Dogs are an important part of the lives of many families. It is easy to forget, that even though they are often lovable and loyal, they are still animals. They are not little people in furry suits. Animal behaviour is unpredictable and even the nicest dog can have a bad day. A happy dog is less likely to bite than a dog that is angry, worried, hurt or scared. Children and families can learn to read the dog's body language and gauge how the dog is feeling. Dogs can communicate in many different ways, some overt and some subtle. Parents who can understand when a dog is signaling that it has had enough attention from a child can intervene before the dog gets to the point of biting or snapping. Even although a dog has never bitten, it may at some point feel that it has no choice but to act aggressively in order to make a child leave it alone. Supervision and observation of dog body language are important in preventing these incidents.
Children who do not have a dog at home will encounter other people's dogs. It is inevitable that at some point a child will encounter a friend's, neighbour's or a strange dog. All children will benefit from knowing how to behave around dogs and knowing how to "Be a Tree" if a strange dog approaches, a known dog gets to frisky or any dog is causing concern.
Test your knowledge of dog body language and safe behaviour around dogs with our quiz. Don't feel bad if you get a few wrong. Even some experienced dog trainers have reported to us that they did not get a perfect score!
Learn more and teach your kids! You can start with Teresa's Bad Rules. Teresa is the co-creator of Doggone Crazy! and is a dog trainer and behaviour specialist. These are rules that the kids in Teresa's obedience classes often don't like and so they have become known as the Bad Rules. Print them out, share them around and post them on your fridge.
In the photo on the left, Lola is worried. Her mouth is closed and she is showing a half moon of white in her eye. This half-moon eye warns that a dog is anxious and should be left alone. Lola may be worried about protecting her kong or blanket. She does not want to meet you or to have you interact with her
On the right, Lola is sitting and panting. She is happy and she may want to meet you or have you interact with her.
View some more photos that teach the basics about reading dog body language. These are from the Doggone Safe 2005 calendar which is no longer available in printed form.
Please visit the website of Doggone Safe - non-profit organization for dog bite prevention education and victim support. There you will find lots more information about reading dog body language (with photos), how to teach your puppy not to bite, safe games to play with your dog and lots more.