The word consent is becoming increasingly important in today's society - and rightly so! Consent is so important, particularly with physical touch.
This applies to your dog too!
A lot of dog bites I deal with are because they haven't been given the opportunity to consent to being touched.
It's really important to understand the body language of your dog so that you can work out whether they're happy with the physical interaction.
This also applies to strangers touching your dog - it is not their right and your dog is the one who should be in control of whether or not they are enjoying the interaction.
My general rules are:
1. Never touch a dog when they are eating. 2. Never touch a dog when they are sleeping. 3. No faces near faces.
Some body language that can signal being uncomfortable are:
- Raising a paw. - Licking their lips/tongue flicks. - Yawning. - Rolling over and showing their tummy (often seen as desiring touch, but can actually mean they are feeling a little worried. This signal has to be taken with the whole context and the individual dog). - Turning away/Turning their head. - Tight mouth or eyes with ridges around (like they are smiling).
Stroke your dog for a couple of seconds and then stop stroking them.
Some signs that they are happy for you to continue:
- paw at your hand to say don't stop! - move towards your hand. - nose at your hand. - move closer to you.
Some signs that they are happy to move on from the interaction:
- turn their head away. - get up and move away. - yawning. - walking away and "shaking off" (shaking as if they were wet trying to get dry).
These are not exhaustive lists but are some of the signals of whether to continue or not. I think that having open communication with your dog encourages such a healthy relationship that often things start to fall into place.
If your dog is giving you feedback, it's our role as dog owners/guardians to understand their language as best we can to be able to respond appropriately.
Half the battle is learning to listen. We expect our dogs to listen to us, we should definitely return the favour!
If you have any questions or have experienced a dog bite and don't know why then please get in contact and I would love to help you!