As a pet lover or an individual who spends time around dogs, it is vital to understand their behaviors. Dogs are excellent communicators if you pay attention to their body language. One of the key situations where understanding dog behavior becomes important is when a dog is about to bite.
A dog does not bite without giving any signs. There are often clear warnings that it is uncomfortable and might resort to biting. According to the CDC, dogs bite over 4.5 million people each year in the United States. Recognizing these signs can prevent potential harm to you or those around you.
Changes in body posture
Dogs convey their feelings through their body language. A dog might be about to bite if it changes its posture to appear larger or smaller. If a dog stiffens its body, makes direct eye contact, shows the whites of its eyes or raises the fur on its back, it might be warning you that it feels threatened. Dogs may also crouch down and back away in fear before resorting to biting as a form of self-defense.
Growling and baring teeth
Vocalizations and facial expressions also provide clear signs that a dog might bite. If a dog is growling or snarling, it is communicating its discomfort and asking for space. The same goes for a dog that is baring its teeth. While some growling can be playful, it is important to consider the context and other body language signs.
Changes in tail and ear positions
A wagging tail does not always signify a happy dog. The position of the tail and the type of wagging can indicate stress or agitation. If a dog’s tail is rigid and held high or is wagging rapidly, it could be a sign that the dog is in distress and might bite. Similarly, the position of a dog’s ears can indicate its emotional state. If a dog has its ears back against its head, it could be a sign of fear or aggression.
Unusual behavior changes
If a dog that is usually social and friendly starts avoiding interaction, it could be a sign of distress. A distressed dog may try to remove itself from the situation or might freeze entirely.
Always respect a dog’s space, especially if it shows signs of discomfort or agitation. Remember, dogs bite as a last resort, usually when they feel threatened or scared. Recognizing the signs that a dog might bite will help ensure a positive interaction between you and the dogs you encounter.