Dogs can be a joy to be around. However, just like humans, not all dogs behave the same way all the time. Maybe you went to a barbeque at your friend’s house, and his dog jumped on your lap and showered you with affection. However, when you spotted the same dog sitting alone in the front yard the following week, you went over to pet him, and he tried to attack you.
Now you’re confused. You’d met this dog before, so you figured you were safe around him. What changed?
Evaluating the conditions
Dogs perceive conditions differently than humans. There are a variety of factors that a dog uses to gauge a situation, which we may not give much value to. For instance, a dog owner’s tolerance of your presence at a party may signal to that dog that you are safe. However, when in watchdog mode on his own, he may interpret you as an intruder – and therefore a threat.
While you can’t reasonably expect to get inside a dog’s head, you can become attune to the various signals a dog sends – which can alert you to possible aggression.
Interpreting the cues
Firstly, it’s worth clarifying that some behaviors can indicate aggression or more positive moods, such as excitement – depending on the quality of the behavior. Barking and jumping are common examples. Unless you’re not very familiar with a particular dog’s nuances, don’t rely on these cues to assess the situation.
Be wary of any dog you see displaying the following behaviors:
- Showing their teeth
- Intense staring
- Rolling their eyes so that you can see the whites
- Tensing their tail
- Pulling their ears back
- Furrowing their brow
- Backing away
Dogs are communicating with us all the time. If you learn how to understand their signals, it can help you to avoid a traumatic experience.