I recently went out of town for a family reunion. Our family reunions usually last a few days and there are lots of events and outings planned. Obviously, I am an animal person. I love animals and work with animals and feel as though I pretty much know animals. The rest of my family thinks that I’m a bit looney and they do not at all feel the same way. Yes, some of them have dogs, but they aren’t quite as passionate about them as I am. Oh, and I do have an aunt who has 2 skunks. I’m not even getting into that one.
Anyway, as most of my family doesn’t spend as much time focused on dog behavior and situations involving dogs, I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I realized how unfamiliar they are with dog body language.
At one point, we were in a town with a large group of resident dogs. These were dogs who just lived in the town but were not a part of the family. Naturally, these dogs were used to being around people, but were not familiar with the usual affection that, say, my dogs are. I knew that they were resident dogs and was happy to let them do their own thing. Yes, there were some who were willing to approach you, especially for a scrap of food, but for the most part, they were content to coexist with the people around them. My daughter knew this as well, as she can probably read dog body language better than I can. However, not everyone there understood this and at one point, I heard one of the younger kids in our group yell “puppy” with delight and turned to see him running towards a dog who immediately stiffened and pulled his lips back. I yelled “NO!!!” and his mother grabbed him. Thank goodness.
It was an eye opener to me. I know that most bites happen because of the situation that the dog is in and because people didn’t read the signs, however, I never thought about it hitting this close to home. In fact, a family member even said “Really? But it’s such a cute fluffy dog”. Well, maybe it is, but it’s still stressed. Appearance has nothing to do with whether or not a dog will bite, it is all about the situation.
So, crisis averted, but, as I now saw firsthand how these things can happen, I want to pass the word along, in hopes that I can prevent someone else’s child from being bitten in the future. I’m asking everyone out there to please remind their children to always ask before petting a dog. If there is no one around to ask, be safe and don’t pet the dog.
Admittedly, this has nothing to do with my dogs or loving Pit Bulls but it does have something to do with me being an animal advocate and an aunt, and that’s pretty important as well.