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Would Your Friendly Dog Ever Bite?
No dog bites without any reason, but some of the reasons a normally friendly dog will bite may actually surprise you.
When a dog bite story makes the news, it's pretty much the same thing every time. A dog known for being aggressive was just being its usual self and bit a person or another dog. But then there are other stories that are less commonplace and don’t always make sense: a family leaves their dog unattended with a small child, who is then bitten. No one knows what really happened or worse, why. The dog was friendly, reliable and trustworthy - the family never saw it coming.
But a new study on dog bites has shown that normally friendly, non-aggressive dogs may lash out and bite suddenly because they’re in pain due to an undiagnosed medical issue.
While an aggressive dog will typically display warning signs - growling, its ears pinned back or shying away from being touched - if it doesn’t like the situation, a normally non-aggressive dog hasn’t really learned how to use this behaviour enough to display it when it counts. A dog who is in pain will often suddenly bite because that’s the only way they know how to tell you to stop touching them.
The study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, has found that a friendly dog who bites is generally acting impulsively - and the bite is surprising because the owner is not as extra cautious as they would be if they knew that their dog was aggressive. The friendly dog's owner may encourage more contact between the dog and others, which could aggravate whatever is causing the dog pain.
Dogs can't tell us that they hurt, so they act out in the only way they know how - a bite. But before you jump to a conclusion of a behavioural problem in an otherwise social, friendly dog - consider an undiagnosed medical problem.
Signs to look out for
Slight behavioural changes in your dog may indicate that they are in pain due to a medical problem. These can include more accidents in the house, changes in activity level, less of a desire to socialize and more prevalent vocalization than usual.
Some breeds are predisposed to different medical conditions - and they can be painful, like hip dysplasia or various skin problems. You can visit your vet for an annual wellness exam - just like you'd visit your own doctor for a yearly check-up. This can be a great way to detect any potential problems early and avoid a surprise bite.