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Why do dogs bite?

From Lassie to Lady and the Tramp, dogs are often portrayed as being loyal companions and fierce protectors. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in the U.S., roughly 75 million dogs are kept as pets. It's a big responsibility to own a dog. In addition to providing for a dog's basic needs, a dog owner must also ensure that a dog is properly socialized as he or she is liable for any injuries that may result from a dog's aggressive behavior.

While certain breeds like Rottweilers and pit bulls are often cited in dog attack and bite cases every dog, regardless of breed or temperament, has the potential to become aggressive and bite. For anyone who is around a dog, it's important to understand some of the situations that may provoke a dog to bite.

Much like humans; a dog is likely to react if scared, startled, excited or threatened. Prior to biting, a dog's body language may provide clues that it feels scared or threatened. For example, a dog may put its ears back, tuck its tail between its legs, stiffens its body and growl. All of these are warning signs that a dog may bite. It's important, therefore, for dog owners to pay attention and attempt to intervene if a dog displays this type of behavior.

Annually, about 4.5 million dog bites are reported with roughly 20 percent of victims requiring medical attention. The majority of dog bite victims are children who, unknowingly, may scare or provoke a dog. Dog bite injuries may range from a small nip to a serious attack. California's strict liability law ensures that dog bite victims are compensated for any injuries that result from a dog.

Source: American Veterinary Medical Foundation, "Dog Bite Prevention," Sept. 4, 2015

American Veterinary Medical Foundation, "Why Do Dogs Bite?" Sept. 4, 2015

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