When approaching a strange dog, they can often be difficult to read. How can you tell the difference between a naturally aloof dog and one that is poised to bite? Just like approaching a person you don’t know, you need to be able to understand the signs a dog is giving off.
If an owner is not present to inform you of their animal’s temperament, avoiding the dog is an excellent strategy, however, you may not always have this luxury. Thankfully, there are a few signs to watch for when confronted with a strange dog that can significantly improve your safety level and hopefully deter any injury that could occur:
Stillness and rigidity– think “statue.” If the dog suddenly becomes very tense and motionless, usually accompanied by a fixed stare, this is a sign of insecurity.
Guttural, threatening barks– while we rarely think of barking in these terms, dogs can communicate their emotional state through the tone and intensity of their vocalizations, just like us. A threatening bark has a deeper timbre and will be voiced in more rapid succession than a bark that comes from play.
Lunging– rapid forward motion or charging is the first indicator that the dog is trying to tell you to “back off.”
Growling, baring teeth, snarling– a growl is the low rumble that indicates aggression, baring teeth is a visual manifestation of that aggression, and snarling is the combination of the two meant to warn you.
Snap, nip– this is about as close as you can come to an actual bite without crossing that line. Snapping without physical contact and a nip without any pressure are a dog’s last line of defense before entering attack mode.
While this is a concise and informative list, it is by no means exhaustive or chronological. Any number of these and other behaviors displayed in any order can be indicators of aggression or agitation that could lead to a bite. For further information on dog bite cases in California, we encourage you to read this article outlining the process.
If you or someone you know has suffered a dog bite, feel free to contact us at 949-496-7000. We offer a free consultation to new clients to answer any questions you may have.