Dogs Don’t Attack Just Because… Here’s How Humans Complicate Matters

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Dog attacks are so common in the news that it’s easy to overlook them. However, there’s a reason feral and even family dogs snap — and it’s not even their fault.

Just like a human, if a dog feels all the love in the world, she or he will be the happiest of campers. However, if s/he feels misunderstood — or even hated — then the natural wolf instincts kicks in, often resulting in misbehavior or (in extreme circumstances) an attack.

Photo via CDC.gov

Photo via CDC.gov

The key to keeping your dog calm and relaxed is to always treat her or him with understanding and respect.

Humans who are most at risk of getting attacked by a dog are adult males, and children aged five to nine years. That’s because these demographics are the most likely to impose their will upon others with force or aggression.

Dominance-based confrontation often drives stress, and subsequently anxiety and fear in any animal, human and canine alike.

When humans react to this type of abuse, they often do so subtly or (in some cases) with physical violence. Dogs aren’t able to be as passive-aggressive as humans, so they react the best way they know how — with their teeth.

Oftentimes the dog is blamed, despite the bite being merely a reaction to aggression.

Photo Credit: Dan Foy via Flickr, Permission via Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Dan Foy via Flickr (cropped), Permission via Creative Commons

The best cure for a dog’s aggression is understanding and kindness. Those who have tried know it is much easier to earn a dog’s trust than a person’s, because dogs rely much more heavily on nonverbal communication than language.

Communications researcher Albert Mehrabian determined that just seven percent of communication is verbally based — that is, the actual words spoken have very little to do with what is being communicated. The remaining ninety-three percent represents vocal tone and posture (or, body language).

Dogs may recognize patterns in spoken language, but most of their understanding comes from how you move and speak.

The best way to deal with a potentially violent canine is to refrain from approaching, but ensure the dog knows you aren’t scared. Hold both hands out, one palm-up and the other palm-down, and crouch to show you aren’t going anywhere. Turn your head to the side to avoid eye contact, and let the dog decide what to do.

This will result in one of two ways: The dog will approach you to sniff your hands, or it will run away.

If it runs away, don’t follow it.

However, if it does approach you, be gentle and allow the pup to be your friend.

Once you’re well acquainted, and the dog allows you to pet her or him, then you can check for a tag or call your local animal shelter so they can help you scan for a chip. Hopefully, you’ve just come across a scared pooch who is looking for home.

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Matthew M. Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Grand Valley State University, with emphases in fiction and nonfiction. He lives smack-dab between some railroad tracks and Grand Rapids Michigan's third-busiest road, and spends his time studying film and literary fiction.
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