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body language

Dog Bite in Denver


A dog bite to NBC news anchor, Kyle Dyer, has been in the news for the past few days. She was bitten in the face, on camera, during a live news show. The dog is in quarantine, the anchor had to have plastic surgery, and the owner is going to court. Many things went wrong for this to happen.


The dog is showing signs of stress

In a clip that’s only 25 seconds long, I counted about 11 lip licks. Max is in an environment with high distractions and people he doesn’t know. He looks away from the woman. About three times he’s panting and closes his mouth. His pupils are dilated. These are all signals that the dog is stressed. Everyone ignored these signals. When Ms Dyer finally moved even closer, he did the only thing he had left to make Ms. Dyer go away.


The owner doesn’t know the dog

Michael Robinson, the owner, is holding the collar tightly. He’s also ignoring Max’s stress signals. A local firefighter rescued the dog on Tuesday, Feb. 7 and he and the owner brought Max to the studio on Wednesday, the 8th. HUGE stress the man ignored. The owner should not have allowed anyone at all to physically interact with Max after all that.


In addition, Robinson received citations for not having his dog on leash, allowing the bite, and not being able to produce vaccination records.


Ms. Dyer was uninformed and inappropriate

The interview began with Ms. Dyer sitting in a chair facing Max’s back. Then she gets on her knees beside him and pets him constantly until the bite. As the interview progresses, she moves closer to Max with her body and her face. After about 25 seconds of constant petting, she moves her face very close to his face and Max bit her lip.


This happens far too often because people expect dogs to tolerate any behavior that is offered “with the intention” of being friendly. Dogs have no way of knowing what a person’s intention is. They only know their signals are being ignored and they need to escalate the communication.


Owners need to be advocates for their dogs and not put them into stressful situations. Learn your dog’s stress signals. Be able to tell when he’s nearing the point that communication needs to escalate. Know when your dog is afraid or has shut down, also. A dog that’s trying its best to be invisible is likely to bite quickly.


The Denver 9News staff is going to undergo training in how to safely interact with dogs, which should have happened before dogs started coming onto the set. Learning now may prevent future incidents similar to this bite.


Some simple guidelines offered by Matthew Levien, a behavior technician from Dumb Friend’s League, are the following:

  • Offer the side of your body instead of approaching the dog face to face.
  • Let the dog come to you instead of approaching it.
  • Let the dog get away from you, if it wants to.
  • If the dog turns its head or eyes away from you, look away from it.
  • Don’t treat anyone else’s dog as you do your dog. They don’t live with you.
  • If the dog has recently been through a stressful event, those chemical changes can last for days to weeks. Lower your expectations until the stress has passed.


 I hope Max doesn’t pay for everyone’s mistakes with his life.


Countermarking by Domestic Dogs Study

Anneke E. Lisberga, b, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author and Charles T. Snowdonb, 1

a Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, U.S.A.

b Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A.

Received 23 April 2010; 

revised 14 October 2010; 

accepted 23 December 2010. 

MS. number: A10-00557R. 

Available online 16 February 2011.


To investigate the social roles of countermarking in dogs, we measured tail base position (TBP, a measure of social status), adjacent-marking and overmarking responses of male, nonoestrous female, gonadectomized male and gonadectomized female dogs to controlled presentations of urine from unfamiliar dogs and social groupmates. We also recorded dog sex, TBP, countermarking and urine investigation at a park. In urine presentations, only males overmarked, intact males (but not gonadectomized males) preferentially overmarked intact female urine, overmarking males had higher TBP than males that did not countermark and urine familiarity did not affect overmarking. In contrast, dogs adjacent-marked only unfamiliar samples, and neither sex nor TBP significantly affected adjacent marking. Gonadectomy did not significantly change the likelihood of countermarking. In dog park observations, males and females marked at and investigated ‘scent posts’ comprised of serial countermarks, often associated with visual landmarks. Males and females were equally likely to countermark and investigate urine and countermarks made up a similarly large portion of countermarking for males and females. Males and females with higher TBP urinated, investigated urine, and countermarked more than same-sex dogs with lower TBP. These studies suggest that although intact males may overmark female urine in part to guard mates as previously hypothesized, both sexes, intact and gonadectomized, likely countermark competitively. Social and sexual patterns also suggest that overmarks and adjacent marks may be distinct signals.

Keywords: Canis; chemical communication; countermarking; dog; overmarking; scent marking; urine

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