A couple of weeks ago a video surfaced of a toddler on a tricycle. He was attacked by the neighbor's dog. The dog pulled him off the tricycle and shook him like a rag. Luckily the family cat raced to the rescue, attacked the dog and the dog ran away. This attack was unprovoked as far as the video shows. The lesson here is that one can never be sure how a dog will react in certain circumstances.
Although there are certain times when a dog is at fault, we humans need to view dogs differently and respect their space. Dogs give us signs of how they perceive us and our intentions; we simple need to be able to read those signs.
First, never boldly approach a strange dog especially if the dog is tethered or confined. When ABF took shelter dogs to PetsMart for adoption we had problems with people sticking their fingers into the wire cages when the dogs were barking at them. Being confined stresses out a dog because it is vulnerable to threats. Dogs will bite when they are afraid.
Approach a dog like you would a person. Allow the dog to see you and extend your hand palm down. Let the dog sniff the top of your hand. If the dog seems to accept you, you may pet him.
Disturbing a dog who is eating, sleeping, chewing on a rawhide, or caring for puppies is a huge mistake. Again think of how we feel when we are disturbed during these types of activities. A dog may perceive you as a threat and bite.
We can vocalize and tell people to get away or not to do something. A dog can't speak to us, but we can watch their actions. The best information one can have regarding dogs is to know the signs and pay attention to their body language.
The following are signs that a dog feels threatened by you. If you see a dog exhibiting these signs keep a safe distance from the dog: Tensed body, stiff tail, ears and/or head pulled back, furrowed brow, intense stare, flicking tongue, yawning, eyes so wide one can see the whites, and pulling back away from you.
It is best to back away from a dog exhibiting these signs. Turning away and running will encourage the dog to chase you.
If a dog does charge at you do not run. My friend Joann and I stopped a charging dog once by taking a firm stance with our feet spread apart, right arms straight out toward the dog, palms flat toward him. We both yelled “no” as loud and strong as we could. The dog stopped running and stood still, puzzled yet still barking. We slowly turned and walked on down the road still stopping frequently to give the dog the “palm” and the “no” sign. My dog Joni was walking with us and was so scared that she got between me and Joann.
If you are ever approached by a dog and feel threatened do not make eye contact. Keep your arms at your sides and remain still. Once the dog loses interest calmly and slowly back away. If the dog actually attacks put a purse or anything you have with you between you and the dog. If you fall to the ground curl up in a ball and cover your ears. Remain motionless and calm. Do not scream or roll around. Movement and noise encourages the dog to attack.
The flip side of this is that people need to be better dog owners. Keep your dog on a lead or in a fenced yard. Don't allow your dog to run loose! Train your dog and socialize it. A dog that is social is less likely to bite someone. Don't put your dog in stressful situations where it might become frightened and bite. Take your dog's state of mind and health into consideration. A dog that is tired, stressed, or ill may act out.
We dog lovers hate to see things like the video of the toddler being pulled from his tricycle. The owner of that dog is likely in a lot of trouble for allowing it to run loose. The worst part is that the dog was put down after being quarantined for 10 days. This is not a good ending.
We need to be respectful of animals as well as people. We should be good dog owners and take proper care of our dogs and keep them safe. Be sure you don't end up in a situation where you have a bad ending.
ABF WISH LIST: Purina One Puppy and Dog Chow, Purina Kitten and Cat and Chow, cow hooves or rawhides, canned dog and cat food, peanut butter, stuffed toys (no beads), HE laundry detergent, bleach, bleach spray cleaner, Fantastic spray cleaner, newspapers (without slick ads), paper towels, scoopable cat litter. There is a paper recycling bin in the parking lot at ABF Headquarters, 2302 S. Crysler Ave., Independence. Please, no cardboard or telephone books. We appreciate your support.