Perceived Danger for dogs – a Jan Fennell post

Once again I am really delighted to be able to share the words of original Dog Listener Jan Fennell on my blog.  This week she is addressing what is perceived danger for dogs. Please feel free to paste comments and questions which I will duly answer:

“When we think of a dog perceiving something or someone as being a danger to either them or their family, we tend to think of the dog barking loudly and becoming hyperactive. Most people have seen a dog that is running back and forth along the fence line (boundary running) letting the cause of its distress know in no uncertain terms that their presence is less than welcome.

However, there are many other ways that a dogs can show fear, we see this in the ones we know as ‘shutdown dogs’, these are the ones that have chosen to adopt the attitude of keeping their heads down by staying very quiet and even hiding out of sight. Wild dogs in Africa always use this tact as their world includes a number of much larger predators, who would think nothing of killing any dog that crossed their path, these include all of the big cats, Hyenas and the extremely aggressive Buffalo.

With domestic dogs this avoidance tactic will usually be accompanied by the licking of its lips, panting and perhaps, shaking but to better understand our dogs it is helpful to see the “shutdown” behaviour and the hyperactive response to perceived danger as being two sides of the same coin. They are both a reaction to exactly the same thing but manifested in a completely opposite response. There are also those dogs that display behaviours caused by the same problem but are very subtle and be completely missed or ignored by the owner.

I have been following the progress of a dog that was taken into a new home and given a second chance and he had a history of grumbling at people who tried to approach him. Of course, we all know that the simple answer is to stop people from doing this in the first place, as well as giving the dog a kind and non confrontational corrective message as a consequence of that action. As is usually the case, the dog in question has a number of issues, from jumping up at people to refusing to go out into the garden. Fortunately for this dog he is now living with a family that know and happily choose Amichien


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