Pet Safety

Golden shaggy dog with its tongue hanging out looking at the camera

Warning Signs Your Dog Might Not Be in a Sociable Mood

Dogs play a much bigger role in society than they did even 20 years ago. You’ll find them in big box stores, cafes, coffee shops, and more. Bowls of water on sidewalks, dog treats at stores, and the famous pup cup at the Starbucks drive-through make our communities much more pet friendly.

Pets, like people, can have bad days. Even the friendliest of dogs may not be in a social mood. Any dog can bite, especially when they are scared, nervous, or eating. They may also bite when protecting their toys or protecting their newborn puppies.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and more than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites.

Understanding an animal’s body language can help you understand when an otherwise friendly pet is in distress. Know the signs that indicate when dogs could be dangerous.

Warning signs that a dog could be about to bite

  • Yawning, licking lips, or avoiding your eyes
  • Growling, snapping, or showing teeth
  • Rigid body
  • Fur standing up
  • Seeing whites of their eyes

The CDC notes that children are the most common victims of dog bites. Most dog bites affecting young children occur with familiar dogs. Always supervise kids around dogs, even familiar pets. Teaching children how to interact properly with dogs can help keep them safe. Take care to watch for signs if your dog isn’t feeling well or wants to be left alone. Never force a dog to be played with, hugged, or petted.

Tips for approaching a dog

  • Always ask the dog owner if you can pet their dog
  • Approach slowly, never run up to a dog
  • Don’t lean over a dog or put your face near its face
  • Always allow the dog time to sniff your hand before petting or making moves toward the dog
  • Never attempt to pet or touch a dog while it is eating or in possession of a treat

The Insurance Information Institute determined that dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all U.S. homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2021, costing $881 million. The average cost of each claim was nearly $50,000.

Paying close attention to what dogs tell us through their body language can reduce the number of dog bites and help keep our furry family members safe as well.


The information presented in this document is for informational and educational purposes only. It is intended to assist individuals, farmers, and business owners in identifying common hazards/risks and considering proactive loss prevention or loss mitigation actions. For information related to specific loss hazards, please contact your insurance agent.

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