Why Dogs Bite

I was bitten by a dog today. Luckily, it wasn’t severe.

When a dog bites a human, it is my job to understand the motivation behind it. Is the dog being overly playful or aroused, and lacking in self-control? Is he scared? Is she trying to cause harm/vicious?

These are some of the factors I take into account when assessing a dog bite:

  • Where was the bite located?
  • What were the injuries?
  • What was happening right before the bite?
  • What happened directly after?

The location of the bite tells me a lot. Bites on hands typically mean the dog was frightened, and felt confronted. Bites on the back of legs typically mean the dog was biting due to fear as the person was moving away, while nips to the calves or feet can be related to self-control (and are common with herding breeds). Bites to the face are often the result of being in a dog’s face/space and typically caused by the human not respecting a dog’s communication signals. Bites to the arm, stomach, back and front of leg are oftentimes seen with a dog who is truly aggressive, especially if the dog shakes the human when he bites. Keep in mind, these are generalities, as other factors must be taken into consideration.

Most bites can be explained and the behavior of the dog can be modified successfully. In a small percentage of  cases, the motivation for the bite is unclear and behavioral modification is not successful. A professional with experience can determine the next path for the dog that bites. Euthanasia is often not on the table until behavior modification has been attempted. This takes complete commitment from a dog’s owner. There also must be acknowledgement that success isn’t always possible.

If your dog has ever bitten please reach out to a force-free trainer with experience in aggression and fear. If behavior modification isn’t attempted then another bite is guaranteed. Also, a dog that bites or has bitten could be living with fear and anxiety which can manifest in other scenarios and can cause other serious behavior issues.