Like any other animal, dogs are vulnerable to agitation when they feel threatened, become uncomfortable or get sick or injured. That agitation can increase the risk of dog bites if you or a loved one approach the dog.
Understand the signs of agitation so that you can maintain your distance and reduce the risk of a bite injury.
1. Recognize body language
When you understand a dog’s body language, it gets easier to identify significant emotions.
- Stiff body: An agitated dog often stiffens their body, which can appear as a rigid stance with their tail high in the air
- Raised hackles: The hair along the dog’s back, often called hackles, stands up as a defense mechanism in response to agitation or perceived threats
- Direct eye contact: Focused, intense eye contact from a dog often signals irritation
Observing these subtle clues can alert you to a dog that feels stressed or anxious in their current surroundings.
2. Watch for aggressive tail-wagging
When a dog’s tail moves in large sweeping motions, that typically indicates a happy, relaxed dog. A tail that moves in a stiff, rapid wagging motion is a sign that the dog is tense, irritated and distressed.
3. Understand withdrawal behaviors
Dogs are naturally social creatures, but they can change their behavior and opt for solitude when they become agitated. When you see a dog that withdraws, hides, or avoids interacting with others, it’s usually a sign that something is bothering them, and they’re looking for some personal space.
Recent estimates show that 4.5 million people suffer a dog bite every year. Keep your distance from any unfamiliar dog to reduce your risk of injuries.
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