Warning Signs: Telltale Signs a Dog is About to Bite
Every year, over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States and about 1 in 5 of those people require medical attention for their injuries. Although some breeds of dogs are often thought of as being more aggressive or dangerous than others, it’s extremely important to remember that all dogs have the potential to bite someone. Even a normally well-behaved dog might bite a person under certain circumstances.
If a dog is in a situation where they might bite, they will often try to communicate that fact in their own ways. When you know the signs to watch for, you’ll be better able to protect yourself and hopefully be able to avoid becoming the victim of a dog bite.
Licking Lips, Yawning, or Avoiding Eye Contact
These three things are some of the earliest indicators that a dog is uncomfortable about a situation. They may not be ready to bite at this point, but something is stressing them out and making them anxious and they might bite if they aren’t removed from the situation. These sorts of cues are often mistaken for other things, such as being tired or hungry, so it’s important to consider their behavior in the context of the situation. For example, if the dog is licking its lips and they aren’t being given food or treats, they’re more likely to be nervous about something.
The Whites of Their Eyes
When a dog is relaxed, happy, and content, you won’t be able to see the whites of their eyes. But if a dog sees something they perceive as a potential threat, they’ll fix their gaze on it, no matter how their head is positioned, which may cause the whites of their eyes to become visible. This is another warning sign that doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is in the verge of biting, but they are unsure about something and it may be best to leave them alone.
Tail & Body Posture
Most people think a dog wagging its tail is a sign the dog is happy, but it’s important to consider the way the dog is wagging its tail. When a happy dog is wagging its tail, their body posture will be very relaxed and the rest of their body will be moving around. But a nervous, stressed-out dog will be more likely to be holding their tail high and wagging it slowly while keeping the rest of their body stiff. Even if a dog isn’t wagging its tail, a stiff, rigid body posture is definitely a sign that the dog should be left alone.
Growling & Baring Teeth
When a dog that’s growling, snapping, or baring its teeth, it’s a very strong sign that the dog is likely to bite and should not be approached. Give them some space and slowly back away from it. Don’t make any fast, sudden movements since the dog could interpret that as being aggressive.
Even if you know the signs to watch for and a dog bites you, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was your fault. Michigan has a strict liability dog bite law, which means that in the majority of cases, the dog’s owner is liable for injuries their dog causes, even if the dog doesn’t have a history of biting or otherwise being aggressive. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, be sure to contact a dog bite lawyer to find out about the dog bite laws that apply where you live.