Bitten Once, Will Bite Again?

Dog will biteA lady phoned me yesterday asking whether there was any point her making an appointment with me to help her dog.

“Someone told me he’s bitten once so he’ll bite again and will need to be put down,” she said.  I took a deep breath – but after I had put the phone down (and made the appointment) I got to thinking about what the lady had said.

Is there just a grain of truth in the suggestion that if a dog has bitten once then he will bite again?

If a man who is being goaded and shoved to the end of his endurance then lashes out, does that mean he or she will now go around thumping people? Given the same circumstances and provocation, very likely – but generally, no.

Surely it’s the same with dogs. If the dog has bitten once and if his humans don’t or won’t learn from it, he may well bite again – given the same circumstances and provocation. It gives an indication as to his breaking point.

He probably only bit the first time because all his other warnings were ignored. Next time he will have learnt that warnings are pointless and he may indeed bite more readily to achieve whatever it is he needs to achieve – very likely distance.

Humans stack things against the poor dog. Not only do we ignore his efforts to communicate how he feels, there also could be the fallout from punishment he may have received after having bitten that could cause him to be even more fearful/angry or whatever the next time.

Just because a dog has bitten, it’s unfair to label him ‘a biter’, like he has the ‘biting disease’ and that it’s inevitable that he will bite again for no better reason than he’s bitten before. In effect our dogs are our prisoners. Escaping from things they don’t like is usually impossible. It’s up to us through management simply not to allow the same situation to arise again and to respect and deal with whatever emotions drove the dog to bite in the first place.

‘He’s bitten once so he’ll bite again’ leads in too many cases of a wonderful dog being put to sleep for no better reason than one provoked bite. One also hears people say ‘especially if he has drawn blood’ like it will trigger some sort of blood lust.

Here is the story of a dog I went to about four years ago who, had he merely been labelled a ‘biter’ and nothing done about it, may have had a different outcome.

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About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site:
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