A happy dog and one that gets the right amount of exercise is far less likely to feel anxious and stressed. The vast majority of dogs also love to be around humans, unless of course they have been mistreated.
Dogs do however need support from their owners, and it is important for us to acknowledge that they don't come with an inbuilt rule book of how to behave acceptably in a human world. As owners we need to understand the tools that dogs need to be able to relax in the human environment because if they aren't relaxed they can't learn the correct responses that will be socially acceptable to humans. Failings in us to provide the adequate support leads to an emotionally aroused dog that will be experiencing anxiety, fear and frustration.
Canine aggression towards people is often due to an emotional conflict. In order to avoid this, dogs need consistency and predictability in their interactions with humans they come into contact with. Dogs have coping strategies to help them deal with the challenges of living in a fast paced 21st century human world. If the dog is unable to cope in a situation there will be a stress response which is a physiological response (not an emotion). Stress brings out the necessary reaction that will enable the dog to cope. It is part of a survival mechanism and stress happens in dogs as much as it does with humans.
Dogs will learn from bad experiences and will take on strategies to help them avoid similar experiences in the future. For example, ''it hurts when I get picked up by children.” This dog may run away to a 'safe' place if it sees a child approach it or growl knowing this causes the child to go away.
If a behaviour can prevent a negative experience from happening the behaviour will increase in frequency and the dog becomes confident in certain responses it shows.
E.g., “When I growl my owners leave my food bowl alone, when I snap the child goes away, when I bite people don't try to move me off the sofa, etc.”
Dogs need choices regarding their behavioural responses to stressors. We need to be able to recognise when a dog is becoming stressed so that we can provide strategies for them to cope i.e. provide safe places, provide mental stimulation, encourage natural behaviours, allow them access to resources to support them so they are able to relax. E.g., Anxious dogs will pace until a safe place is found. Dens/dog beds are safe so dogs need these areas where they can retreat. A sense of safety is important as a dog needs to know it can escape harm and be able to withdraw from situations. If stress cannot be reduced and coping strategies can't be offered then there is a welfare issue.
There are situations that might make a dog nervous if they feel they see someone or something as threatening and result in the dog biting. Dogs tend to give warning signs in the vast majority of cases rather than just biting out of the blue. There are five main reasons why your dog might bite a human. They are due to pain, protection, excitement and surprise. Let’s look at these in turn.