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Avoid dog bites by learning canine signs of aggression

Every year, thousands of dogs are euthanized after they have bitten children or adults. In many cases, both the dogs' deaths and the bites could have been avoided with canine training and increased knowledge of dog behavior.

The fact is that many dogs will try every way that they can to let humans know that they do not want to be handled, bothered or pet. Because they have no way to communicate verbally to humans, they typically communicate with body language to let people know that there is a problem before they ever bite. Below are some warning signs that a dog may bite.

The dog's body posture is stiff

Its ears are tucked back and the tail is tucked underneath its body. Both are signs of a fearful dog — and some dogs bite out of fear.

Its hackles are raised

Dogs often try to look larger than they actually are to demonstrate aggression. They set their paws farther apart and seem to puff themselves up. They fully extend their tail and ears to indicate their dominance.

It's growling

Some dogs growl playfully when tussling with their owners or other animals, but in general, if a dog is growling, that's a warning sign it may be about to bite.

It shows its teeth

While there are some dogs that "smile" goofily, this is yet another sign that the animal may be about to lunge and bite you.

It's stalking you

Dogs that are stalking prey keep their heads low to the ground. They will stiffen their bodies and focus their gaze on you intently.

The dog is avoidant

A dog that is trying to avoid contact with you will do all it can to discourage interactions. It might sit in a corner and face the wall or cower beneath a table or desk. Leave it alone.

It has food, a bone or a toy

Some dogs are "resource guarders." They will fight to protect pieces of kibble, chew toys and bones in their possession. While any dog can have these tendencies, they are frequently seen in rescues from the pound where the behavior may have been ingrained due to food shortages in the past.

It's a male and there is a female in heat nearby

The drive to mate with a female dog in heat can surpass even the dog's quest for food. Never try to come between a male dog and the female in heat.

The dog doesn't know you

Even friendly dogs can bite a stranger that they perceive is an interloper on their territory. It's best to give all strange dogs a wide berth to avoid problems.

If you get bitten

Dog bites can be very serious. You could need several reconstructive surgeries to recover after a dog bite incident. It may be necessary to seek civil damages against the dog's owner or the owner of the premises on which the dog bite occurred.

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