After a dog bites, horrified owners are often the first to say, “I had no idea he was going to bite”. However, there’s a good chance their dog was displaying signs of distress and the owner just didn’t know what they were seeing.
This is because many of the warning signs that a dog is about to bite can be subtle and even appear friendly.
1. Yawning, licking lips, or avoiding your eye
Yawning, licking lips, or avoiding eye contact is one of the first signs a dog gives that they are uncomfortable. While these behaviors do not necessarily mean a bite will happen, they are indicative that a dog is anxious and unsettled. If the dog is not able to find a way to remove themself from the situation, it could escalate to a biting.
2. Growling, Snapping, or Showing Teeth
A low growl, which may be paired with bared or snapping teeth, is a dog’s most direct way of warning those around them of a potential bite. Dogs show this behavior when they are very unhappy or uncomfortable with something that is happening around them. If you notice a dog is growling, snapping, or showing their teeth, quickly try to identify what is happening around them to make them feel threatened. If it is safe to do so, try and remove the threat so the dog feels more comfortable.
3. Wagging Tail
For owners, this is one of the most confusing signs of an upcoming bite. While a wagging tail is often a sign of happiness, it can also be a good indicator that a dog is feeling on edge. When a dog is happy they wag not only with their tail but their whole body, almost like they’re too excited to stay still. Conversely, when a dog is about to bite their tails are raised high, slowly wagging while their body stays perfectly still. This type of tail wag is only done when a dog is uncomfortable with the situation they are in.
4. Rigid Body
A rigid body is another telltale sign a bite may be coming. When a dog is happy, every part of their body their body is relax and wiggly. However, if a dog is on edge, every muscle in their body goes stiff. This means that they will be standing square, their ears will be perked and their tail raised, almost as if they are frozen. When a dog displays this body posture, it means that they are very uncomfortable with something that is going on around them.
5. Fur Standing Up
Another telltale sign that a dog is on the verge of biting is raised fur. When a dog feels threatened, the fur on their back or neck may stand up. These raised hackles indicate that a dog is not happy with something that is going on around them.
6. Seeing the Whites of their Eyes
When a dog is content, the whites of their eyes will be completely hidden. When you can see the whites of a dog’s eye, it is a clear warning sign of the potentiality of a bite. When a dog feels threatened, they will not take their eyes off the threat, maintaining intense and direct eye contact. This means that no matter how they move their head, their eyes will stay locked on the target, resulting in the whites of a dog’s eyes showing as they move their head, but not their gaze.
A dog may not be able to verbally tell you that they are uncomfortable in a situation, but actions often speak louder than words. By being aware of the warning signs that dogs are giving, we can reduce the amount of dog bites that occur, saving both human and dog lives.
Featured image via: @dusia139 /Instagram