Let’s Understand Why Dogs Bite

May 6, 2024 | Dog Fights, Dogs, What To Do In An Emergency

Understanding dog behaviour is crucial for fostering a harmonious living environment. Dogs, much like humans, communicate their emotions, desires, and discomforts through various behaviours, with biting being one of the most misunderstood forms of communication. Recognising why dogs bite and interpreting the signs of aggression can significantly enhance the bond between dogs and their owners, while ensuring safety for all. 

Why Dogs Bite: A Form of Canine Communication 

Biting, often perceived as a negative or aggressive act, is a natural behaviour for dogs. It’s a form of communication rooted in their instinctual behaviour, environmental factors, or learned experiences. Here’s a closer look at the common reasons behind dog bites: 

  • Fear: One of the most prevalent causes of dog bites is fear. Dogs may feel threatened by an unfamiliar or intimidating situation, leading them to bite in defence. It’s their way of saying, “I’m scared, please back off.” 
  • Protection of Territory: Dogs have an inherent instinct to protect their territory, including their home, yard, and even their human family members. When they perceive a threat to their territory, their protective instincts can result in a bite. 
  • Pain: A dog in pain, much like a human, may have a lowered tolerance for interaction. A well-meaning pet or even a gentle touch can be misconstrued as a threat, prompting a bite response. 
  • Hunting Instinct: Some dogs have a strong hunting instinct that can be triggered by fast-moving objects or animals. This instinctual behaviour can sometimes lead to biting, especially in breeds with a high prey drive. 
Owner and german shepherd dog

Signs of Aggression: Preventing Dog Bites 

Preventing dog bites starts with understanding and recognising the signs of aggression. Dogs will often exhibit certain behaviours as warnings before resorting to biting. Recognising these signs can help prevent a bite: 

  • Growling: One of the first signs a dog may give to indicate discomfort or agitation. It’s a clear vocal warning to back off. 
  • Baring Teeth: When a dog shows its teeth, it’s a visual signal of aggression or fear, indicating that a bite could be imminent if the perceived threat doesn’t recede. 
  • Stiffening of the Body: A dog that suddenly stiffens its body is signaling intense discomfort or preparation for a defensive action, such as biting. 
  • Focused Staring: A direct, focused stare can be a sign of challenge or aggression in dog language. It often precedes a more aggressive action. 

Understanding these signs and the reasons why dogs may resort to biting is essential for anyone who interacts with dogs, whether as pet owners, caregivers, or simply as members of a community where dogs are present. It’s not only about preventing bites but also about creating an environment where dogs feel safe, understood, and well-integrated into our lives.

Golden retrievers wet and running in a backyard

By acknowledging the messages behind a dog’s behaviour, we can take proactive steps to address the underlying issues, whether it’s through training, socialisation, medical attention, or simply giving a dog the space it needs. Ultimately, understanding dog behaviour strengthens the bond between dogs and humans, making our shared lives more enjoyable and safer for everyone involved.

Acknowledgement
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the lands, waterways and skies across Australia. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and Elders past and present.