Human beings have survived for thousands of years by assuming the worst.
Not every sound in the forest is a saber toothed tiger, though. And not every dog that flinches has been abused.
3 Things That Make A Dog Flinch (Besides Abuse)
1. Clumsy Owners
When I walk into a room carrying an awkward or heavy object, Honey clears out. I can assure you we have never hit her with anything.
But I’m as graceful as a stripper wearing seven-inch heels playing rugby in the mud. I stumble. I drop stuff. And I fall on my a$$.
When I enter a room with a big box, Honey has found her best defense is to yell “Timber” and flee the scene.
2. Poor or No Socialization
If a puppy has happy experiences with objects, experiences, and people when they’re young, they’re less likely to fear them when they’re older. Just like children, puppies gain resilience by learning how to handle new situations in a supportive home.
A puppy raised in a home with people who never go for a walk won’t have that base for resilience.
So you’ll find a dog who is perfectly comfortable with the Real Housewives or Duck Dynasty (hmmm, maybe that is abuse after all) but knows nothing about joggers, bicycles, or large trucks.
3. A Shy Personality
Some people are daredevil adventurers. Some people get scared riding the bus.
Dogs are the same.
One person jumps out of her skin when a car honks. Another keeps texting while two taxis, a bicycle, and a rickshaw collide in a cacophony of sound after trying to avoid the mindlessly texting pedestrian crossing against the light.
One dog flinches every time a person makes an unexpected move toward his head. Another just wags when you nuzzle him with your face, turn him upside down, and blow raspberries on his belly (don’t try this at home).
Some of us startle more easily than others.
Was This Dog Abused?
A few kind-hearted people commented at A Day in the Life of a Foster Dog that it sounded like Titus had been abused. And that’s why he preferred not to have me reach over his head.
But the folks at the SPCA didn’t tell me that. And I have no reason to believe his fear is caused by abuse and not any of the other things that can cause a dog to flinch.
I suspect that many more people are ignorant toward animals than cruel. Not that ignorance doesn’t do a lot of damage. But I don’t want to live in a darker world than I have to.
Two years ago, I wrote Telling Stories About Your Rescue Dog in which I talked about the problems we cause when we assume every rescue dog has a horrible past. And as usual, the comments were even better, confirming that we all have a tendency to create stories when we don’t have much information.
I’ll avoid making up stories for Titus and just work with the behavior he’s showing me.
After all, telling myself he doesn’t want me to put drops in his ears because someone mistreated him doesn’t get those drops in his ears any faster. But patience and a few bits of liver might.
Thank you to everyone who commented on yesterday’s post about our new foster dog, Titus. I really appreciated the well wishes and good advice that I’ve already started to use. You’re the best!
Your Turn: Have any of your dogs flinched or cowered without being abused? What do you think caused it?