Signs A Dog Might Bite

how to know when a dog will bite

For most animal lovers, it can seem almost impossible not to shower any dog in sight with love and attention. After all, the four-legged friend is supposed to be “a man’s best friend.” While most socialized, well-trained dogs tend to fit this common perception, not all share the same traits. Unfortunately, approaching a untamed pooch is the reason many dog bites result in trips to the emergency room. Educating yourself and children on the signs a dog may bite is important to avoid a bad situation.
a growling dog may bite

Growling or Snapping

Any time a dog is growling, it’s really best to stay away. Just like a rattlesnake rattles it’s tail when it feels threatened, dogs growl when they feel in danger or are territorial. Take the growling sound as its warning to back off. Many times, a dog who has not been properly immersed with social surroundings will become territorial of its home or yard, and it might become overprotective of its owner.

Stiff Tail or Tail Tucked

A stiff tail means the dog is scared, and scared dogs are more likely to bite because they feel they need to defend themselves. Trying to approach or pet it will only make the situation worse, both for you and the dog. The best way to overcome a fearful dog is to back away, stick out your hand palm up and let it come sniff you out on its own terms. This minimizes the threat, and it will warm up to you quicker than it would otherwise.

Wagging Tail

What? Do we hear that right? Yes, a wagging tail can signify either a happy, friendly dog, or a nervous dog. Watch carefully and take note of what kind of wagging is going on. Does their whole body seem to be involved in the wagging? Do they appear to be smiling? Are they moving around and have an excited attitude? These signs are green lights, while a more stiff, with a pointed tail often signifies it may bite soon. Be wary and understand the dog’s mood.

a wagging tail could mean a dog could bite

Raised fur

Hair that stands up, whether around the neck and shoulders or down the back and tail, always means the dog needs some space. Fur raises straight up for many reasons, from feeling territorial, threatened, nervous or scared, and will likely growl, snap or bite anyone who doesn’t take the hint. Back away slowly, break any eye contact, and let it come to you.

Rigid Body Posture

You’ve seen a happy dog in the midst of playing fetch with its owner, but dogs that are about to bite are the exact opposite of this. While a dog at ease will present a relaxed body posture and lack of concern for a potential threat, a dog who feels uneasy in a situation may seem to “freeze up.”  It may look with its pupils in one direction while keeping its head fixed in another. This causes “whale eyes,” where you can see a moon-shape in this whites of its eyes. It may sit perfectly still for minutes, in which case it is usually monitoring the environment for any additional threat.


Signs a dog might bite is by Lindsay Bradshaw is a content developer for Kyle Law in New Braunfels, Texas. She grew up with three dogs and wants another soon.