The Psychology of Canine Aggression in Illinois: Red Flags for Bites

Canine aggression is a complex issue that impacts public health and safety in the state of Illinois. Dog bites and attacks can cause severe physical and psychological trauma, especially for children. Understanding the psychology behind canine aggression is essential to prevent bites and get help if you or a loved one is attacked. In this article we’ll take a closer look at the psychology of canine aggression and explain what you should do if you’ve been bitten by a dog in Illinois.

Common Causes of Aggression in Dogs

There are several factors that can trigger aggressive behavior in dogs. These include:


Dogs often bite out of fear. They may have learned to associate certain people, places, sights, sounds, or handling with something unpleasant. This causes them to react defensively with growling, snapping, or biting. Fearful dogs need behavior modification training and counterconditioning to change their negative associations.


Some dogs become aggressive when protecting their food, toys, sleeping area, or owner. They see people or animals approaching as a threat. This territorial behavior stems from insecurity and a lack of proper socialization. It requires training with positive reinforcement to build confidence and change guarding tendencies.

Predatory Drive

Certain breeds have high predatory drives towards small animals or children due to genetics. They may instinctively want to chase and potentially harm them. Strong management and impulse control training is needed to override this hardwired behavior.

Pain or Sickness

An otherwise friendly dog may bite if it is hurt or unwell. Pain from an injury or illness leads to irritability. Dogs also bite out of fear when handled by vets or groomers. Checking a dog’s health is important if aggression develops suddenly.

Learned Behavior

Dogs that have been encouraged to show aggressive behavior or rewarded for it can learn it’s acceptable. They may continue the habit with other dogs or people. Reversing learned aggression requires firm, positive training.

Warning Signs of an Aggressive Dog

Knowing the body language and behaviors that precede a dog attack can potentially prevent bites. Some red flags to look for include:

  • Tensed body posture – A dog preparing to bite may freeze and stare with an erect tail and ears. Hackles on the back may stand up as the dog becomes hyperalert.
  • Bared teeth – Exposing teeth is a classic sign of pending aggression. Lunging forward while baring teeth indicates the dog may snap or bite.
  • Growling – Low, rumbling growls are a clear warning. Higher pitched, louder growling suggests imminent attack.
  • Snarling – Curling lips to expose teeth with wrinkling muzzles is a pre-bite threat.
  • Lunging – If leashed, an aggressive dog may suddenly lunge forward while barking and snarling. This shows intent to bite.
  • Snapping – Air snapping is a warning of potential biting. Biting at leashes or clothing shows loss of inhibition.
  • Stiff Tail – A dog holding its tail very erect and still may be frightened or feeling threatened. Slow wagging with a stiff tail can also precede aggression.
  • Ears Back – Pinning ears back and flat against the head signals a dog is considering an attack, especially if accompanied by a wrinkled muzzle.

Staying alert to these common aggressive behaviors in dogs helps avoid provoking bites. It’s important not to startle, crowd, or interact with unknown dogs displaying such body language.

Illinois Laws on Dangerous Dogs

Illinois has statutes allowing certain actions to be taken with dogs that exhibit aggressive behavior, to protect public safety:

  • Reporting Dog Attacks- Dog bites or aggressive incidents must be reported to animal control or law enforcement. A failure to report may result in fines.
  • Investigations- Authorities investigate reports of aggressive dogs. Witness statements, medical records, vet examinations, and the dog’s history help determine appropriate action.
  • Regulation- Dangerous dogs may be required to have special collars, muzzles, secured enclosures, warning signs on premises, and more to restrict contact with people or animals.
  • Removal- Dogs with very aggressive histories may be legally seized or euthanized if the owner will not comply with regulations or if the dog is considered vicious.

Knowing these laws exist helps encourage reporting bites and threats. Rules like muzzling, restraints and signage also warn the public about dangerously aggressive dogs in their community.

What to Do After a Dog Bite in Illinois

If you or someone you know is bitten by a dog in Illinois, it’s crucial to take these steps:

  • Seek Medical Care- Dog bite wounds can become infected easily. See a doctor promptly to be evaluated and treated, and request the visit be documented.
  • Report the Incident- Notify animal control and/or the police about where, when, and how the bite occurred. Give the owner’s name and the dog’s description. Authorities need to establish if the dog is a threat.
  • Get Owner Information- Request contact details and proof of rabies vaccination from the dog’s owner, if possible. This information is important for liability and health safety reasons.
  • Consult an Attorney- Speak with a qualified attorney to understand your legal rights and options regarding compensation if you’ve suffered damages.
  • Photograph Injuries- Take clear pictures of bite wounds, bruises, scrapes, or any other bodily harm inflicted by the dog for evidence. Continue documenting as injuries progress during recovery.
  • Keep Records- Maintain copies of all dog bite-related documents like medical bills, police reports, veterinary examinations and correspondence with insurance companies or attorneys.

Dog bites may have long-lasting physical, emotional, and financial repercussions. Ensuring prompt medical treatment, reporting, legal help, and thorough documentation is strongly advised. An experienced dog bite lawyer can provide invaluable guidance if you or a loved one is bitten by an aggressive dog in Illinois. Your physical health, safety and right to justice and compensation must be protected.

If you’ve been bitten by an aggressive dog, we can help you achieve compensation.  With 32 offices in 19 states including Illinois, Iowa, and Washington, we have attorneys ready to assist.  Call us for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 and receive the compensation you deserve.