And Why You Shouldn't Either
Like parents of children, dog owners often assume their pet is the sweetest, most gentle creature to ever wag a tail.
Dogs don't sniff each other's paws when greeting and, like us, prefer a stranger ask permission to touch them.
Usually they’re right. It’s the unspoken “unusual” that’s the problem, says dog behaviorist Melissa Berryman, who is the author of “People Training for Good Dogs: What Breeders Don’t Tell You and Trainers Don’t Teach”. Having studied dog bites, she teaches classes on safety and liability protection for dog owners, provides community safety solutions and promotes the right way to behave around dogs through
“Prevention has to be the priority,” Berryman says. “Sure, it’s cute to us when the baby hugs the dog. But dogs do not say ‘I love you’ with a hug. When one dog ‘hugs’ another, it’s an act of domination. It should be a given that people do not hug dogs.”
Here are 5 common, occasionally perilous, misperceptions people have about dog and human behaviors, Berryman says.
1. Myth: When greeting a new dog, you should extend your hand for it to sniff. Fact: Dogs don’t sniff each other’s paws when greeting and, like us, prefer a stranger ask permission to touch them. Ask the owner and then also ask the dog, Berryman suggests, by tapping your hand on your thigh, simulating a wagging tail, and act friendly. The dog will relax and nuzzle you, need to sniff more to get to know you, or will stay away. Respect its cues.
2. Myth: Breed dictates temperament. Fact: Breed traits are generalizations used mostly as a marketing shorthand by breeders. What dictates temperament is their pack position, the role you, the human, play in the group and the rank of group members. Dogs have superior/inferior interrelationships and command and defer accordingly. And just as siblings in a family have the same parents yet are different people, one cannot purchase behavior by buying a dog of a certain breed.
3. Myth: When a dog charges, there is nothing you can do. Fact: When a dog charges you, it’s trying to decide if you are friend, foe or prey. Their eyesight is poor so hats, sunglasses and other objects you may push or carry can scare them. Act like a friend and pretend you are not afraid. Stand facing the dog with relaxed body language, tap your thigh with your hand and use a high-pitched voice for a friendly greeting like “good girl.” Fake it if you are afraid.
4. Myth: Posting a “Beware of Dog” sign on your property is a smart idea that exempts you from liability if your dog injures someone. Fact: Dogs read body language. These signs make people react to your dog in a fearful manner, which is more likely to cause a dog to consider visitors prey and bite them. If you want to post a sign, Berryman suggests Using No Trespassing and Dog At Play signs instead.
5. Myth: Only bad dogs owned by bad people bite. Fact: Even responsible dog owners operate under the same false beliefs about human and canine behavior. They are also encouraged to take a passive role concerning their dog. Any dog can bite, especially when it feels threatened, is exposed to prey behavior or thinks that someone lower in rank is encroaching on its resources, such as food, toys, bedding and the attention of its owner.
For more guidance, see the Dog Owner Education and Community Safety Council.
By Wendy Donahue, for American Dog Club
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