Biting Dogs and Lessons Learned

I have been ‘bitten’ three times.

Over the past nine years I have visited around 2,200 homes which probably equates to at least 5,000 dogs.

A fair proportion of these will have some aggression-type issues including triggers such as resource guarding and snapping if touched when asleep or when someone puts a hand out to touch them.

A small percentage of these have serious biting problems and somebody like myself may be called out as a last resort. People need to know that they have left no stone unturned before making the terrible decision to have their beloved animal put to sleep. I have been to many biting dogs and the majority carry on to live good lives without any need to bite when they are handled differently, but sadly some are past the point of no return – at least for the average family to safely live with.

Some could well have an underlying medical or genetic problem and others have been treated harshly by owners at their wits’ end copying TV-trainer demonstrations of Alpha Rolls and punishment. Responding to aggression with confrontation and aggression, whether it’s fear-based, anger or any other reason , can only make things worse.

Some, sadly, end up being euthanized.

Yes, I have been ‘bitten’ three times.

The fact that it’s not more is because the first two were in my early days and I quickly learnt some important lessons.

The fact that no blood was drawn was because, even in hot weather, I dress for the job. I wear sturdy shoes, thick jeans and a loose top made of strong material with long sleeves. Just in case. We can’t foresee everything and we place a lot of trust in dog owners to keep us safe.

My first bite taught me that when someone is standing at the front door with their dog (in this instance a newly rescued ex-guard dog German Shepherd), and the person says ‘come in’, I don’t walk straight in. The dog may see my walking directly towards them a bit differently. In this case she flew at me and grabbed my arm. Just bruised thankfully.

Lesson learned.  I now try to arrange it that the dog isn’t at the door. If he is, then I ask the owner to turn around, take the dog with him and lead me in.

The second bite was in the house of a lady with mobility problems. Her little Pug was seemingly sleeping in his basket across the room. I wanted to show the lady something so got up and walked towards her. The next thing I knew the Pug was hanging from my clothes; he would have been hanging from my stomach had I not been wearing something loose.

The lesson learnt back then was, unless very sure of the dog, not to approach the owner. If needing to pass or to show them something, get them to come over and get it and if they couldn’t do so, forget it.

My final lesson (or I hope final lesson!) was just a few weeks ago. I was sitting at a dining table, the lady sat at the end of it and the man had the Staffie mix on lead the other side of the room. The dog would sometimes ‘bite people out of the blue’.

I thought I knew better and that I would be able to read any signs. Besides, I would be sitting down and sitting still, with the table in front of me and not giving the dog any eye contact so there could be no possible triggers, or so I thought.

The dog was settled and calm so I suggested the man just dropped the lead.

We carried on talking. the dog took little notice of me and wandered about. He went under the table. I sat still and continued to chat to the lady.

All of a sudden I felt one hard bite, first on one foot and then the other. I asked the man to come and get the lead! Without my shoes the dog would certainly have drawn blood but fortunately no damage was done.

The lesson learnt was, listen to what the owners are telling me! If they say theirbiting Jack Russell dog bites without warning then that is probably the case. Even though there mostly likely will be reasons for it when everything is diagnosed, the bite itself does ‘come out of the blue’.

Here is the story of the recent dog who bit my feet and here is another story of a dog I have seen since who has inflicted serious bites on family members – with no discernible warning.

To see many stories of other dogs I have been to, visit www.dogidog.co.uk

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About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist (INTODogs-ABTC - AAB) and trainer covering Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks, a 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site: www.dogidog.co.uk
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