How to get bitten by a dog

by Leone Ward

Part three of this three-month series on dog bite prevention


As we discussed last month, all dogs have the potential to bite. When they feel threatened, they may use the weapons nature equipped them with: their teeth.

Here are the last four of nine reasons and some ideas for prevention.

6. Hugging or restraining a dog

Dogs don’t like being hugged. When we have a relationship with the dog and they feel safe with us, most dogs will put up with our display of affection. When interacting with a strange dog however, never hug or restrain the dog in any way (unless we absolutely have to, e.g. veterinary procedures). If the stress level of the dog rises beyond that of simple discomfort he/she may think of no other way to get out of the embrace than with a bite.

Prevention: No living being likes to be restrained. Don’t hug dogs you do not know.

7. Roughhousing with a dog

Sorry guys, I know many like to rough-house with their dog - nothing wrong with that, except that without certain boundaries in place, play can escalate to the point of injury. Dogs may nip their owner during play and could do the same when they mistakenly see an opportunity for roughhousing with strangers.

Prevention: Don’t let roughhousing escalate and get out of hand. Just like when dogs play with one another, take many mini breaks to let the situation cool off a bit. Have rules in play, such as no mouthing, nipping, jumping, etc.

8. Running and screaming at the sight of a dog

What is more exciting to a dog than a person running away while screaming and moving erratically? If we’re afraid of dogs and this is how we react when we see them, our fear will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most dogs naturally chase moving targets, and if we sound like a shrieking animal, we only make things worse.

Prevention: When walking by a dog, staying calm and controlled is always the safest option.

9. Ignoring the dog’s warning signals

If we were to move to a foreign country, wouldn’t we make sure to learn the language? When living with dogs, we need to make the effort to learn their language. Many of us don’t understand warning signals and get confused and stunned when our beloved pet bites ‘out of the blue’. When you know what to look for, warning signs are there. The problem is when the human repeatedly ignores them and pushes the dog beyond his comfort level.

Prevention: Responsible guardianship comes with a basic understanding of dog body language. When is the dog stressed, scared or defensive? Dogs are very clear in the way they express their emotions and recognising them allows us to make changes in the environment to prevent accidents.

Dog bites often seem to happen as an accident, but most are preventable. We all live around dogs whether we own one or not, and can all contribute to limiting the number of traumas due to man’s best friend. In a society where bites are not tolerated and can lead to a death penalty for the dog, it’s even more important to do what’s in our power to make a difference.

(Thanks to Jennifer Cattet PH.D for some of the information in this article.)

For information or consults on dog behaviour contact

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