To many, dogs are more than just furry companions – they’re family. In fact, over 63 million households in the U.S. have at least one dog in their home. However, as cute and cuddly as canines may be, it’s important to remember that no matter how much you may love dogs, they are still animals. As animals, any dog, regardless of their breed, age or gender, is capable of biting if provoked.

Each day, roughly 1,000 Americans require emergency medical treatment for severe dog bite injuries. Dog bites have the potential to be serious but are also avoidable. By understanding what may cause a dog to feel provoked, you can sure you and your family remain safe in a dog’s company.

Fear 

In general, biting or aggressive behavior from a dog is typically the result of fear or a stressful environment. If a dog feels scared, startled or nervous, biting is how it communicates that it is uncomfortable. Not all dogs enjoy being pet – especially by strangers – so you should never pet an unfamiliar dog without permission from its owner.

Possessiveness

If a dog feels threatened or possessive towards its belongings, it may trigger aggression. Dogs can be possessive towards their food, toys, babies, territory or even their owners. If you try to take away or approach whatever the dog is protecting, it could result in a bite. For this reason, you should leave dogs that are eating, with their young or playing with a toy alone.

Pain or other medical concerns

If a dog is experiencing discomfort or pain, they may bite when a person touches their painful area. A dog who is sick or sore from an injury or illness may want to be left alone. If the aggression is unusual behavior for the dog, it may require medical attention.

Dogs who bite aren’t “bad’- most often, they are merely frightened, defensive or sick. Educating yourself and your children when and if they should approach a dog is the best way to avoid dangerous situations.