Understanding dog interactive behavior can protect you and your children, and it can protect your dog. Knowing what constitutes dog interactive behavior will help you to react safely.
Remember that dogs interact with each other through their behavior, not through language, as we know it. Each movement and pose a dog strikes sends a message to other dogs. These messages can be a warning, they can show playfulness and they can demonstrate friendliness or curiosity.
Many people don’t know how to read dog interactive behavior and often do the wrong thing. It’s important for people to understand and teach their children how to respond when in a dangerous situation.
As a child, I always found that freezing was a good way to avert being bitten by a strange dog in the neighborhood. My experience was that freezing confused the dog so that he backed away.
To my surprise, I now discover that this was the worst thing I could have done.
By freezing, I was using dog interactive behavior without realizing it. This sent the message that I was on high alert and ready to defend myself. You see, when a dog freezes and closes its mouth, he’s saying that his next move might be to lunge at you.
Staring into the eyes goes hand in hand with freezing. This dog interactive behavior generally means the dog is uncomfortable about the situation (i.e.: the presence of another dog or human) and if someone makes a wrong move, the dog might attack.
This is especially true if you and the dog stare into each other’s eyes, your bodies become stiff and rigid and your mouths are closed. Dogs take this defensive stance when they feel their territory is being invaded or they need to defend themselves. It’s their way of sending a warning.
Remember that dogs don’t know the difference between human behavior and dog interactive behavior. Dogs read all behavior and actions based on the dog behavior they know and understand.
Quickly calm the situation to ensure your safety
Once you recognize this threatening dog interactive behavior, you can free yourself from the situation by staying relaxed and moving your shoulders and hips a little. Don’t look the dog in the eyes. Turn your body away from the dog slightly, rather than straight on.
This body language tells the dog that you are not a threat.
When two dogs approach each other, they do so from the side if they are showing friendliness or curiosity. If they approach head on, the other dog becomes defensive and prepares to attack.
Distraction is an excellent and effective tool you can use in such situations. If you see two dogs, or a child and dog in this tense situation, make a noise, call the child or your dog over to you.
Next time you see a dog (or dogs) in the freeze position with its body still and no movement for more than a few seconds, be alert. Clap your hands, make a loud noise, throw a ball, or do something else to break the tension.
Teach your children these techniques so they don’t try to break up two dogs on the verge of an attack, or make the wrong move themselves, such as running away. Never reach in to separate two dogs as you can get bitten.
Many dogs have been put down for mistakes made by adults and children because they just didn’t understand dog interactive behavior. Many children have suffered needlessly from dog attacks.
The best protection for you, your children and your dog is to know how to recognize this threatening dog interactive behavior and to react safely.
Article by Sylvia Dickens
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