Reasons Why Dogs Bite and How to Stop It
Dogs are wonderful companions and sharing your life with a playful pup can bring joy, improve activity levels and mental health, as well as strengthen social connections. However, with increased dog ownership comes an increase in the cases of dog bites and attacks. Many of these incidents can be very serious, with young children under 10 being most at risk.
Dogs are such an important part of the modern family unit today, that we can sometimes forget our fluffy loved one is an animal, with her own set of feelings and a complex communication structure. There are many reasons that a dog may bite, and it can be hard to know how to react if your furry loved one bares their teeth or bites.
All dogs have the potential to bite, regardless of their demeanour, breed, or size. The reality is that most dog bites are preventable, and the best way to protect your family is through understanding dog behaviour and body language. Read on to learn more about the reasons dogs bite, and what you can do to stop it.
Why Dogs Bite: The 5 P’s
Dogs can become aggressive when they are fearful or feel threatened. Those sharp teeth are certainly the perfect defence mechanism, and for many dogs, biting or snarling is the only way they know to create distance between themselves and what scares them. In fact, fear or anxiety-based aggression is the most common reason a dog may bite.
Dogs can become fearful when they are in an unfamiliar environment, when they are restrained or feel trapped, or when a new person or animal comes into their territory.
Dogs are such an important part of the modern family unit today, that we can sometimes forget our fluffy loved one is an animal, with her own set of feelings and a complex communication structure.
Protecting and guarding resources is a natural part of a dog's behaviour, and sometimes this may result in aggression. High-value items will be different for each dog but can include favourite toys, food bowls, or bedding. This can become a real challenge if they like to guard your chair or bed, or if you have small children around who may not be able to read the dog's behaviour. Protecting or guarding can even extend to your entire house or property, making it difficult for visitors or workers to attend safely.
Pain, injury, or illness can make your pup behave in unusual ways. They may be irritable, anxious, or vulnerable, which can cause a decrease in their tolerance of others. They often don’t mean to, but pain and adrenaline can cause even the friendliest dog to bite, especially after a traumatic injury. If your fluffy loved one is injured, ensure you are very careful when moving them or transporting them to the vet.
A common complaint from many pet parents is that their friendly older dog has started to become irritable and snappy. Often, this may be due to underlying disease or osteoarthritis causing them pain, and a trip to your veterinarian is recommended to ensure they are healthy and comfortable.
Dogs use their mouths to explore the world around them, and this is most noticeable during playtime. If you have ever watched puppies play, you will notice they gently bite, nip, and mouth each other. This is a very important way to learn boundaries in the canine world. The problem is when our pups play bite with their human friends, we don’t find it very fun! Teaching your pup to play in other ways, especially with children is important.
The dog's innate instinct to chase, hunt, and capture prey can trigger this type of bite. Many times, this type of behaviour will be directed towards other smaller animals but can also include children and other humans. Certain noises, quick or erratic movements, and running away can prompt this behaviour.
Dogs use their mouths to explore the world around them, and this is most noticeable during playtime. If you have ever watched puppies play, you will notice they gently bite, nip, and mouth each other.
How to Stop a Dog from Biting
The best way to stop a dog from biting is to understand your dog's body language. As our fluffy friends cannot speak to tell us what they are feeling, they communicate primarily through body language signals. These signals can sometimes be quiet or subtle, but in most cases, a dog will give away important signs of fear, anxiety, or aggression well before they decide to bite.
Facial expressions, body posture, eye contact and tail position are all used to convey feelings and send messages in the dog world. For example, frequent yawning and licking, avoidance of eye contact, and a tail between the legs can indicate they are feeling unsafe and anxious. While on the other hand, standing up straight with direct eye contact and raised tail is a very assertive and dominant message!
By understanding the way that your dog communicates, it becomes easy to tell when they are not feeling great and either need to be removed from a situation or be redirected to another behaviour. A good way to get to know your dog's unique communication style is to engage in formal obedience and training, and ensure they are well socialised from a young age.
No dog bites should be tolerated. If your dog is showing signs of aggression or has a history of biting, then it is very important to have this addressed immediately. Early training and intervention can make a big impact and prevent your dog from hurting someone, or themselves. Veterinarians and behaviourists can be an excellent source of help and information should you have concerns about your pup’s behaviour.
As pet parents, we know that dogs are an important part of our families, however, it is important to remember that all dogs, even friendly family dogs, have the potential to bite.
As pet parents, we know that dogs are an important part of our families, however, it is important to remember that all dogs, even friendly family dogs, have the potential to bite. There are many reasons why a dog may choose to bite including pain, panic, or protection, and it is often because their earlier attempts at communication with us have failed. Understanding a dog’s body language and the way they communicate is very important and is the best way to prevent dog bites. If you are unsure about what your dog is trying to tell you, then help is available through veterinarians, trainers, and behaviourists. By understanding the reasons why dogs bite and learning how to prevent them, we can continue to live happy, adventurous, and safe lives with our furry companions.