Whether you’re a dog owner or not, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Keep calm because dogs sense fear!” at some point in your life. This is a tip that is most often shared among people who are not very familiar with four-legged behavior, as well as those who tend to become anxious around dogs.
But is staying calm the best advice a person can get when in the presence of a potentially aggressive dog, or are there far better ways to react? Does “keeping calm” guarantee that you won’t get bitten and that you will handle the difficult situation?
Where does the claim that dogs bite when they sense fear come from?
As much as we love our furry four-legged friends, who provide us with generous doses of love, cuddles, and lots of unconditional love, we can’t automatically assume that every tail-wagging dog we meet along the way will be just as friendly as our pet. .
Regardless of breed, any dog can cause trouble – its size and strength are the factors that determine how much damage it can do. Quadrupeds can become aggressive or attack for a variety of reasons.
A traumatic past, lack of enough exercise, pent-up energy or insufficient mental stimulation can all trigger aggressive behavior. Sometimes dogs may start or engage in a fight to test you as their handler or to assert dominance over another dog.
Dogs’ natural instinct is to hunt and chase, as they are natural carnivores who have a need to satisfy this primal instinct in one way or another. Usually, this happens with enough play and exercise. Certain things, such as a running person or a squirrel, can make four-legged friends act on their instincts. However, we must not forget that a well-trained animal with no behavioral problems should not attack, bite or become uncontrollable – it should be able to stop on your command.
Finally, dogs can attack when they sense fear. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Liverpool confirms that the onset of anxiety significantly increases the risk of being bitten by a dog. Although there have been similar theories before, the connection is usually attributed to the fact that quadrupeds have an amazing sense of smell. It is believed that animals can physically sense the adrenaline- and cortisol-rich sweat that humans produce during times of heightened stress, anxiety or fear.
In addition to registering smells, dogs are very perceptive and can pick up on all micro-movements, read body language and even – interpret facial expressions to get a better idea of whether a person is afraid or not. The results of the cited study establish the definitive link between personality types and the chances of being bitten by a dog.
The conclusion is that people who are more calm and stable are also less likely to be attacked by a dog compared to those who have neurotic tendencies.
Dog bites, whether fear-induced or not, are relatively rare in domesticated dogs and are definitely something to watch out for.
If you have noticed your pet exhibiting aggressive behavior for any reason, especially if they are around nervous or anxious people, it is a good idea to immediately seek the help of a professional who can guide you to a suitable trainer.
Needless to say, canine aggression of any kind should not be encouraged or tolerated. Just like humans, our pets can become insecure and try to compensate by lashing out at someone they perceive as weaker or who “smells fear” to them. This happens most often in animals that have not been trained, have not received proper socialization, have no experience with humans or other animals, have been abused or mistreated in their past.
Another reason why one dog may attack another is a natural instinct that causes the four-legged to keep the pack as strong as possible by eliminating its weak members.
Aggressive dogs have a specific behavior that suggests they are far from being particularly friendly. If you meet a quadruped that is standing motionless, has a stiff body position, or is growling menacingly, showing its teeth, with its ears pinned back, then you should be especially careful.
What is the best reaction in such a situation?
If you find yourself scared or tense around a potentially aggressive dog, remember to stay calm and positive. Despite having an amazing sense of smell, quadrupeds also have an enviable ability to read human body language. For this – speak in a friendly and steady tone of voice. Do not turn your back on the animal as you slowly back away.
Although the quadruped should be in your line of sight, never look it directly in the eye, as this may be perceived as threatening behavior on its part and it may attack. Do not raise your hands or make sudden movements – it is very likely that the animal is scared and waiting for your reaction to decide what to do. It can defend its territory, resources, its pack or have newborns. Try not to look weak, control your breathing and stay calm as much as possible.
In conclusion – dogs are incredibly smart, beautiful and sensitive creatures, loyal and ready to give us all the love and affection they are capable of. It is no coincidence that most people consider them part of their family. However, no creature is perfect. So – if you notice signs of aggression, don’t ignore them and act before it becomes a more serious problem.