CAPITAL DISTRICT The American Veterinary Association estimates about 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and roughly 800,000 of those bites require medical attention. But according to Diane Blackman, a dog trainer for 15 years, some of those could be easily prevented if people know how to read a dog’s body language.
“Dog’s don’t lie, so if they’re telling you they need more space, honor that. If they’re telling you to come in, then go in,” said Blackman.
Blackman owns All Dawgs Training Services in Latham, where she helps owners get a handle on dogs who could benefit from a little extra discipline. She said learning to communicate with dogs is simple and in honor of National Dog Bit Prevention Week (May 20 to 26), she’s holding a free presentation at the Pine Hills Branch Library in Albany on Thursday, May 10, to share some tips.
“I would definitely encourage people to come out. The more you learn the more you’ll be able to have a positive experience with your dog,” said Blackman.
Blackman said all dogs speak the same language, regardless of the breed. That means a sweet golden retriever and a dominant pitbull are equally easy to read once you know what to look for.
Stress signals can convey positive or negative emotions, so it’s important to know what to look for to distinguish between the two, she said.
If a dog is seeking more “social distance” or space, they might have pinned back ears, their tail could be tucked, they might yawn, lick their lips, curl their teeth or “freeze” which is where their whole body goes still and they get what Blackman called “whale eyes.”
“The head and body don’t move together so you can see the sharp distinction between the pupil and the rest of the eye,” said Blackman.