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Is your dog biting without warning?

Updated: Feb 21

Dog bites are on the increase and while XL Bullies are getting a lot of press; accurate figures about breeds most likely to bite are limited by the fact that many bites go unreported and often happen in the dog's own home.

In owner surveys and anecdotal accounts, small dogs like terriers, dachshunds, chihuahuas and spaniels or spaniel mixes often feature in top 10 lists of dogs who bite.

Dogs communicate all the time, with their whole body from their nose to their tail. Dogs generally won’t bite when a warning will do, but many warnings are quiet and can be easy to miss.

Small dogs find it particularly challenging to make themselves heard. Warnings are more likely to be ignored or overridden compared to bigger dogs. They’re also further away from our eye line so quieter signals are more likely to be missed, especially those with fluffy coats that obscure.

Outdated advice on television programmes and Google can also lead to training approaches that teach the dog to bite without warning. This happens when warning signals are interpreted as stubbornness, naughtiness or dominance instead of symptoms of fear, anxiety or pain.

Getting a dog when they're a puppy is no guarantee. Puppies are not blank slates and unscrupulous or misguided breeding practices result in puppies predisposed to fear and anxiety-based behaviours.

It's the dogs who whisper, we just have to listen to prevent dog biting without warning

Dogs communicate in silence much of the time and it's these silent signals which are the key to preventing dog bites. These include:

- Tongue Flick (see the accompanying image for this article)

- Head turned away from you or another dog

- Whites of their eyes showing (frequently misinterpreted as the ‘guilty’ look

- Yawning (also seen when they feel under pressure to ‘perform’)

It’s important to note that these are only a few examples. There are many more ways a dog can communicate silently, and like words in the English language, the meaning can change according to what is happening at the time.

What should I do if my dog growls?

The most important thing to do is listen and give them space. Listening isn’t rewarding them for growling, it’s rewarding them for warning. Your dog is perfectly capable of removing fingers but is choosing not to.

Sometimes owners of small dogs wait for longer before asking for help at which time their dog has started biting hard. But the earlier you ask for help, the easier it is to start helping your dog feel better.

If you're worried about your dog growling or biting, book a FREE call or send me a message via

Yorkshire terrier dog doesn't want to be touched

I'm Rachel and I'm an IMDT Dog Trainer based in the New Forest near Southampton. I specialise in small breed dogs and offer 121 behaviour and training services. I only use kind, ethical, science based methods of training

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