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Walpole learns about dog safety

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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

“Wanna see my dog?” Cathy Acampora asked the eager audience. Audience members, made up of both people and canines, were excited to see this demonstration.

On Wednesday, September 18, excited library patrons came to the Walpole Library Community Room for a dog safety demonstration designed to teach them about forming better relationships with their beloved companions. Merida, a collie, helped owner Cathy Acampora with the demonstration, along with Caleigh Brown and her dog, Gromit, a young Bernese mountain dog.

Acampora, author of “Please Don’t Hug Me,” began by sharing some concerning statistics with the audience. There are 6 million dogs in America and 4 million dog bites reported each year. “Now I’ve given you the statistics. Would you like to learn to avoid this?” she asked.

Acampora started by going over the different body language of an unhappy dog. The most common misconception is that a wagging tail means a dog is happy. If a dog’s tail is wagging, does it mean that they are happy?

The surprising answer is no, they aren’t. A slow wag may indicate that a dog is uncomfortable or cautious about a situation.

Cathy Acampora and her dog, Merida, demonstrate the correct way to approach a dog.

Cathy Acampora and her dog, Merida, demonstrate the correct way to approach a dog.

Acampora then moved on to tell her audience about how a dog communicates with its mouth. If a dog shows its teeth, then it’s likely thinking about biting. A dog yawning doesn’t always mean that a dog is tired - it can also be a release for a dog in a stressful situation. When a dog has one tooth sticking out of its mouth, it can often be warning whatever or whoever it doesn’t want to touch it. Often, showing one tooth is a sign of resource guarding in dogs. To prevent resource guarding tendencies from forming, Acampora recommends practicing taking away items - like food and toys - from puppies. “You should prepare for these situations, because you never know,” she advised.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the presentation was Acampora’s observation that many dogs don’t actually like to be hugged. If a kid hugs a dog, it puts them out mouth level for the dog, making it easy for a bite to occur. While we view hugging as a sign of affection, hugging is actually similar to how a predator would aim to attack a dog’s neck.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to pet a dog, but there are changes that can be made to do so safely. Acampora provided a step-by-step way to avoid being bitten by a dog. By standing three feet away with your hands by your side, you appear far less threatening to a dog. Dogs can smell you from far away; you don’t need to hold your hand out for them to sniff you and decide if they want to meet you. This is especially important for kids. “Be far away when you ask, because you don’t know if they don’t like kids,” said Acampora.

Most importantly, you should always ask the owner if you can meet their dog, because they probably know the animal better than anyone.

If we pay attention to these signals, we can have a better relationship with our dogs and prevent a bite.

We can also make sure our dogs have happier, bite-free lives.

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