Prevent Dog Bites – Supervise Your Dog

Golden Retriver playing with her ring toy

People think I don't bite because I'm a Golden Retriever. But take a look at these chompers. I'm fierce.

I would love it if every child and adult learned enough about canine body language to dramatically decrease bites. But let’s face it. It ain’t gonna happen.

No matter how many PSAs or blog posts abound, people will continue to miss signals that a dog is stressed and may bite.

It’s up to us.

We need to supervise our dogs in every encounter with other people. And we need to step in when we see warning signs of potential problems with other people’s dogs.

Why? Because we’re the ones who love dogs enough to want to keep them from taking actions that will harm others or themselves.

Here are two videos that demonstrate signs of stress in a dog that could lead to a bite. The first has wonderful Lili Chen illustrations. The second has a breakdown of the behavior of two dogs describing the actions leading up to aggression.

Watch and learn.

[Spoiler Alert: the animated video is actually the more violent of the two. No one gets bitten in the live-action video.]

Do you worry about your dog biting? How do you manage interactions with strange people to prevent stressing your dog?

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  1. Love lilli’s illustrations. You’re right. It’s up to us to keep a vigilant eye on our dogs. Despite having had dogs almost my whole life, I’ve probably learnt more about dog behaviour and body language in the last year of blogging!

    I don’t worry about Georgia biting but I still keep an eye on her and a hand ready to pull her back. You just never know. I’ve intervened countless times with Rufus the child magnet.

  2. I know that any dog CAN bite, but I only worry about one of ours biting. Morgan thinks that it is her duty to protect us and that most people, especially men are Highly Suspicious. If someone tried to come in our house uninvited, I think they’d feel her teeth for sure. When we have people over, we always take her outside for introductions first and let her get comfortable before we come back in the house. Sometimes we put her in her crate when people are over, too. And on Saturday when we have tons of people here, we will be keeping all four of the dogs in the basement — it’s cooler, it’s quieter (Bunny doesn’t like the parade noise) and if someone runs inside to use the bathroom, they won’t accidentally let them out and I know that no unsupervised interactions are going to be happening.

  3. I love Lilli’s animation. Most people pick up on cowering, but not always the other signs.

    I don’t have a proven biter, but she is insecure, and she has teeth. Peach brims with confidence until the very last second of an introduction, when physical/near contact occurs, at which point she suddenly realises that this new person/dog/thing is NEW and BIG and SCARY and she bolts.

    When I know an introduction is going to occur, I let people know she’s “shy”. Most people think that means she needs quiet noises and a gentle hand held out instead of a direct petting, which Peach appreciates. The few times she’s been put in situations that made her uncomfortable I tried to manage the situation: when we were suddenly walking through an event I didn’t know about I picked her up and let potential petters know she preferred petting on her side; when she was scared away by a thing and a child tried to help me catch her, I gave her many, many treats when the child wanted to pet and talk to her after. Every time Peach gave a stress signal- a lick, a head turn- it was towards me and a fistful of tasty. Now she thinks that little girl is the best thing ever 😉

    I try not to “rescue” her, so she doesn’t become a person-reliant/defending dog, but I do want her to know I’m here to keep her safe. I became very angry at a pet store employee early on who told me, matter-of-factly, that petting her when she was nervous made it worse. I haven’t gone back there because of that misinformation: if Peach becomes nervous, she turns to me for a reassuring pet, and dives back into the fray.

  4. I constantly supervise my dogs around people. In my house or out in public. I don’t want my dogs blamed for biting someone, even if they pushed they limits.

    I agree that not everyone will learn how to recognize body language of a dog, sometimes the signs are subtle and not everyone will pick up on them. Educating people that any dog can bite and to respect the dog is key. Bites may still happen but if 1 person can learn the signs, then that is one more person that won’t be added to the stats.

  5. I agree Pamela. Even though Daisy or Lady would likely shut down before biting someone, I need to be the responsible dog owner, not only where people and kids are concerned but also for my dogs’ own protection. The same goes for Jasper too.

    BTW- Autocorrect tried to change the word people to Peoria. Now wouldn’t that have been confusing?

  6. Great post! I don’t worry about Rumpy biting as much as I worry about him injuring someone from being so playful. But you never know…. and I absolutely agree that our dogs should always be supervised.

  7. I would have sworn that Timmy my little stud muffin Poodle would never bite. But a few years ago my daughter’s boy friend was being stupid and picked me up. Big mistake. Timmy has no sense of humor and without warning sunk his little fangs into stupid human’s ankle. I pretended to admonish him, but it was wink, wink, naughty dog. I was actually quite proud of him for being protective.

  8. Excellent point, regardless of who does or doesn’t learn what’s necessary about dog bites, our dogs are our responsibility. For me, I’m always on constant guard about both Chester and CindyLu when they’re around other people or dogs. It’s amazing how even the calmest of dogs can get ruffled, as shown in the videos.

  9. Thanks,Pamela! The Michael Burkey video is fantastic. The speed at which dogs bite is the scariest thing. It is so easy to miss the signs if you don’t know the dog. Thankfully I know how to read my dog well enough to know when he is likely to bite but it took a long time (with bad experiences) for me to learn what I know now.

  10. I always watch my dogs and the approaching dog. If the dog is just approaching normally, or running the dogs they are fine, but if someone is on leash and barking and snarling that is an avoid situation for me as it is more than Delilah can handle.

    As for people or children I would usually let them stand with us for a minute or two before approaching our dogs and I never leave my grandchildren alone with them. Hubby and I also do our very best to educate our grandchildren about the proper way to act with our dogs.

    Education is key.

  11. Absolutely and I think both of these videos show this perfectly. When dogs bite strangers, it is usually the dog that suffers the most. It is our responsibility to protect our dogs and prevent them from ever being placed in a situation in which biting is their only option. Only we can keep our dogs safe.

  12. Great videos. We manage our dogs by reinforcing to them that they are not to protect us. We also let them know that biting people in never allowed. Not foolproof, but hopefully it helps.