“It takes communication, compassion and negotiation to get results, not a bulldog in the courtroom. Nice guys don’t always finish last.”

– Scott Blumen

Canine 101: Signs a dog is about to bite

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Dog Bites

If you are around an unfamiliar dog, it is always safer to assume that it might be unfriendly. After all, a casual glance has no way of telling you the animal’s history, physical condition or temperament — all of which can determine a dog’s propensity to attack humans or other animals.

Below is some important information that can help you decipher a dog’s intent before interacting with it.

Pay attention to its eyes

If eyes are the window to a person’s soul, they also are a giveaway into a dog’s mood. If the white of the eyes are visible, the dog is likely scared or uncomfortable, two indications that a bite is imminent.

Dogs also can give you a “hard” stare, as if daring you to take a step closer (to your peril). If you see this domineering stare, look away from its gaze while still monitoring the animal from your peripheral vision as you slowly back away.

Watch the tail carefully

Dogs communicate through their tails. Short-tail wriggles or sweeping, clear-the-coffee-table wags show joy and usually are signs that the dogs welcome interaction. But beware of dogs with tails down between their hind quarters. Those dogs are afraid, and some dogs are “fear biters,” particularly if they have been abused (as many rescues have been).

A dog with its tail held straight up, or stiffly waving back and forth is signaling aggression and should be given a wide berth. 

Howls and growls

Dogs howl for many reasons — distant sirens, communication, even loneliness. But few howls are displays of aggression. Alternatively, growls are typically the last resort of a dog before it bares its teeth to bite.

If you are bitten by an aggressive dog on private property, you may be able to hold its owner or other parties liable for your injuries and other damages.