If you’ve ever tried this, you will know the feeling. Dogs will select different areas of the body as targets. It will frequently take place when someone bends down towards the dog or when the fog is jumping up.
A Dog Muzzle Punch is when a dog intentionally punches or bumps another dog human being, while his mouth is closed. It can be a slight nudge or a powerful push.
A muzzle punch can be quite powerful and may cause nose bleeds when the nose is struck. Muzzle punches may be an invitation to play on occasions, but frequently they are a warning to back off and the next step will be a bite.
If your dog runs up to a guest and muzzle punches him/her, it is important that this is not simply dismissed. This is a threat and a dog that can Muzzle Punch can equally be capable of snapping. A dangerous moment is when the visitor turns their back and walks away. You may think that this would have diffused a situation, but if a dog had been scared to attack before, it may now see the visitor as less scary and a target for a further attack and this time bite. You should watch your dog carefully at this point.
As I previously said, this behavior can sometimes occur when the dog is jumping up at someone. In this situation, you need to establish if it is a clear dog muzzle punch or just an accident that occurs with an over-excited dog who unintentionally muzzle punches the person they are jumping up at. Dog body language can sometimes be confusing and you need to look at any action in its context.
Dogs will frequently Muzzle Punch each other. Usually as an invitation to play. One dog may use Muzzle punches to the flanks of another dog as a way of convincing it to come and play, a light-hearted goading into joining in the fun.
Why Does My Dog Punch Me
I think it is helpful to look at some examples of occasions where Muzzle Punches occurred so that we can better understand what is going on. I found an account from the owner of a young Great Dane that had developed this habit, and where the owner described various incidents.
The owners say that the dog is very nervous in many situations, and is only really comfortable when in the presence of one or both of them. Normally the dog is well behaved but the events described are causing concern.
Example 1 – Screaming Children
The two owners were sitting on a large rock, eating some lunch. The dog was with them on a retractable leash. Suddenly around ten children came rushing by, whooping and screaming as they played. As the children ran by the dog muzzle punched one of the children. No snapping or, biting just a clinical punch.
It very much looks like the children running and making a lot of noise so close to the owners made the dog very uncertain as to their motives. It scared him and so he punched one of them as if to say “stop it, I don’t like this, keep away from my owners.” It is a matter of some concern because if the dog feels it is allowed to chastise the children, on another occasion he might choose to bite instead. Punch or Bite, they are both forms of aggression, and your dog should not feel free to display aggression.
Example 2 – A Family Party
In the second example from the same owner, the dog was laying on the sofa next to his favorite owner. The house was very noisy and lots of “strange” things were happening. Suddenly a four-year-old nephew walks past (close to the sofa). The dog does not get up but extends his neck and gives the child a Muzzle Punch. No barking to a showing of teeth.
In this case, it looks like the dog was feeling nervous because of all the unusual activity from the family party. It had finally found a bit of security sitting on the sofa with its owner and then along comes the four-year-old. The dog is warning the child not to come and spoil things, and is basically saying “leave us alone!” Once again it is the dog trying to control the situation through aggression. Next time it could be a nip.
Example 3 – The UPS Guy
Once again it is the same dog. This time the owner is in the front yard playing with the dog. He mailman speaks to the owner, pets the dog, and bends down to place the packages on the front porch. The dog unexpectedly runs up and nips the mailman on the side of the face. It doesn’t break the skin and luckily the mailman is cool about it.
The question here is whether or not the dog, in this case, was being aggressive. He had allowed the UPS guy to pet him and everything seemed fine, then suddenly he nips the guy on the side of the face. If it had been an aggressive attack, I would have thought that the dog would have broken the skin. Was this aggression or was it play? Obviously, either way, it is unacceptable.
This third incident is not quite the same as the other two. In both the first two incidents it was clearly an element of fear involved. The dog was nervous and did not appreciate the intrusion of the children. The dog responded to the perceived threat with a warning Muzzle Punch. The motivation of the third incident is inconclusive but as the owner said afterward, she could never completely trust the dog again and would have to use more restraints.
These were three examples of a dog using a Muzzle Punch. In the first two, it was the dog responding in a “measured way” to a threat. It did not bite or nip, but just gave a warning shot. Apparently, because it was afraid. Generally, you should never punish fear, as the dog will simply suppress the fear until it comes out in a major attack. Further training about what is and what is not acceptable behavior is required.
There is another type of Muzzle Punching that is quite common if you study the subject, and that is attention-seeking. You might be standing there and then all of a sudden, the dog will come up behind and “punch” the back of your leg. The dog is just reminding you it is there and demanding your attention. It may want to play, most likely, or just have you talk to it. It is not aggressive and simply a way of attracting attention.
As I said earlier, you have to consider the context, when looking at this behavior. The context defines the most likely reason. However, even if there is no aggressive intent with this type of behavior, it is something to be discouraged.
Chain of Aggression
Dogs that are aggressive can demonstrate this aggression in a variety of ways. Dogs rarely bite without any prior warning. You may not understand the warning but it is there. Here is a list of the various stages of dog aggression produced by the ASPCA. You will see that Muzzle Punching is about one-third of the way down the list, so is an early stage of aggression.
1. Standing very still, like a statue
2. A Low Guttural Bark
3. Charging at someone but not making actual contact
4. Mouthing, grabbing a hand but not exerting pressure
5. “Muzzle punch” striking with the close mouth muzzle
7. Baring teeth
8. Snarling, growling with bared teeth
9. Snapping, a bite that does not make contact
10. Quick nip, a light pressure bite that does not pierce the skin
11. A bite with more pressure, that punctures the skin
12. Bite with enough pressure that pierces the skin and leaves a bruise
13. Multiple bites that take place very quickly
14. Bite and then shakes the victim
Not all dogs will follow this sequence exactly but it serves to give an indication of the most probable series of events that will happen if there is no intervention. We can see that Muzzle Punching is number 5 out of 14 and not classed as severe aggression.
How To Stop A Dog From Muzzle Punching
Aggression must be countered and controlled. First, it is necessary to define why Does My Dog Punch Me. The aggression can be broadly classified as one of the following.
1. Territorial – Defending territory (from both friends and strangers alike)
2. Protective – If they believe that a family member or friend is threatened
3. Possessive – Tendency to guard toys, food, etc.
4. Fear – If the dog is afraid and cornered
5. Defensive – If afraid, the best defense may be an attack
6. Social – If the dog believes it is alpha it may be aggressive to a family who tries to challenge it.
7. Frustration – A dog who wants something but is stopped from getting it
8. Redirected – A dog angry at another dog and someone tries to intervene
9. Pain – The dog is in pain and grouchy because of the pain
10. Sex – competition for a mate
11. Predatory – Chasing and capturing fast-moving objects (running after cars)
Once you have identified the type of aggression being displayed, it is a matter of taking countermeasures to train the dog to act differently.
We have seen in this article that Muzzle punching can be an action that is either used to distance themselves from the attention they do not want, as in our examples, but can also be used to attract attention to demand attention. Confusing isn’t it. It is all a matter of context and then analyzing the reason for the behavior and working on that problem. Good luck and enjoy being a dog owner.
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