Are you, or is someone you know terrified of dogs? Do dogs single you out and bark at you? Lunge at you? Do you have kids that are afraid of dogs and want to help them know how to behave around dogs to be safer? People often say that dogs can smell fear. I don’t know about that. But, I do know that there are common things that people afraid of dogs do when approached by a dog that I can spot every time. These fearful movements trigger barking and lunging in many dogs.
I live in a crowded area that is very dog friendly. Even so, not every neighbor loves dogs. Some are visibly terrified of dogs. This body language is very clear to me and startling as well. I can only imagine how it seems to a dog that is much more attuned to pay attention to body language. This behavior scares many dogs. . Many children are also very fearful of dogs. Being aware of your own body language can really help improve how dogs react to you and your kids if you are afraid of dogs.
- When you see a dog on a leash, do you stop suddenly with a terrified look often accompanied by a sudden gasp for air and throwing your hands up while staring at the dog. People actually do this. Don’t. Instead, when you see a dog and you are startled or overcome with fear, turn around and go the other direction if the dog is leashed and walking with it’s owner. Or, if you have enough room to pass without the dog lunging at you, keep walking normally.
- If the dog is off-leash, back away without turning your back on the dog. If the dog approaches you off-leash, yell “no”, do not run. Do not turn your back on the dog. Teach your children to be a tree and to yell “no” to the dog. Breathe normally. Do not stare at the dog. Look away. Staring at a dog is aggressive as far as the dog is concerned. Create some distance from the dog if you can.
- Do not run or cycle closely by a dog from behind. You do not want to startle a dog. If you must pass a dog and dog owner, call out and let them know that you are passing (on the left is the standard side to pass). Give them as much room as possible. If you cannot pass at a safe distance, wait until you have enough distance to pass comfortably. Teach your children to not dart past dogs and teach them to give a safe distance.
- When you pass someone walking a dog, do you pass tentatively while staring? Tentative, abnormally slow walking while staring gets a dog’s attention. It is aggressive body language to dogs. Don’t move like you are stalking a dog. Keep moving normally. Don’t stare. Keep a safe distance. This happened to me during my morning walk this morning. A young boy came running around a corner and practically ran into us. I kept my dog calm. That was our first “win”. Then there boy jumped up the nearby stairs, stopped abruptly and leaned over the rails to stare at us. My dog tensed up immediately in response to his unusual movements. Don’t do this. Teach your kids how to be safe around dogs.
- Do you or your kids shriek when you see a dog? If you think about it, that is pretty scary to a dog. Please don’t shriek. I have been walking my dog minding my own business with a calm dog as someone saw us, got startled and started shrieking. Of course, my dog reacts to this with barking and lunging. If you or your kids are so scared that you want to scream, please cross the street or go far around us.
- Do you take small fearful children to the dog park? I see this happen. Don’t do it. Dog parks are for dogs. They are not for small children or people that are obviously afraid of dogs.
- If you see someone walking their dog on a retractable leash while texting, do not pass closely. Retractable leashes break and give a dog too much room. It can take too long to regain control of the dog. The owner may not have enough time to pull their dog back in if they are oblivious to their surroundings. This is common behavior with retractable leashes. About 1% of the people using them are safely doing so.
I believe that dog owners are responsible to keep their dogs under control and as well behaved as possible. Dogs should be leashed in public for their safety and the safety of others unless they are at an off-leash park, private property, or are a highly trained service dog that is working. But, dogs sometimes escape their yards or owners. They shouldn’t — but it does happen. If you are afraid and can be aware of the message that you send to dogs through your body language, you can help reduce the risk of being attacked with these tips.
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Originally published at mrycpetcare.weebly.com.