How do you know a dog is about to bite? Here are six signs.

People are shocked and surprised when a dog bites. The owner appears appalled, saying the dog has never done anything like that before. If you're the bite victim, you're stunned and you never saw it coming.

These things happen fast, and confusion in the aftermath is certainly understandable. That said, most dog bites come with at least one clear warning sign before they happen, and perhaps more. If owners know what to watch for, they can take steps to reduce or eliminate these incidents.

With that in mind, here are six potential signs:

  1. The whites of the eyes are clearly visible, and the dog won't look away from the perceived threat. The dog maintains eye contact even if you move.
  2. The dog's hair is raised, standing at least slightly on end. This is most common along the dog's back and running down the back of the neck. These are often referred to as "raised hackles," and they indicate unease. The dog is angry, nervous or frightened and may lash out.
  3. The dog looks frozen. The body is stiff and rigid, and the dog is barely moving or reacting to anything around it.
  4. Only the tail is wagging. A wagging tail isn't always a good sign. If the rest of the body is loose and moving with the tail, the dog is likely relaxed. If the rest of the body is stiff and the tail is slowly moving, it's a warning sign to anyone around.
  5. The dog is making a low growl, a sound deeper than a bark, not playful. This sound can warn other dogs off, but people who aren't listening for it may never hear it.
  6. The dog is showing his or her teeth. This is perhaps the most obvious sign. The lips get pulled back to show the teeth on the front and the sides. The dog may snap a little bit or growl at the same time.

In many cases, multiple signs show up at once. The dog stands stiffly, growling, and won't look away from the person, the perceived threat. In other cases, just one sign is clear.

No matter what, it's important for bite victims to know whether they have a legal right to financial compensation. A serious bite can have permanent effects, including scarring, and costs may include expensive medical treatment and the need for cosmetic surgery -- not to mention the pain itself. Bite victims may be legally entitled to compensation for these costs.

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