We really encourage our families to increase their Dog Aware skills by becoming in tune with their dog’s subtle responses. Ever notice a change in your dog’s behavior when someone approaches with a hat on? Sunglasses? Costumes? What about kids running around in snow suits? If you are expecting a baby to be visiting or living in your home then you want to keep in mind that subtle changes can decrease comfort or startle a dog.
This image is of me with a mask on. I got the ask to scare our teenage daughter and to just have fun. Unfortunately Oliver was let in from outside while I sat on the steps waiting to SCARE my daughter. Well….Oliver was not impressed. He was spooked and acted as such. As soon as I took it off he did some recovery head shakes to let that awkward moment go but he definitely was not pleased by this mask. He, of course, reacted to this sudden odd change in appearance.
Here is another example. My daughter walked in the room with this facial mask and I about jumped out of my skin. This contrasting look and change in appearance started me at first. We have to remember that just like people, some dogs are spooked or startled easily while others are not. Know your dog. Be Dog Aware and observant about their responses and what they mean. Dogs that are spooked can bite. This is not something to make light of or tease a dog with. It is something to be aware of so that you can respond accordingly or adapt a situation if you notice your dog is stressed, unsure or reactive in some way. It took us a minute to realize this was making Oliver uncomfortable too. He was coming up close and acting very uneasy with her. Then we both quickly realized it was the visual change he noticed and we were able to help him relax and take it in at his own pace with our support. In this situation it took kayleigh talking to him and her turning away from him when he came close. This allowed him time to really “know” it was her and settle down.
Can you think of examples that might involve young children? Please share!