How do you distinguish doggy playfulness from a prelude to dog attacks?
Renowned dog trainer, Victora Stilwell, chief executive of Atlanta-based Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training and host of AnimalPlanet show “It’s Me or the Dog,” gives some tips on how to read dog behavior to avoid an attack on a person or another dog.
According to the American Humane Association, almost 5 million dog bite incidents take place in the U.S. annually.
Stilwell describes most dogs as “perfect storms of human failure that could have been prevented.” A very apt description indeed!
Important Points to Know for Preventing Dog Attacks
When and Where is a Dog Attack Most Likely?
People are typically attacked on private property by a dog they know. “It happens when the relative has brought his dog over or it happens at a friend’s house. We just let our guard down there,” says Ms. Stilwell.
What Are the Warning Signs?
A dog that attacks is usually acting out of fear, says Ms. Stilwell. Yawning, turning its head away when a person approaches, tensing up or staring at you are some of the signs of fear. Some dogs will slightly lift one front paw in what Ms. Stilwell calls “the anticipatory paw,” as it signifies that they believe something bad is about to happen.
However, certain obvious signs that a dog will probably attack is when their ears become flat or suddenly prick up, barking, and growling. Some dogs crouch down, while other dogs salivate when stressed.
The Mouth is a Good Indicator
A dog slightly lifting its lip to show teeth is yet another danger sign. A flat tongue means that the dog is relaxed, while a tongue curved at the sides means there’s tension.
What To Do If It Happens?
“If a dog is on a child and you’re pulling it off, you’re making the wound on that child deeper,” Ms. Stilwell says.
Rather, “take a coat or T-shirt and put it over the dog’s head,” she says. When dogs cannot see, they panic and open their mouths.
When Dogs Attack Dogs
Ms. Stilwell says she never forgets to bring goodies when walking her dog. “If I see a dog coming toward mine and I don’t like the look of it, I’ll take a bunch of treats and throw them far away,” she adds. “Nine times out of 10 they go get the food.”
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