How to Tell if a Dog is Likely to Bite | Scott Goodwin Law

How to Tell if a Dog is Likely to Bite

by / Wednesday, 31 December 2014 / Published in Dog Bites
Brown dog biting woman's jeans

If you’ve ever been bitten by a dog, it’s completely understandable that you might not feel very comfortable being around dogs. But since dogs are an incredibly common type of household pet, completely avoiding them might be difficult, if not impossible. You might find yourself missing out on visiting friends or relatives or going to places such as parks. However, just because you have been bitten by one dog doesn’t mean you have to live in fear of all dogs. Many dogs are happy and friendly and in many cases, only bite if they are feeling threatened. Dogs are very good at communicating their feelings through body language and if you know the signs to look for, you can spot the differences between a friendly dog and one that feels threatened and is therefore more likely to bite.



One of the most surefire signs of a dog feeling threatened is if it starts growling or showing its front teeth. These are unmistakable signs that a dog is very likely to bite or attack.


You can tell a lot about a dog by its posture. When a dog is happy and not aggressive, it will have an overall relaxed posture — standing up straight, but not rigidly, with its muscles and ears relaxed. A dog that feels threatened or aggressive will have a very stiff posture, have its ears perked up or flat against its head, keep its head low, and/or stand with its chest pushed out to make itself look bigger. If a dog is standing off center, leaning off to one side, it is trying to distance itself from something that makes them feel uncomfortable. A dog that is slinking low to the ground instead of standing straight up feels threatened and is likely to bite.


Making and maintaining eye contact is a very strong sign of a dog feeling threatened.  Dogs make direct eye contact as a way of showing dominance and if the dog’s pupils are dilated, it’s a sign of anger or aggression. If a dog turns its head, but doesn’t move its gaze from a particular person, dog, or other something else, making the whites of its eyes visible in a half-moon shape, this is a telltale sign a dog feels threatened or anxious about something. Dog trainers refer to this as “whale eye.”

Yawning or Licking

Sometimes dogs yawn for reasons other than being tired. Yawning is also a way dogs relax themselves, so a dog in an uncomfortable situation might start yawning frequently even though they aren’t tired or bored. If a dog is yawning and turning their head away from another dog or person, it’s a sign they are definitely feeling uncomfortable and should be left alone. A stressed-out dog might also start start licking their lips, nose, or paws as a way to calm themselves down.


Many people think dogs wag their tail because they are happy, but dogs actually wag their tails because they have energy or adrenaline, which might not necessarily be out of happiness. If a dog is wagging their tail and all other signs seem to suggest the dog is happy, then the dog is likely harmless. But if a dog is aggressively wagging its tail while having a very tense posture, it’s best to leave that dog alone. Tail position can also be very important way to tell how a dog is feeling. Dogs typically keep their tails up if they are feeling safe and secure, but will lower their tails if they’re facing an uncertain situation. Its best to leave a dog alone if their tail is lowered.

The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Goodwin & Scieszka handle other injury cases like slip and fall accident cases. Contact us to see how we can help you be fairly compensated.