Growing up, those first three words were infallibly expressed right before a girl fight was about to break out. In making a joke about fighting (that very much dated me) to my 14 year old son, the phrase came up and he had no clue what it meant. After a brief enlightenment, I went on to further explain to him that it holds a completely different meaning now for me in my profession. It’s not the 80’s anymore and they aren’t the same hoops, (luckily) but I still love and wear them. When working with potentially bitey dogs, I take them out for the same reason girls back in the day would ask a friend nearby to hold her hoops. No one wanted ripped earlobes and no matter how ready two girls were to go at it, it was a mutual understanding that everyone’s hoops came off first. Once the ears were clear, no holds barred.
So how does a girl fight have anything to do with behavior modification in dogs? The statement “you have to dress for the job” holds true in working with animals too. Though more specifically, you have to dress for the dog. Being prepared for individual cases is key. What you wear for the occasion is no exception.
Bitey dogs tend to be grabby when stressed and they grab things like loose clothing, dangling items, or anything that happens to be an easy catch to land that frustrated or scared bite — be it a warning or an “I mean business” bite. The less clothing and accessories available to grab, the less likely you are to get grabbed. Additionally, it’s a lot less distracting and concerning for an anxious (or overly confident) dog to not have flowy blouse arms that move when you talk with your hands or your favorite blue and yellow scarf with the fringes that catches the eye when you turn your head.
When working with potentially aggressive dogs, no matter the reason for the aggression, it’s good practice to wear tight fitting clothing, tight fitting jewelry (if any at all), and closed toed, non-slip, flat shoes. Avoid glasses, sunglasses, hats, and any other accessory that hides any of your features initially. Yes — I recognize at the time of writing this that there is an ongoing pandemic requiring face masks in public, however, I would still not recommend putting a face mask on without the dog you are working with seeing you do so, after meeting with him or her first. Safety first for certain, however, when working with dogs that have the potential to act out aggressively, allowing them to see your facial features well before you slip behind a mask could be considered a safety measure as well.
So though you look super cute in those Ippolita classics you saved up for, or your wife just bought you a killer Italian handmade tie you want to show off — save the showy for the simple and keep the simple for the showy (teeth that is).