A recent study by Liverpool University has suggested that anxious people are more likely to be bitten by dogs and that dog bites are more common than is often thought.
A sample of 700 people were rated for their emotional stability on a scale of one to seven and then questioned about whether or not they’d been bitten. The researchers found that for every point of increased anxiety on the scale there was a 23% increase in the chance of being bitten.
Of the people interview around one fourth reported having been bitten by a dog, with a third of those bitten requiring medical treatment. Which suggests that the number of dog bites might be significantly higher than official statistics suggest. With men being more likely to be bitten.
Given these findings it is worth learning the proper way to approach a dog as being comfortable and confident with the animal will make it easier to make friends.
How to approach a dog
Caroline Kisco of the Kennel Club notes that “How dogs react to people is often determined by how people themselves react to dogs, so it is important that people recognise the best ways to interact with dogs and that owners always keep their pets under control and consider that not everyone may feel comfortable being around dogs or know how to interact with them.”
Knowing the correct way can help reduce anxiety and help a person approach a dog with confidence reducing the likely hood of being bitten.
- The first thing to do is speak to the dog’s owner and make sure that it’s okay to approach their dog. If a dog is alone it is best not to approach it at all.
- Move toward the dog from the side instead of coming at it head on. This is how one dog greets another. Coming at a dog straight on can be interpreted as aggressive behaviour and will draw aggression in turn.
- Speak calmly and quietly. Try to adopt a relaxed manner with the dog, yawning, smiling and blinking slowly are all good ways to achieve this. Try to avoid starring at the dog, this can also be interpreted as aggressive behaviour.
- Don’t rush up to a strange dog and stand over them. Dogs can find this frightening. Try to let the dog come to you.
- Try to squat by the dog instead of towering over them. Let the dog sniff you, then stroke the shoulder or chest. Don’t reach over the dog this can result in anxiety for the animal.
- Finally never make a dog feel trapped. Don’t back it in to a corner or put your face too close to the dogs face filling its vision
- A dog’s body language will give you clues to how it is feeling. If the dog arches its body, tucks its tail between its legs, licks its lips, looks away or growls, the dog may feel uncomfortable and its best to back off.
How to train a dog
While it is important to help people find the best ways to approach a dog it is important to remember that it is our responsibility as dog owners to control our pet’s behaviour. It is not reasonable to expect every person a dog meets to have the knowledge and experience to correctly interact with a dog.
As Ksico notes “It is important that all dogs are properly trained and socialised from an early age to reduce the risk of bad behaviour, including biting.” It can be tempting when we get our adorable little ball of fluff and puppy eyes home to let it do whatever it wants, but if we want a happy well behaved dog follow these suggestions:
Firstly Dogs need training from the moment you bring your puppy home. Puppies are constantly learning from the moment they meet their new owner. Creating a fun loving environment with consistent rules will help a puppy learn its place in the world.
Potty training a puppy through positive reinforcement will help to establish a positive relationship with a puppy, helping to learn his role and the role of their owner.
The first 16 weeks of a dog’s life are the best time for them to learn to socialise. Through interaction with other dogs a puppy will learn not to bite too hard or be too boisterous, as well as learning tolerance and patience.
Socialisation with people is equally important. Carrying around a few treats that can be given to strangers to give to the dog, can help the dog associate strangers with good experiences, making them less likely to respond aggressively.
Teaching a dog that it is not okay to bite from an early age is very important. An owner must establish their place as the leader of the pack to help a puppy understand its place in the world.
Finally, a dog must have plenty of exercise. A bored dog with a lot of excess energy is far more likely to engage in aggressive inappropriate behaviour
While this list is a good starting place, there many excellent training schools that can help give a puppy the best possible start in life.
While the number of dog bites is still very low in the UK, there are things we can do both as pet owners and fans of pets to reduce the likelihood of a dog bite occurring. Properly training a dog, and learning the correct way to interact can reduce the chances of a dog bite, and create calm happy pets.