Dogs Don’t Say ‘I Love You’ With a Hug – and Why You Shouldn’t Either
This is a human mistake!
Expert Shares 5 Dog Myths that Can Lead to Tragedy
It’s the kind of headline that makes dog behaviorist Melissa Berryman’s blood boil:
“Dog on Trial after Attacking Child.”
According to the report, a pointer-hound mix named Milo, a dog that had never caused any problems, was in his home in January when a 6-year-old neighbor arrived. The boy’s interaction with the dog left garish wounds on his face. The dog’s owners took “full responsibility” for the incident. Yet the important question of what really happened was never asked.
“Now the dog is on trial – for an accident that’s preventable when people understand what our behavior means to dogs,” says Berryman, who has spent years studying dog bites and is the author of “People Training for Good Dogs -- What Breeders Don’t Tell You and Trainers Don’t Teach” www.ptfgd.com. She also teaches classes on safety and liability protection for dog owners and the smart way to behave around dogs through The Dog Owner Education and Community Safety Council www.doecsc.org.
“Dog owners are set up for failure because our default is to blame the dog. Owners get fined or sued for repeated human blunders. Dogs often pay with their lives for mistakes made by people, because when prevention is not a priority, the reason why the dog bit is rarely determined. Dogs bite for purposeful reasons,” Berryman says.
“Sure, it’s cute to us when the baby hugs the dog,” she says. “But dogs do not say ‘I love you’ with a hug. When one dog ‘hugs’ another, it’s an act of domination. It should be a given that people do not hug dogs. Yet the message for children to hug dogs is prevalent in our culture and the facial bites continue.”
What are some other common misperceptions people have about dog and human behaviors – and how you can change to prevent catastrophes? Berryman shares 10:
1. Myth: When greeting a new dog, you should extend your hand for it to sniff.
Fact: Dogs don't sniff each other's paws when greeting and like us prefer to be asked before being touched by a stranger. Instead, ask the owner and then also ASK the dog by tapping your hand on your thigh simulating a wagging tail and act friendly. The dog will relax and nuzzle you eager for interaction, need to sniff more to get to know you or will stay away.
2. Myth: Breed dictates temperament.
Fact: Dogs, first and foremost, are predatory canines that live in groups. Breeds are generalizations that enable breeders to better market the product they sell. What dictates temperament is their pack position, the role you, the human, play in the group and the rank of group members. Just as siblings in a family have the same parents yet are very different, one cannot purchase behavior.
3.Myth: When a dog charges, there is nothing you can do.
Fact: When a dog charges you, it's trying to decide if you are friend, foe or prey. Dogs eyesight is poor so hats, sunglasses and other objects you may wear, push or carry can scare them. Act like a friend and pretend you are not afraid. Stand facing the dog with relaxed body language, tap your thigh with your hand and use a high-pitched voice for a friendly greeting like "good girl." Fake it if you are afraid.
4.Myth: Posting a "Beware of Dog" sign will protect you from liability if your dog injures someone on your property.
Fact: Dogs can only read body language. These signs make people react to your dog in a fearful manner, which is more likely to cause a dog to consider visitors prey and bite them.
5.Myth: Only bad dogs owned by bad people bite.
Fact: Even responsible dog owners operate under the same false beliefs about human and canine behavior. They are also encouraged to take a passive role concerning their dog. Any dog can bite especially when it feels personally threatened, is exposed to prey behavior or thinks that someone lower in rank threatens its resources, such as food, toys, bedding and the attention of its owner.