Understanding Dog Bite Behavior or Don’t Blame the Dog When it Bites

Don't blame the dog when it bites.

Of all the dog bites that occur in the U.S., children are most often the victims. Did you know that when a dog bites, it’s usually due to human error and not because the dog is vicious? How you interact with dogs has a direct bearing on your safety.

As a Grandmother of seven and the owner of two dogs, I care very much about helping to keep you and your children safe around dogs. I would also like to lessen the number of dogs who suffer the ultimate consequence by unnecessarily and unfairly paying with their lives just because they’ve bitten. My focus will be on the most common reasons a dog bites (which may be quite different from you might think) and tell you how you can help yourself and your children to be safer around dogs.

Puppies are not born vicious any more than human babies are. A dog that can be fairly labeled as being aggressive is one that behaves aggressively with all humans and other animals the majority of, if not all the time and would handle every situation in an aggressive manner. There is also an extremely rare disorder known as “Rage Syndrome” which so far studies show is linked to genetics and other medical factors. The chances of encountering a dog with either of these issues in your lifetime are slim as are the chances of experiencing a dog bite in which the dog should be declared vicious and put down as a consequence. The “once a biter always a biter” is simply not true and dogs do not “thirst for blood” after they have tasted it. Even the friendliest of family pets may bite under the right circumstances but that doesn’t mean it’s become vicious or any more unsafe to be around than it was before it bit. In other words, just because a dog bites does not mean they’ve morphed into Cujo.

Generations of humans believe that that when a dog bites, it’s dangerous and should be euthanized. In most cases this could not be farther from the truth. If a normally easy going person with a “never hurt a fly” personality were to step outside their usual character and punch someone, this person is not then automatically considered violent just as one bite does not mean the dog should be labeled vicious.

There is a huge difference between a dog bite and a dog attack. The two phrases are not interchangeable and although some of the dynamics are similar they are also different and much more involved than I will go into. I do believe that if more people practiced solid dog safety, we could cut down on the number of dog attacks as well but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s NOT the Breed or the Size its the BEHAVIOR

If a Rottweiler bares his teeth and growls he’s considered aggressive. If a four pound Yorkshire Terrier bares his teeth and growls he’s considered cute. Why the double standard? Growling and showing teeth is a dog behavior on which breed and size has no bearing. The Yorkie going crazy at your living room window when someone passes by is no different than the Rottweiler going crazy at your window. Granted, the Rottie can do more damage and is much scarier but the behavior is the same. People quite readily excuse little dogs from aggressive behavior while the big dog displaying the same behavior is considered vicious.

Neither the size nor the breed of the dog matters when it comes to practicing dog safety. A dog bite is a dog behavior most often resulting from fear and/or an attempt to protect itself or its family. Any breed of any size is not only capable of biting but will bite under the right circumstances. The circumstances may not make one bit of sense to us humans, but they make perfect sense to the dog and this is quite often what humans fail to realize when a dog bites.

FEAR is the #1 REASON a Dog Bites

A common name for this is “fear biting” or “fear aggression.” A fearful dog is a dangerous dog. Do not believe for one minute that every dog gives a signal such as a warning growl before striking. The truth is that most dogs strike silently, without warning and they’re fast as greased lightning. You have hands, feet and the ability to think and reason to help you fight off danger; a dog has but one thing … his teeth. If you’re afraid or in danger you’re going to use every weapon at your disposal and so will a dog. You are not euthanized for protecting yourself, but millions of dogs are every day.

There IS A REASON for Every Bite

After a dog bites its natural for both owner and victim to say things like “I don’t understand, there was no reason for the dog to bite.” They’re confused, scared, angry, hurt and totally thinking of the incident like a human which is exactly why they don’t get it!

Dogs do not bite just to bite. In the dog’s mind there was a valid reason to bite. In order for humans to understand what and why it happened for what it really is, they need to first understand dog behaviors and how a dog perceives and relates to people and situations. Notice I did not say “how a dog thinks” because dog’s don’t “think” like you and I do. There is ALWAYS a valid reason the dog has bitten but you cannot determine or understand it by thinking as a human.


Here’s the part that most people won’t like, don’t understand and definitely do not want to hear. Humans are responsible for most dog bites whether it be the dog’s owner, the victim or both. Like it or not, if you or your child suffers a dog bite it’s the victim and/or the dog’s owner who opened the door for it to happen. It’s the same principal as “driver error” when there’s been an accident. Nobody meant for it to happen but the fact is that someone goofed. Someone wasn’t paying enough attention; they made a bad judgment call or any number of other factors play a part with the bottom line being human error. In order to keep people safer and save more dogs lives, people need to learn to:

  • Understand, accept and respect dogs for what they truly are before they are anything else. No matter how much we humanize them, dogs are animals first and foremost, always and forever.
  • Dog owners need to understand that dog behavior is not the same as dog training. Learn the differences between them and how to quickly recognize what is a behavior and what is a training issue and then follow through accordingly.
  • Dog owners need to understand that dog behavior is not the same as dog training. Learn the differences between them and how to quickly recognize what is a behavior and what is a training issue and then follow through accordingly.
  • Whether you own a dog or not, they’re a part of our lives and you will have contact with them. Make basic dog safety a part of your everyday life and teach it to your children.


