5 Reasons Why Dogs Bite and How to Prevent It

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Dog bites are a very serious concern for many dog owners. Every year, around 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and about 1 in 5 of these victims require medical attention, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Earlier this month, the White House faced a dog biting incident when President Joe Biden’s dog, […]

Dog bites are a very serious concern for many dog owners. Every year, around 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and about 1 in 5 of these victims require medical attention, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Earlier this month, the White House faced a dog biting incident when President Joe Biden’s dog, Major, bit and caused a minor injury to White House security personnel. Although the injury was handled swiftly by the White House Medical Unit, Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted that both of the President’s dogs were still becoming acclimated to their new surroundings, as reported by USA Today.

At Petland, we understand the fear and panic a new dog owner may experience during and after a biting incident. Will your furry family member be taken away from you? Will there be legal repercussions? Is there a chance your dog will be put to sleep? It can be frightening to think about, but it’s important to take preventative actions to avert dog biting incidents from happening in the future.

The best way to do this is to understand the reasons why a dog may bite. In President Biden’s case, Major was a rescue dog and as mentioned by the trainer in the video, rescue animals are prone to biting out of fear due to a possible history of abuse or abandonment. Other factors that lead to biting include aggression and excitement—and a dog that’s triggered towards biting may attack you, another person, and even another dog. Understanding the reasons why dogs bite can help you prevent such incidents from happening, keeping everyone and your furry family member safe!

Here are 5 reasons why a dog may bite:

1. Fear

Many dogs will bite out of fear. Whether it’s fear of other people or their surroundings, biting will act as a defensive mechanism for canines. Think of it as their way of protecting themselves from perceived danger. This is especially true if a dog is not properly socialized. An unsocialized dog will become frightened in unfamiliar settings or around strangers since they are not comfortable in those environments. This is especially true when it comes to rescue dogs since they may have prior experiences of abuse or mistreatment. If a dog has no way to escape its situation, it will likely bite to defend itself. 

What to do:

When you approach a dog (even your own dog), make sure that you do not overwhelm them. Don’t try to push them to a corner or look at them in an angry way. Doing so will make the dog feel afraid. You should also avoid startling a dog the way you would a person as the dog won’t understand your intentions.

2. Aggression

Most dogs follow a canine “pack” mindset, regardless if they’re domesticated or not. At home, a dog may think their “pack” is all of their family members, including owners, small children, and other pets. As such, a dog may act aggressively to protect its pack, especially around strangers. On the other hand, some dogs like rescue dogs can show aggression when they’re unfamiliar with other people due to a possible history of mistreatment. It’s important to pay attention to tell-tale signs of aggressive behavior that a dog may exhibit before a bite—ears flattened, growling, teeth bared. 

What to do:

You should never leave small children with a dog for long periods of time. Even the gentlest breed can suddenly turn and bite on an unsuspecting family member. You should also keep an eye on female dogs with puppies. They may act aggressively towards others to protect their litter, even if the dog knows you well. Do not show aggressive behavior towards a dog either. This will aggravate the dog’s behavior, leading to a possible bite.

3. Lack of training

Dogs have a predatory instinct that they inherit from their wolf ancestors. This predatory instinct is what drives them to chase, hunt, and jump on their prey. Some breeds are more predatory than others. For example, the Miniature Schnauzer breed has a tendency to chase after small animals while the Goldendoodle is more easygoing and passive. Also, many rescue dogs lack training due to their history of living in shelters or abandonment, making their behavior and temperament far less predictable regardless of their breed.

What to do:

To prevent any bites fueled by a dog’s predatory instinct, make sure to train them from the time they’re puppies. Early dog training ensures that a dog knows the rules of the world and your home. At Petland, we offer a 6-week training program with every puppy that goes home to ensure your dog learns the right commands and matures into a well-mannered pup. With enough training, they’ll know when to stop pursuing a person or another animal, preventing possible biting incidents. 

4. Pain

Sometimes, dog bites are a reaction to pain. Dogs cannot communicate as humans can so the only way they can express their pain is by lashing out. A dog may become fearful that a person will cause more pain or they may feel upset that the pain isn’t stopping. In many ways, a dog that’s in pain is like a fussy patient.  

What to do:

Keep a close eye on a dog that’s limping, whining, or licking any part of its body. If they’re licking a body part, the dog may have a wound. Whining and limping may be a sign of an internal injury, chronic illness, or hip dysplasia. A dog may also be suffering from periodontal disease, especially if they’re having trouble eating or chewing. Assess the dog’s injury (if you can) and take them to the vet. You can also prevent common canine illnesses by regularly taking your dog to the vet and practicing good dental hygiene.

5. Possessiveness

A dog is naturally protective over its pack and territory. In fact, many dog breeds make excellent watch and guard dogs for this exact reason. Along with being protective over their home and family, some dogs may show signs of possessiveness over other objects. This may include toys, food, blankets, dog bowls, beds, and even certain family members. While it may seem cute or funny to see a dog show possessive behavior, it may lead to problems like dog bites. 

What to do:

If a dog is possessive over its food, do not bother them during its meals. Leave them alone and let them finish their food. Do not take their toys or other objects away, especially if you do not know this dog very well. If your own dog shows possessiveness over a family member, it’s important to train this bad behavior out of them. Without sufficient training, a dog may bite or lash out at anyone, even other family members if they approach their “favorite human.” Training gives a dog boundaries so that they can coexist peacefully within a home. 

A dog comes with a lot of responsibility. When you bring home a puppy, it’s essential that you take the necessary steps to prevent dog bites from happening. Keeping your dog indoors or on a leash helps, but the best prevention comes with training. That’s why Petland Florida has partnered with smartstartpup to offer a 6-week behavioral training program that will teach your puppy the basic commands needed to become well-behaved dogs! Contact us with any questions or concerns. We are here to help your family and your puppy and avoid biting incidents.