Dogs, Bites, and Human Idiocy

As an unabashed dog lover, it never fails to amaze me how parents of small children will encourage toddlers to go hug a strange dog that looks fuzzy and friendly and risk having their kids bitten – or worse. These same adults will walk right up and reach for the dog’s head without asking the owner, again risking getting bitten. The fact there are so few dog bites speaks volumes about the long-suffering nature of man’s best friend. However, when there is a bite, who is blamed? The dog, of course.

Few people – including lots of dog owners – have a clue about dog psychology or how dogs express comfort with strangers rushing them for a quick pat on the head.

NEWS FLASH: A wagging tail alone does not indicate “I like you.” Small, slow tail wags indicate uncertainty – not a great time to go rushing up to Bowser for a cuddle. In fact, large, fast wags can indicate both aggression and happiness.

So what’s a person to do? How about this novel thought? Keep your hands to yourself. Express your interest to the owner and seek permission to offer the back of your hand to the dog in question to see if s/he would like to make friends.

Think about it! Would you run up to some strange little kid and start handling them? What do you imagine Mom and Dad might do about that? Have you ever had an umbrella wrapped around your noggin? Dog owners are supposed to suck it up and bear it.

Let’s go one better. You see some really attractive person, walk up and run your hands through their hair. In the human world this is known as battery and the person being touched would be entitled to respond with equal force to get rid of your unwanted intrusion.

I never touch a dog without the permission of the owner. I start by offering the back of my hand to see if the dog has any interest other than a sniff. Some do, some don’t. Take your clue from the dog.

In an ideal world if a person intrudes on a strange dog and gets bitten it would be a Darwin award issue. However, this is not an ideal world, so a dog can end up being put down and the owner penalized by the behavior of random passers-by.

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One comment

  1. Oo I’m right with you, I’m a dog owner – a childminder and mother of two children and two-step children. IT gets right on my nerves the amount of children that come running up to Duke and stroking him on his head. Luckily Duke has a fantastic nature and wouldn’t hurt a fly, but it’s not the point. I always ask the children to stroke on his chest, and if they won’t do it I’ll ask them to stop. I will also ask just one at a time, as I wouldn’t like to be crowded with lots of hands going all over me! Granted Duke would never hurt them but it’s all about teaching children how to respect animals as the next one they meet might not be so friendly. My 5 year old will always ask the owners if she can stroke their dog, and knows to walk up calmy or let the dog walk to her and stroke them on the chest. I normally ask Duke to sit down when people are coming over, yet I notice that some people he doesn’t like and as soon as they look at him his head moves to break eye contact, his body goes low to the ground so I tell the poeople he isn’t comofrtable and we must move on. He’;s never been like this with children, but is fearful of some adults and I’m not sure why, it is getting better I think – slowly but surely. I think people do tend to humanise too much with dogs, and forget they are animals and should be treated as such.

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