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How To Prevent Your Dog From Biting
The topic of dog bites is very hot right now. It is in the news nightly.
Dramatic pictures of the dogs and their victims are shown to illustrate
tragedy. I'm sure the owners of these dogs never imagined they would be on
the 6 o'clock news one day when they first brought their cute little puppy
home. If they had taken some simple steps when they first got their new
puppy, they may have easily avoided a terrible situation later.
Every dog is capable of biting. Biting is a natural behavior for dogs to
engage in. It is a way for a non-verbal animal to communicate certain
very clearly. Dogs have an extreme and very precise level of control over
their bite. Dogs do not bite "on accident". A dog can easily move his head
four times faster than a human can move their hand. If a dog snaps near a
hand ; he did not "miss"; he did not intend to bite. He only wanted
to warn. The same is true if a dog makes contact with human skin. He only
does that if he means to. He decides how much pressure to apply and for
If a dog only bites acceptable things at acceptable times, it can be
entertaining or even helpful. For example: A trained dog that fetches a
ball by running after it, biting it and carrying it back to his owner is cute.
A police dog that apprehends a criminal and restrains him by biting and
holding onto his arm or leg can save someone's life. Problems occur when
dogs bite the wrong thing at the wrong time. For dogs to live in human
society, they must inhibit and modify their natural inclination to bite in
order to become an acceptable member of society. Even dogs that live in
wild with other dogs must learn to do this. One of puppies' earliest
includes learning that he can not run up to an adult dog and chomp down on
his ear. That adult dog will let him know in no uncertain terms with a
growl, a snarl, a lunge and possibly a snap that he can't do that. The
may even pin the puppy for a moment. The puppy will then be shunned until
changes how he approaches that dog. The puppy will learn that he must
inhibit his desire to chomp ears and modify the way he interacts with
dogs if he is to become an accepted member of the pack. His reward will
when he controls himself enough that other members of the pack will
with him and allow him access to the limited resources of the pack like
Problems often begin when the puppy leaves his litter to become part of a
human family. While the puppy understood the clear and fair rules of his
litter, he is now placed in a new environment with a different species.
species (humans) does not know how to speak his language (dog) and often
tries to communicate with him in very confusing ways (words). Often,
try to communicate one thing to him, but end up communicating another.
are some examples of the different meaning humans and dogs have for the
1. Looking directly at someone.
Human: I am open and honest. I am telling the truth.
Dog: You had best take me very seriously. I may attack you.
2. Walking straight up to someone.
Human: I am friendly and wish to speak to you.
Dog: I am challenging/threatening you.
3. Reaching out to put an arm or paw over the head, neck or shoulder.
Human: I am caring, consoling, nurturing.
Dog: I am trying to dominate you.
Human: I am happy.
Dog: I am warning you that I may attack out of dominance or fear
on how much of my teeth I show).
5. Glancing/looking to the side or turning ones head to the side.
Human: I am distracted, bored or disinterested in what you are saying.
Dog: I am not a threat or challenge to you. Please stop what you are
it is stressful to me.
6. Licking your lips.
Human: I just ate something tasty.
Dog: I am a little nervous.
As you can see, there is a bit of a communication problem. This
communication problem can lead to dog bites. A dog that has not been
properly socialized to understand the differences in communication, may
misinterpret a persons actions as threatening and respond by biting. This
happens frequently when a dog is approached by a stranger and the stranger
attempts to pet the dog. The stranger walks directly up to the dog
(threatening), stands still (threatening) looks directly at the dog
(threatening), smiles at the dog (threatening) and reaches out over the
to pet it (dominating). You can see now why proper socialization is
to preventing dog bites. Dogs must learn that while certain behaviors mean
one thing when a dog does them, it means something different when a person
does them. Dogs need to learn that a person walking up to them, smiling,
looking at them and reaching out over them is not a threat. Instead, the
needs to learn that that means he is probably going to get a cookie and/or
pleasant pet. The easiest way for dogs to learn the right response to
approached by strangers is for a wide variety of people to approach the
on a frequent and regular basis to give him food treats. This exercise
help reduce dog bites that occur when people come up to pet a dog.
The second kind of dog bite that can easily be reduced are bites that are
prompted by a dogs prey or chase drive. Some dogs are born with a higher
prey drive. They react very strongly to any movement in front of them.
dogs are likely to chase and bite a person running or riding a bike down
sidewalk. To reduce this natural instinct to chase, the dog needs lots of
practice at sit and down-stays around people that are running and riding.
The dog should be rewarded with food treats for staying. This will help
remain calm. Activity and movement on the other side of the fence
surrounding their yard, frustrates many of these dogs and increases their
territorial feelings each time they bark and the person continues down the
sidewalk. This is why many dogs act aggressively towards the mailman or
other delivery people. As the mailman approaches, the dog barks and the
mailman goes away. If this happens regularly, the dog believes that his
barking is driving the mailman away. Dogs who run along a fence all day,
barking at everyone that passes by can become more aggressive and
frustrated. This frustration builds their desire to chase if and when they
ever do happen to get out of the yard. To reduce this frustration, the
should make the fence solid to reduce visibility. It would be even better
for the owner to build a secure dog run and set it up in a quiet area of
yard where the dog is not likely to be agitated by seeing or hearing
Some dog bites that are prompted because of the under-socialization we
discussed earlier when a dog does not know how to interpret basic human
approaches. Other bites are prompted by the prey drive that some dogs are
born with that makes them want to chase. Both of these types of bites can
made worse by how dominant or fearful the dog is. The more fearful a dog
the harder he will bite when frightened by the approach of a stranger. The
more dominant a dog is, the harder he will defend his perceived territory.
In addition to the tips on proper socialization, decreasing your dogs prey
drive and decreasing fence-line frustration you can also decrease the
hood that your dog will bite by increasing your leadership. Increasing
leadership can make fearful dogs less fearful and dominant dogs less
To increase your leadership, don't give your dog anything he wants for
This means that you should require your dog to at least sit before giving
him his food, throwing a ball for him, petting him, letting him through a
door etc. You should also not allow your dog access to any elevated areas
like furniture or your bed. Always make sure you start, end and win every
game with your dog. If you play tug of war, you should go get the toy out
the closet. Give your dog an obedience command, play tug for a moment,
your dog to release the toy and either start over or end the game and put
the toy away. If your dog tries to get your attention by pawing, barking,
bringing a toy etc. you should get up and walk away. Go back to your dog
later, give an obedience command and if your dog obeys, give him what he
wanted earlier (attention, go for a walk, play fetch etc...).