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A growl and a show of teeth is dog language for “back off”

On behalf of Goldstein Goldstein

If you have to cope with mountains of medical bills and permanent scarring after a dog attack, you are one of many such victims in New Jersey who land in hospitals every year. In many of these cases, the victims have lasting scars that might even require plastic surgery. Emotional distress and trauma might cause a lifelong fear of dogs.

If the dog bite incident took place on someone else’s property, and you did not provoke the animal, you might have grounds to file a premises liability lawsuit. Although such legal action is complicated, it might result in a monetary judgment to cover the financial and emotional damages you sustained.

Not all dogs are lovable

Children are often the victims of dog bites. They might think strange dogs are as playful and lovable as their pets are. The only means of defense a dog has is its teeth, and when it feels threatened, it will naturally use them. If you have children, it might be wise to teach them from the start never to approach a strange dog. As they grow older, you can show them which circumstances might cause a dog to attack — even if the animal has no history of aggressive tendencies.

Possession aggression

Some dogs can be excessively protective of things they regard as their possessions. The resource guarding could include their puppies, favorite treats or food, toys, or even a person. Watch out for telltale signs — a growl and a show of teeth will tell you to back off.


When a dog is anxious and fearful, it might feel that it has to flee or fight, and in most cases, it would choose to fight. Understand that the dog might be as scared of you as you are of it, and it could lash out in self-protection. However, biting is typically the last resort, only used when the dog feels there is no escape.


Teasing a dog can cause enough aggravation to evoke an attack. Dogs, like people, have limits to which they can handle provocation, and, when it reaches that limit, the dog will use body language, such as growling and a show of teeth, as a warning. If you ignore the warning and the teasing continues, an attack might follow.


You might experience this problem in your own household rather than on the premises of someone else. This does not only occur just between two dogs, and it is not uncommon for a dog to want to be the dominant one in the household. If you allow this to continue, it might lead to an attack on your child or another person in your house. Proper training can teach a dog that it is not in charge.

Do you know your rights?

While it is your right to take legal action if you or a loved one suffered a dog bite, some circumstances could be sensitive — especially when the dog belongs to a neighbor or a family member. However, dog attacks come with substantial financial consequences for the treatment of injuries and the mental and physical scars it might leave.

Money might not erase all the damage, but it might ease the unanticipated financial burden. There are resources available to help you with ensuing legal proceedings if you choose to file a premises liability lawsuit in a New Jersey civil court.

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