While most interactions with dogs can bring joy to your day, trying to pet a stressed dog can quickly lead to an unfortunate injury.
Often, a dog bite can seem like it comes out of nowhere. To the humans, the dog seemed calm and suddenly lashed out. However, to the dog, there was an increasing amount of stress until the dog did not know what else to do to get relief.
Here’s what to look for in a stressed dog that could attack.
Knowing what to look for
Dogs communicate very differently from their human counterparts. Rather than the unmistakable growl you might see in a movie, dogs typically have more subtle signs to show that they are stressed, such as:
- Stiff body
- Raised hackles (hair on the neck and back)
- Tense tail wag
- Ears back
- Visible whites of the eyes
- Nervous expression
When you see a dog showing one or more of these traits, you should politely give the dog more space.
Owners don’t always know best
Dog owners want you to like their dog, and they want their dog to enjoy being around other people. Owners are often reluctant to let people know that their dog prefers familiar faces or that their dog had a busy day and may feel tired, stressed or overwhelmed.
Rather than telling you that their dog needs space, an owner may dismiss their dog’s stress and tell you that it is ok to pet their dog. However, when a dog shows signs of discomfort, your interaction with them can be stressful.
When you learn how to read a dog’s body language, you can help the dog interact more positively with you while realizing that a stranger can respect their space.