Unfortunately, there are millions of people who are bitten by dogs annually in the United States. While many bites may not appear to be serious, some do result in pain, medical bills, lost time from work and other expenses. There are many reasons that dogs can become aggressive, including fear, guarding people or possessions and dominance. Regardless of the reason, there is some body language to watch for that can indicate when a dog is about to bite, as outlined below: 

1. Snapping and growling: These are the more obvious of all of the signs that a dog could bite. This behavior is basically letting everyone know that there is a situation that the animal is uncomfortable or unhappy with. Whenever a dog snaps or growls, be sure to back up and give him space. Continuing to interact with him will usually only agitate him more.

2. Appears agitated or stressed: Averting their gaze, licking their lips and yawning are sometimes other signs of agitation. If a dog just starts to lick his lips when there is no food present, yawns several times or turns his head from you – he is trying to communicate something. All of this behavior is meant to let you know that something is wrong. For example, unfamiliar people or children could cause them to become anxious. While it may not mean that he will bite – there is a chance that if his anxiousness continues, he may not be able to control his reactions. Any dog that is stressed for any reason is more likely to bite. It is best to pay attention to what is happening and remove him from the situation. 

3. Raised fur: Raised hackles is another sign that a dog is getting over stimulated. If the hair on their backs, neck, tail or shoulders stands up, give him some space. While it could just be over excitement, he could also be anxious with the situation. In this case – he is letting you know that he is not comfortable or even fearful. Many dogs need to have a sense of control. When they are over excited, they can easily start to lose control and bite someone. 

4. Rigid posture: A stiff stance is another giveaway that a dog is ready to get aggressive. When a dog stiffens his body and ears and raises his tail, this is a clear sign that he is uncomfortable. It may not even have anything to do with you or the people around. He may hear a sound far away that has alerted him. However, there is something causing it and it is best to back off until he calms down. 

5. Tail tucking and cowering: These are some of the more blatant signs than the others that a dog is fearful. Even though a dog in fear may not always bite, fear can greatly increase the chance that he will. Just like fearful people – dogs may feel threatened and bite out of a sense to protect himself, his possessions or his owner. Whenever a dog cowers away, let him go. He may approach you in time if he feels it is safe to do so. 

Dog Bite Laws

All states have specific dog bite laws. Because of this, there are varying levels of responsibility imposed upon dog owners. While some state laws indicate that an owner is liable in any dog bite case, some are more complex and require more evidence to impose sanctions. For example, there may be a requirement that the owner knew of the potential that a dog may bite due to his temperament. 

Also, the person who has been bitten needs to contact the owner to ensure the dog has had all the necessary shots.  Texas law requires that if the person goes to the emergency room for treatment, the hospital must notify law enforcement.  Never let children get close to a dog, in it’s face or near his/her food.  Owners should warn of any actions the dog may take. Pat

If you have been the unfortunate victim of a dog bite, seek medical attention immediately and document the incident with time, place, form and event. Contact a personal injury attorney such as, as soon as possible to determine the next course of action. Remember that insurance companies will seek to minimize their costs rather than ensure that you are fully compensated for your injuries. The laws surrounding dog bites can be very complex and the best way to navigate through them is with a competent and experienced personal injury attorney. 

Georgina Clatworthy is a freelance writer who regularly posts on topics relating law, health and safety and consumer issues. Price Benowitz LLP is a firm of personal injury lawyers who represent clients that have been victims of dog bites.