No one likes to see adults or children bitten and injured by dogs. However, the vast majority of dog bite incidents can be avoided with some educational training about dog behavior, as well as training to help children and non-owners recognize the warning signs to further reduce the risk of accidental dog bites.
Five Signs of Stress or Anxiety in Dogs:
Whether you own a dog or not, teaching yourself and children in your family to ‘read the signs’ can help dramatically reduce your risk of a dog bite injury.
1. Lip and nose licking may not imply that the dog is thirsty or hungry. It is a physical cue that the dog is excited, nervous, or stressed (or all three). Why do they lick? They have a great sense of smell and an even greater sense of taste. By licking, they are sampling their environment for cues about their safety, or the safety of their owner and situation.
2. Panting isn’t only temperature related, as dogs pant when they are significantly stressed or worried. A dog can be angry, sad, worried, or scared, and pant profusely. It is a universal sign of anxiety and apprehension.
3. Watch for ears tilted back among dogs. Ears back can be a positive emotional expression, but if the dog’s ears are back and the eyes seem worried or apprehensive, the dog is telling you that it is uneasy.
4. Avoidance is a clear cue that a dog is trying to politely avoid you. Pursuing a dog while it is trying to evade someone (or something) it dislikes can result in bark or bite. This frequently occurs when a dog is on a leash and is unable to get away, and is a bite waiting to happen.
5. A drooping or low-held tail is a sign of fear. When a dog is happy, excited, or in exploration mode, the tail is level to the back or higher, and wagging. A low tail is a primal instinct to cover vulnerable areas from attack.
A pet owner can read their four-legged companion quite well, and calculate the probability of a growl, a warning nip, or even a serious bite. So while you are looking for signs of stress or anxiety in an unfamiliar dog, take a close look at the owner as well. Their expression will validate whether it is a good idea to approach the dog or not.
Five Behaviors That Increase the Likelihood of a Dog Bite:
Next time you are in the park, check out how dog owners react when strangers attempt to touch or pet their dog. Is it because dog owners are unfriendly? No, not at all. What it means is that the owner understands how upsetting it is for a dog to be touched by multiple strange hands, and the anxiety of it from a dog’s perspective. From a legal perspective as well, it is difficult to stop children from running up to your dog and triggering a bite or attack, but it is not difficult to lay blame on the dog after the bite has occurred. After someone has been injured by a dog bite, few people take the time to ask about how or why it happen.
1. Grabbing a leash might seem like a good idea, if you see an owner chasing their dog in a park or on a sidewalk. It is safe for the owner to tether their dog, however, it’s not quite safe for a complete stranger to take control of a dog’s harness and leash. It’s a trust thing, and dogs do not trust strangers, so they may bite them when they feel frightened or dominated by someone they don’t know.
2. Taking away a treat or a favorite toy is a recipe for a dog bite. Dogs are possessive of their property. In a dog pack, only the dominant dog can attempt to take away the food or belongings of another member of the pack. It can trigger aggression in even the calmest, best trained dogs.
3. To a dog, their owner is the most important thing in the world. To a friend, the owner might be ripe for a football tackle on the grass. Striking, pushing, or holding down a dog’s ‘special person’ is an act of war. By nature, dogs are protective of their guardians, and playful rough housing doesn’t translate well for them. They can’t tell that you are playing, and may jump to defend their owner.
4. Picking up a stick, baseball bat, or other weapon can trigger a fear response in a dog, particularly one that may have had an abusive owner history. When spending time with a strange dog, avoid picking up (or pointing) sticks, brooms, or other items that can be misconstrued by a protective companion animal.
5. Letting yourself into your friend’s house (when they aren’t home) triggers the ultimate two defense emotions in a dog. First, the dog will react, as it wishes to protect the owner. Second, the dog will protect its property against invaders, making even a family friend an intruder.
According to a Bergen County Personal Injury Lawyer, “it is our job to keep our pets and people safe. By training children and adults to read cues and adopt responsible behavioral methods, we can reduce the amount of annual injuries caused by dog bites”.