Why Dogs Bite

Dog bites are scary, no two ways about it. Big sharp teeth, bared gums, that rumbling dog growl–it’s ironic how man’s best friend can occasionally become so quickly sinister. But there are reasons that dogs bite, a study published in the journal Injury Prevention shows that territorial behavior, anxiety and other medical issues lead dogs to bite (the study focused on dogs that had bitten children).

In the study researchers examined 111 cases of dog bites by 103 dogs (41 different breeds) and found several patterns that related to the dogs’ territorial behaviors, and suggested that these were the main causes of aggression in dogs:

• Young children (under 6 years) were more likely to be bitten when a dog felt the kids were threatening to take the dogs’ food or toys.
• Older children were bitten when the dog felt the kids were encroaching on its territory.
• Children familiar to the dog were more likely to be bitten while the dog was guarding its food.
• Unfamiliar children were more likely to be bitten while the dog was protecting its territory.

Seventy-five percent of the biting dogs studied exhibited anxiety, either by being left by their owners or being exposed to loud noise, such as a thunderstorm or fireworks. Young children in particular tend to be noisy and make unpredictable movements, which could frighten an already anxious dog and cause them to bite the child, the researchers said.

Half of the dogs also had medical conditions, such as eye problems, liver and kidney disease, and diseases that affected their bones and skin. Study leader Illana Reisner of the University of Pennsylvania and her colleagues suggest that pain from these conditions could have pushed the dogs over the edge, causing them to bite.

Next: How to avoid a dog bite.

By becoming familiar with the warnings that a dog is upset, you have a better chance of avoiding a dog bite. Look for these warning signs:

• Ears laid back against his head or his legs are very stiff.
• If the hair on his back is standing up.
• If a dog is growling or barking with his teeth showing, it means he is ready to bite.

If you think a dog is about to bite you:
• Remain motionless and look and look at the ground.
• Count to five to yourself
• Move away very slowly, sideways or backwards.
• If the dog jumps on you, act like a rock by curling up into a ball and covering your face and head with your arms.
• Don’t stare at the dog.
• Don’t run, jump or wave your arms around.
• Don’t scream.


Elaine A.
Elaine Al Meqdad5 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se5 years ago

Always use common sense.....

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Fiona T.
Past Member 5 years ago

They need respect and learning like us

Milkah Savage
Past Member 5 years ago

Dogs bite due to fear or stress. Their actions are know different than if a human was fighting back out of fear

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold5 years ago

It makes sense why the dog would bite. Protective instincts come out. How would you like it if you were being threatened? Wouldn't you fight back?

Aimee A.
Aimee A5 years ago

Thanks for posting!

Pat C.
Pat C5 years ago

treat dogs the way you would like to be treated and avoid bites!

Meg Graham
Meg G5 years ago

Yeayyy!!!!! A decent study. As a positive trainer it is good to have scientific back up for alot of stuff we already know.
When called in for bite cases the first thing is usually a trip to the vet for a full medical. Most of the cases there is some physical disorder that has lowered the dogs tolerance of a child's behaviour. The other part is that people misread their dog and don't understand that just because they like the kids in their family doesn't mean they like the neighbours child. Nor do people take the time to properly train their dog not to guard food or toys. As far as I am concerned this is a must around children.
The other thing is parents don't know what to teach their children about dogs because they themselves don't know.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thank you for sharing it!