In just this past month, I have signed 4 new clients dealing with potentially serious behavioral issues. Each family has hired me because their dog has bitten a person.
Any dog that has bitten a person should be evaluated by a professional animal behaviorist, veterinary behaviorist, or a professional trainer with education and experience dealing with canine aggression. If your dog has bitten, you may use my Ask Dr. Caryn Facebook Page to request a free 20-minute phone consult. During the consult, I will help you determine how to move forward.
Preventing the Bite: I have supported dog bite prevention programs for many years. I highly recommend Doggone Safe’s Bite Prevention Program, “Be-A-Tree”, as the first program any parent or grandparent teaches their children. I also recommend the Family Paws Parent Education Program in preparation for a new child or a new dog entering the home. (Disclosure: I am a licensed presenter for both programs.)
IF your dog has bitten a person, I’d like to share a few points to help you choose a professional to help you prevent this from happening again:
Point 1: Beware of any trainer who guarantees to fix the problem. No professional trainer or behaviorist will guarantee results. Every dog is different. Every issue is different. Canine professionals follow the same codes of ethics as human psychologists…we cannot guarantee results.
Point 2: Avoid trainers who promote “training collars” such as electronic collars, prong collars, and choke collars. Treating aggression with punishment will not solve the problem. Corrections and aversives only make the problem worse in the long-term.
Point 3: Punishing your dog when he or she misbehaves will (i) harm your relationship with the dog, (ii) increase the dog’s fear/anxiety, and (iii) inhibit canine warning signals that predict the possibility of a bite.
Point 4: Respect the GROWL. The growl is simply your dog’s way of saying, “Hey! I’m getting really uncomfortable in this situation.” And…”please help me get out of this situation?!?!?” By suppressing warning signals–such as tight mouths, stiff bodies, lip quivers, and growls–your dog’s emotional state and resulting behavior becomes unpredictable–resulting in that “out of the blue” or “for no reason” aggression in the future.
Point 5: In 99% of my case studies, dogs bit out of fear and/or anxiety. Resolving the problem requires identifying the trigger, pro-active management, training, and behavioral modification focused on the dog’s behavior, emotional state, and cognitive ability.
Point 6: How bad is the bite? One component used to interpret the seriousness of an issue when a dog has bitten a person is the Dog Bite Scale. But this is not the only component – please call your local professional. There are two common dog bite scales in use, the Sophia Yin Bite Scale, and the Ian Dunbar Bite Scale. I prefer the Sophia Yin Scale because it fills in a gap in the Dunbar scale between level 3 and 4. Here is a link to her longer article: https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/was-it-just-a-little-bite-or-more-evaluating-bite-levels-in-dogs/