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Why dogs bite

Pay attention to their triggers and avoid sharp teeth

Years ago I was out for a walk and suddenly out of the blue, a large black dog came running after me and bit the back of my leg. His choppers ripped my pants and left a bruise, but fortunately no skin was broken. I was confused, why did the dog decide I was a target to be taken out?

Bryan Bailey is an animal behaviorist and author. He says dogs bite when they experience what he calls an “igniter”. The number one igniter is fear, the perception of a threat.

"After that it’s resource. It’s energy. So meaning my food, my rawhide. And then it gets down to possession items. My bed. My tennis ball. My place on the sofa. And even my human," says Bailey. "It’s not protecting the human, this is protecting the human from being taken by another human or another dog. They’ll possess that human just like they would a bone."

Bailey says some breeds, such as pitbulls and rottweilers, are by nature more prone to biting because the amount of stimulus that it takes to evoke aggression is very low.

However, any breed of dog is capable of biting. There are several signs that indicate it’s thinking about an attack.

"One is immobility where I freeze, so watch a dog that suddenly becomes absolutely still. Then what we call ‘displaced behavior’ becomes number two and that’s where the hackles come up, the ears go back, the raising of the lips and showing of the teeth, wide eyes. Tail position could be tucked, could be up, a rigid body," says Bailey. "And then of course, growling comes right after that."

Bailey says it’s not possible to socialize a dog not to bite, because it’s been in their bag of survival tools for thousands of years. But what you can do is raise the threshold of anything that would evoke an aggressive response, meaning, make the dog more comfortable in a tense situation.

Learn more about why dogs bite and what you can do about it

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