Dogs bite more than 4.5 million people each year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA). More than 800,000 of those dog bites receive medical attention, per the CDC.
To help keep yourself and your loved ones from becoming a statistic, it is important to recognize the warning signs and behavioral cues of dogs. This is also important for dog owners who prioritize responsible pet ownership within their communities.
Five Signs a Dog May Bite
- Bared teeth: Exposed teeth, especially when accompanied by a wrinkled muzzle, is a clear indication of aggression.
- Direct eye contact: Tense, fixed, and prolonged eye contact can be a warning sign of an impending bite.
- Body stiffness: A display that includes a frozen, rigid posture could mean the dog is preparing to engage.
- Growling/snarling: Deep barks and other vocalizations, such as growling and snarling, could mean the dog is aggressive or defensive.
- Tucked/raised tail: A tucked, or high and stiff, tail can indicate fear or aggression.
Body language is a language. A dog’s posture and vocal cues are great indicators of whether it intends to avoid or initiate a confrontation. Pay attention to these indicators to avoid painful bites.
How to Prevent a Dog Bite
Children ages 5-9 are most likely to be bitten, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. The agency recommends the following guidelines to teach children how to avoid bites. However, these are a good rule of thumb, no matter your age.
- Do not approach a dog you do not know.
- Do not scream or run from a dog.
- Freeze when approached or knocked over by a dog.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
What to do if You’re Bitten by a Dog
Once you are safe and away from the dog, and after receiving medical attention, follow these steps:
The greatest preventive measure against a dog bite is exercising caution when approaching unfamiliar dogs. Respect their boundaries, their warning signals, and the fact that every dog is unique and has different temperaments.
Even with precaution, bites still occur. The AVMA reported insurance companies paid $881 million in 2021 for liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries.