There are many incidents of dogs biting people or other dogs. The vast majority of the attacks occur from the dog feeling a sense of danger with the situation.
The defence responses
If a dog feels there is any danger they have an inbuilt natural defence response to keep them alive, the 3 F’s, which are:
Flight, (run away)
Freeze (stand their ground/ change in posture, bark, growl)
They are in that order for good reason; flight is the first response as it does the dog the least harm. There are however many situations in which the dog can’t run away due to being boxed in or on a lead so have to use the next response freeze which presents itself in by standing their ground with barking, growling, heckles rising or freezing/ submission from fear. If this response has not worked and the threat keeps on coming closer then the dog will have one last option, to fight.
Respect your dogs space
Many people think a dog is cute and so will go up to pet them but subsequently invade their space in the process. The dog must have their personal space respected otherwise it will choose a defence response to keep themselves safe. In many scenarios the dog is then labelled as dangerous and is re-homed or put down as a result.
To avoid unnecessary confrontation with the dog remember this simple rule: Do not go over to them but instead always call them to you.
This way, if the dog comes over they have given you permission to interact
Recently I visited a client’s home in Richmond West London who had a Chihuahua called Terry that demonstrated nervous/ aggressive behaviour towards people. Terry would bark and attack any person who approached him. Once the client learnt to ask every person to respect Terry’s space and call him over rather than approaching him, Terry’s confidence grew. Terry realised that people were not trying to hurt him because the message was very clear.
Terry did not come over to every person who called him at the beginning but overtime (with the help of food reward) he learnt that people were not a threat. As a result his confidence grew.
Below you will see a video of a Golden Retriever who has his personal space invaded. In this moment their state heightens from feeling uncomfortable and then the smallest of movements sets off. Watch the language of the Doberman and the Wheaten Terrier.