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Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Dog that Bites...

I wanted to write something to contribute to the US Dog Bite Prevention Week but wanted to represent The Dog somehow without making it sound like a Disney script.

I've spent my life around dogs, learning about them, learning from them, with them; for them.  I've felt an empathy and affinity for dogs for as long as I can remember and in the short periods of my life that I have lived without them I have felt incomplete.

So when I know a dog is about to bite, I don't just see the behaviour, I feel the emotion vicariously.  I feel the conflict, the fear, the intent, the desire to repel whatever stimulus is causing the dog's distress, because it IS distress, most definitely, in the pet dog that feels the need to bite. 

I spend much of my time educating owners in how to read their dogs better. To develop more empathy for them by seeing the world through their eyes and feeling it with emotions equally as powerful as our own.

When I see a dog growling and / or freezing in front of someone I ask myself what is that person doing to put the dog in this emotional state?  I ask myself just what is the dog's expected outcome here? Why does he have an expected outcome?  What has happened in this dog's history that is making him feel so concerned about the presence of a human that illicits such a hugely emotional response?

I'm sure there are many others who feel this, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to be the owners of dogs.  How do we change that?