Emergencies and disasters are frightening to people and animals alike. Like most people, when I get scared I try to run away from whatever is scaring me. When I'm getting away I usually have my tail low or even hidden between my legs, my ears are down, my eyes may look very big, and my body may look a little smaller than I really am. Running away, growling, barking, and biting are ways I protect myself at times if I'm scared. These are the times when I really don't want to be around anyone except maybe my very close family. It's at this time when biting is a lot more likely to happen.
I wanted to talk a little bit about biting. As a dog, or really almost any animal, I only have a few ways that I can try and tell you the way I feel. The hard part is that I can't tell you with words so you have to learn how to read what I am saying with my body and sounds. I mentioned above that barking and growling are a couple of ways that I protect myself. Here's something to remember about that: I can bark when I'm scared, I can bark when I'm happy, I can bark when I want to play or when I want to meet a new friend, so just because I'm barking doesn't mean that it's a scared bark. To help know what my bark means, you have to also look at what my body is doing. Some important places on my body to pay attention to are my ears, my lips, my tail, and my back. These areas can help let you know how I'm feeling. Knowing how I'm feeling can help you stay safe around me.
Let's talk a little bit about dogs and biting. Did you know that I can bite with about 240 pounds of force? What does that mean? It means that when I bite something, especially when scared, it can be equal to the weight of 240 pounds. That's equal to the weight of Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson! If I were to bite as hard as I can on someone's arm, it would be like Derrick standing on that arm! Plus, I have big teeth which would be like him wearing his football shoes while standing on the arm. OUCH! This is why it is really important for you to understand how I am feeling and what my body is trying to tell you. Being bitten will hurt, a lot, but it is one of the things that can happen especially if a dog, cat or other animal is scared, so be careful.
Biting is usually the last thing we as dogs want to do, but not all of us. Even the nicest of us can bite if scared. A good rule to remember is that “any dog can bite.” So what can you do to help yourself stay safe? In an emergency or disaster, don't approach an animal. If the animal is with their owner, that is where they want to be and the owner is taking care of them and trying to make them feel safe. If the animal is running free, tell an adult. Tell the adult what kind of animal it was, what it looked like and where it was going. Adults and emergency responders will look for and safely take care of the animal.
Be sure to stay safe around animals. Always ask the owner before you try and pet or touch an animal. Always stay away from an animal during an emergency and tell an adult if that animal is running free. And finally, don't forget to learn what a dog or cat is trying to say with their body since we can't talk. For more information on what your dog is trying to tell you with his body, see the Modern Dog Magazine article at http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/how-read-your-dogs-body-language/415.