Dogs usually make wonderful companion animals, but what happens when one attacks and causes you or someone you love serious injury? Forbes reports that dog owners paid out almost $700 million in liability insurance money as a result of their animals biting people.

While some breeds are well known for their aggression, any dog can bite unexpectedly. Learning the difference between myth and truth regarding dog attacks may help keep you safe.

Only large breeds bite

While some large dog breeds like German shepherds and Rottweilers are known for their guarding and aggression, smaller dogs, such as terriers and Chihuahuas, may bite out of fear and anxiety. Small breeds are often spoiled or treated like human babies by their owners, which may increase feelings of possessiveness in these animals.

A familiar dog will not attack you

While a dog that knows you is less likely to bite, this type of incident can occur for several reasons. Dogs that are in pain, elderly or anxious because of a new surrounding may bite if you reach out to pet them. It is important to gauge a dog’s mood before attempting to touch it. Stiff body language, grumbling and lifting a foreleg are signs of anxiety and fearfulness you may want to watch for.

A wagging tail means friendliness

When a dog wags its tail, you may think this indicates friendliness; however, this could communicate several different feelings. Rapid, vertical wagging could mean the dog is ready to attack, while smaller dogs often arch their tails over their backs to indicate aggression.

Dog bite injuries are on the increase across the country, with many incidents requiring medical treatment. Learning how to interpret a dog’s body language may protect you from harm.