitten her out of stress.
I’m not a parent, but since I work with many clients who are, I’ve come across several websites which discuss better ways of children greeting and interacting with dogs.  These are great for teaching children bite prevention, but also educating parents and soon to be parents on how to successfully integrate a new dog into a new home or to train a dog in accepting new situations in a calm manner.
If you need assistance in integrating a newly adopted dog into your home or if you started to see some of these behaviors highlighted in this post, please contact a positive reinforcement dog trainer in your area.
When we improve our abilities in listening to what our dogs are communicating with us, we are not only strengthening our bond with them, but we are strengthening our commitment in keeping them safe.
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