Whether you’re a dog lover or dog owner who is constantly around dogs, or you’re just an outdoor enthusiast who encounters a number of four-legged friends during daily activities, you’ve likely wondered about human and dog safety and how you can prevent a dog bite.
Unfortunately, dog bites are not all that uncommon in the US, but the good news is that most dog bites are preventable.
The truth is, most dogs won’t bite unless provoked. Still, what triggers a dog to bite can be a number of things, which is why it’s important for those of us who are around dogs often to understand and respect canine behavior and body language.
Understanding a dog’s body language, even a dog unfamiliar to you, can play a key role in keeping you happy and safe around our furry counterparts.
Not fluent in doggo?
Don’t worry. My Dog Spot is here to help! Join us as we discover how to better understand the language of dogs in the hopes of helping prevent potential dog bites.
The Truth About Why Dogs Bite – Deciphering Between Myth and Fact
There are so many myths and misconceptions when it comes to dogs and why they bite, and it can be difficult to get the facts straight.
And while studies are ongoing, we have learned quite a bit about our canine counterparts and what triggers a bite.
In fact, did you know that the majority of dog bites that have occurred in the US over the last fifteen years have had very little to do with the breed of dog and more to do with actions taken or not taken by the dog’s owner?
In the last decade and a half, statistics have shown that most dog bites in the US were the result of dogs who were unneutered or unspayed, neglected or abused, dogs who lacked important training, dogs who were not properly socialized, and dogs who were anxious or overstimulated.
Does that mean that if you are approached by a dog who has a history of any of the above you will be bitten?
Of course not. While dog safety begins with the dog’s owner, dog bite prevention steps can also be taken by the bystander.
Keep reading to learn more.
How to Read A Dog’s Body Language
All dogs are capable of biting just like all humans are capable of becoming sad, angry, frustrated or scared.
Even well-trained, socialized, and generally happy dogs may bite when provoked or triggered. Of course, most dogs warn us before a bite occurs.
Let’s talk about what those warnings look like.
Most triggers that result in dog bites include anxiety, territorial aggression, sickness or injury, or a dog being startled.
Rarely is a dog aggressive just to be aggressive, and it’s important to understand the difference between a fearful, sick, injured, or territorial dog compared to a dog who is hostile.
An aggressive dog
- May attempt to make themselves appear larger
- May hold their ears erect and forward
- May have raised fur on their back and tail
- May hold their tail straight up
- May wag their tail stiffly and abruptly
- May stand stiff and straight-legged
- May have dilated eyes
- May bare their teeth, growl, bark, and lunge
An anxious or frightened dog
- May attempt to look smaller by crouching or shrinking away
- May lower their head
- May lick their lips and nose repeatedly
- May tuck their tail between their legs
- May flatten their ears back
- Will avoid direct eye contact
- May yawn, scratch, or sniff anxiously or without reason
- May widen their eyes so you can see the whites of their eyes (known as whale eyes).
Remember, an anxious dog may bite out of fear.
While there is a difference between aggression and anxiety, stress, sickness, injury, etc., it’s important to not approach a dog who is exhibiting any of the above signs as ignoring these warning signs could result in a dog bite.
How Can I Avoid Getting Bitten by A Dog?
With a bit of awareness, a careful approach, and an understanding of how dogs communicate, it is certainly possible to avoid most dog bites. We can all play our part.
As dog owners, we can take a proactive approach by having our dogs neutered or spayed to reduce hormonal aggression and territorial behaviors. We can also make sure and socialize our dogs from an early age, and ensure our dogs are properly trained and exercised.
Remember, dogs are social, intelligent animals and need to be mentally and physically stimulated each day.
Without proper mental and physical stimulation dogs can become bored, destructive, and even anxious, which can lead to biting.
For busy pet parents in the Los Angeles area, My Dog Spot is a wonderful resource for light training, reactive dog assistance, exercise, socialization, and more.
And since a sick or injured dog can sometimes trigger a dog to bite, it is always important to keep up with routine vet visits.
For quality services in a small, family-friendly environment, we recommend Petsadena Animal Hospital.
It is also vital that owners supervise dogs with small children, and remember that dogs don’t enjoy being pulled on, prodded, and even hugged.
And while many dogs in the home will tolerate their family’s children handling them this way, it is wise to teach your child about the proper ways to approach, pet, and read their dog’s body language to help them avoid getting bitten by the family dog or any unfamiliar dog they may come across in the future.
Speaking of coming across unfamiliar dogs, let’s talk about the proper way to approach a dog outside of the home to best prevent a dog bite.
For dog lovers, it may be difficult not to approach and pet every dog we meet.
Still, try and keep in mind that, like people, all dogs are different and not every dog wants to be approached or handled by a stranger.
To avoid a dog bite, never approach an unfamiliar dog without his or her owner’s permission.
If you are approached with an unfamiliar dog who is off leash, stay calm, don’t turn and run, and avoid direct eye contact until you are sure the dog is friendly and is inviting you to say hello.
Pay attention to the dog’s body language.
If he approaches you and his ears are forward, his body is stiff, his tail is raised or wagging stiffly, and if he is moving slowly and with caution, barking loudly, or growling, it is best to turn your shoulder to the dog and ignore him.
You should also avoid, if you can, startling a sleeping dog, disturbing a dog while he or she is eating or caring for puppies, and getting between two dogs who are engaged in an aggressive altercation.
By following the above tips and by staying brushed up on a dog’s natural lingo, we should be able to have a safer and happier relationship with the dogs in our homes and communities.
What do you think? If you have questions, comments, or even other tips regarding dog bite prevention don’t be shy
We love hearing from our readers. Drop us a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as paw-ssible!