Are you, or is someone you know terrified of dogs? Do dogs single you out and bark at you? Lunge at you? Do you have kids that are afraid of dogs and want to help them know how to behave around dogs to be safer? People often say that dogs can smell fear. I don't know about that. But, I do know that there are common things that people afraid of dogs do when approached by a dog that I can spot every time. These fearful movements trigger barking and lunging in many dogs.
I live in a crowded area that is very dog friendly. But, not every neighbor loves dogs. I walk dogs and pet sit for a living and have seen a lot of reactions when I am out with dogs of all breeds and sizes. Some are visibly terrified of dogs. Their body language is very clear to me and it is naturally alarming.
Just this morning, while walking my dog for a potty break, a 9 or 10 year old child ran past us unexpectedly from around a corner. He came very close to us. I almost jumped as he buzzed past us. We did not have time to turn around and change directions. We were walking past a set of stairs. He leapt to the stairs, then suddenly stopped. Frozen in a position of leaning towards us while staring. I have a leash reactive dog and I was working hard to keep her from getting overly excited. His body language was very aggressive to a dog. I had her sit. I gave her treats. I was working to keep her attention on me. She was doing great. This would have been so much easier if the child would have just kept going up the stairs. Instead, he stared at us. Frozen. My dog knows this is not normal behavior so it put her on alert. It became harder to keep her focus on me. We work on this daily. I asked the child to keep going and not stare. He went up one step. I asked him again, PLEASE, KEEP GOING. DON'T STARE. I am a mom and a grandmother. My natural mom instincts kicked in. He woke up from his apparent trance and finished climbing the stairs. This behavior would normally set my dog into a barking and lunging frenzy. Today was a "win" for us. I can understand why some people are afraid. My own grand kids were very afraid when they were first exposed to dogs. I get it. We worked on it for a year before they were comfortable around dogs. Others may have had a bad experience or have been attacked. I can only imagine how it seems to a dog that is much more attuned to pay attention to body language. My dogs can't rationalize why you are afraid of them without being provoked. So, their reaction to you is to be wary. Your fear scares many dogs. That is right. Dogs get scared of people that move unusually or aggressively to them. Many things we do seem aggressive to dogs and we don't even realize it. Leaning in, reaching towards them, and staring are just a few things that are aggressive to dogs. Many children are also very fearful of dogs. Being aware of your own body language can really help improve how dogs react to you and your kids if you are afraid of dogs.
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