The US Centers for Disease Control has shown that more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year with 800,000 of those needing medical attention.
But why would a dog bite a human? Ultimately, it is the responsibility of a dog’s owner to properly socialize their dog and reduce the risk of biting. Dogs most frequently bite humans when they feel threatened, scared or uncomfortable. Here are several reasons a dog might bite:
When it feels threatened
To protect something it perceives to have a high value, like a toy or treat
To protect its litter of puppies
As a natural reaction to being startled
If it does not have sufficient experience with human interaction
When suffering from sickness or injury
It is important to listen to a dog’s body language and understand when it might be feeling threatened. Signs of a threatened dog that might be preparing to bite include:
A tucking of the tail between their hind legs
Lifting the lips or snarling
Looking overly tense
You can help to prevent bites by giving an unfamiliar dog ample space to get comfortable. Teach those close to you - especially children - to avoid approaching a dog that is eating, sleeping or protecting its puppies. Most importantly, never provoke a dog by pulling its tail/ears or approaching it aggressively.
Basic socialization and training can often help a dog feel secure in their surroundings and trust people. Teaching basic commands, supervising your dog when outdoors and avoiding excitable or intense games can help to reduce the chances of biting.
Jack Vale is a writer from Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with fencing retailer Viking Fence.