Dogs communicate their frustrations, dislikes or fears in many subtle ways, these subtle ways are often missed by humans so the dog’s communication progresses through a hierarchy of events until eventually the dog bites if it isn’t understood. In most of the cases we experience, where a dog has bitten a family member, we are informed “the bite came from nowhere”. We then discover, during our assessment, that the dog had been giving a variety of signals for months if not years. These signals can be things such as freezing, snarling or snapping. A dog considers these signals requests to “increase the distance” between them and you. If we ignore them they intensify their signal, like when we shout at a child who is ignoring us.
Dogs bite under an array of circumstances. Resource guarding is one example such as when the dog has not been trained to relinquish something they value (toy, food bowl, treats etc.) and a child or adult attempts to take the valued item away, the dog may bite. Another example is when the family pet is fearful and is placed in a situation where it bites to escape or avoid something. Dogs may also bite when displaying predatory behaviors such as chasing small quick animals (like children) which can result in bites. A dog can also display aggression if they are in pain and are approached or touched in a sensitive area. The median age of dog bite patients is 15 years old and boys aged from 5 to 9 have the most incident rates. It is not a surprise to learn that 77% of dog bites on children are in the facial area, whereas with adults and postal carriers it is the lower extremities.
When dogs bite it is not an accident. Dogs have huge control over the speed and effectiveness of their mouths. Teaching puppies bite inhibition is the most important thing we can do and they can learn. Bite inhibition teaches dogs the power of their jaws. The only difference between a bite that does significant damage and a bite that just bruises is whether or not the dog has “acquired bite inhibition”. Dogs cannot write to their congressman, or email their family members, they communicate in dog language. When pushed they will bite. It is our responsibility to ensure we understand our dogs, know when they are in pain, showing fear or in need of training to relinquish objects and to prevent and manage resource guarding. This is one of our key roles as dog owners, we must raise socially savvy dogs who are polite family members and we must do this by exhibiting benevolent leadership so they can live safely in our world.
To prevent aggression when you bring a dog into the home enroll it into a good obedience class. This not only gives you verbal control of the dog but also builds trusting relationships. Have children involved in the training. The training methods used now are so dog friendly that small children can quickly gain control of a 100 or more pound dog. Make sure your dog is well socialized, desensitized to having its collar grabbed or having food taken from its mouth and having people pick up its toys and anything else the dog considers valuable. Teach the dog bite inhibition. The mother does not have time to fully do this because we take puppies from their “bite school” before they have learned this crucial skill from mum and their litter puppies. Teach children to respect animals and treat them kindly. Do not allow children to grab at the dog, pull tails, ears etc. Crate train the dog so it has somewhere quiet to go if it needs to and have children respect that the crate is the dog’s private space. Ensure the dog gets adequate exercise and mental stimulation; do not tether dogs for too long. Always ensure your dog is part of the family. Dogs that are tethered, not sufficiently exercised or isolated are more likely to be involved in a bite incident.
Dog aggression can be based on either their genetic responses to the outside world, such as predatory drive, or the aggression can be a learned behavior. In both cases the aggression can be resolved, prevented or managed with the correct tools and guidance. Call a professional; do not wait until you are dealing with an actual bite, if your dog snarls, growls, or lunges towards a person call in help. A small financial investment in training a dog can ensure a healthy and happy “bite free” union between dog and human. Download a FREE Dog Bite Education Flyer from www.888DogSmith.com