Anxious Behavior Predicts Dog Attacks: Know What to Look for to Avoid a Bite

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The Humane Society of the United States recognizes that anxiety can cause dogs to become extremely irritable, frustrated, and aggressive when their owners ignore or disregard their feelings. However, aggression is usually displayed as a form of communication. Unfortunately, even though dogs view aggression as a normal way to communicate, aggressive behavior can seriously hurt innocent bystanders.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) furthers this theory, and assigns blame by stating that behavioral problems arise from the limitations and treatment imposed by human society. When dogs feel threatened, neglected, or upset, they become anxious and are more prone to act out.

As a result, the risk of dog attacks and injuries has become extremely high. Every year, approximately 800,000 people are seriously injured due to canine aggression. Unfortunately, many of these attacks could have been avoided if owners and dog attack victims took the time to look for signs of anxiety and get appropriate help before dogs resort to violent behavior.

Signs That a Dog May Be Poised to Strike

While identifying a dog’s mood may be more difficult than realizing your spouse is in a bad mood, it’s not impossible to judge whether your dog is under stress. Although he can’t tell you outright or give you obvious clues, his behavior will change. Just like humans, he will give you signs—it’s up to you to recognize them.

By watching for the following uncommon behaviors, you can help prevent your dog from inadvertently biting you or a stranger while also gaining the knowledge to keep yourself from provoking or becoming injured by someone else’s pooch:

  • Avoiding eye contact. When a dog avoids your eye or repeatedly stares at something and then back at you, it could indicate that he’s excited about what he sees and wants to go get it, or it could mean that he is anxious and protective of you and wants to defend you by attacking what he sees.
  • Growling, snarling, and barking for no apparent reason. These actions are indicative of mistrust, either due to pain, stress, or the need to protect something.
  • Pacing. Pacing back and forth could mean general anxiety or built-up energy, which could lead to unintentional violent or aggressive behavior.
  • Raised hackles (hair on the back of the neck). This behavior is instinctual and goes back to dogs’ wolf heritage. It’s generally a sign of aggression to ward off other animals from getting too close to a dog or its territory.
  • Whimpering or whining. Whimpering is a sign of distress, similar to a human moan. If unfamiliar people attempt to comfort a distressed dog, it may lash out in an attempt to get attention. On the other hand, the whimpering can be a sign of physical pain and if you unknowingly touch the sore spot, it could promote a violent reaction.
  • Lethargy, fatigue, or moving slowly and erratically. Being touched or overcrowded when sick can promote a heated reaction from the best of us, but if a sick dog is overcrowded when tired or sick it may attempt to defend its territory in order to have a safe place to get better.

A Cause, Not an Excuse

Although there are definite reasons that a dog might attack, and some of those reasons may not necessarily be the dog’s fault, responsibility for its actions still lies with the dog’s owner. If you own a dog, you need to pay special attention to its mood to prevent attacks, and if you’re near enough to a dog to be a victim, you monitor it actions.

However, sometimes signs of distress occur so fast that the only thing you can do is try to protect yourself. In these situations the best thing you can do is curl up, protect your face and chest, and once the attack is over, contact an experienced lawyer to get you the compensation you need for your injuries.

Anxiety can cause behavioral issues in humans and animals alike; let us help lessen your anxiety after an attack by making sure the person responsible is held accountable and you aren’t left paying for his mistakes.

What do you think about dog attack liability and who should take the blame? Should attacks be solely blamed on the animal, or should owners, trainers, and handlers be held responsible? Let us know your thoughts by leaving your opinions in the comment section provided. Contact our experienced attorneys at Gibbons & Crichton today!

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