Whether a dog can be trusted after it bites someone is not a yes or no question. There are a lot of circumstances to consider. A lot of people don’t want to admit it, but the fact is that some dogs are just aggressive, mean, or both. That said, there are a lot of ignorant things humans do that can cause dogs to bite them, things for which the dog cannot be blamed.
Depending on why a particular dog decided to bite someone, it may or may not be able to be trusted in the future.
Why Dogs Bite
The dog that bites people for no reason is a “rare breed.” There are a lot of reasons dogs attack people sometimes, and most of them come down to mistakes people make when dealing with them. Dogs are much more likely to bite when:
- People invade their territory: Dogs can be very protective of things they consider to be theirs. Things like food, toys, their spot on the couch, or their favorite human are very important to dogs, and they will sometimes react aggressively when a person comes between them and one of these things.
- They’re in pain: Dogs with sores or rashes on their skin, hip dysplasia, or other painful conditions are more prone to aggressive behavior. Really, this is understandable and not their fault. Anything in pain has a diminished tolerance for annoyance, so people should avoid tender spots on dogs to avoid aggressive behavior.
- Someone runs from them: Dogs possess a predatory instinct. When something runs away, they can’t help but chase after it. This is why people should never run (or skate, bicycle, etc.) from a dog that’s giving chase. Instead, people should stand still, assume an upright posture, and avoid direct eye contact with the dog, which could provoke it into attacking. Most of the time, they simply take a few sniffs and get bored.
- They’re backed into a corner: Give any living thing no place to go, and it invariably moves aggressively forward; in its mind, it has no choice. This is why children, who stand at eye level with dogs and tend to follow them around, are often the victims of dog bites.
- People scare them: Dogs don’t like being startled or surprised when they’re sleeping or preoccupied, and they will react instinctively when it happens.
Reestablishing Trust After a Dog Bite
Most of the time, dog bites are minor, and only about one-fifth of them require medical attention. The truth is that the vast majority of dogs aren’t especially dangerous and don’t attack people maliciously. There’s a reason people keep them as pets, after all.
If your dog bites somebody, just take a minute to consider the circumstances. Ask yourself: did someone provoke Fido? Was the dog scared, exhausted, eating? In the very large majority of cases, the answer will be yes. In these cases, you can absolutely trust the dog to be a dog. Avoiding the behavior will help ensure the dog doesn’t bite again.
The One Percent
When it comes to the truly aggressive dog, you will likely never have to wonder whether it can be trusted. Are you scared all the time? If so, it’s probably time for Rosco to go. Truly aggressive dogs are extremely dangerous and qualify as an emergency situation. Don’t hesitate to seek help from authorities if your dog makes you feel unsafe.
That said, it must be reiterated that most dogs are non-aggressive, loving companions. If they get excited and nip or get startled and snap, most of the time the circumstances can explain it.