How Does Human Body Language Affect Your Dog Bite Liability Risks?
Have you ever had a conversation with your dog, where you are convinced that they understand every word you are saying due to how attentive they are? While it’s a nice thought, the real reason behind this is likely your expressions, movements, and vocal tone; in other words, your body language.
As pack members, dogs must communicate with each other without the benefit of a verbal language. Many pet care experts, including Dr. Nicholas Dodman who is a contributing author to PetPlace.com, dogs communicate via conscious and subliminal signing or gesturing, and watch for the actions and reactions of the other individual.
Many a loving dog owner will argue this and say that their dogs really do understand them, but dogs are simply not able to learn syntax and cannot understand sentences. However they can certainly learn patterns and one or two word phrases and commands, which makes many of them easily trainable. Knowing this, and understanding how dogs interpret human body language and vocal tone is important in potentially avoiding dog bite risks. So, what aspects of human body language do dogs pay attention to?
Eye Contact. To a dog, a stare is a challenge. By staring a dog in the eyes, you are asserting your dominance. In a nervous or aggressive dog, this can be a mistake. A dominant dog may stare back, growl, and generally escalate aggressive behavior until the other party backs down. A very submissive dog, however, will look away and may even roll over on their back to signal they know their place and are vulnerable.
Head and Neck Position. With certain breeds, if you approach them with your head in an upright position, they may interpret this as a challenge. On the other hand, if a person approaches the same dog with their head bowed, there’s a good chance the dog will recognize this as submissive behavior, or possibly even playful behavior.
Forward, Direct Body Motion. Have you ever approached a stray dog, or a friends’ dog who was unfamiliar with you to have them back away? This type of approach is considered a sign of dominance, and may be off-putting to a fearful or shy dog. This type of dog should be approached indirectly, or by crouching down to their level and letting them approach you first.
Understanding how dogs read human body language is imperative in implementing successful training methods, as well as preventing dog bites or other accidents. To use this knowledge your advantage there are a few things you can do:
- Make a point of getting to know your dog; their character strengths and weaknesses, what excites them, what scares them, etc.
- Don’t allow inexperienced people, especially young children, to interact with your dog unsupervised, and prevent any invasive or obnoxious behavior on part of any child, or adult for that matter.
- Learn how to act and interact property with your dog by observing their reactions to you and others. Try to avoid talking to them for an extended period of time (other than giving them commands) and just observe how they perceive your body language.
- Be aware of canine good manners; don’t stare.
- Teach your dog your own body language signs in the form of hand signals accompanying commands. Dogs actually learn quicker and remember better when hand signals accompany verbal cues.
Of course, there is no fool-proof way to avoid a bite from occurring, as a dog can bite for many reasons. Even the sweetest and most well trained dogs can bite. That is why it is so important for dog owners to obtain Dog Bite Liability Insurance. F.I.D.O., the Federation of Insured Dog Owners, Inc. offers the Covered Canine Policy, an exclusive product and benefit for F.I.D.O. members only that specializes in Dog Bite Liability Insurance programs that will protect you should your dog bite an individual and cause harm. Coverage starts as low as $75 a year per dog, and can help provide the resources you need should you ever have to face a dog bite claim. To learn more about our policies and what to do if ever faced with a dog bite claim, please visit our Claim Info page and contact us at (855) 534-6495.