Is it normal for dogs to attack people?

Dogs are not generally aggressive by nature when they’re pets, but depending on how they’ve been raised, it’s possible for dogs to be very dangerous to the people around them. Aggressive dogs may become violent suddenly, putting children, adults, postal workers, cyclists and others at risk.

While aggression is a normal way for any animal to behave once in a while, you may recognize a dog’s aggressive tendencies before it turns to biting. Growling, snarling, baring the teeth and snapping at you without making contact is a sign that the dog is stressed, angry or feeling otherwise threatened. Ignoring these signs can lead to biting.

Not all biting is due to aggression. Puppies, for instance, may bite when playing with you. Generally, those bites are gentle, since the dogs aren’t really trying to hurt you. However, if blood is drawn or a bite goes through the skin when combined with other signs, it’s likely that you’re dealing with a more serious problem of canine aggression.

If you’re being attacked by a dog in this state, it’s possible that the dog has learned to deal with stress or to problem solve by being aggressive. That could be the owner’s fault or be caused by a past experience. Either way, the owner is responsible for how the dog reacts to other people and has a responsibility to keep you safe. Some dogs may be naturally more aggressive, but with good training and behavioral assistance, most pets are not likely to attack. That’s why it’s very important to make sure animals that do attack are brought to the attention of the owner and police.

Source: The Association of Pet Behavior Counsellors, “Canine Aggression Frequently Asked Questions,” David Ryan, accessed June 11, 2015