Why do dogs not like some Strangers and are OK with others

 

Dogs are nearly always suspicious of strangers who enter their owners’ homes and they greet them with a great deal of barking and sniffing. Some visitors have the knack of quickly calming them, while others seem unable to do so and may even be nipped or bitten.

What is the difference between them?

The answer lies mostly in the style of the visitors’ body movements. Some people have naturally smooth movements, their actions possessing a generally soft and flowing quality. Others are, by nature, rather tense and jerky. They tend to make quick, hesitant movements and these are much more likely to arouse the aggression of the dogs, because they are actions of the kind found in hostile or nervous canine encounters.

If the jumpy, twitchy person also fears dogs, the situation gets worse, because they will start making jerky retreat movements and these give signals to the dogs that automatically make them advance and possibly even attack. Pulling away from a barking dog, or performing any kind of rapid withdrawal movement, makes the dog feel suddenly superior and it responds accordingly.

By contrast, the person who ‘gets on with dogs’ tends to answer greeting with greeting, approaches them rather than withdraws, and offers them some form of gentle hand-contact. This can convert a noisy, barking dog into a fawning tail- wagger in seconds and, after the greeting ceremony is over, the dog will relax and cease to intrude on the newcomer’s space.

This only works, however, with dogs that are barking, or jumping up while tail-wagging. If, instead, the dog that greets you at someone’s front door is stiffly rigid, growling or snarling, and giving you a fixed stare, the only course of action is to stay very still and do nothing – neither advance nor retreat and hope that the dog’s owner will come to your rescue.

With such an animal the level of aggression is so high that it is dangerous to give off any signals at all, and complete immobility is the best way to reduce your visual impact on the animal. If you are alone and really worried about the dog’s mood, then giving a plaintive puppy whine or whimper might just defuse the situation by arousing the protective parental feelings of the home-defender.

There is no guarantee that this will work, because you are from an ‘alien pack’ and therefore not to be trusted. Fortunately, such extreme forms of hostile greeting are rare, unless a dog has been specifically trained to attack intruders. Most dogs simply bark and leap about when a visitor arrives, and they are a push-over for all but the most neurotic of visitors.

 

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