Reasons Why Dogs Bite People

by primorudy on September 7, 2013

Dogs bite people more than 800,000 times annually in the United States. In nearly 20 cases, on average, the bites (or attack) result in a human fatality. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are just over 78 million dogs kept as pets in America, thus there is roughly a one in a hundred chance that any pet might bite someone. Ruling out attacks by feral dogs, or by guard dogs that are specifically trained to attack intruders, what are the reasons that compel a dog to bite?

Experts in the field have stratified aggression in dogs by six behavioral models. Each of these categories is predicated on the nature of the cause, or trigger, of aggressive behavior without regard to any specific breed of dog, the circumstances leading up to a biting incident, or the ages of people involved.


When dominance is the source of canine aggression, human family members are most often the victims. Inadvertently, a family member may shoo a dog off the bed, step over a dog that is sleeping, or attempt to take something away from the animal. Perhaps a child will try to hug a dog too tightly, or pet it when it is eating. These are provocative acts to a dog, crossing the instinctive boundaries inherited through millennia. Unneutered males and certain large breeds exhibit more dominance aggression as a rule.

Read: Why You Need to be ‘Top Dog’


Some dogs act aggressively to protect territory or possessions. Territorial aggression is common in wild animals, and dogs still retain some instinctive aggression when valuables, which may be a bone, a favorite toy, or food; or geographic territory such as a home or a vehicle are threatened by a human. Many dogs “imprint” on their human family members and will bite to protect them. Some will bite to protect one family member from another in domestic disputes. If some dogs perceive a mortal threat to their human companion, they will fight to the death to protect them.

For More Information About Dog Territorial Aggression Visit


Dogs, like humans, are fearful of unusual and potentially threatening situations. The normal protective mechanism of a dog is to growl, snarl, bark and lower the ears when threatened. These are telltale signs of fear, and if the animal has not been socialized – raised in the presence of other dogs and a variety of people and circumstances – it will bite to protect itself. If people ignore the warning signs, they will be apt to become a dog bite victim.

Read More About ‘Understanding Fear in Dogs


Female animals in the wild act aggressively to protect their offspring. Dogs still have these protective instincts and for the first few weeks after giving birth, a female may show signs of maternal aggression if she senses her newborn pups are at risk. Humans should be aware of a new mother’s innate need for a safe space. Adult family members should minimize contact with the dogs until the puppies open their eyes and children should never be allowed to reach into the brood mother’s bed.

Read More About Maternal Aggression in Dogs


It is almost a certainty that a human who attempts to break up a dog will get bitten. If canine opponents are posturing, snarling, barking and biting at each other, or actually engaged in vicious fighting, their attention is not on any human being. Attempts to separate the combatants by grabbing at collars, tails, or hind legs will often be met by a quick about face by one or both dogs as they unleash their adrenalin injected rage in the only way they understand – biting.

Learn More About Behavioral Problems of Dogs


Any dog may bite if they are in pain. Like humans, every dog has a pain threshold beyond which its tolerance is tested. Bites can occur when a dog owner is trying to soothe the animal, bandage or examine wounds. Dogs cannot understand why they hurt, they only know that they do. Irritation of a wound or chronic condition by too much contact may cause an injured animal to bite its favorite people.

A seventh reason dogs bite people is retaliation for stupid acts by humans. In far too many cases, a dog bites because it is giving back some of what it is getting.

Read How to Recognize Pain in Dogs


Discounting cruelty to dogs – the underlying reason for many dog bites – other forms of provocation (by people who do not understand what makes canines tick) can lead to canine aggression. A child may blow in a dog’s face, or try to ride the dog like a pony, dress it in doll clothing, or poke, prod, and tickle it. An adult may get too energetic in disciplining a pet, or stare at a dog face to face. These acts prompt bites. Dogs can be infinitely patient, especially with children, but eventually they will bite if pushed beyond their limits

Read More Dog Bite Studies


If you have been tumultuously injured by any type of dog, it is important to know your rights. Dogs can and will, from time time attack – sometimes very unexpectedly. Cases from biting off whole fingers, to being dangerously mauled are not as uncommon as you may think.

Contact an Attorney If You Have Been Bitten by an Estranged Dog.

In general, just realize that at the end of the day, a dog is an animal, and animals have been know to strike and the most random of times. You can protect yourself by getting educated and learning how to act around animals.

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