dog showing teeth

When a dog is acting aggressively, it can be frightening. This is equally, if not especially, true if it is your dog. Each year, however, more than 4.7 million dog bites are reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These bites are often precipitated by warning signs that the dog owners failed to act upon. Poor socialization, abuse, and other behavioral problems are the foundation of an aggressive dog. And this lack of behavioral correction not only harms the recipients of the bite, but also the pet owner and dog.

Since most dog bites can be prevented, the team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital wants to give you some information about dog bites and their causes. Our hope is to raise awareness through education and to encourage proper training and socialization from puppyhood.

Why Do Some Dogs Bite?

Generally speaking, biting is a response to an adverse reaction to something. Despite the idea that some dogs are just mean, biting is actually a way of self-protection. Dogs bite because they are in fear and feel threatened by something. Here are some of the more common causes of biting.

  1. Stress and Anxiety – Stress can be caused by overstimulation. Too much noise, too many people, or an overcrowding of pets can cause stress and anxiety in pets and make them more liable to bite. 
  2. AgeSenior dogs often just want their space and sometimes deal with disabilities like hearing loss and arthritis. It’s scary to them for dogs to be rambunctious. This can prompt a bite.
  3. Pain – When a pet is in pain, their behavior will often change. They will become less able to deal with other pets and people. Without pain management, a pet experiencing discomfort will be naturally unhappy and anxious.
  4. Fear – Fear is the biggest motivator for dog bites. Dogs who deal with phobias and anxiety are much more likely to act out aggressively at perceived threats.
  5. Instinct  – Your pet’s prey drive is still there, despite them being thousands of years removed from their wild cousins. Dogs love to chase and hunt, which can sometimes turn into biting if not corrected.
  6. Frustration – If your pet spends a lot of time alone, or is dealing with pestering from kids, frustration can develop. Aggravation can occur from other dogs, as well. Teasing should be discouraged in your family, since this can lead to biting. 
  7. Lack of socialization – Dogs who have not been socialized are more prone to aggression, anxiety, and potential bites. Unsocialized dogs display behaviors that have not been corrected, such as lack of obedience training. 
  8. Territorial behavior – If your pet is prone to resource guarding, like a favorite toy or even a person, then they are more apt to be aggressive when they feel their stuff is being threatened. 

There are many reasons why a dog may bite, but it is important to understand the whys because you cannot address the behavior without knowing your pet’s motivation. The good news is that there is hope for an aggressive dog.

Dog Bite Prevention

When it comes to dog bites, one in every four people need medical attention for the injury. And an injury to a child can be life-threatening. There are steps to take to prevent such an injury from occurring. 

  1. Socialize your pet from an early age by exposing them to people and pets in a safe and supervised way. This includes basic obedience training, so your pet knows when to come, stay, sit and so on when they are given the commands.
  2. Keep children with you whenever you see an approaching dog. Teach your own children how to safely interact with dogs, including never getting in their face, taking food or toys from them, or interrupting them when eating or sleeping.
  3. If your pet is biting out of anxiety, figure out the cause of the stress and make arrangements to avoid triggers, along with getting a consultation from your veterinarian.
  4. Pets who resource-guard need additional training.
  5. Always ask permission before approaching an unknown dog.
  6. If your pet is dealing with pain from a chronic condition, ask your veterinarian about pain management and medication.
  7. Get to know dog body language, including signs of aggression, like raised fur, erect tail and ears, curled lips, growling, and so on.

Prevent a Dog from Biting

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and also behavioral patterns. To help prevent a bite, figure out why your dog is displaying aggression and get some help. Early intervention is the best way to ensure a safer future for all involved.

If you would like more information on dog bite prevention, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our team.