I often discuss my dogs in my posts, but today’s topic is something that, thankfully, my dogs have never done. Over 50% of all my clients who have said that their dog bit them was because of the scenario I am going to discuss here. The thing that we must remember is that this situation is easily 100% preventable.
My dog bit someone! My dog bit someone! I hear this all the time, but when I review what really happened, it isn’t what really took place…
It is important to know that there is a difference between a bite and a nip. When a dog bites you, he will grab on to you, pull, shake, and tear away at what he has. If a dog nips at you, he will put his teeth on your skin and possibly create a puncture wound (holes in your skin). Understanding the difference between these two acts, a bite & a nip, is very important in understanding what was actually going on.
When a dog nips, he is giving you a passively physical warning to please stop. Sometimes it might take place close to you, but sometimes it might occur with an actual nip on your skin. The dog is not trying to be mean and scary, he is simply telling you to please stop now. The actual event takes place very quickly and the dog backs off immediately after doing it. A nip also takes place out of a quick reaction of fear. You must understand that this is that it is not an aggressive act but a communication of “I really don’t want this to continue”. Dogs nip other dogs all the time, so they don’t understand that it may cause discomfort.
Biting is definitely a form of aggressive dominance and extreme fear. The dog has reached a point where all other forms of communication have failed and he wants to “bring you down”. It is a prolonged process of pulling, shaking, and tearing. The only way it normally ends is through a physical means of separation. This act shows a very high level of fearfulness and lack of a sense of safety by your dog. Although this is a scary and dangerous situation, it is a situation we rarely experience.
Almost always when people say their dog bit someone, it was really a nip. Last week Robin and I received a phone call from a prior client from Dawsonville. He had just experienced a “biting incident” with his dog and wanted advice. Here is what happened:
Our client’s little dog, Angel, was calmly asleep at the far end of the sofa. Their active, six year old daughter who loves and always plays with Angel decided that she wanted to say “Hi”. She ran over to Angel, stuck her nose just in front of Angel’s nose, and said (in a high pitched voice) “Puppy, Puppy, Puppy, Puppy”!
Angel abruptly awoke with a sense of disorientation and responded with a nip. This was because he was obviously scared. Unfortunately, our client’s daughter’s face is in the direct line of Angel’s nip. (In these cases I always find that the nip takes place on the cheek, eye brow, or nose.) A lot of crying entailed from our client’s daughter and Angel retreated, unsure of what took place.
My client then punished Angel for “biting” his daughter. Because of this very unfortunate event, our client’s daughter may become fearful of dogs.
I told our client that Angel was not vicious, simply startled. His “sleeping” and his daughter’s “startling” created the perfect storm leading to an unfortunate event. I reminded him about our discussions of body language, canine communication, and social interactions. Without going into all the details, I told him just to do this:
Don’t stick your face in front of a sleeping dog’s face!
Just do it. No need for any questions on this one. Simple.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.