5 Warning Signs that Your Dog is About to Bite

Dogs can bite for a number of reasons, but most pet dogs will do so because they have become fearful or anxious. No matter the cause, the same warning signs will occur. If any of the red flags below present themselves, make sure you give your dog some space, or remove them from the area if they are either in an unusual location or with unknown people.

1. Snapping and Growling

A dog that is about to bite will often signal their discomfort or anxiety by growling and snapping. If this happens, it's time to give your dog some space. You should also note exactly when these incidents tend to occur in order to avoid unpleasant situations in the future.

2. Dominant Stance

Dogs often seek to establish dominance before they start biting. If this happens, they will change their stance to make themselves look larger. Their fur may stand on end, particularly the hackles – the fur along your dog's backbone. They may also arch their backs, adopt a wide-legged stance, and show their teeth.

3. Frozen Body

Pet dogs are usually very relaxed, so a stiffness of the body should be easy to pick up on. If you touch your dog, or move to touch your dog, and find that his entire body goes stiff, it means that he isn't currently comfortable being touched. When this occurs, dogs will often raise their tails and ears.

4. Yawning, Licking Lips, or Cowering

These signs aren't ones you might expect from a dog that is about to bite, but repeated yawning, licking of the lips, and cowering are all signs that a dog is stressed and uncomfortable. This often occurs when a dog is upset by a new person, usually a child. Children can be stressful for dogs, unknowingly agitating them, and these signs can show that your dog is trying to display its discomfort without resorting to biting. Unfortunately, a bite may still occur if nothing is done to alleviate their discomfort.

5. Pleading Expression

Again, this is a sign that will occur less when you are making your dog uncomfortable and more when someone else is. Dogs know that they are not allowed to bite, so they'll often try to signal their discomfort to you. One of the most common signs is looking at you with a pleading expression when someone else is interacting with them. This pleading look is even more serious if paired with one of the signs listed above.

Most owners will never see their dogs presenting these signs, and actual bites are even more rare. However, people often underestimate how stressful life can be for dogs, and they can resort to biting if they feel they have no other choice, so make sure you know how to read the warning signs. If you have questions, talk to your vet.