How does a person know when a dog is going to bite someone?
It’s said that any dog can bite even one who has been very gentle or never reacted by biting in other stressful situations.
Veterinarians say biting is most likely to happen when a dog is afraid or is surprised. Both situations cause stress for the animal who may think he is preventing an attack on himself or believes he needs to protect a family member.
It is also a good idea to watch a dog’s body for signs it is about to bite. For example, look for:
• Fur along the dog’s back standing up
• Whites of the eyes showing (sometimes called whale-eye)
• Ears pinned back
• A dog that looks like he is yawning, but is actually baring his teeth
• A dog that “freezes” at the slightest touch and is very tense; Direct, intense eye contact may follow this stand-offish behavior
• A dog that appears to be in pain
Don’t assume anything about animal behavior. If children are climbing all over a dog, the dog may not be pleased about their behavior, but may be tolerant for a long time. But it is very possible the dog will eventually react aggressively to the stressful situation.
Look for the following behavior from a dog around children that may indicate it is possibly going to become aggressive:
• The dog turns it head away from the child or gets up and moves away from the child
• Or, the opposite, the dog licks its chops while interacting with the child
• The dog suddenly starts licking, scratching or biting itself
• After the child touches him, the dog does a “wet shake”
Teach children not to approach an unfamiliar dog and to touch a dog only after asking the owner if it is OK. Tell children not to bother animals who are eating, enjoying a treat or sleeping.
What a Dog’s Body Language Can Tell You
A dog that is wagging its tail is not necessarily trying to be friendly. If the tail is held high and is making stiff, short movements, this could mean the dog is anxious or exhibiting dominance and the tail wagging could be a sign the dog is about to bite. Dogs also do not always have the same response as a human to the expression of affection. Reaching across a dog’s neck to hug him could feel like a threat to the dog.
If you see a dog yawn, it may mean he is tired, but it could also signify that he is stressed, tense or uncomfortable about something that is going on around him. This information is from Turid Rugaas, a Norwegian dog trainer who has identified 30 “calming signals” which are indicated by certain canine movements.
For example, cowering and tail tucking are often seen as signs of doggie guilt over wrongdoing, but it is likely this behavior means that your dog is afraid and you may need to back off and give him time. Some people get concerned when a dog has a threatening bark, but intensity and frequency determine whether barking is a sign of trouble. Growling and snapping, of course, are an indication the dog may be about to lash out at the source of what is making him unhappy.
Recognizing Dog Aggression
There are five types of aggression in dogs which have been identified by The Humane Society of the United States (the first five on the list) and an additional two types cited by other animal experts.
• Fear-motivated aggression is when a dog feels threatened, usually by strangers or when the dog misinterprets someone’s intentions. It is part of the animal’s ancient survival instincts to run or attack if he is danger of being harmed.
• Protective or maternal aggression is when the dog is protecting its puppies, its owners or anyone perceived as a threat to the family.
• Territorial aggression is when a dog defends its yard or neighborhood, and is especially seen in guard dogs and herding breeds.
• Possessive aggression is when a dog defends his toys or food, or other property.
• Redirected aggression occurs when a dog is provoked by another person or animal and is unable to attack the source of his aggression. He then attacks another dog or person.
• Dominance aggression is often found in unneutered dogs that do not understand who the alpha leader is and don’t quite understand it is not the dog. Confident breeds may be more likely to experience this type of aggression.
• Predatory aggression is seen in dogs that have an instinctive drive to chase and nip and a very strong, natural urge to boss and herd. This can be triggered by a person running past or cycling past a dog that then begins a chase. If a dog chases you, it is wise to stop moving and stand tall facing the dog. Do not make eye contact. The dog may sniff you, but eventually should find you uninteresting.
If that is not the case and a dog knocks you over, curl up in a ball and try to protect your head, face, hands and neck. Be as still as possible until someone comes to your aid or you are certain the dog has left.
Can You Train a Dog Not to Bite?
Training a puppy not to bite is probably easier although you must remember a puppy may be teething and may actually need to bite. It is normal for puppies to bite as they develop and grow. They usually learn about biting by playing with their pack mates and often learn when to avoid causing serious damage through biting. However, a dog may be unable to tell the difference between play and real life.
There are many suggestions as to how to prevent a dog from biting, but the steps were similar.
When a puppy or dog bites you hard enough that it causes pain, yelp or cry out, “No!” loudly. Immediately stop playing with the puppy and ignore him for a short period of time (up to 60 seconds). Repeat this procedure every time the puppy bites and if the situation worsens, put the dog in a room alone or in a crate for a longer period. The goal is for him to learn gentle play continues, but painful play is stopped.
You can use a taste deterrent to discourage your puppy from biting, such as bitter apple or tea tree oil, spraying it on yourself before playing with the dog. A water-misting spray bottle can be used in severe cases of biting and a firm, “No!” should be added. The disadvantages with using a spray water bottle are that the dog could become wary of you at all times, not simply associating the spray of water with biting and it could become afraid of any squirting sounds and/or water sounds.
When you remove your hand from the puppy’s mouth, give the dog some chew toys, especially if the animal is teething. Praise the dog or puppy for chewing on the toy.
As time goes on, decrease the amount of bite pressure you will allow the puppy’s mouth to place on your skin. Move from no hard bites to no soft bites down to no teeth on the skin at all. This is aimed at teaching your dog to inhibit his bite so that if he ever bites a person, he will not bite hard and hopefully will inflict little or no damage.
Later in training, you can play a game of tug with your dog to reinforce where the dog can put his teeth. Establish a rule that any time the dog’s teeth touch your skin, the game ends. The dog will likely learn to pay attention to what he is grabbing. With an adult dog, avoid aggressive games and wrestling.
Training an adult dog not to bite can be more challenging. If the above suggested steps do not work, you may need the assistance of a Certified Dog Trainer or Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist to ascertain why the dog is biting and how to stop him. You can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Unless told otherwise, you should accompany your dog to the training sessions to give him a sense of familiarity.
Other Tips for Dog Bite Prevention
All of the experts agreed that it is very important to socialize your dog when it is young because it will be less likely to bee fearful as it grows up and will be less likely to bite. Dogs should also be spayed or neutered as this reduces the desire to roam and to get into fights with other dogs. Spayed or neutered dogs, like socialized dogs, are less likely to bite.
We’ve created a dog bite prevention program aimed at helping children avoid becoming victims of dog bites. The program includes an illustrated video and a children’s storybook. To view the video and the storybook, please visit this link: Kids Dog Bite Prevention Program
Dog Bite Occurrences in the United States
Although no one single group is keeping track of all reported dog bites in the U.S., it is estimated that more than 4.7 million people are bitten each year. About one fifth of those bites require medical attention and children under age thirteen are the most common victims, followed by the elderly. Children are more likely to be severely injured because of their small size and because they are not aware of how to act around a dog, even one with which they are familiar.
If you or a loved one is a victim of a dog bite that seems as though it could be serious, you should have it checked out by a doctor or emergency room as soon as possible. Try to get the name and address of the dog’s owner, his veterinarian and the date the dog had its last rabies vaccination. Ask medical personnel how long they estimate it will take you to recover from the bite and keep any documentation of your visit. It may also be necessary for you to contact animal control prevention in the area where the bite occurred to help you identify the dog responsible and provide any other assistance animal control provides.
Sometimes it turns out you need legal help with handling your dog bite injuries. Our law firm has considerable experience in dealing with dog bite incidents throughout Ohio. It is worth having a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to ascertain if you have a case that should go forward.