By: Fran Menley, Mindful Mutt Instructor
Having a well behaved, respectful dog makes life so much more enjoyable for everyone including the dog. But, what about how people show basic respect towards a dog? Especially a dog they do not know very well. Were you aware that the great majority of dog bites involving children are on the face? This is often because kids are at eye level with many dogs. It is also because kids want to put their faces into a dog’s face and to a dog this is disrespectful. All this can be avoided with a little education on how to respect a dog’s space. It is up to us as adult humans to learn and teach about being respectful of what dogs are trying to tell us.
Assess the situation. Is the dog under any sort of stress or showing any signs of being uncomfortable with what is going on? If it is, take extra care to calm the situation down, and do not infringe on the dog’s “space” or push the dog’s limits. Not everyone is an expert on dog’s body language but everyone can use a little common sense.
Here is a short NEVER do to a dog you do not know well list. Dog bites can nearly always be avoided.
NEVER approach a dog you do not know well from the front, approach from an angle and do not stare, avert your eyes to the side and down.
NEVER put your face down over a dog’s head or face. This can be very threatening to a dog.
NEVER look a strange dog directly in their face or eyes. This is considered very confrontational to most dogs. At the least it could make them uncomfortable. You could trigger a fear bite from a timid dog or an attack from a confident dog that isn’t having such disrespect shown to him/her.
Never bend down over a dog or hug a dog over their back; most will consider this a very dominate gesture and want no part of such forward behavior. If possible squat or sit with your side to the dog and bring your hand up under the chin and neck before petting its head. Do not force the dog to turns it’s face to your face. A dog that keeps turning its head away is trying to tell you, “I am not comfortable with this. I need more space, please.” If their ears are laid back, their eyes wide and/or their lips are tight use extra caution and either back up a step or turn your head to the side while averting your eyes down or to the side.
As much as we all want to pet, play and give affection to other dogs, it simply is not appropriate until we have made proper and respectful greetings to the dog and observed whether or not that dog is willing to receive further affections.