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What is my dog’s body language trying to tell me?

As you know, a dog bite can change your life. Whether you were mauled by an aggressive stray or your child was bitten by the neighbor’s dog, the injuries resulting from a dog attack can be disfiguring and cause pain for months or years. A negligent dog owner can be held liable for your injuries, but you and other Connecticut residents might avoid being bitten by understanding the warning signals dogs exhibit with their body language.

The American Kennel Club has provided numerous tips about body language that commonly precedes a dog biting out of fear, pain or anger. You may want to teach your children about the following signs:

  • A dog that does not want to be approached might have its tail between its legs or rigidly pointing straight out. Some dogs, however, wag their tails out of stress. Ears that are pointing down and backwards can signal fear or anger.
  • Dogs may signal they are afraid or uncertain by cowering, pacing, showing their teeth, licking their lips, panting or frequently yawning.
  • Dogs that stay very still or avert their eyes may be showing stress or fear. If a dog goes still when being hugged, many people falsely interpret that as enjoying the hug. This could result in an unexpected bite.

It can also help to teach your children to never invade a dog’s space or privacy and not to hug a dog. If they want to pet a dog or give it a treat, a good rule of thumb is to gently invite a dog to come to them. The dog can then decide if the situation seems unthreatening. If a dog responds by nudging or licking the hand that pets it, this body language shows that the pup enjoys the attention.

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