What physical signs are displayed by a threatened dog before she gets ready to bite?
Dogs generally display numerous warnings before they bite. Biting and other forms of aggressive behavior most commonly arise from fear. Most dogs typically avoid engaging in physical fighting, because they understand the risk of being killed or seriously injured—so they’ll try to diffuse it with pre-bites signs.
Though the warning signs leading up to a bite can be subtle, they are similar no matter the breed. Facial and body expressions change, placement of the ears change, even the sound of the bark or growl can indicate that a bite is imminent, that you need to take action to prevent an attack and protect yourself or others.
Here are some pre-bite behaviors and their warnings signs:
• Aggressive Play: Sometimes when dogs play they’ll growl. For instance, they may growl when playing tug of war with you. They also move loosely and the tail will probably be high and wag back and forth quickly—but a stiff body, fixed hard stare and dilated pupils means it’s no longer a game, but has developed into aggression. Stop immediately.
• Guarding: Slight lowering of the head and split-second stillness. For instance, a dog chewing a bone suddenly stops chewing and becomes perfectly still as you or another animal approaches.
• Defensive: The hair on the back of the neck stands up. Ears will be upright and lips drawn back just enough to expose incisors and canines. The dog can raise his tail, making short, sharp movements as if it were trembling. His head and neck are extended forward and lowered. In an extreme situation, the dog’s tail tucks between the legs, the hair stands along the neck, back, and up to the tail and it will growl loudly.
• Offensive: Assertive dogs stand their ground with the head, neck and tail held high. Their lips are lifted and curled back enough to wrinkle up the nose, while the eyes are fixed in a hard stare. A dog about to strike is silent and motionless. He might lick its nose and the eyes may shift, partially exposing the white part of the eye. These are split-second behaviors that can be missed