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UNPROVOKED DOG BITES – REALLY?

My dog pack is comprised of rescue dogs – many of my dogs came with a history of biting people – with proper mentoring these dogs learned to have a bit inhibition…

First, I believe it is always important to define what is meant by bite.Not for those who are familiar with working with dogs, but more for those who have not had to deal with such things or are new to living with a dog.

When we say ‘bite’, what is meant? Do we mean break the skin & sink teeth in; are we including a nip, leaving no impression in the skin or a tiny mark?

I have a pack of ten dogs, and at one time or another they have all done the bite thing (leaving an impression in the skin or a tiny mark). All they needed was to be instructed the right way not to do this and repetition of incident was not an issue.

We have many means to express ourselves and protest especially with that opposable thumb of ours! Dogs have their mouth, paws and legs to express protest.

As a Dog Whisperer, I also work with Red Zone’ dogs who have broken the skin and sunk teeth in – this is not the same as ‘leaving an impression in the skin or a tiny mark’. I rehabilitate the red zone dogs. The surrounding circumstances and details of each situation need to be considered.

If we are talking about a red zone dog bite that is one thing. But I believe a nip is a very different thing – easily addressed and when properly done so, re occurrence is normally not an issue. This is just my opinion, based on years of working with dogs and people & their dogs

It is my experience that issues with dogs start with their people. Very, very few instances of a dog biting are unprovoked. The problem resides in the narrow definition we often employ in using the word ‘provoked’.

PROVOCATION CAN BE BROKEN DOWN IN TO TWO TIMELINES – IMMEDIATE & ACCUMULATED

Immediate provocation may be very evident to all people. Immediate provocation may also be only evident to those who really understand and truly know how to read, interpret, establish the pathology of dog behaviour and understand the psychology of dogs. I see both instances in my work with people and their dogs. The result is a lot of assumption, emotion, misinterpretation and miss understanding of the dog.

Accumulated provocation is something that may be clearly evident (i.e. the dog is taunted repeated on separate occasions. On the other hand accumulated provocation may be very difficult for most people to identify. If the dog’s human companions have never (or have ineffectively) embraced the role of leadership in their dog’s life, the effect overtime is provocation. The lack of a) rules, boundaries and limitations, and b) respectful consistent direction, correction, follow through (coaching & mentoring); is provocation over time. Just as it would result in a human acting out, so to for a dog.

When we pass the dog to someone else – we just pass the problem on. When we summarily euthanize the dog we are making a huge mistake.

When we do not take the opportunity to correct the dog in a respectful, firm way without anger, fear or other emotions we create psychological damage in the dog. We miss an opportunity to change future outcomes – we make one more mistake in the dogs’ life – we set the dog up for future failure…just as we would be doing with a human. I help people and their dogs repair this type of issue all of the time.

There are very few dog attacks that are not-unprovoked…it is just that no one was there at the right time to intervene in the right way when the provocation first started to build.

A dog that nips has already been let down by humanity – it does not need to be euthanized, it does not want to be bad – it just wants someone to step up to the plate and provide it with kind, considered direction.

If not addressed in time the nip eventually turns to a bit and the bite can turn into a deathly compressive lockdown. Not the dogs fault – humanities fault.

For those who have suffered from traumatic dogs bites (either human or animal companions), for those who have died as a result of an attack by a dog and for their loved ones who are left to try to understand – it is a tragic and life altering situation. But 99.9% of this time it is the humans behind the reactive dog who are at fault – not the dog who is euthanized.

Very few dogs are born with ‘bad wiring’.

Because dogs live in the moment it is easier to change a dog’s ‘bad habits’ than it is a human’s. Humans carry grudges, dogs do not. Dogs are very forgiving and treat each day, each experience as a new beginning. It is only with difficulty that we are able to convince, permit and allow ourselves to do the same.

 

Many of my client’s come to me as a last resort before making the decision to euthanize their dogs. Not one of the dogs I have worked with to date required euthanasia – they were not hopeless cases, they just had not received the direction that they asked for and were left to make up their own rules. I most cases one four hour session with me was all that was required to turn the situation around.

If your dog shows signs of reactivity – is nipping or biting…get help, don’t ignore. Get help. But make sure that you get the right help – e-collars, prong collars are not beneficial tools to address this situation, neither is trying to break the state with treats.

Patience, will, determination, persistence, respect and an understanding of dog and human psychology are key. Coach and mentor the dog, train the people.

 

About Karen

Dogs are my life, my work, my passion… I am a Dog Whisperer, Dog Behaviorist and Holistic Canine Wellness Adviser with a wealth of real-time, real-life experience living and working with dogs. For two and a half decades I have worked with and shared my life with dogs. My own dog pack is comprised of eleven dogs, various breeds and ages. I provide a full range of services including Obedience Training for puppies and dogs; canine Behavior Modification; canine Psychological Rehabilitation, specializing in assisting dogs that are experiencing extreme states of insecurity, anxiety and aggressive-reactive behavior; Diet, Nutrition and Wellness Advice and Plans for canines and felines…natural wisdom for you and your companion animal.

2 comments

  1. Two bites in two weeks, no longer holding back, but now puncturing the skin…your dog’s behavior is definitely reached a point of escalation. This is not an indication that your dog is a bad dog, nor is it an indication that your dog needs to be ‘Put to Sleep’ (euthanized). I have worked with many clients whose dogs have exhibited this behavior and far worse. In a four hour session I have had no trouble rehabilitating the dog and showing the people how to provide proper leadership for their dog. So please do not listen to friends, family, neighbors or any Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian that says the dog must be put on drugs or be euthanized. However, if your dog does not get the direction that he requires the behavior will continue and worsen. The biting is not the issue, it is simply a symptom, insecurity born of lack of leadership is the issue. This is a psychological state (yours and your dogs)and is easily reversible. You need to have some coaching on how to properly provide direction, , structure, rules, boundaries for your dog. You also need a little help understanding your dog. As well you need to understand all of the ways you are communicating the wrong message to your dog. This should not and cannot be treated by employing dominant or aggressive training methods, pinch collars, electric collars and cannot be cured by ‘treat training’. Read this to understand a little more http://ottawavalleydogwhisperer.blogspot.ca/2011/11/what-is-dog-whisperer-anyway.html I suggest you get help to resolve this ASAP. I can help you if you are in the Ottawa Area or the Ottawa Valley as I service that region.

  2. Our 4 year old terrier-poodle cross just bit my 9 year old daughter’s friend in the arm, hard enough to puncture the skin through her sweater. They were playing an video game and not bothering him at all. A week ago, he bit an associate of my husband’s who was gently petting him. He punctured the skin on his hand. Our dog has always been somewhat timid and barks a lot, especially at people when they come to the door (including us), but biting is new behavior for him. What are your thoughts? – CCM

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