Why do some dogs attack and bite people? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Dogs are known for their loyalty, affection, and companionship, but occasionally, some dogs may exhibit aggressive behavior that can lead to attacks and bites. Understanding the reasons behind why some dogs attack and bite people is complex, as a combination of genetic, environmental, and situational factors can influence it. It’s important to remember that not all dogs are prone to aggression, and responsible ownership and proper training can help prevent these incidents.

Fear and Anxiety

Fear is a significant trigger for aggression in dogs. When a dog feels threatened or anxious, it may respond with aggression as a means of self-defense. Fearful dogs may bite to protect themselves, their territory, or their owners. For example, a dog exposed to a traumatic experience, such as abuse or a frightening incident, may become more prone to aggression out of fear.

Territorial Instincts

Dogs are territorial animals, and they may become aggressive when they perceive a threat to their territory, including their home or yard. This territorial aggression is often directed toward strangers or other animals who encroach on what the dog considers its territory.

Protective Behavior

Dogs are naturally protective of their owners and families. If a dog senses that a loved one is in danger or perceives a threat to its pack, it may resort to aggression as a protective response. This protective behavior can manifest when someone approaches or interacts with a family member in a way that the dog interprets as a threat.

Resource Guarding

Some dogs may become aggressive when it comes to protecting their resources, such as food, toys, or possessions. This behavior, known as resource guarding, can lead to biting if someone tries to take the dog’s possessions away.

Lack of Socialization and Training

Proper socialization during a dog’s early development is essential to ensure they are comfortable around people, other dogs, and various situations. Dogs that haven’t been adequately socialized may become anxious, fearful, or aggressive when exposed to new people or environments.

Training is also essential. Dogs that have not received proper training and socialization may not know how to interact with people or other dogs appropriately. This lack of training can lead to misunderstandings and aggression in social situations.

Pain or Medical Issues

Dogs in pain or suffering from underlying medical conditions may become more irritable and prone to aggression. When a dog is in pain, it may lash out to communicate its discomfort or as a defense mechanism against being touched or handled.

Predatory Drive

Some dog breeds have a strong predatory drive, which can lead to aggressive behavior, especially if they see small animals or children as potential prey. This instinctive behavior is often more prevalent in breeds that were historically bred for hunting.

Genetic Predisposition

Some dogs may have a genetic predisposition toward aggression. Breeds historically bred for protection or aggression, such as guard dogs or fighting breeds, may be more prone to aggressive behavior.


Dogs communicate primarily through body language; misinterpretations can lead to aggressive responses. A person or another dog may unknowingly exhibit threatening body language or gestures that trigger a dog’s aggressive response.

Contact a Virginia Dog Bite Attorney for Assistance

If you or a family member have sustained injuries from a dog, contact a Virginia Beach personal injury attorney to find out what legal options you may have. Not only may you be entitled to medical expenses and loss of income, but you may also be entitled to financial compensation for pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and the scarring or disfigurement your injuries have left. Call Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today to schedule a free consultation.