I caught a minute of the news mid-week and learned of a terrible accident involving a Colorado news anchor that was bitten in the face by an 85 lb. Argentine Mastiff. It happened during an interview with the dog’s owner and the firefighter who rescued the dog from an ice pond. If you have not seen the news spot, click here.
Last week, when this happened, I posted it on my Facebook page and asked folks what they thought the reporter did that put this dog in a no-win situation. Lots of folks gave pretty good answers on what the reporter did, but not many were able to tell me what signals the dog gave that were a clear message to the reporter to back off.
It is disheartening to see that even today, so many people – adults and kids alike – assume that all dogs want to be hugged, petted, kissed and are okay with this kind of behavior by humans. If there was one extremely clear message to the contrary, this unfortunate accident in Colorado spelled it out with no if’s, and’s or but’s.
Let’s take a quick look at what happened to create this terrible incident. Are you aware of what mistakes did the news anchor lady make with the Argentine Mastiff resulting in a bite to her face?
Here’s a short list that I noticed just with the short clip aired by that station
- She didn’t know the dog
- She didn’t read the dog’s body language signals – warning signs that he was stressed
- She got on her Knees with the dog cornering him between her and his owner
- She made constant direct eye contact up close – almost face to face
- She constantly petted him overhead and then under his chin with the other hand
- And I think I saw another video with her kissing him on top of the head
A dog’s body language signs can give you a lot of information and save you or someone a lot of pain and heartache.
Let’s take a look at the “distance increasing signals” the dog was giving that expressed his concern about this stressful situation – but no one tuned in to the dog:
Here’s what the dog did to try and tell her he was uncomfortable and for her to back off.
- His ears were flat against his head
- He was licking his lips
- There was tension in his face
- His lips were drawn back looking long and showing teeth – incisors, canines and molars.
- Ridges of muscle evident at the corner of his lips and near his jaw
- Wide-eye look with fleeting glances away from her – then back to her
When a dog gets stressed, anxious and concerned about his environment and potential threats, some dogs will put distance between themselves and the threat by leaving. If leaving is not an option, biting becomes their only other option to create the distance by “making the threat go away.”
Now, let’s take a look at other contributing factors that “kicked that dog into defense drive” resulting in this terrible accident:
- The dog was in a new and strange environment
- His owner had a tight grip on his dog’s collar – eliminating the dog’s flight option
- The dog was pinned or cornered between the owner and the news anchor on her knees and on the other side of the dog further eliminating all flight options
- Any stress/anxiety the dog experienced in the last 24-48 hours can sometimes carry over and impact the current stressful situation pushing the dog to his bite threshold.
This dog was set up to fail. Pushed to his bite threshold with all other options eliminated, he simply bit. Many people and children hug dogs or puppies too tightly and expect tolerance but instead get growled at, snapped at or worse – bitten. Dog gets the blame.
Is there a lesson here? What good can come of this horrible accident?
Educate your self and your children about dogs. Learn about how they think and relate to this human world around them – which is like a dog. We bring them into our homes and expect them to be “Lassie.” Not every dog is Lassie. The responsibility falls on you to:
- Socialize your puppy or dog.
- Desensitize your dog to people and other dogs to avoid dog behavior problems
- Train your dog – enroll in a dog obedience training class
- Educate yourself about dog body language and how to read any dog.
- Teach your children how best to interact with your puppy or dog.
- If you don’t know hire a positive reinforcement trainer
- Set rules to follow and boundaries to respect in your home and elsewhere
No person or dog should be put in a situation that causes injury or harm to either. If it does happen, it’s probably the fault of the human but the dog will get the blame.
What Do You Think? Let us know your thoughts about what went wrong here by commenting below and remember “Sharing is Caring.
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.