- Insider asked veterinarians about how dog owners may accidentally be upsetting their pets.
- Tight hugs and prolonged starting contests can actually stress out your pup.
- Even simple activities like vacuuming can irritate dogs.
Good dog owners want to keep their pets healthy and happy, but communication between pups and people isn’t always straightforward.
So Insider asked veterinarians about the things dog owners do that could be making their pets angry or irritated.
Blowing on your dog can cause aggression
Veterinarian Agni Voutsinou, cofounder of the pet-wellbeing app Strelka, told Insider that many dogs hate when their owners accidentally or intentionally blow air in their faces.
“Blowing air can startle and confuse dogs,” Strelka said. “It can be misinterpreted as an aggressive behavior and even cause snapping.”
Voutsinou added that blowing air can dry out a dog’s nose and cause a disorienting loss of their sense of smell.
Prolonged staring can be perceived as a threat
Veterinarian Michelle Burch of Safe Hounds Pet Insurance told Insider that staring into your dog’s eyes may make them very uncomfortable.
“Initiating a staring contest with your dog while you are stiff and not moving can anger your pet,” Burch said. “It can signal that you are a potential threat.”
Burch recommended only looking into a dog’s eyes for a few seconds before diverting your gaze to avoid being seen as aggressive.
Some dogs may be uncomfortable around children
Veterinarian Stacy Choczynski Johnson of Pumpkin Pet Insurance told Insider that some dogs may experience anxiety around young guests.
“Some pets don’t enjoy being bombarded by the attention of unruly children,” Choczynski said. “It can lead even otherwise calm pets to lash out.”
Choczynski recommended making sure your dog has a kid-free area to retreat into if they struggle to cope with children.
Dogs can get angry when their sleep is disturbed
“Pets that have their sleep interrupted can become irritated,” Burch said. “This can happen when owners move them or loud children enter a room.”
Burch added that older dogs may be more prone to sleep-disruption irritation due to impaired hearing, which may make them more scared by the sudden change.
Hugging can make a dog uncomfortable
A tight embrace can cause a dog to become angry and distressed.
“Most dogs actually don’t enjoy hugs, as placing your arms around their body can be perceived as a threat,” Burch told Insider.
Simply allow your dog to cuddle against you on their own terms without forcing yourself into their space.
Vacuuming the house may be triggering your dog’s anger
“Dogs hear much more acutely than humans, which means that loud sounds like vacuuming can make them stressed and even angry,” Voutsinou said.
To help keep your dog comfortable, place them in another room while you vacuum or arrange for them to be taken for a walk.
Pushing a shy dog to socialize with other pups or people may cause more harm than good
“It’s important not to force dogs to socialize when they don’t want to, as this can lead to anger and aggression,” Voutsinou said.
According to Voutsinou, if your dog seems to fear socializing, you should simply go out for more walks and spend time in crowded parks to help them get more comfortable around others.
Dogs don’t like being pulled away from interesting smells
“Outdoor smelling helps dogs connect with other dogs and is a part of their natural instincts,” Voutsinou told Insider. “Preventing this behavior can lead to anger.”
Try to schedule enough time for walks to allow your dog to indulge their natural scent curiosity.
Pinch or choke collars may cause anger and health issues
Choke and pinch collars are meant to deter a dog from pulling on their leash by squeezing their neck — but these can actually be harmful.
“Pinch and choke collars can cause a wide range of undesirable behaviors, anger, and even respiratory concerns,” Choczynski said.
These collars should especially be avoided in breeds that are predisposed to tracheal collapse (which severely compromises the dog’s airways), such as pugs.
So instead, Choczynski recommended using a body harness with a leash clip on the chest.
Negative reinforcement can upset dogs
Negative reinforcement is the practice of punishing a dog to deter them from unwanted behavior, but Burch said it may not have the desired effect.
“This technique can make your dog mad and actually create aggression rather than appropriate behavior,” Burch told Insider.
Instead of relying on punishment to correct bad habits, try rewarding your dog with positive attention each time they demonstrate good behavior.