Dog bites can be prevented by learning the body language signals that dogs give off in the lead up to a bite. Dogs generally don’t “bite out of nowhere” unless these early signals have been ignored repeatedly or punished.

Here are the signals that a dog will give as they move down the road to a bite, and what they mean:

1) Displacement Signals – “I’ll act distracted to take the pressure off”
– Sniffing
– Scratching
– Goofing around

2) Calming Signals – “I’d really like things to calm down”
– Licking lips
– Yawning (often with a squeaking noise)
– Turning head away or moving away
– Moving in slow motion

3) Stress Signals – “I’m really getting scared now”
– Heavy panting
– Sweaty paws
– Trembling
– Big wide eyes (called whale eye or half moon eye)
– Hackles up

4) Preparing for Action / Assessment – “They’re not stopping, maybe I’ll have to defend myself”
– Stiff, frozen posture (conserving energy)
– Staring wide-eyed without blinking (hard stare)
– Mouth closed

5) Last Warnings – “Please stop and go away, this is your last warning”
– Snarling or lifting lip up vertically
– Growling
– Snapping the air
– Punching with nose (muzzle punch)

6) Attack – “This is the only way to keep myself safe”
– Lunge
– Bite

The earlier you take an exit, the better your chances will be of avoiding a bite! The rule of thumb if you’re not sure what to when you think your dog might be heading down the road to a bite is ADD SOME DISTANCE between your dog and whatever is upsetting them. Contact a professional, positive reinforcement based behavioural trainer for further assistance.

If you have a dog with fear or aggression issues, keep an eye out for That Dog Geek‘s next video, the first in a series on helping fearful or reactive dogs.

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