We have all encountered an aggressive dog in our lifetime, but what came first the angry dog or the frightened person?
A new survey compiled by the University of Liverpool says that your emotional state and overall personality may have more of an effect on whether a dog decides to bite than you think. This applies to both the owner of the dog and those who the dog encounters.
These findings go beyond previous records collected primarily from hospitals that only maintain medical history of critical bites. Instead of looking at the aftermath of a serious bite, the study aimed to discover why the dog became aggressive in the first place. So, they asked 694 real people questions based on their household situation, dog-ownership past, bite history, and personality traits.
It found that those who scored lower on an emotional stability test were more likely to be bitten. In addition, it revealed a correlation between the emotional habits of the dog owner and the dog.
Why do dogs react to our emotions?
The heightened senses of a dog’s biology have a lot to do with their actions. They easily pick up on social cues of the people they encounter. An already nervous dog may be motivated to react if they feel that they are threatened. A person with these nervous behaviors may be a trigger:
- Quick movements
- Accelerated heartbeat
- A quivering or high-pitched voice
- Running away can legitimize the dog’s fear
- An increase in hormones from sweat glands (yes, dog’s do smell fear!)
How to prevent being bitten by a dog?
We never truly know how a dog will react, especially when a lot of a dog’s behavior depends on their owner’s training abilities and personality traits. However, you can still be cautious and confident at the same time. If you show the dog, as an owner or as a passerby, that you are calm, then they mimic your emotional state. They are complex animals with an emotional past, so be patient and kind. If the dog still displays aggression, then you should not approach them and slowly back away while remaining calm.