What Are the Signs That a Dog May Be About To Attack?

Published on Aug 10, 2022 at 8:31 pm in Dog Bites.

What Are the Signs That a Dog May Be About To Attack?

Turn on the news, especially at a time of the year like the spring and summer when temperatures are often suitable for dog owners to leave their pets outside. You’ll hear many stories about furry friends attacking people unexpectedly. You might realize that one sign of a rabid dog is that they indiscriminately walk up to humans and attack them. However, you might also think that there’s no way in which all the dogs mentioned in the stories you hear have rabies.

As you may suspect, dogs don’t have to be suffering from the behavior-altering and deadly neurological condition rabies to lead them to approach and potentially attack us humans. Dogs may become aggressive and lash out for various other reasons. They generally send warning signs before lashing out and attacking. Knowing the signs to look for may save you from suffering potentially life-threatening injuries.

Signs of Aggression That Dogs Show

We humans often get concerned when we hear a dog whimper or bark. We assume that there must be something about us that they don’t like when this happens. Dogs don’t have the ability to vocalize any other way, though. So, automatically assuming that these sounds are necessarily a negative thing is unwise. It may just be the canine’s way of greeting someone or getting their attention.

Some indicators to look for that are more directly tied to a dog’s aggression include the following:

  • An appearance of body rigidity or stiffness
  • Unprovoked snapping when around others
  • A tendency to show its teeth
  • Increased visibility of the white portion of the dog’s eyes
  • A decrease in eye contact
  • Fur standing up on the dog’s body

Growling and snarling are also signs of aggression. You’ll certainly want to keep your distance if you hear a dog let out one of these guttural sounds.

Why Dogs Become Aggressive

Canines are not all that different from humans when it comes to explaining why they act out aggressively in certain situations. Dogs do so when they:

  • Are being ill-treated or prodded
  • Feel the need to protect their young or pack
  • Aren’t well socialized
  • Feel like their safety or territory are being threatened
  • Are sick or injured

Dogs want to feel comfortable knowing that they’re safe. Stress and anxiety can overwhelm them, causing them to react aggressively, inflicting a bite or worse.

Are Certain Dog Breeds More Aggressive Than Others?

A study carried out by the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) focused on determining which dogs are most likely to react aggressively when not even provoked. Three breeds, including chihuahuas, dachshunds, and chow chows made the list.

ATTS determined that a lack of peripheral vision was likely responsible for chow chow aggressiveness. They determined that dachshunds’ and chihuahuas’ smaller statures likely lead them to be more aggressive than other dogs. Aside from that, ATTS researchers pointed to chihuahuas’ tendency to be possessive as a reason for them being more aggressive than other canines.

What Should You Do if a Dog Is Attacking You?

Dog safety experts are well-suited to dole out advice about how to fend off a dog during a dog attack. Some of the tips they offer include:

  • Striking it along the back of the head, nose, or throat. Just keep in mind that any punching or kicking of the dog is likely to further agitate them.
  • Vacate the area as soon as the attack is over. You should be careful not to turn around as you leave the area. Turning your back on a dog can be an invitation to the dog to attack you once again.

There are instances in which none of the defensive tactics you employ may seem to work, and the attack may seem unrelenting. Your dog attack injuries you suffered may also be so severe that leaving the scene on your own volition isn’t possible. It’s imperative to use your voice to call attention to yourself in hopes that it scares away the dog and gets you the help you need.

Dangers Associated With Dog Attacks

Dog bites can range in severity, much like burns do.

Many puppies “nip” humans, a process that involves them clenching their teeth around a portion of the skin as they get accustomed to their smell and explore protecting themselves if the need arises. Nips seldom, if ever, puncture the skin, so it’s unlikely for a puppy’s behavior to pose any danger.

Any dog bite that punctures the skin has the potential to cause a human significant harm. It can lead them to acquire a deadly medical condition, functional impairments, and disfigurement.


Disease Transmission

Dogs that have rabies could easily transmit it by you coming into contact with its infected saliva. While you can likely stave off the progression of this debilitating neurological disease by receiving a full round of a rabies treatment immediately following your incident, it must be administered right away for it to have the desired effect.

Canines also have the potential of transmitting tetanus to humans as well. However, the likelihood of this happening is low if you’ve received a tetanus vaccine within the past five years. Doctors may require you to receive a booster if you’re unsure when you were last vaccinated to keep this medical condition at bay.

You also face the risk of the dog having Capnocytophaga (or other bacteria, like salmonella or E. coli) in their mouths. Capnocytophaga, for example, is transmissible to humans through animal scratches and bites. This bacteria can cause sepsis, a potentially deadly condition that causes organ failure and tissue damage. Doctors may require patients to undergo amputation of their limbs as a last-ditch effort to save their lives once sepsis sets in.

Functional Impairments

Dog bites, as mentioned earlier, vary in severity.

Some may only puncture the uppermost layers of the skin, causing initial bleeding, bruising, discomfort, swelling, and redness that fully heals after a week or two of taking over-the-counter pain killers and applying topical treatments to them.

Other bites that penetrate as deep as the lower levels of the skin, down to where the bones and nerves lie, may require, at the very least, extensive wound care to minimize the risk of infection.

Surgical intervention, pain management, and even physical or occupational therapy may be necessary to minimize pain and help dog attack victims regain the functionality of their affected limbs. Even still, some patients with particularly severe injuries may not respond well to the treatments and be left with lingering functional impairments.


More profound dog bites (the ones that permeate the lower layers of the skin or affect nerves and bones) can leave disfiguring injuries, such as scarring. The likelihood of this happening is high if the injury involved the dog tearing or eating away at its victim’s flesh. It often occurs during attacks when dogs are particularly aggressive.

There have been stories reported on the news where individuals have required skin grafts and other wound management or plastic surgery to address disfigurement left behind by dog attacks. Replacement of an eye with a glass one and face transplants have been reported too.

Legal Options Available to You After a Dog Attack

Marion property owners have an obligation to keep their dogs inside, safely enclosed in their yards, or on a leash when out for a walk. They may be required to take even further precautions if they have a particularly aggressive dog.

Illinois law allows you to hold a dog owner liable for any injuries you might suffer at their dog’s hands. You’ll have to prove that their negligence resulted in your injuries to move forward with your claim.

Keep in mind that the dog’s owner will likely push back on your claims and accuse you of having instigated any attack. This is why you’ll want to have an experienced attorney advocating for you throughout this legal process. They’ll have the experience in responding to these inevitable defense tactics.

Our lawyers at Prince Law Firm offer free case reviews where we can let you know how we can help with your legal matter. You have nothing to lose, so schedule your consultation today.



Want to speak to an attorney? Unsure if you have a case? Fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you as quickly as possible.