Dog biting is one of the most common behavior topics that come up when you have a general conversation about dogs and dog behavior. Which, given some of the real data behind dog bites, is a little strange.
However, anything that presents a danger to humans will usually be a high priority to deal with. That is completely understandable. We are hardwired to seek safety. However, there are also some completely understandable reasons as to why dogs do sometimes bite.
Here are a few of them:
Your Dog Is Overwhelmed or Tired
We hear about too many cases where dogs have “lashed out” and bitten people. In most of these cases, the people involved usually claim that the dog “became violent out of nowhere” or that there were not any previous signs of “aggression”. In reality, this is almost never the case. Dogs, just like people, get fearful, anxious, and tired.
Many of the stories we hear usually involve an adult or a child, that the dog is not familiar with, getting too close for comfort. The individual either hugs the dog, grabs them, or physically engages with them in some other way that is beyond the dog’s level of comfort. So, the dog reacts. This is understandable and preventable. Dr. Patricia McConnell recounts a story, much like these, from early in her career where a stranger grabbed her dog’s face to kiss it and was nipped on his nose.
Dogs are cute, so people have a tendency to forget they are also living creatures with complex emotions. As humans, we wouldn’t generally react in a positive way if a stranger used close physical contact, like grabbing our face, without our permission. If more people exercised this type of restraint with dogs, less accidental bites would occur. It’s almost tragic how unaware the general dog-owning public can be in regards to reading the negative emotional signals of dogs. In 2012, Michelle Wan, a certified applied animal behaviorist, conducted a study that found even people with extensive experience working with dogs had a difficult time distinguishing between a happy and fearful dog, based solely on observing behavior.