Images of aggressive biting dogs have been portrayed by Hollywood for years in mostly stereotypical ways – rabid junkyard dogs chasing bad guys, or even in the American horror film Cujo. The reality is that even the friendliest of dogs have the potential to bite people, given the right circumstance.
Stopping your dog from biting comes from a combination of good training and vigilance. Here are some helpful tips for stopping your dog from biting.
Why Dogs Bite
The reason dogs ultimately choose to bite someone comes down to three avoidable situations: provocation, illness, or lack of training.
If your dog feels threatened in any way, they may lash out and bite as a form of self-defense. This could be in reaction to another dog infringing on their territory, or a child getting too close to their food.
Some dogs may bite as a result of an illness. They could sense a threat and get defensive from their sense of vulnerability, or they could lose the ability to self-regulate and lash out.
Finally, proper training plays a vital role in preventing bites. For example, teaching a territorial dog not to be as protective of their food dish can help prevent that measure of defense. Teaching puppies that nipping isn’t ok sets dogs up for future success in their adult lives.
Consequences of Biting
Dog bites can have significant consequences for the recipient, the animal, and the owner. While many states have a one-bite law that protects an animal if it’s a first offense, others don’t. If the bite victim pursues legal action, the owner could be held liable for any medical expenses, and the dog could be forcibly euthanized.
As dog bites can be physically, financially, and emotionally devastating, it’s best to avoid them at all costs.
Tips for Stopping Biting
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent dog bites. Here are some helpful tips to keep everyone— both four-legged and two-legged— safe.
Socialize Your Pet Early
Get your pet used to social surroundings and situations as soon as possible. This could include walking in urban areas with lots of traffic, taking trips to the park where other animals are present, and visiting with people outside the family.
The more your dog is acclimatized to the rest of the world, the less threatened they’ll feel in new social situations.
Invest in Training
Training classes are worth every penny when it comes to dog ownership. Even basic obedience often covers biting and listening to commands.
If formal training isn’t an option, invest your time in specifically training your dog not to bite. Remember to use positive reinforcement rather than anger and scolding.
Provide a Safe Environment
Be an advocate for your dog. Children don’t always know how to interact with animals, and it’s natural for a dog to lash out if its tail or fur is being pulled.
If a friendly stranger of any age gets too close and your dog seems uncomfortable, speak up and ask them to step back. It may feel unnatural and rude to do so, but your dog can’t speak up for itself. It’s well worth pushing some social norms if it means preventing harm.
Use a Muzzle if Needed
For some dogs, training and socialization can only take them so far. For dogs that have had negative experiences growing up, extra care and retraining may be necessary to help overcome those negative experiences.
If your dog has aggression issues, consider using a muzzle when out in public. Look for a cage-style muzzle that allows your pet to open its mouth to allow for breathing and panting. The traditional nylon straps that keep the mouth shut can cause anxiety and worsen their agitation. Again, it’s important to speak up and advocate for your pet and let people know if they should stay back.
Know the Signs
Make it your mission to know your dog well. If you see them starting to get agitated, remove them from the situation. If your dog starts getting uncharacteristically aggressive, contact the vet to schedule a check-up and recommendations.