Why Dogs Bite, and How to Prevent it – Part One

The majority of dogs found in our homes are friendly, social, and well mannered pets. But some situations may cause the normally friendly family pet to act aggressive and to resort to biting to get its point across to the humans.

The reality is that most dog bites are from dogs known to the victim, either the family dog or neighbour’s dog. It is often through play that excites the dog that most dog bites occur.

Did You Know?

– Approximately 4.7 million people are bit (annually) in the U.S.A. That’s about 2% of the population!

– Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are more likely to be bitten by a dog than other age groups.

– The risk of being bitten by a dog increases if there is a dog in the home; the more dogs there are, the greater the risk.

– Men are more frequent victims than women.

Why a Normally Friendly Dog May Bite

– The dog is protecting a possession, food, or a resting place.

– The dog is protecting its owner or the owner’s property.

– The dog believes it is dominant over a family member or guest.

– The family member or guest has challenged the dog in a dominant manner such as leaning over the dog, moving into its space without permission, bending down and making direct eye contact, hugging it around the neck. etc.

– The dog is frightened and the human has threatened it in some way such as moving quickly, entering the dog’s space without acceptance,trying to physically move the dog, etc.

– The dog is in its senior years and has loss of eye site, hearing, etc. which makes it more sensitive to the environment and more likely to be startled easily. These dogs have little patience for children.

– The dog is injured, in pain, and uncomfortable which makes it less tolerant with human interaction.

– The dog has been teased by pulling its tail, ears, poking it etc.

– The dog has not learned bite inhibition and bites hard by accident when the humans offer affection, food or a toy to the dog.

– The human and dog are engaging in rough play and the dog gets overly excited. This usually results from slap fighting, grabbing at its feet, pushing its body away, etc.

– The human is viewed by the dog as a prey object to be chased, caught, and immobilized.

Early Warning Signs

If you believe that your dog is showing new signs of aggression, you should take your dog to the vet. A common reason that some dogs show aggression is because they are in pain. A vet can thoroughly examine your dog and rule this out.

If your dog is proven to be in good health, you should contact a professional dog trainer to help you get rid of or manage your dog’s aggressive behaviors.

Signs of an Aggressive Dog

Bearing its teeth to warn someone to not come near them.

Head is up high with its ears straight up

Tail is up high, towards the top of its back, it may mean that the dog is very excited and quite possibly aggressive at that time.

– Raising of its body position to appear taller, holding its head , tail and its ears up is showing a dominant stance.

– A very alert and still body posture normally is a sign that the dog is upset and may become aggressive.

– Dogs will attempt to get its head higher than another dog to show dominance, which can lead to aggression. The snapping of a dogs teeth is a sign of aggression.

Remember, just because your dog is wagging its tail at an approaching stranger or dog does not mean that he is about to be friendly. A wagging tail means your dog is happy about what he is about to do.

Big thanks to our good friend, Dave Walker (left) from Command Response Dogs and Ontario Search & Rescue Dogs for putting this article together for us. Dave has over 30 years’ experience training working dogs and family pets with over 6000 dogs trained. As a behaviorist he specializes in dog aggression issues and has been relied upon by families, breeders, dog rescue agencies, veterinarians, law enforcement K-9, and the courts regarding dog bites.

Photo Credit: kangal.ca

Photo Credit: dunckelvet.com

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