Safety with Humans

The warning signs

Dogs cannot speak to us but their body language can tell us a great deal. Dogs will tell you if it is uncomfortable in a situation you or with a child. As a parent and/or dog owner it is up to you to educate yourself and your children so that you all know what the dog might be feeling. Learning about dog body language and emotion and developing empathy for dogs is a great way to help improve your relationship with your dog.

A dog may indicate that it wants to be left alone by:

  • Showing you its teeth and growling
  • Backing away
  • Wagging its tail slowly and stiffly from side to side or raising its tail over its back
  • Its eyes are wide open and staring
  • The hair on its neck and back is standing up
  • Putting it’s ears back
  • Lowering it’s head
Byron Dog Rescue - Rescue Dogs Byron

Dr. Sophia Yin, has produced this fantastic visual example of what to look out for so you can tell if a dog is fearful or scared and prevent dog bites and dog attacks.

Byron Dog Rescue - Rescue Dogs Byron

Take Responsibility

By deciding to own a pet you have taken responsibility for an animal and it is up to the individual owners to learn how to communicate with their pets so they are safe and are not a danger to other animals or people. Socialisation is a must with dogs and the earlier you start the better.

Educate your family on what dogs need

Take a positive approach to teaching your kids about dogs and reinforce the importance of respecting a dogs own space.

  • Teach children to be calm, respectful and gentle around dogs.
  • Never approach a dog that is: sleeping, eating or chewing a bone; playing with its toys; injured or sick; in its kennel; on its bed or in a car, or on the back of a ute; tied up; fighting or play fighting; behind a fence or gate; with its puppies; not with its owner and unfamiliar with you.
  • If approached by a dog: Stand still and relaxed, do not run, as the dog may chase; be very quiet; curl fingers and keep arms down by sides; look away from the dog, not into its eyes; wait for the dog to go away; tell an adult what happened. If knocked over, curl up into a ball and stay still and quiet. Once the dog has gone away, get up and walk away slowly.
  • Teach children to always ask the owner if it is OK to pat the dog. If the owner says YES, hold the back of your hand out with your fingers curled under. Allow the dog to sniff your hand. If the dog backs away or is not interested, do not say hello. If the dog sniffs your hand and does not back away or change its behaviour, pat it gently under the chin or chest. Do NOT pat the dog on the head or nose.

Types of Aggression

There are many different types of aggression in dogs. Knowing the reason for aggressive behaviour goes a long way to changing that behaviour. Some of the aggression types are:

  • Territorial aggression – This type of aggression is when the dog feels that it must defend its area. This could be the house, a room in the house, a dog bed or even a car.
  • Possessive aggression – When the dog acts aggressive to protect what it feels belongs to it, including people, food and toys.
  • Protective aggression – When a dog becomes aggressive to protect a person or pet in its family from what it sees as being harmful.
  • Defensive aggression – When the dog is the primary aggressor making the first move.
  • Fear aggression – Similar to defensive aggression except that the aggression it followed by postures of fear and cowering.
  • Social aggression – When a dog attacks to show that it is the dominant animal. This can be toward other dogs as well as people. A dog may want to be in control and therefore show social aggression.

Aggressive behavior can make an appearance when the following things happen:

  •  The dog is being hugged or kissed by a child, for example
  •  When someone tries to pick up the dog
  •  When someone is trying to bathe the dog
  •  If the dog is being held back physically
  •  When food is taken from the dog
  •  When a toy is taken away from a dog
  •  If the dog is bothered while it is sleeping
  •  When grooming or nail clipping is taking place
  •  When the dog’s ears and feet are touched
  •  Pulling on the dog’s collar harshly
  •  Pointing or speaking harshly to the dog
  •  Hitting the dog – not recommended

* Many times dogs are euthanized, or put to sleep, because of aggressive behaviour. This tragic situation is sometimes avoidable if we are aware of the many triggers associated with dog aggression. The excruciating pain of dog arthritis is a very common cause of chronic pain and as such a common reason for aggression in dogs, so we should be aware of all the signs.

Local dog trainers

Barco – community dog training based in the north of Byron Shire. Email  Phone 0429 518 817 or 0447 975 201.

Barco is a voluntary not for profit organisation who run dog obedience classes to teach people how to be responsible dog owners. Training sessions are each Sunday morning starting at 9am at Brunswick Heads sports fields.  If you are fostering a Byron Dog Rescue dog the training is free for that dog.  For all other dog owners, once the $20 yearly registration fee is paid, the only other cost is only $5 each time you attend training.