Sunday, February 23, 2014

Educate Yourself on Dog Biting

There are far too many reports of dog bite incidents and it always seems to end in sole responsibility and blame being placed on the dog.  The truth is there are many reasons a dog might bite, and both owners and non-owners should be responsible and learn about what to look for.  Dogs often tell us how they are feeling through their body language.  That information, combined with some background knowledge about common reasons dogs bite, could save a lot of pain for both the people being bit and the dog owners facing the sometimes unneeded, harsh consequences.

Reasons dogs bite:

Dominance- This is any display of aggressive behavior, generally triggered by things like unwanted touching, picking the dog up or possibly taking something from the dog.  Dominance aggressive dogs tend to act out toward their own family, as if to take control.

Territorial or Resource Guarding- This is aggressive behavior displayed when a stranger approaches the house or the owner, or someone attempts to take something the dog is in possession of.  It's important to never let a child approach an eating dog, allow a child to take a toy away from a dog playing or enter into a dog's crate or bed space.  These are common spaces dog's tend to protect and can result in bites.

Pain Induced Bites- This is aggressive behavior displayed due to touching or attempting to touch a a dog in discomfort or pain.  Dog first aid classes teach important techniques (ie muzzling) for avoiding dog bites if you ever have to handle a sick or injured dog, but contacting your local animal control officer is recommended if you're unsure. 

Redirected Bites- This is aggression toward a person who approaches a dog already in an aggressive state. 

Fearful-  This is a dog who will show aggression toward someone who approaches while the dog is in a fearful state.  Dogs can become fearful for many reasons such as being left by owners, thunderstorms, and strange noises.  Children often make noises that startle dogs and in turn become bite victims.

Predatory- This is aggression toward small children or animals that tend to move around quickly or "dart" around. To some dogs it's their natural instinct to "get" these types of prey, except your children aren't prey!

Punishment Induced Aggression- This is aggression shown toward people (generally owners) that verbally or physically attack their dog. 

How both dog owners and others can protect themselves:

Training
Good dog training is the first step in making sure your dog does not become labeled a biter.  Positive reward based training does a lot to keep aggression at bay.  It teaches a dog to not be fearful and allows a dog to gain confidence in various situations.  The dog becomes less reactive in return.  Dominance/punishment training can actually promote biting in some dogs.  They can learn to become fearful of the punishments possibly coming their way and reactive to situations rather than calm, comfortable and happy.  Dominance training also sets up a pack mentality, with the owner(s) being pack leader.  If a dog in a pack is uncomfortable, or unsure of things, they sometimes try to take over their leaders.  That is the natural pack way.   

Know and Act Accordingly for Your Breed Traits
Before anyone tells me off, let me start by saying I do not fully subscribe to the thinking that there are "bully breeds" and that they are all lost causes, but I do believe in the facts that some dogs are bred for different reasons (protection, herding, predators) and that in itself results in different temperaments and behaviors in different breeds.  That being said, all I think it means is that if someone decides to own a breed that has a nature for protecting or herding, for example, they need to do the proper positive/reward based training, provide lots of exercise and provide the proper environment so biting never becomes an issue.  I think the problems occur with these breeds, or any dog, when owners lack knowledge, skills and desire to work with their specific dog, and get lax in thinking that their once sweet puppy could never be capable of biting.  It happens.  Always be in tune to your dog.

Teach Children Dog Safety
Children (as well as adults) should be taught first and foremost to ALWAYS ask permission before approaching or petting someone's dog.  Children must also learn to stay calm and quiet when given permission to meet a dog.  The proper way to meet a new dog (with permission from the owner) is to have the child hold out his hand for the dog to sniff.  Once the dog seems accepting, it is appropriate to pet the dogs head gently.  The child should in no way bend down and put their face to the dog's face or wrap their arms around the bodies of newly met dogs, but unfortunately I see the latter behavior far too often.  It's also a good idea to go a step further and educate yourself a bit on dog body signals.  This will help you to start to understand what state of mind a dog might be in. One last note: Children should NEVER approach loose, stray dogs.  They should be taught to stand still and remain quiet if a loose dog approaches.  Running away and screaming will only increase the likelihood of a bite. 

Piper had dominance aggression.  Good training solved the problem.


6 comments:

  1. WE always feel so SAD when we hear about a BITE situation.

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  2. This is a timely post for us as the man had a run in with a neighbour's dog this week. Fortunately everyone was safe in the end. But it is so scary.

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  3. Thank u for tellin everyone to be careful! :)

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  4. We're pretty easy going dogs, but I, Bella, do not like people approaching me. It is amazing that kids EVEN when told not to approach me, still do.... Actually, they're worse when told not to approach me. So far I haven't bitten anyone, but it makes HER VERY cranky.

    XXXOOO Bella & Roxy

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  5. Bite situations are not good and always a little sad to say the least. Luckily no biting here. Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  6. Bite situations are usually NOT the dog's fault. It is especially aggravating to us that the parents do not educate the children to stay away from strange dogs!! Happy Monday to you Murray!
    xo Chloe and LadyBug

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