Communicating Stress by Lip Licking
I was given the following scenario a few days ago. “We have a poodle mix rescue dog. We have had her for 3 years now. She has always been a little skittish but overall a sweetheart. She bit my daughter on the lip tonight; didn’t break skin; more of a nip. My daughter had her wrapped in her fave blanket and went to kiss her, as she always does, and the dog nipped her on the face. Help! She sleeps with My daughter and always allows snuggles, kisses etc….
What should we do? ”
This is not the first time this scenario has been presented to me. Unfortunately it happens a lot. One of the main reasons is because humans speak human not dog. Unless you are in this field and have studied dog body language you miss the warning signals that your dog gives off. Very few bites come without these warning signals but since humans don’t speak dog unless they have been trained to see these warning signs they will miss them and then a bite occurs because the dog feels that we are not listening.
My response to the above dilemma is the same response I teach in the “Be a Tree” program for kids (FREE presentations for non-profits- see my website for more information). Do not hug your dog. It is true some dogs do just fine with this but again unless you have studied canine body language you may be unaware whether your dog is tolerating the hug or enjoying the hug. Some signals that you dog is not enjoying this interaction may include but are not limited to: lip licking, yawning, shaking as if wet, half moon eye, and the list goes on. This is your dog’s way of communicating with you that they are stressed, if these signs are missed as they often are the next step may be a nip or even worse a full bite. Unfortunately, many of these bites wind up being to the face. Then you often hear but he gave no warning. But he did, and as humans we don’t speak dog so we missed it. The best way to keep everyone safe is to teach your kids not to hug and kiss dogs. Pet them, throw the ball for them, sit next to them and read to them (I love this, many libraries offer a read to the dog program). But don’t hug them. A few dogs enjoy this affection but most do not. Hugging is a human emotion, dogs don’t hug one another. They get close, heck my pup who has not learned his boundaries yet even steps on the other dogs and lies down on top of them. They give him all the signals but we are convinced he speaks cat instead of dog but that is for another blog. Bottom line to keep everyone safe enjoy petting your dogs, you can blow them kisses but keep human hugs and kisses out of your dogs world for everyone’s safety.
If you know of a non-profit who would like to offer a dog bite prevention program for kids ages 6-12 FREE of charge please contact me today at (909) 709-9338.