The dog also has its limits, let’s not forget it. When a dog attacks and how we can distinguish its moods
A dog never attacks for no reason. To get to this point, we must be indifferent, or not recognize the signals it sends us. The glass will overflow if we exceed its limits.
The graduate dog trainer (VSA-CDT, DoggoneSafe – BiteSafety Educator) and volunteer in animal welfare organizations, Angelika Herra, explains why and when a dog attacks, but also how we can distinguish its moods.
“The dog’s discomfort is gradually escalating. Before he exceeds his limits, but also his tolerance (dog’s threshold), and attacks or bites, he emits dozens of warning signals against the stimulus that threatens him (trigger), in order to remain safe.
Example: A stray dog sits on the sidewalk and enjoys the sun. A passerby accidentally steps on him. The dog jumps in terror and changes position. Then children pass in front of him, shouting and challenging him. After a while, two dogs approach him and make him angry, making him run away. The moment she manages to perch in another corner, Angelika sees him and bends down to talk to him, or to caress him. Then the dog thinks “I’ve had enough for the day. I will not tolerate animal welfare either “. And he makes the move to bite his hand.
At this point, it is worth noting that in every shock that the dog experiences, the hormone cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is secreted, which remains in the body for up to 72 hours. This is also the reason for the cumulative escalation of his discomfort.
Always remember that the dog aims to ensure its survival, not the attack. So to avoid or prevent a potentially traumatic experience from a dog in defense, we need to know and interpret the signals it gives us.
No dog has the same character as someone else. Everyone, however, has a common body language, with which they communicate their emotional state to us.
What we need to do is observe his body (head, eyes, ears, mouth, hair, legs, tail) in advance, so that we can communicate with him and immediately recognize his signs of discomfort. We need to guide him away from any stimulus so that the dog feels emotionally calm – and we are safe.
The dog’s signals, which indicate anxiety, discomfort, fear, threat and, in general, that he is in an alarm state, are also called calming signals and displacement behaviors, as he uses them to manage a situation and return to calm and security. These signals are:
the dog refuses to accept treats that he would otherwise have an appetite for
the dog looks intently and motionless in one direction
the dog looks sideways, letting his eye look like a crescent
- the dog does not obey orders he already knows
- the dog looks stiff, makes slow and stiff movements, tries to decide if he will stay or if he has an escape route from the stimulus. In case it has a way out, it usually chooses the removal and not the jamming
the dog suddenly yawns and / or licks his mouth nervously
- the dog keeps his mouth tightly closed
- the dog shakes as if it has water in its coat, or lifts the coat of its back
- the dog tries to lower his body and become petite, as if he wants to hide
- the dog turns its head in the opposite direction from the stimulus, smells the ground and / or scratches
- the dog growls, stretches forward and / or bites in the air
the dog barks and / or protrudes its teeth, lifting the upper lip
- the dog’s tail moves nervously below the height of its hips, or remains motionless in a higher position
it is difficult to impossible, to bring it back to calm or to turn it somewhere else
- the dog shows aggressive behavior, even in something unrelated to the initial stimulus. At least one or more signals are used by dogs to distance themselves from the stimulus that threatens them. If they can not avoid the threat, ie they have no way to escape, they have only the choice of attack. As responsible guardians, we must know the temperament of our dog, its peculiarities and the limits of its tolerance. Based on these we should not expose him to stimuli that cause him negative reactions.
The more experiences a dog has from a young age, the more “tolerant” it will be in adulthood to new stimuli.
For example, if my adult dog can not stand children and voices, I will avoid taking him to a mall, or a park frequented by children.
If we ignore or ignore what the dog communicates to us through his body, we risk at some point, not to warn us and go straight to the bite. This is the main reason that in positive education, we NEVER punish a dog that growls. We do not punish him for anything, in the context of an education based on the science of psychology and behavior.
We build a partnership with our dog, based on trust. This makes the dog more predictable. It would be very useful to recognize all these signs in the stray dogs that we meet, unfortunately often, in our country.
I respect – I observe – I evaluate – I communicate – I live safely with dogs
That way we will stay safe close to dogs, respecting their nature and enjoying each other’s devotion. ”