Greeting a dog while you are out can bring joy to your day. Between the happy wagging tail and the proud owner, it can seem like they are both thrilled to see you.
However, in some circumstances, a friendly greeting can quickly turn into a nightmare. Dog bites can cause a significant amount of damage very quickly.
Often, dogs give signals that they are uncomfortable, but they can be easy to miss. Here are some of the signs that a dog is losing its patience.
Not all wags are happy
A happy wag can be easy to recognize. When a dog is happy and ready to meet new friends, you will see a relaxed body with a sweeping tail (this will look slightly different for dogs with cropped tails).
Seeing a moving tail, though, is not the only part of the equation. Dogs will also wag their tails when they are nervous. When you see a dog with a stiff body and a submissive or worried expression, that is a dog that would like some space.
Recognizing the nervous dog
Like their human owners, dogs often try to muscle through stressful interactions. However, unlike people, a dog might be unable to walk away when it feels too uncomfortable.
When a dog feels trapped in a situation (such as on a leash or in a fenced-in yard), it will give a few subtle signs that they are uncomfortable. If their signals go unnoticed, they may escalate and bite.
Even if an owner has given you permission you pet their dog, you should look for signs that the dog is nervous, such as:
- Raised hair on the back or neck
- Ears pinned back
- The tail is either very high (as high as it can go) or very low (below parallel with its body)
- Hard stare
A dog displaying these signs is uncomfortable (even if the owner says they are ok), and you should politely give the dog space. In some cases, when a dog sees that you are willing to respect their signals, they may be ready to have a more positive interaction the next time you meet.