Let's talk about 'Tail wagging' in dogs and how without our guidance in our human world, they can become dangerous.
The reason we decided to finally write this blog is because we've been seeing & hearing way too many times "My dog has never bitten before and there were no signs" or "His tail was wagging the entire time, my dog will never bite!" or "I've had him for 5 years since he was a puppy and he's never done that before."
We feel this will be valuable information to share with you today.
My dog's tail's wagging? Awesome! My dog's happy!
Unfortunately, it's not always true. We deal with aggressive dogs all the time and their tails can also wag when they are being challenging or before they lunge and there are ALWAYS signs of discomfort before the dog actually bites. We just have to pay closer attention and educate ourselves on what to look for when our dogs feel uneasy. That is why we are such HUGE advocate of training & changing 'state of mind' in dogs to a calmer state because calm dogs simply just make better choices. Excitability, arousal, fear, anxiety, insecurity can be hurtful and can quickly and I mean quickly, turn into aggression.
A dog that has not received training (clear structure, leadership, rules, accountability) is a ticking time bomb. Luckily some dogs just have a demeanor where they can handle any type of pressure from anyone and any dog and they'll still be okay for the rest of their lives. What we see often are dogs who are completely social, they have great interactions with others until they grow into adulthood, make different choices and that's when unwanted behaviors start to surface.
Quick little story we'd like to share:
We had a multi dog household that week, we had 4 dogs including our own 2 dogs on 'place'.
Shit hit the fan really quick when one dog decided to squeal from objection and it triggered 2 of our boarding dogs into a scuffle. Yes, unfortunately, it can happen to dog trainers too, truth is, it can happen to anyone. Have these two dogs been in boarding together before? Yes, and that is exactly our point. Dogs will be dogs. The good news is, we are always watching and we are always prepared for even the most unpredictable situations, so all dogs were handled safely and without any damage. We do our very best to protect and keep each dog safe and out of trouble but this is it guys, we wanted to be transparent and share this story because we feel like everyone needs to know that even with the best care possible and with our eagle-eyes always watching each dog - little triggers like opening a door too fast, moving in front of the dog too fast, a dog rushing into the house at the same time as another dog, another dog's vocalization etc. can trigger a scuffle/dog fight because they're simply just dogs. It's like going to a concert and accidentally bumping into the wrong person- I know some people that will try to fight you for it...Thing is, you just never know when, where, who...
All right guys...let's be realistic and remember that dogs are animals. We will say it over and over that they are animals and have predator instincts. We've seen it all from dogs biting their own household members (adults or kids), biting the other household dog, biting the 'known' friend's dog, biting the 'known' friend(s) that come over all the time, yet, the bite still happened. Why would the dog do that to someone he supposedly 'knows'? Simply because we are dealing with an animal. An individual. All dogs aren't okay with being pet, all dogs aren't okay with meeting strangers, all dogs aren't okay with other dogs, it doesn't matter if your dog has been able to be in a group of dogs in the past. Watch the dog that you have in front of you today, at this very moment. Every day is a new day. Some dogs adapt quickly, others just need more than a day to bond with another (for example, it took Indie 3 months to fully bond and trust our roommate while it only took Cubbie a few days). Do you trust someone right away? No. It takes time, it takes a special bond and relationship to be able to be fully trustworthy of someone. Same goes with our dogs. They are individuals too and they need our help and advocacy to be able to be good citizens in our human world. We can't just throw our dogs in a pack of unknown dogs/humans and expect them to tolerate them or be at their best behaviors. Dogs act out of instinct, not out of emotions. If they are put in a situation where they are uncomfortable, they will either flight or fight, it all depends on the dog's demeanor. We, personally teach our dogs to simply move away & we step in when things get uneasy, that way it keeps everyone out of trouble.
Another thing to me mindful of, when you are having people over at your house for dinner, for a birthday, for a holiday etc..adding unknown people or dogs can be extremely stressful for your dog(s). The best place they can be while you have guests over is in their crate (the safe place!). (Your dog doesn't understand that your sister is your sister nor does he understand that the dog he played with last week is his 'friend.' The only person/people the dog actually 'KNOWS' or is comfortable with, are the people living with him every day in the house, the people who are part of the 'pack').
[BTW when a dog nips or bites the human in the pack - what the dog is telling ya is that there has been no one leading and he is in charge, in other word- the dog is bossing you around- so if you have a dog that is biting you or showing aggression towards you or other dogs/people - contact a professional dog trainer asap]
So to recap, dogs will always show signs of discomfort before they bite, tail wagging doesn't necessarily means the dog is 'happy', be mindful of the dog you have in front of you, be a leader and advocate for your dog in stressful situations whether it is with new dogs, new people. Socialization doesn't mean your dogs have to play, co-existence comes first. Some dogs need more than a day to be comfortable with new people/dogs. Not all dogs are friendly or want to meet other dogs. We don't live in a fairy tale world, we live in a real world. Get to know your dog(s) They're all one of a kind. Just like us.