Take it from us: dogs don’t want to bite, but it happens from time to time, mostly out of fear and misunderstanding. Unfortunately, dog bites are a lose-lose situation for the dog and the human. One in five people that get bitten by a dog needs medical treatment, and dogs that bite often end up in quarantine, and their owners end up responsible for the damages. In order to prevent you or your little one from accidentally becoming one of the 4.5 million Americans that get bitten annually, and to help you recognize when your own dog may bite, we’ve put together some tips to help!
Why Do Dogs Bite?
When we say dogs don’t want to bite, we mean it. Most dog bites are the result of dogs feeling cornered, stressed, startled, or defensive.
Why Do Some Dogs Feel Fearful?
There are many reasons dogs can react with stress and anxiety. Like people, dogs are individuals, so the reasons and their reactions vary. Some may have experienced traumas before being adopted while others just have nervous dispositions. It’s always a good idea to treat all dogs as having the potential to be fearful or anxious, and to always be mindful of their body language.
Identifying Signs of Fear, Anxiety, and Stress in Dogs
Fortunately, many dogs give plenty of warning signs before biting.
While dogs, like people, often respond to stress or fear by escaping the situation, there are times when dogs will feel trapped or cornered. Alternatively, they may feel motivated to stand their ground. When dogs bite, it’s usually out of fear, so recognizing the signs can help keep you and your family safe.
Dogs express that they’re afraid through their body language. Some of the most recognizable signs include:
- Tucking their tail between their legs
- Hunkering down low
- A nervous, flicking motion of the tail
- Lowering their head
- Averting eye contact and turning away
- Widening their eyes so you can see their eye whites, also known as "whale eye"
- Flattening out their ears
- Curling their lips back and exposing their teeth
- Darting their eyes, looking around for an escape route
- Hackling their fur on their back and neck
While these signs do indicate that a dog is afraid, they may not always bite, but it is always a good idea to give a dog that is showing signs of fear or anxiety space. Slowly back away and do not approach a dog that is fearful.
How You Can Help a Nervous Dog
If your dog tends to be nervous and expresses fearful body language, you will want to be patient and work slowly to socialize your dog and build up your pup’s confidence. If you’re not sure how to do this, we recommend that you consult us or potentially a professional dog behaviorist.
How to Avoid Risky Situations that Could Result in a Dog Bite
It’s important to recognize the signs of stress in a dog, but you can also keep yourself and your kids safe by avoiding high-risk situations. Some of these scenarios include:
- When a dog is eating or asleep
- When a dog is sick or injured
- When a dog is guarding or playing with a toy
- When a dog is growling or barking
- When a dog is in a fenced-in backyard, with the potential to be backed into a corner
- When a dog’s owner is not present or did not give you permission to pet the dog
Always keep an eye on children as they play around or approach dogs. Well-meaning and curious kids are the most common victims of dog bites that can result in severe injury. Even if your little one knows a dog, don’t leave them unattended.
Remember, fearful dogs can be irrational and unpredictable. Stay safe and aware this National Dog Bite Prevention Week and help take a bite out of dog bites!
Photo Credit: Pixabay