When a dog bites, there are two victims–the person bit and the dog. Dogs who bite may be taken away from their family or put down, even though it is rare that the bite was unprovoked. Any dog may bite for a number of reasons, and it is important to understand these reasons and see the signs in order to prevent injury.
Why do dogs bite?
Dogs don’t always like to share, so it is best not to approach them when they have a toy, food, bone, or something else they really enjoy. If you had a yummy snack and someone sn
atched it away you’d be pretty upset, wouldn’t you? Dogs don’t always know that it’s not OK to say, “No!” with a nip. Caretakers can teach dogs not to be aggressive when people take their belongings away, but if you don’t know the dog very well it is best to be cautious by asking permission to pet the dog, and waiting for him or her to approach you first.
Another reason for a dog to bite is because they are afraid. Not all dogs are comfortable with humans; we are much larger and can be threatening to them. Never approach a dog that you do not know without the owner’s permission. In fact, letting a dog decide when it’s ready to visit with you by allowing them to approach you is the best way to make friends! Do not put out your hand for it to sniff or just start petting it–wait until the animal shows interest in you. A dog may become afraid if it feels crowded or cornered, so stand back and allow them to come to you when they are comfortable. Here is a great example of the right (and wrong) ways to greet a dog.
Sometimes, a strange large creature (you!) moving quickly may trigger a dog’s prey instinct and it could begin to chase. Instead of trying to get away from the animal just stop and stand still looking towards the dog but avoiding eye contact. It will probably quickly lose interest. If the dog does knock you over curl up in a ball and protect your face and ears while staying quiet and still.
Dogs with health concerns are more likely to bite than others. If a dog is sore and you touch that spot it is liable to snap in pain. Sudden aggression in a dog can be a sign that it has a health problem. Mothers can become very protective of their puppies, so make sure they have a safe place to be and be very careful when handling puppies in front of their mother. Never let children handle puppies around the mother dog!
How to prevent a dog bite
Dogs demonstrate signs before a bite that you should be aware of:
- Ears pinned back and raised hair on their backs;
- “Frozen” stance or “whale eyes” (showing the whites of their eyes);
- Excessive yawning, licking of the lips and shaking to get rid of the stress.
If a dog is showing these signs, they are warning you to back off. If pushed further, they may resort to biting. Dogs will never bite without showing these signs first, but they can go from 1 to 10 in a matter of seconds, so it is important to be educated on what to look for and how to react. Here is a great depiction of these warning signs.
It is important for people to raise their dogs in such a way as to reduce the chance of their family pet biting someone. Dogs should visit with new animals and people frequently in different situations. They should also be taught basic commands and have a good, trusting relationship with their human family.
Older dogs who show aggression or other signs that they may bite someone do not need to be removed from the home and family. A dog trainer can help with behavioural issues in dogs. There are also many great online resources for people who can’t afford a trainer.
If your dog is timid, anxious, unsure of other people/dogs, or if there’s any other reason a person or dog shouldn’t approach your dog (perhaps they’re in training or recovering from surgery), place something yellow on them. The Yellow Dog Project was created to help identify to the general public dogs who need space. This can prevent unwanted incidents from someone accidentally approaching your dog when they shouldn’t.
For more information on preventing dog bites, visit:
- Cesar’s Way – Why Dog Bites Happen and How to Stop Dog Biting
- ASPCA – Dog Bite Prevention
- AVMA – Dog Bite Prevention
If you’re concerned about your dog’s behaviour, contact Lisa at The Noble Hound Dog Training & Obedience. Lisa is a certified dog trainer who offers both group obedience and private training classes.