A SHOWER of kisses from your dog means they love you, right? Not quite.

While little licks and a smile can be signs of affection, both can also indicate a pup might be about to pounce.

Canine behaviourist Debby Lucken has revealed the signs that a dog might be about to pounce


Canine behaviourist Debby Lucken has revealed the signs that a dog might be about to pounceCredit: Debby Lucken / Kids Around Dogs
The list includes 'puppy dog eyes' with the whites very visible


The list includes ‘puppy dog eyes’ with the whites very visibleCredit: Debby Lucken / Kids Around Dogs

It turns out there are many signals to look out for when it comes to understanding how your pet is feeling.

And, according to experts, this has never been more important get a grasp on.

Deadly dog attacks are on the rise in the UK, with the number of killer cases doubling in the last two years.

Animal welfare charities have blamed the mauling epidemic on lockdown “impulse buys” – and children are among those most at risk.

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Thankfully, there are some simple rules to follow when bringing families and pets together – and behaviours to look out for which could indicate potential danger.

Canine behaviourist Debby Lucken has revealed how hounds use their bodies to tell us they are stressed or uncomfortable.

The 42-year-old, founder of Kids Around Dogs which helps families train their pets and live in harmony together, said: “Learning the language of dogs is essential.

“Dogs communicate with us all the time. They tell us whether they are happy, sad, angry and more, just like us, but it’s vital to remember they don’t communicate in the same way we do.

“Everyone, including children, should be able to recognise some canine body language to make sure their dogs are not getting too stressed out and uncomfortable so that dog-related injuries can be prevented.

“Here are some tips for families to help them navigate the summer holidays, considering the wellbeing of both their kids and their dogs.”

Firstly, Debby, from Poole, Dorset, suggests keeping an eye out for any of the following signals which can indicate stress.

Lip-licking when there is no food around, yawning when not in bed, and shaking their body off when not wet are all signs of discomfort.

Scratching for extended periods of time when there is no clear health issue, or giving “puppy eyes” with the whites very visible, could also precede a pounce.

Another perhaps surprising way for dogs to let us know they are uncomfortable is by giving us lots of “kisses”.

This usually happens when we move very close to them or when we pick them up.

They might repeatedly lick us to make us turn our head away or even move away completely, which, when you think about it, works very well.


CANINE behaviourist Debby Lucken suggests looking out for the following signals which can indicate stress:


  • Licking lips with no food around
  • Yawning when not in bed
  • Shaking body off when not wet
  • Scratching for long periods
  • ‘Puppy eyes’ with whites clearly visible
  • Repeated kisses or licks


  • Pinning ears back
  • Crouching/lowering body to floor
  • Tensing body
  • ‘Smiling’


Debby said: “Generally speaking, these signals serve as initial ways of telling us how they feel and asking us to stop what we’re doing.

“If we don’t listen, or we don’t recognise the signs, they will have to step up their ways of speaking to us.”

This can include moving their ears back as if pinning them to their head, or lowering their body to the floor.

Crouching down to make themselves smaller is also a sign, as is tensing the body up as if frozen with their mouth closed.

“Many dog owners mistake this for a smile, but really it is tension,” Debby said.

When these signals fail, dogs will then move on to more obvious ones, such as growling or baring their teeth.

If a dog gets to this stage, it means they are very uncomfortable – but they are still trying to politely tell us to go away or stop what we’re doing.

Debby said: “Should your dog growl, please refrain from telling them off as they are merely delivering a warning.

“In fact, if we don’t listen to those warning signals or if we tell them off, dogs will have little choice but to step up the conversation and they might resort to biting.”

A dog in discomfort - 'smiling' with its ears pinned back and tension around the neck


A dog in discomfort – ‘smiling’ with its ears pinned back and tension around the neckCredit: Debby Lucken / Kids Around Dogs
Another dog showing signs of stress with white eyes and its ears pinned back


Another dog showing signs of stress with white eyes and its ears pinned backCredit: Debby Lucken / Kids Around Dogs
A yawning pug which could also be about to pounce


A yawning pug which could also be about to pounceCredit: Debby Lucken / Kids Around Dogs

Dogs’ bites have different severities of strength, and according to the Dunbar Dog Bite Scale, there are six.

Level one is snapping where there is no actual skin contact, and level six is severe bites which can be fatal – but a low level doesn’t mean owners are faster than their dogs.

Debby said: “Canines are speedy and if they want to bite, they will; humans are simply not quick enough to avoid that.

“However, bites can be avoided by listening to and observing their body language and behaviour.”

She added: “Generally speaking, dogs do not want to bite or fight as this affects their survival instinct and having a peaceful life is far more advantageous.

“But if they feel too uncomfortable, threatened, or that they have no other options, they might resort to hurting someone, even if it’s someone they love.”


AS the school holidays approach, Debby Lucken, founder of Kids Around Dogs, has revealed five ways to ensure children stay safe around their furry friends:

  1. Change walk times before school finishes
  2. Keep hands away from mouths – e.g. long tug toys
  3. Get kids to help with meal times and snacks
  4. Add Walnut Bach Flower remedy to water bowl
  5. Never leave children and dogs unsupervised

As well as the behaviour signals to look out for, Debby also has five simple things parents can do to keep their kids safe around dogs.

Firstly, she suggests changing the time of day you walk the dog before kids break up for the summer holidays.

Any sudden disruption to a dog’s routine can be difficult so this minimises the opportunity for stress.

Debby said: “The school summer holidays are upon us and children will be around their family dogs more often during the day, which is a big change in the routine for pets.

“They may be very used to having their walk at a certain time of day, which might not be possible with kids not in school.

“While this might not seem like a big deal to us, it might be for some dogs, so I would recommend changing the time of outings before school is out, even just a little at a time, so when the children are home it won’t seem so big anymore.”

Another simple trick is to get youngsters involved with meals and snacks for their dogs.

She suggests getting kids to help prepare a weekly menu, or filling a KONG toy with food to help keep hounds amused when needed.

Thirdly, Debby swears by Walnut Bach Flower remedy.

She said: “Adding a couple of drops to a dog’s water daily can be extremely beneficial as it is a very efficient remedy when having to  deal with changes in life.”

Fourth on the list is simply keeping tiny hands away from dogs’ mouths by using specific toys.

Debby said: “Kids might want to interact with their dogs more when they’re not in school which might be overwhelming for the pet.

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“The best thing to do is to make sure interactions are appropriate, like playing with longer tug toys so the teeth are at a safe distance.”

And finally, Debby says you should never children children and dogs unsupervised – no matter how much the family trusts either.

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