I actually started this post a couple years ago. Got distracted and never finished it. So here it is.
I was following links this morning, as is my wont when I’m bored. Where I ended up this doesn’t really matter to this story.
They were talking about a fairly recent incident that made major news about a dog attacking a child. Again, which incident doesn’t matter (though I’m sure most of you saw it, the kid’s protector was unusual), but one of the comments caught my eye: “maybe my dog body language skills aren’t up to par, but the dog didn’t look aggressive, he was even wagging his tail!” Ok, I paraphrased, but you get the point.
It’s a fairy common comment on dog body language “he’s wagging his tail, so he must be happy to see me!”.
After I wrote the above I had to go to work, and never finished the rest of this post. Recently the next video came across my feed. It’s a long video, and although it’s not bloody, it’s the stuff that horror movies are made of if you have an understanding of canine body language. Just watch the first 30 seconds, don’t torture yourself with the rest of it.
Those dogs were playing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they still thought they were playing when they were dragged away from mother and child. And yes, both mother and child were bitten. If you do watch the whole thing please don’t tell me what the mother SHOULD have done. Watching the video it’s easy to tell what she SHOULD have done. In the heat of the moment? With her child to protect? I understand exactly what she did.
One more video. This one is my Apollo, at about the age of 1.5-2yrs of age. Watch it first without sound.
Tail’s going a mile a minute. Gotta be a happy excited dog right?
Now turn on your sound, turn up your bass (or if you’re watching on a mobile device, plug in your headphones, or you won’t hear a thing), and watch it again.
He was watching the cat I called Evil Kitty out the window. If you look you can actually see the cat at one point. He was actually quite pissed.
A wagging tail has more to do with excitement than friendliness. The dog might be wagging his tail hard cause he’s excited to see you. Or he might be wagging his tail hard cause he’s over-stimulated and excited to play and can’t stop. Or he might be wagging his tail hard cause he’s pissed and mad.
And for some reason this is something that many dog owners can’t seem to understand. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a madly excited charging dog, with the owner shouting behind “Oh, he’s friendly!”. Well, his tail was wagging, but that doesn’t make him friendly, sorry……
Dogs bite for a huge number of reasons. Actual aggression, fear, pain, prey drive, play…….a wagging tail isn’t a good indicator of whether a bite is likely to happen or not. The whole dog and the entire situation has to be looked at.