5 Times When You Shouldn’t Pet a Dog | Scott Goodwin Law

5 Times When You Shouldn’t Pet a Dog

by / Monday, 01 August 2022 / Published in Dog Bites
A woman trains a dog while outdoors.

All dogs can bite. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small chihuahua, a big great dane, or something in between. You can try very hard to find a well-mannered breed that will get along well with your children and the potential for a bite will still exist. Even if you’re very familiar with a dog and know it to have a very happy, easygoing, friendly disposition, there are still some situations when they could potentially lash out and bite someone. So what are some times when you should be careful about petting or approaching a dog?

The Dog Isn’t Feeling Well

Nobody ever wants to be bothered when they aren’t feeling well. Being sick or injured can be extremely upsetting for dogs and put them “on guard” because they feel vulnerable. They likely won’t want to play and may be less receptive to being petted, even if you mean well and want to soothe the dog. This is why it’s highly recommended to not allow young children to be around a sick or injured dog without supervision. A young child may not understand why the dog doesn’t want to play and may get too rough with the dog.

The Dog is Caring for Puppies

Having a newborn to take care of is very overwhelming. This is true both for humans and for dogs. It’s natural for new dog parents to feel very protective of their puppies and want to focus on caring for them. While puppies can be extremely exciting to be around, especially for young children, this is a time when it’s best for everyone to give the dog some space to do what they need to do. This is another occasion when it’s very important for young children in particular to be supervised while near a dog taking care of puppies. 

The Dog is Eating

Dogs can be protective of many different things in addition to puppies. Resource guarding is a common issue that occurs when a dog demonstrates signs of aggression (growling, chasing people/animals away, air snapping, biting) if they feel that something important to them is being threatened. This can include things like toys, a bed, or, very often, food and treats. Some used to recommend petting a dog who is protective of their food as a way to help them understand that it might not be a bad thing to be touched while eating. But this is now generally not recommended and other approaches may be more effective. Even if a dog isn’t showing signs of food guarding, many dogs simply don’t like being touched while they’re trying to eat. 

The Dog is Sleeping

The old saying about letting sleeping dogs lie exists for a reason. Dogs can be easily startled if they’re in a stage of deep sleep when they’re woken. When a dog is suddenly woken up, they may be dazed and unsure of what’s going on, which can make them more likely to bite the person nearest to them if they feel threatened. The American Kennel Club notes that this can be more common in older dogs who may not be able to see or hear very well. If you must wake up a sleeping dog, do so as gently as possible. 

The Dog is Showing Signs of Anxiety or Fear

There are many reasons why a dog might feel stressed out. They might be in an area with more activity than they’re used to. They might be nervous about being around a new person. A loud noise may have frightened them. Regardless of what is causing the stress, it’s important to know the signs that may clue you in to their feelings. If a dog is nervous, they may try to hide, even if it’s just behind their owner, try to turn away from the stressor, or start pacing around. You might also notice a change in posture – becoming stiff or cowering, their tail rigid or between its legs, ears alert, An anxious dog might also shake like they would after a bath, yawn when they aren’t tired, start licking a lot, pant when they aren’t hot, or start whining/barking. You might also see signs of stress in a dog’s eyes, with “whale eye” becoming visible. 

While it’s good for everyone to be aware of signs that a dog is stressed, it’s particularly important for a dog’s owner to understand how stress shows in their pet so that they can promptly remove their dog from the situation before they lash out. 

Contact a Michigan Dog Bite Lawyer

Regardless of why a dog bites or attacks, the dog’s owner has a responsibility to keep their pet under control so that they don’t cause harm to anybody else. Michigan has a strict liability dog bite law which means dog owners are responsible for bite injuries their dog causes, even if the dog doesn’t have a history of aggressive behavior. 

If you’ve been injured by a dog, don’t hesitate to contact a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. When you contact a lawyer, you’ll be able to get answers to questions about your case and learn more about your options. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to speak to a Michigan-based lawyer experienced in helping victims of dog attacks get the justice they deserve. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / Vladimir Vladimirov