Learn the Six Levels of a Dog-Bite

Aggression is a survival skill required by all canines. Dogs bite for many reasons. Over the past two decades it has become “trendy” amongst dog trainers and behaviorists to attempt to resolve and eliminate dog aggression. A typical definition of “bite” is “to seize with the teeth so that they enter, grip or wound.”

To quantify the degree of severity, Dr. Ian Dunbar, has created the following chart/guide on bite “levels”.

Level 1: This bite does not touch the skin. The dog is air biting or snapping.

Level 2: This bite makes contact with the skin, but doesn’t break the skin. Pain and bruising may result, but no abrasions will be visible.

Level 3: This bite ranges from a one to three punctures in a single bite with one puncture less than ½ the depth of the eye-tooth (fang) with or without some tearing.

Level 4: The dog is putting great pressure into the bite. 1 to 4 puncture wounds with or without tearing, more than ½ the depth of the eye tooth. This is usually accompanied with bruising and likely to require medical attention. These injuries suggest the dog grabbed and shook what was in its mouth.

Level 5: Multiple level 4 bites. This dog is usually beyond the ability to reason and may feel his/her

life is threatened.

Level 6: The dog has killed.

Biting can also result when the dog is highly aroused/excited when chasing people along a fence line or from a tie out/chain. This is called “barrier frustration” and it can (and does) occur commonly though most dogs don’t bite. Bites usually occur when the dog’s owner/handler attempts to physically control the dog. The dog is so aroused, that he indiscriminately bites the person. This is called “displacement aggression” and is quite common.

Most large powerful breeds can cause more severe injuries than small dogs. Keep in mind that it is mixed breeds and not pure bred dogs are the type of dog most often involved in inflicting bites to people.

Some warning signs of aggression and biting may be possible:

o Any health change or long term health problem

o Anxious or hyper behavior (fear of new or certain people or places)

o Biting or a history of biting (past behavior is a predictor or future behavior)

o Growling

o New behavioral changes (sudden obstinance)

o Obsessive fence/kennel running/chasing

o Severe separation issues

o Uncontrollable lunging at people or dogs while on leash

Most dogs that inflict Level 6 and level 5 bites are euthanized. Level 3 and 4 biters need serious behavior modification to remove any further risk. Level 1 and 2 biters should also be helped with relative ease and the guidance of a behavior consultant.

However, if your dog is obedience trained, maintains a social life (regularly gets out of the house & yard), is neutered or spayed, healthy and is female, your dog is less likely to bite. But, that doesn’t mean he won’t. After all, anything with teeth can bite!