The relationship between human beings and dogs goes back more than 30,000 years. Before that, there is evidence that humans may have lived closely with grey wolves, from which dogs are descended, for roughly 70,000 years. While the partnership is an ancient one, the genetics and instincts of even the most docile dog are still closely related to those of the grey wolf. Humans have not mastered the relationship either, regularly making mistakes in how to interact with dogs that can lead to attacks.
Behaviors more closely associated with wolves are still present in dogs. Dogs are pack animals that exhibit territorial and defensive behaviors in certain circumstances. Dogs may take time to acclimate to new people. They often feel threatened when someone who is not a member of their established “pack” enters their territory. Dog owners should be cautious about how their animal is introduced to a new person.
While many adults can tell when a dog is threatened or is headed toward an aggressive encounter, children do not have the experience to make such a determination. Children often do not understand that a dog may perceive them as a threat and respond accordingly. The inability of a child to understand or respect a dog’s boundaries is a primary reason why young people are the victims in a disproportionate number of dog attacks.
Tomorrow, we will discuss what to look out for when it comes to preventing dog bites.
Source: Ravalli Republic, “Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to dog bite injuries,” by John Holtzen, D.M.D., 29 January 2013