Many owners don’t think that there dog will bite, but contrary to this belief any dog can bite. It’s not specific to a particular breed. A dog bite can occur when they feel threatened, in a stressful situation or when defending themselves, other pack members or territory.
More often than not most owners will be surprised by the dog’s actions and not see a bite coming; but the truth is your dog was most likely displaying distress signs that you would have missed, or interpreted incorrectly.
Let’s note the DIFFERENT kinds of dog bites.
Dogs bite to protect something that is precious to them, like their puppies, their food, their toys or they nip/bite during play. The scale of dog bite ranges from a ‘pre-bite’ warning where the dog snaps, or air bites, where there is no contact with skin, to repetitive biting; which can lead to deep punctures and major injuries.
Soft bites are used by well trained dogs or puppies in non-aggressive play. You may experience these ‘soft bites’ when rough housing with your dog. Your dog may get carried away and forget that they are playing with their human pack rather than playing with other dogs.
Aggressive bites are where the biting is with intent to cause harm or damage. Regardless of dog breed, it’s recognised that the risk of dangerous dog attacks can be greatly increased by human actions. A breed is not an accurate predictor of whether a dog will bite or not.
Dogs will show signs of distress and display warnings long before actually biting. More often these signs are subtle and often interpreted as friendly thus missed by people.
So what exactly are the signs?
- Yawning, Licking lips or avoiding eye contact. These are normally the first signs, although they may not definitively mean a bite will happen, but it does indicate the dog is unsettled and anxious. Dogs will then look for a way to remove himself from the situation before escalating to a bite.
- Growling, snapping or Showing teeth: A low growl along with bared or snapping teeth is a direct warning that he is about to bite.
- Seeing the whites of their eyes: Naturally the whites of a dog’s eyes are hidden. If they are clearly showing you the whites it can be a sign that a dog is about to bite. A dog that is feeling threatened will maintain intense direct eye contact.
A wagging tail is normally associated with happiness, but it is a good indicator that a dog is feeling on edge. An anxious do will raise its tail and wag it slowly whilst their body will stay absolutely still. Other signs of an anxious dog include:
- A dog with a rigid body is a big tell tale that a dog might be ready to bite or is on edge.
- Their ears will also be perked and appear frozen.
- Fur standing up on the back of the neck.
In contrast when a dog is happy it shows it with their whole body constantly wiggling and their body is relaxed.
If a dog shows any signs of being anxious, stop all interaction, look away, and give him space. A dog displays many queues that they aren’t comfortable or stressed in a situation. It’s our job to notice the warning signs that they are giving. Being aware and taking the appropriate action will reduce the number of dog bites that occur. This could save a dog’s life and stop humans from getting injured. Teach your children these signs so they can play wisely with their pets or other dogs.