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What are some dog bite levels? What do they mean?


It’s true that not all dog bites are bad enough to cause bleeding, scratch the skin or even draw attention. However, any bite or nip at the skin is a signal that an animal is threatened, scared or feeling aggressive. There are different levels of dog bites to understand, so you can be educated about the behavior of a dog you’ve been in contact with.

These bite levels are important, because they can help determine if an animal is inherently dangerous or simply unsure of itself. Sometimes, puppies bite playfully, which is also a behavior that has to be curbed before adulthood.

It’s true that some bites can kill. Dogs are strong; they have strong jaws and sharp teeth. A large enough dog can kill a small child or severely maul an adult. Aggressive dogs can have their behaviors modified, but nothing will work 100 percent of the time on all dogs.

What happened in your case may vary, but these are a few levels of dog bites and what they say about the dog that bit you.

A Level 1 bite is when a dog bites at the air near a human. That means the dog was giving you a warning. If a dog is warning you before you’re bitten, it’s likely you did something to provoke it.

Alternatively, a Level 4 bite involves a dog biting and puncturing your flesh deeper than a canine tooth penetrates. It’s a serious bite, and there is no inhibition when the dog attacks. This is a dog that is a major legal liability that can potentially kill.

As the levels progress, the prognosis for a dog’s behavior being altered is worsened. The chance of a person walking away unharmed diminishes as well. Owners should be aware of these issues and work toward managing their pets before a tragic incident ever occurs.

Source: The Art and Science of Animals, “Was It Just a Little Bite or More? Evaluating Bite Levels in Dogs,” Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS, accessed Jan. 22, 2016

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