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In this lesson, we'll go over ways in which you can stay safe while trying to help your dog. While it may seem unimaginable to you, your pet could turn on you if she feels threatened in an emergency. At the end of the lesson, we'll provide you with a Word about heat and dog safety.

The first rule of providing any kind of first aid is to ensure the safety of the first responders, and in this case, that means you. Before approaching your pet in an emergency, always check to make sure the scene or environment is safe and that you feel comfortable approaching.

The most common reason for a first responder to be injured trying to help an animal is from bites and scratches. Even the most well-behaved and docile dogs can become aggressive when they are afraid or in pain. Fortunately, if you should get bitten or scratched, the risk of transmission of an infectious disease from pet to human is very low.

Signs that Your Pet may Become Aggressive

That are some signs or indications that your dog may become aggressive with you during an emergency situation; these include, but are not limited to:

  • Growling
  • Baring or showing of teeth
  • Raised fur on the back and shoulders
  • Cowering or moving away
  • Urinating
  • Lip smacking

Warning: If you see any of these signs or other signs of aggression, do not approach your dog until you can get help or the animal calms down. It's important to mention one more time, this list is not complete.

Ways You can Stay Safe While Helping Your Dog

Ideally, in these types of situations, you'll have a Gentle Leader on hand. A Gentle Leader headcollar fits securely over your dog's nose. The nose loop redirects her head towards you when she pulls forward, which prevents her from pulling. It also helps you get her full attention.

Pro Tip: If you feel comfortable approaching your dog but you don't have a Gentle Leader, you can use a slip lead leash instead to achieve a similar result. Take the loop end of a slip lead and pass it over your dog's nose, mouth, and neck and pull it snug behind her ears.

Before transporting a dog in pain, it's also important to try and muzzle the animal. Take your appropriately sized muzzle and pass it over your dog's nose and clasp it in the back behind her ears.

If you don't have an appropriately sized muzzle, you can use a strip of gauze or some other soft material. Make a loop on one end, like you were beginning to tie a knot (but don't tighten). Pass that loop over your dog's snout and pull it snug, but not too tight. Cross it under her chin and tie it into a bow behind her ears. And make sure you can remove it easily if needed.

Watch the corresponding video for this lesson for practice.

If your dog becomes aggressive or more agitated while being muzzled, skip this step and attempt to transport your animal without one; just use common sense and heed the first rule from above – ensure your own safety first.

For small dogs, you can try to use a towel as a muzzle if you don't have one that fits. Cover the animals head with the towel and wrap your arms around your dog to restrain her. In this position, she won't be able to bite or scratch you.

In some cases, with smaller animals, you can grab the skin behind their neck – that loose scruff that mothers use to instinctively carry their pups around. This may help prevent your dog from turning to bite or scratch you.

Warning: It's worth mentioning again – it's always important to remember that if it's not safe to approach your dog, wait until you get help or the animal calms down on her own.

A Word About Heat and Dog Safety

With summer right around the corner – unless you're taking this course in December and apologies if that December weather is making you feel nostalgic for a picnic – it's important to keep your dog safe from the heat.

When it comes to humans, we have the ability to sweat. When this happens, that sweat evaporates and cools us off. With the exception of the pads on a dog's feet, they don't sweat, and even though the pads of their feet do sweat, the cooling powers are incredibly inefficient.

Dogs can move air around by panting, as you've probably observed. As they pant, air moves over their wet tongues and produces a similar cooling affect, but it's still much less effective than our human biological abilities to cool off.

For this reason, it's best to not let your dog get too hot in the first place. As you may have heard, prevention is the best form of medicine, and nowhere is that truer than with dogs and heat.

When a dog's temperature rises above 102.5°F, they begin to approach a danger zone, where a number of bad things can happen, like seizures, organ failure, brain damage, and even death. Check out our ProPetHero blog article to make sure this doesn't happen to your dog: 12 Tips to Help Dogs Cope with the Heat.