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How can I know if a dog is going to bite?

In most cases, dogs are friendly, beautiful creatures. They tend to be excited to see humans and other dogs and greet the world with a wagging tail.

However, when a dog feels stressed, it can become fearful and reactive. Unfortunately, sometimes reactive turns into a bite.

These are some of the ways you can know a dog is feeling unsafe and might bite.

Knowing how dogs communicate stress

The challenge with reading communication from dogs is that it is often only clear to dogs unless you know what to look for. When dogs are stressed, they will give subtle signals, such as:

  • Tucking their tail
  • Keeping their tail low while wagging
  • Raised hackles
  • Hunching toward the ground
  • Licking their lips

When these signals go unnoticed, dogs will often escalate to more explicit communication, like growling.

Owners are not always good advocates

In some cases, owners will feel embarrassed that their dog is stressed and not excited to meet people. Owners might dismiss a growl or other stress signals in these situations, hoping to work their dog through it.

If you see stress signals in a dog, it is a good time to back away and give the dog space. Like people, sometimes a dog will not be in a social mood, or other factors in the environment may make the dog anxious.

When you know the signs a dog is stressed, you can help the dog get the space it needs and avoid an attack.