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Behavioral steps that may lead to a dog bite

Many dog bites don't happen out of the blue, with no warning at all. Knowing what signs to look for can help you and your loved ones avoid being bitten..

First, the animal may become very still and quiet. The dog may appear rigid. It could be assessing the situation, but it's already uneasy.

The dog may then act like it's going to attack, lunging forward, but it may pull up short. No contact will be made. Some people assume this means the dog won't attack, but it could just be checking to see if this type of intimidation will work first.

A "muzzle punch" could be next, if you don't move away from the dog. This is just what it sounds like: The dog lunges forward, strikes you with the nose, and backs off. The dog could be showing its teeth and growling at this point.

Dogs may then make biting motions that don't actually lead to a bite. The dog may snap its jaws in the open air. It may nip you quickly without hurting you. It could bite you lightly, causing bruising, but no lacerations.

The final step, of course, is when the dog eventually bites you, breaks the skin, and punctures your flesh. This could lead to both biting and shaking in an aggressive attack.

Knowing how these warning signs work and how this progression tends to go is helpful. It may help you avoid a bite. However, experts note that dogs don't always stick right to these specific steps, and even doing all you can to avoid the bite may not be successful. When you are hurt, you may need to look into your rights to financial compensation.

Source: WebMD, "Aggression in Dogs," accessed June 22, 2017

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