“My dog bit me!” It can be quite a shock when it happens. Dog biting is more common than you might think. It doesn’t always mean that your dog is aggressive, mean, or evil. There are a number of reasons why dog biting occurs, and the seriousness of dog bites can vary significantly.
Dog biting can be the result of stress. Even a very gentle, loving dog can bite. Your dog knows her teeth can be used as a defensive or offensive weapon. Every dog has a point at which she will bite. So, if you find yourself saying my dog bit me, you then need to ask yourself what happened to cross that threshold. Some dogs have a lower threshold than others.
Aggression is often the result of stress. Every small thing that leads to your dog being stressed is a small step towards that threshold. The lower your dog’s threshold the more stress she will feel and the more likely she is to bite you or someone else.
Statistics say that dog biting occurs most often in children who are under the age of four, men with beards, during thunder, and when a dog is experiencing moderate to severe pain. The more stressors a dog has the more likely the dog is to bite. This is also why socialization at a very early age is so important. It’s one of the most important things you can do to ensure your dog lives a happy life in which biting isn’t an issue.
The 6 Levels of a Dog Bite
Dr. Ian Dunbar, a popular dog trainer, behaviorist, and veterinarian, has created a 6 level system to classify dog bites. Let’s have a look at these levels.
Level 1 Dog Bite – The Snap
- A snap is when there is harassment but no contact with the skin. A snap is a bite from a dog that has a high bite inhibition. This is a warning that tells you it is important that the cause of the dog’s stress be identified. In this way his behavior can be managed to ensure that excessive stress doesn’t occur leading to an actual bite. Level 1 biters should be easy to modify with the aid of professional help.
Level 2 Dog Bite – Skin Contact
- At a Level 2 there is contact with the skin; however, there is no puncture. This is also a bite from a dog that has a high bite inhibition, but it is a warning that a dog is serious. You need to remove whatever is causing the dog stress before your dog reaches the next level. Level 2 biters should be easy to modify with the aid of professional help.
Level 3 Dog Bite – Shallow Puncture
- At this level there is a skin puncture that leads to as many as four holes from a single bite. These punctures are not the depth of the actual length of the dog’s teeth. Level 3 dogs need behavior modification changes to their environment to eliminate the current risk.
Level 4 Dog Bite – Deep Puncture
- With a Level 4 bite there will be up to four holes and the bite is actually deeper than the dog’s tooth. This leads to deep bruising and the possibility of infection. With this type of bite, the dog bites and clamps down, or if the dog shakes his head then there is slashing with the punctures. You should seek medical attention. Level 4 biters need immediate and serious behavior modification. They also need major changes in their environment and their management to eliminate the current risk.
Level 5 Dog Bite – Multiple Bites
- This level of dog biting results in multiple bites with deep punctures that cause tearing, deep bruising and there is a need for medical attention. There may be the need for reconstructive surgery, too. Dogs that bite at a Level 5 also pose a risk to the well being of humans and unless there are extraordinary circumstances (such as if the dog’s family was under attack), most likely need to be euthanized.
Level 6 Dog Bite – Severe Attack
- This is the most severe of dog attacks where the victim is killed and the dog may even consume flesh. Almost all Level 6 dog biting results in euthanizing of the dog.
Make no mistake, every dog has the potential to bite. “My dog bit me”, is heard more times than you would expect. Many times, dog biting is just the result of a dog owner’s failure to recognize signs that his/her dog is under stress and to make changes to the dog’s environment to protect her from those stressors.
Euthanizing the dog is always the last resort, after all else has failed. The majority of these dogs can be rehabilitated with the right professional help.
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