In the news today is the report that a baby girl in Indiana was the victim of an unprovoked attack by the family dog. It’s not unusual to hear this declaration from victims of bites, parents, animal control officers and the media. Even scientific literature lists a lack of provocation as a common reason for biting (sometimes an inference drawn by the authors, at other times simply a repetition of the available data).
Almost all bites are provoked. Dogs are social animals and respond to very subtle cues. We can work to figure out the reasons for a bite, including the likelihood that it was aggravated by anxiety around the baby. There is a danger in concluding that bites are random. If there isn’t a “real” stimulus triggering the aggression, how can it be prevented or managed? The basic premise that bites occur in response to something is exactly what helps us understand dog and child behavior. Dog and child behavior work together to increase bite risk
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