Even experienced dog owners don’t always understand their dog’s body language. And when dogs feel scared or threatened is when they’re likely to bite.
For example, do you helpfully put a hand out to an unfamiliar dog so it can sniff you in greeting? Even if you’re not putting your hand scarily over the top of the dog’s head it still may be a somewhat threatening gesture.
US veterinarian and animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin has sensible guidance for us for understanding a dog’s body language and avoiding bites:
Based on my experience as a veterinarian focused on behavior, I feel safe in saying that the majority of people who are bitten think that the bite comes out of the blue or that the dog is just mean or unpredictable. The truth is that the majority of bites are actually due to fear and they occur because humans fail to recognize the signs of fear in dogs. To make matters worse, people often assume that dogs should be friendly with all people all the time and consequently they greet and interact with unfamiliar dogs in a way that is rude or scary.…
One problem is that we’ve been told many times that you should greet a dog by letting him sniff you hand, but in reality, the best way to greet is to stay outside of the dog’s personal bubble and let the dog approach you at his own rate.
Read her full post, Dog Bite Prevention for more on understanding how to prevent dog bites. The video below has a few tips. Start at around 1 minute 30.
Dogs and aggression
You may also like to look at the post on The Dog Lobby: Dogs, behaviour and aggression.