Signs That a Dog Is Dangerous
Denver dog bite attorney Brian Pushchak provides insight on how to identify a potentially dangerous dog.
Part of preventing dog bite attacks includes informing yourself and understanding what a potential incoming attack looks like. Though some of these may seem obvious to some of you, if you’ve spent any amount of time around dogs, it can be easy to dismiss some of these as playfulness. Conversely, if you’ve spent little or no time around dogs, you may simply not be aware of some of the more subtle warning signs. Keep these things in mind when you’re in an environment with any dog – familiar or unfamiliar. If you witness one or more of these behaviors, extract yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.
A dog’s growl is one of their main defense mechanisms. It’s a warning sign in the same way that a rattlesnake’s rattle is. If you hear a dog growling, you should back away, avoid direct eye contact (this can be perceived as a challenge), and remove yourself from the situation.
If a dog is baring its teeth, do not approach the dog. Teeth baring can be a sign of aggression or defensiveness, and for your safety, neither of those bode well.
A lunging dog may already be starting the process of an attack. However, this may also be a warning sign – a last line of defense before the dog truly attacks. While sometimes lunging can be a behavior that indicated curiosity, it’s usually relatively obvious when this is the case. Curious sniffing, a wagging tail, and the absence of all other signs in this post may make it safe to approach. That being said, unless there is an owner nearby, we recommend staying away from a dog that is lunging until you can fully confirm the reasoning behind the behavior.
Sure, dogs bark to communicate, sometimes. But if a dog is barking at you, it is generally not a good sign. Dogs bark to stand their ground, to warn other dogs or humans, to assert their authority. If a dog is barking, you have likely crossed a line for them. Especially if they are barking as you approach them, you should walk away.
A snapping dog is similar to a lunging dog. Snapping is a pre-bite warning. It says “No, stop. I don’t like what you’re doing.” Snapping can also be an extremely aggressive behavior, one seemingly spurred by nothing. Even if the behavior is unwarranted, heed the warning. Continuing your course of action after a dog has snapped is likely to result in attack.
If a dog you’re approaching freezes, stop approaching. Dogs who freeze are standing their ground and preparing to attack. They are assessing the situation carefully. This is especially true when a dog who freezes is suddenly very attentive toward you and has hackles raised. All of these signs point toward an imminent attack.
Typically speaking, even an aggressive dog doesn’t necessarily want to attack. That’s why paying attention to these warning signs is so important. If you’re in any situation, with any dog, and these warning signs crop up, something has to change, quickly. Be prepared to drastically adjust your behavior to avoid an attack, or, in a worst-case scenario, be prepared to protect yourself when an attack does come.