Understanding why one dog bites and another doesn’t can help you care for your pets better
Dogs don’t bite just to bite – there is always a cause behind a dog acting aggressively, and those reasons can vary greatly.
- Fear and Anxiety: If a dog feels afraid or anxious, he is much more likely to bite. A dog may be afraid or anxious if they perceive their situation or surrounding environment to be threatening.
- Reacting to a threat: Dogs often perceive strangers and/or larger animals, especially other dogs, as threats. If a dog thinks a person or animal is threatening, a dog may bite while trying to protect their family, their puppies, or themselves.
- Territorial Behavior: Many dogs are territorial and bite in order to protect their possessions. Dogs may feel territorial over their home, dog bed, family, food, toys, and more. Dog breeds that are considered guard dogs or herding breeds are usually the most territorial.
- Lack of Training or Structure: Dogs may bite if they have a lack of structure or lack of training and clear direction from their owners simply because they do not know any better.
- Inadequate Socialization as a Puppy: When dogs are not socialized with other pets as puppies, they often feel uncomfortable and anxious around other animals. Socialization teaches puppies to tolerate other animals and situations they do not feel comfortable in. Puppies also learn bite inhibition during this period. A puppy will learn if they bite too hard or act too roughly by gauging the reaction of the other dogs during playtime.
- Predisposition: Some dogs have an innate prey drive that leads them to bite animals or people they perceive as prey. Children running by dogs screaming are the most common misperception of prey.
- Hormones: Intact female and male dogs are more likely to display aggressive behavior than dogs that have been spayed or neutered. Should I spay or neuter my dog ?
- Medical Condition: A dog may bite if they are sick or injured. The bite may be out of pain, due to side effects such as aggression or behavioral changes, or a way to let you know something is wrong.
- Traumatic Experience: A traumatic history such as participation in dog-fighting or a previous abusive owner can be the reason behind a dog biting.
- Causes of child bites: Over half of dog bite victims are children. When dogs bite children, it is often because the child has startled the dog. Children may startle dogs by coming up behind the dog or by loud screaming. Dogs may also bite as a reaction to rough play by the child, such as poking or pulling on the dog’s tail and ears. Find out what to do when your dog fears children.
If your dog is prone to biting other animals or people, learn how to provide the proper care for a potentially dangerous dog and how to prevent your dog from biting.