There's no easy way to say this, but your genuinely friendly canine pal, despite all of his awesome and positive qualities, can attack. But with that negative tidbit out of the way, know that a lot of variables factor into whether your little guy latches onto someone's arm or another dog's face. Who he's friendly to, his breed, the circumstances and his health all play a part.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty and defining friendly is important. While this might seem like a philosophical question that doesn't have a real answer, it's actually fairly simple. Let's say your pup is lovey-dovey with people. He greets strangers by running up to them, tail wagging and tongue bouncing up and down like a pogo stick. But maybe he hates dogs. Every canine he sees, he wants to put on his boxing gloves and duke it out. Assuming no one's poking their fingers into your dog's eyes, your little guy might not ever attack people, but it's an entirely different story with dogs. In the same vein, some dogs love adults but are wary around children. They wouldn't think about sinking their teeth into your arm, but they might lash out in fear if a child tries to pet them. You can have a friendly pup who is lovable and mostly harmless but who still has certain fears that may cause him to attack if a specific stimulus is present, like a child or dog.
It's a Breed Thing
It's not fair to characterize one breed as a reckless killing machine, because aggression is borne from both genetics and a dog's upbringing. But it's also a bit naïve to think that all dogs are equal. A chow chow, for example, can be your best friend. He'll give you kisses, snuggle with you and stick by you as your loyal companion. But chow chows are also aloof and have a cooler personality when it comes to strangers. They're way more likely to attack someone for stepping into your yard and their territory than a dog more welcoming of strangers, such as an American bulldog.
Every Dog Has the Capacity
The friendliest golden retriever has the capacity to attack someone or something. In most cases where pups who are thought to be mostly friendly launch an attack, you can look back and see what set them off. You'll likely notice that the dog was fearful, threatened or frustrated. A stranger who walks up to a dog and hovers over the canine may have every intention of being friendly, but most dogs see that as a threatening move. The dog may try to back up or turn away. If the stranger pursues the pup, or if the canine is backed against a corner, its fight or flight response may turn to fight. A happy-go-lucky pup who is deathly afraid of something, such as thunder, may snap at his owner in close quarters if the owner tries to pet him. A child who pokes, prods and annoys a pup can go from laughing to running for his parents with bite marks on his arm because the dog got too frustrated.
Friendly canines are much more likely to lash out if they're feeling under the weather, especially if they're in pain or taking a medication that can cause irritability or aggression. It's better to keep sickly pups in low-key environments until they get better. Try to limit their exposure to anything that could cause them pain, such as touching them in a sensitive area, and potentially frustrating scenarios, such as playing with children.
By Chris Miksen
About the Author
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.