Making sure that people are safe around dogs. Weekly podcast from Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

This week’s podcast discusses the reasons why dogs may be aggressive, and the steps that people can take to ensure that they – and their families- are safe around dogs. Listen to the podcast below to find out more.

Why is it so important to be safe around dogs if you don’t own one?

Though you may not have a dog yourself, research indicates that 40% of Irish households own a dog, so the chances of encountering a dog while visiting a relative or out in the community are quite high. For the sake of human safety and animals integrating well into our lives, it’s important that all Irish adults and children know more about dog behaviour.
Many incidents of apparent aggression from dog to human could easily be prevented if people knew more about how dogs behave. In particular, an understanding of dog body language can allow humans – young and old – spot when a dog is feeling tense and anxious, and this can allow people to back off,or to otherwise change a situation so that a potential incident is defused.

Dogs Trust have launched a new campaign to help people and dogs

Dogs Trust, Irelands largest dog welfare charity, has this week launched “Be Dog Wise”, an awareness week on Responsible Dog Ownership. The charity run two successful programmes ‘Be Dog Smart’ and ‘Be Dog Confident’ which deliver practical and informative workshops to both parents and children.
As part of their “Be Dog Wise” awareness week on responsible dog ownership, Dogs Trust are hosting a variety of workshops in their Rehoming Centre in Finglas over the summer months. The charity is inviting parents and guardians, and expectant parents and guardians to attend a workshop on how to help ensure their children are safe around dogs both indoor and out and about.

What sort of tips are suggested in Dogs Trust dog safety workshops?

While most dogs make wonderful family pets, Dogs Trust reminds parents to always supervise play time between children and dogs. You can’t just let young children wander around the same living space as unrestrained dogs. Children can behave unpredictably, doing silly things like grabbing a dog’s ear, or seizing the tip of the tail. It’s no wonder that dogs sometimes react negatively
The ‘Be Dog Smart’ workshops outline 21+ warning signs that a dog might display, which can give dog owners advance warning that their dog may be uncomfortable in a situation.
By teaching adults about a dog’s body language, they can be given the opportunity to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation which can in turn decrease any unfortunate incidents happening.

Warning signs of dogs getting socially uncomfortable

It’s worth going through these warning signs in detail, but they include:


  • Cowering with wide eyes and flat ears are signs that your dog might be frightened and this could
  • lead to defensive bites. The back might be lowered and the tail down between the legs.
  • Stiffening and straightening of the body can also be a sign of fear


  • Growling should not be ignored. Even if your dog has never bitten before, your dog is trying telling you something. Don’t deter your dog from growling either. It is an important warning sign to express their feelings instead of going straight to a bite.
  • Showing of teeth, barking and flat ears can all be indications of anger in your dog.
  • Anger leads to aggression, so identifying when your dog is angry is very important to staying safe.


Warning signs that your dog might be under stress include:

  • Licking their lips when no food is nearby.
  • Panting when they are not thirsty or hot.
  • Acting sleepy or yawning when they shouldn’t be tired.
  • Suddenly refusing to eat when they were hungry earlier.
  • Pacing the room


  • If your dog is trying to move away from you or your child, or is trying to leave the room, allow your dog the opportunity to do so.
  • Do not let your child follow or continue to engage with your dog. Otherwise, this could lead to growling, snapping or, at worst, a warning bite.

How can these workshops be booked?

The ‘Be Dog Smart’ workshops are designed for both children and adults. They cover important topics such as how to prepare your dog for a new baby, simple training tips to help train your dog, advice to encourage children to be gentle when playing with dogs and tips for how to create a more social dog, making for a happier dog in new situations.
As well as hosting these workshops at their own centre in Finglas, the charity is also doing work in the community: if you would like Dogs Trust to visit your school or community venue please see to book a workshop.

You can also download FREE resources to learn more safety and responsible dog ownership tips, as well as some of the 21+ warning signs to be aware of so you can identify when a dog is feeling uncomfortable.

Questions from listeners about pets

As usual, listeners sent in questions about their own pets, which this week included:

  • The black skin around my dog’s mouth seems all folded on itself, and it’s hard and crusty. What should I do?
  • Why does my seventeen year old cat just suck the juice off the wet food, throwing that harder pieces around without eating them. She refuses dry food completely. What could be going on?
  • My Westie had TPLO surgery last month and she is still not using her leg properly. What can I do to get her using the leg?
  • I am moving house soon. How can I ensure that my cat adapts to his new home, and doesn’t stray?
  • My two year old cat is shedding an enormous amount of hair. What can I do to stop this, apart from brushing regularly?

To listen to Pete’s answers, listen to the podcast below.

You can also watch Pete’s “Ask the Expert” video session.

Listen to the podcast:

Start Podcast

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

Privacy | Terms and Conditions