WARNING: This video contains close-up, slow-motion footage of a chihuahua biting a child’s hand.
Before we start: this chihuahua is not at fault for its behavior. The dog is repeatedly demonstrating some beautiful, loud warning signs saying “I am about to bite!”
Similarly, the child is not at fault: he/she is not old enough to know these warnings or what they mean. The grownup holding the dog (and also the one holding the camera!) is at fault here.
Signals a dog is about to bite
Signals the dog is about to bite include: wide eyes, bared teeth, the “lumpy” appearance to the top of the muzzle, the corners of the lips drawn forward, and the very audible growling. It’s difficult to see it through the towel, but the dog’s body is being held very stiffly. These are very clear signals. The dog is trying very hard not to bite the child.
Notice also the glances upward (at the restraining adult’s face), the laid-back ears, and the tongue flicks – these are cues that the dog is looking for input of some sort from the adult and that it is conflicted about biting. The chihuahua is not an aggressive dog — it is being very badly provoked.
Dogs will give ‘warnings’ before biting… you just have to watch!
Can you imagine how tolerant this dog must be? The child is putting its hand in the dog’s mouth, multiple times, and the dog still limits its reactions to warnings! The dog only shifts to biting at the application of the child’s hand to the top of the dog’s head — a “reaching over” move which many dogs dislike. What a good dog, to give so many very clear warnings!
The other thing to notice in this video — when the dog does bite, its bite is inhibited. It is not using the full power of its jaws on the child. We can tell this because the adult can easily pull the child’s hand out of the dog’s mouth, and the child still has all his/her fingers. Even the bite is a warning: next time, I will bite harder! Get this child away!
If you think your dog might bite, change the situation
If your dog is making faces like this because of something you or your child is doing, change the situation.
Move the dog or move the child, put something between them, or otherwise give your dog breathing room. This dog cannot escape the child because it is being held firmly by the adult. This situation is absolutely unfair to the dog — it cannot move way peacefully, and the only option it has is to defend itself.
Please learn the warning signs of an impending bite. Biting a child, even when provoked in this manner, is often a death sentence for the dog, and the child may be traumatized emotionally and physically.
Have you ever been bitten by a dog, or do you know someone who has been? Does knowing more about why dogs bite help you re-think the scenario?