Five Reasons Dogs Bite and How to Avoid an Attack

Every year, over four million people are bitten by dogs in the United States with one fifth of them needing medical attention. Sadly, children are the most common victims as half of bite wound sufferers are under the age of thirteen. Their small size and limited knowledge of how to appropriately act around a dog makes them vulnerable to more serious injury when an attack occurs. Ironically, most bites are from a dog familiar to the victim which is why it is important to understand that any dog can bite and to learn what triggers it and the ways to avoid an attack.

5 Reasons Dogs Bite

1. Possessiveness  Dogs naturally want to protect what belongs to them which can lead to a possessive mentality. Guard dogs and herding breeds can have an even stronger natural tendency but this behavior can arise in any dog. It is important to start training early to minimize this kind of possessive behavior. They may show possession over anything from toys, food, bedding, their territory or even a human being. Teaching the “Leave it” command works well in preventing toy aggression. Food aggression can be avoided by teaching your dog to wait while you put their food down. Teach them to sit or lie down and then remove their food and then put it back. Approach the food bowl and occasionally add treats to the food so they learn that someone approaching the bowl is not something to get offensive about. Teach children to never bother dogs that are eating or enjoying a treat such as a bone.

2. Fearfulness A dog may show fearfulness towards strangers such as the veterinarian and postal worker as well as in unfamiliar situations. It is important to never approach an unfamiliar dog and for children to learn the same. Whether it is a stray or a leashed dog that is on a walk with it’s master, you can never be sure of how the dog will respond. Fear bites can even occur when a dog is startled at home so teach children never to sneak up on a dog or bother one that is sleeping. Young dogs should be socialized early with many different people, animals and situations in order to minimize the risk of a phobia developing. Many choose to make their pups first visit to the vet a social one to help him get a feel for the clinic and meet the veterinary staff in a nonthreatening manner. You may even leave some treats and a note in the mailbox asking your postal worker to give a treat to your puppy.

3. Painfulness Dogs can not always communicate to us when they are in pain. But if your dog becomes snippy for no apparent reason it is possible that he may be in pain and you should consider making an appointment with your vet. Pain can cause even the friendliest dog to bite. If you have a dog with an injury or chronic condition such as hip dysplasia or severe otitis instruct your children to stay away from the sore areas and be gentle handling the dog.

4. Maternal instincts Everyone is aware of a mother’s ability to do whatever is necessary when her babies appear to be in danger. The same is true of your dog. And while you may mean her pups no harm, she may not be open to you handling the puppies at this vulnerable time in their lives. Make sure the mother and puppies have a place where they can feel safe with minimal distraction. Then caution your children to keep their distance util the pups are more independent and always supervise their handling.

5. Prey drive  Another powerful instinct that some dogs posses is their prey drive. This instinct may be triggered by running or cycling past a dog resulting in a chase. If you are jogging or cycling and you see a roaming dog try to avoid crossing paths. If a dog does give chase then the best things to do is stop moving and stand tall facing the dog. Do not make eye contact which can be seen as a challenge by the dog. Though he may come up and sniff you he will eventually find you uninteresting and move on. If a dog knocks you over, however, then curl up in a ball protecting your face, neck, and hands and be still. Teach children to do the same and periodically drill them to reinforce the response.

Warning Signs

When a dog is stressed or fearful they will display certain signs which are key for you to observe in order to avoid an attack. Typically, ears are pinned back, fur along their back may stand up, and you may be able to see the whites of their eyes. Yawning is a way for a dog to show off their teeth and should be considered a warning sign as well. If the dog seems nonsocial and stand-offish or freezes in response to a touch or look followed by direct intense eye contact from the dog is another clear sign that he may bite.

How to Stop a potential dog bite

Dog bite prevention begins with you, the owner. If you do not intend to breed your dog then having them spayed or neutered will help reduce aggression and decrease the risk of bite related behaviors. Exercise and play with your dog on a regular basis to reinforce the human-animal bond and to release excess energy that might otherwise be channeled to nervous energy. Avoid aggressive games such as wrestling and tug of war which can lead to dominance issues. Teach your dog the basic commands such as sit, stay, come and leave it and don’t allow your dog to roam free outside where they can be a danger to other people. Do try to socialize your dog and expose him to many different people and situations starting when he is a pup. Keep their vaccines up to date as in most states a dog can be destroyed if they bite someone and they are not up to date on vaccines. Seek professional help from your veterinarian if your dog shows any signs of aggression. If you have children take the time to educate them on how to act around dogs, what the warning signs are, and what to do if a dog attacks.

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