In New Zealand one in four dog bite victims are under four years old and sustain mainly face and neck injuries, often from the family pet.

All dogs have the potential to bite. Any loose dog may be aggressive and should be avoided. If a dog is showing signs of aggression the owner should be notified. Often, an owner may be unaware of their dog’s behaviour and this caution could prevent an attack.

Why dogs bite

Any dog can bite, usually because they feel:
  • frightened
  • threatened
  • injured

Or, when they attempt to be:

  • dominant
  • territorial
  • possessive

Preventing dog aggression

Biting and nipping in pups can easily be corrected and prevented. Biting in older dogs is more difficult, and correction methods may not work, resulting in the dog having to be put down.

To prevent a pup from growing up to be a biter, an owner should consider the following:

  • The breed of the dog – some dog breeds are classified as menacing.
  • Socialisation – positive and regular socialisation with people should begin in the first few weeks after birth and continue throughout their life to prevent feelings of threat.
  • Training – deliberately or accidentally training a dog to be aggressive limits the dog’s ability to make its own decisions when meeting people.
  • Punishment – reacting responsibly to your dog rather than violently after misbehaviour will prevent it from traumatic experiences that may inject fear.
  • Isolation – isolating your dog from visitors can make the dog intolerant or frightened of people. If it needs to be controlled due to jumping or excitable behaviour then this should be treated with proper training.
  • Teasing – teasing your dog facilitates aggression similar to attack training and should be avoided.
  • Dominance – if a dog attempts to or assumes a dominant position in the household, it may threaten the family. Basic obedience training will help prevent dominant behaviour.

Addressing the behaviour

Biting and aggressive behaviour is socially unacceptable and can be placed into the law's hands. Any aggressive behaviour should be dealt with immediately after an incident occurs. A dog that bites from fright needs different attention to a dog that bites because it is dominant or territorial. An owner should seek professional help, such as a veterinarian, for a treatment programme.

If you are a victim or witness to an aggressive dog, you should report the dog to Animal Management by contacting the Council