KUSA - The death of a woman in Conifer who was mauled by her family's dogs has reignited a debate about how to prevent dog attacks.
Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Elise Christensen who says the most important thing is learning how to “read the signs” that your dog is having problems.
She says recognizing those signs through a dog’s body language may be the key to preventing attacks.
"The vast majority of the time, dogs who bite have a long history of telling people who know the difference that they're uncomfortable or feel threatened," Christensen said.
Christensen says dogs are constantly giving off hints to the mood. But that the trick is understanding their body language. She says dogs whose bodies are relaxed and seem to "wiggle" are often friendly, but dogs who stand still or appear “frozen” with tense muscles may be hinting at an attack.
Christensen says one of the biggest misconceptions about dog behavior is the wagging tail theory. She says just because a dog is wagging its tail doesn't necessarily mean it is approachable.
"Many dogs whose tails are wagging are actually just activated--which means they may be aggressive," she said.
Christensen says often times, dog owners are the ones who misinterpret a dog’s signals.
She says owners tend to overestimate their knowledge of their own dog and what “they like” -- which can lead to miscommunication and aggression.
"Just like you would never expect a partner in your marriage to never yell or be mad at you, it's very unrealistic to think that your dog may never threaten you even if you're closely bonded," she said.
Christensen says while some dog attacks are certainly unavoidable, education is the key to preventing many of them.
Another mistake Christensen says people make is getting involved in dog-on-dog attacks.
She says trying to break-up two fighting dogs can be the quickest way to get hurt. She recommends spraying water up a dog's nose, rather than trying to pull them apart.
Copyright 2016 KUSA