How to Stop Your Dog From Biting
Certainly the most serious of all negative behaviors a dog can exhibit, biting cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
By: paul profitt
Why do adult dogs bite? Understand that aggressive behavior is actually the norm for dogs in their own habitation. Growling, showing their teeth, snarling, and biting are forms of communication. Aggression towards humans is a way for the dog to establish itself as alpha dog. It can manifest when the owner does not take appropriate steps to properly train and socialize the dog.
Biting can be triggered in a variety of ways:
- Your dog has learned in the past to fear a certain object (like a brush, muzzle or rolled up newspaper)
- The dog is seeking attention if neglected for periods of time - Perhaps a child hugs the dog too hard or too quickly; this will not be perceived as a loving gesture by the dog, but a form of annoyance or even a threat
- If a dog is confused about his position in the family hierarchy he could resort to biting to test his dominance over the humans in the house
- Taunting or teasing the dog with a toy, his food or treats could cause a dog to retaliate by biting
- When his territory is being invaded (common for terriers and overly protective Shepherds and Dobermans) - If the dog is experiencing physical pain
- Poor eyesight (common with older dogs suffering with cataracts) could cause confusion
- The dog is a "herder" and instinctively nips at heels of larger animals including humans
These are reasons, not justifications. Biting, no matter the root cause cannot be allowed.
Obviously, the correction method will depend upon the cause of the biting.
If it's an object the dog fears, make it an object of gentle play until the fear is gone. But do not use the object in a play of tug-of-war. That only encourages more biting and grabbing. Try a simple hide-and-seek game with the object, or toss and retrieve. If you can't connect the biting to any object, the behavior may be attention-seeking. Try saying "no" and leaving the room, to show the dog that your attention is lost rather than gained by the nipping or biting.
Children need to understand the importance of approaching all dogs slowly. It will be much easier for you to teach the children this lesson, than it will be to teach your dog to accept what he perceives to be a threat.
Your job as owner, right out of the gate, is to establish yourself, and all other family members as alpha "dogs" in the hierarchy. The sooner you do this, the fewer behavioral problems you will see in your dog. The most effective way to accomplish this is to begin right in on obedience training as soon as your dog is introduced into the home. This is actually a welcome scenario for your dog. He simply wants to know where he belongs in the pecking order. He'll welcome you as the alpha dog. In return, just shower him with love and kindness.
Biting caused by taunting and teasing is easily eliminated by training the humans to exhibit common sense. This is behavior that should never be demonstrated by family members, visitors to the home or even strangers when it's observed.
Correcting biting due to territoriality may require trial and error. Foremost, if your dog has not been spayed or neutered, take care of that now. It may drastically minimize irritability in your dog. And, it has been known to reduce aggression from territoriality. But changes will occur slowly after the operation. Like several months. If your dog is already fixed, reinforcement training could be effective. Positive reinforcement in the form of praise or treats or both when the dog demonstrates good behavior. And, negative reinforcement in the form of a firm "no" or "bad dog" (be consistent) when aggression is demonstrated. Removing the dog from the rest of the family for a short "time out" may also be necessary. These should be 30-seconds so a lesson is learned without creating fear or even more aggression.
If the biting is due to a dog in pain, the cure is obvious. Get your dog to the veterinarian immediately. If it is due to poor eyesight, it is up to you and the entire family to adjust your behavior and be cautious, gentle, and slow to approach. And by using a soothing voice when moving toward your dog. This is just humane treatment for aging dogs.
If your dog has lineage from the herding breeds, it is a natural instinct to round up sheep, cattle, or children if there's a shortage of livestock in your house. While this may be comical at times, it can lead to an injury if the dog starts nipping at heels. These dogs are high energy and very intelligent, but often require consistent training throughout their life. Never allow this behavior no matter how cute it is at the time. A firm "no", "sit", "stay" whenever the dog "herds" can prove effective. An extreme measure can employ the shaker can technique. Pennies sealed in a soda can and shaken at the dog to correct behavior has been known to work. Personally, such a tactic would scare the dickens out of me, so I can only assume it does the same thing to the unsuspecting dog. Scaring a dog could lead to a fearful dog. Just my opinion.
Remember, dogs instinctively want to please their owners. So biting is an abnormal behavior for the domesticated, well-adjusted dog, which more often than not can be corrected. You owe it to your dog and your family to become knowledgeable in proper dog training techniques.