Communication key to reducing dog bites

Some people are better communicators than others and according to United States-based veterinary behaviourist, the same goes for dogs.

Dr Theresa De Porter—speaking about aggressive dog behaviour at this week’s Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference being held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre—said that a dog’s communication skills combined with a person’s skill in picking up their cues plays a big part in reducing dog bite incidents in the community.

“Dogs communicate through body postures and they utilise an array of senses from pheromones to growls as an effective means to communicate with other dogs,” Dr De Porter said.

“This is how they communicate their emotional state such as fear or stress, not necessarily specific intent. These cues are used to avoid physical altercations between dogs, and it works for the most part.

“But much like humans, not all dogs have the same communication skills, and some are better at it than others. In general, dog body language is communicated on a gradual scale and the degree to which these can be readily discerned by people varies based on the dog’s communication skills and the person’s skill in recognising these cues.”

Dr De Porter said that being able to understand a dog’s body language is really important for the safety of pet owners, the community and the welfare of dogs. It’s about being able to read a dog’s body language in a specific context and acting accordingly.

“Aggressive body signs such as direct eye contact, lips pulled back at the corners and snarling are often a dog’s attempt to avoid a fight with minimal effort. However, if the perceived threat persists, the dog may elevate its head, neck and ears; shift its weight forward and stiffen its legs and toes to make itself appear larger and more challenging.

“Educating the community about dog body language is really critical in reducing dog bite incidents,” Dr De Porter said.

AVA president Dr Paula Parker added that in an effort to help improve community safety with dogs the AVA has developed a legislative framework called Dangerous dogs – a sensible solution.

“The AVA wants to see a comprehensive approach to improve community safety with dogs.

“Understanding what a dog is trying to communicate and acting to remove them from the situation or address their concerns is key in improving community safety with dogs,” Dr Parker said.

Based on a media release sourced from the AVA website.

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