Dogs are social animals that in most cases enjoy and thrive on human companionship but they communicate in the language of animals which is very different from the human language. Dog to dog interaction takes place first through smell then through eye contact (which includes very subtle signals to one another) and finally through hearing. Most humans don’t understand dog language or behaviors so they don’t see these signals nor can they translate them into human sense. Dogs can learn to respond to simple human commands but they don’t grasp the human language as we do. They actually respond more to the tone and sound of our voice than to the words we use.

Think of yourself visiting France without knowing the French language. Perceptions and visuals become a huge part of communicating with the French population. Miscommunication, misunderstood visuals and misconstrued perceptions due to the language barrier are very similar as to why human actions or reactions can lead to a bite or help keep it from happening.


If you’re afraid of dogs the best thing to do is to stay away from them. Even though your fear may not be apparent to the humans around you, dogs sense it which makes it unsafe for you to be near dogs. Fear is instability to some dogs and may make them uncomfortable or fearful. Remember that a fearful dog is dangerous to be around. If you’re afraid of something are you not going to try to protect yourself from it? Remember that no matter how domesticated dogs are, they are animals first before they are anything else and they may revert to survival mode in order to protect themselves which is no different from a human when faced with danger.

I encourage you to work towards ridding yourself of your fear because not only are dogs wonderful creatures but you’re safer around dogs if you are not afraid of them. Please don’t attempt to do this on your own nor with strange dogs. Get some help from a professional dog behaviorist (not to be confused with a dog trainer) and make sure the dog(s) you work with have a very calm personality. You don’t want to try to get over your fear of dogs with one that’s high strung, excitable or anxious. A certified service dog is a good choice. As an example of behavior before breed, some of the best service dogs are Pit Bulls! One of the Michael Vick dogs (a Pit Bull named Georgia) has become a fantastic service dog, which is just another example of how people misunderstand and misjudge dogs when they judge strictly by breed reputation. It’s not the breed that’s important it’s the behavior.

Parents who teach their children to fear dogs are actually putting their child in more danger. A fearful child is a target. Their fear will stress them and they are likely to make bad choices which only escalate the danger level. Children are actually safer if they’re not afraid of dogs and learn instead to respect and interact safely with them. What you teach them now they’ll carry with them into adulthood. Remember that living in fear of anything is no fun, so consider what you’re saddling your child with if you teach them to be afraid of dogs.


Some dogs interpret direct eye contact as a threat or confrontation and will react to protect themselves. One dog staring at another dog is a potential dog fight waiting to happen. Aren’t you uncomfortable when someone stares at you? So is a dog.

Young children have a normal tendency to stare and their height puts them at dog level. These two things put children at a dangerous disadvantage when encountering a dog that’s reactive to direct eye contact. If the child’s gaze happens to fall on a reactive dog’s face and particularly the dog’s eyes, this can be very dangerous. Most dog bites to children result in facial injuries.

If you see a child staring at a dog, do not speak to nor directly look at the dog. If the dog is leashed and can be safely removed from the area by its owner that’s perfect. But if that’s not possible then quietly and calmly divert the child’s visual attention off the dog. This will help to ease any threat the dog may perceive making the dog less likely to be a threat to the child. If you must speak to do this, keep your voice calm and in a low tone. An excited, nervous high pitched voice will excite the dog and the danger level. If there’s something handy that you could toss for the dog to play with like a ball for instance (but away from the child), this may help to redirect the dog’s attention and buy the opportunity to walk the child away from the situation. Walk calmly, do not run and do not pick the child up if at all possible. Picking up the child may make another target of the child because it may cause the dog to jump up on you and the child and the dog may try to grab at the child.


For your safety and protection and that of dogs everywhere, always ask the owner from a safe distance if it’s alright to meet their dog before approaching. If the owner grants permission then practice safety guidelines and any additional rules the dog’s owner requires when interacting with their dog.

Dogs meet first by smelling. It’s a common practice for people to stick their hand out for the dog to sniff and some are even looking directly in the dog’s face. This is like saying “Come on Fido, bite me!” How might you react if someone stuck their hand in your face and stared at you when you met them?

A safer way to meet a dog is to ignore the dog. Stand off-center or sideways with your arms and hands relaxed at your sides. This position tells the dog that you’re not a threat. The dog’s owner should sit or down their dog particularly if the dog is in an excited state. After you’re positioned in a non-threatening way and when (and only when) the dog is calm, the owner can then allow the dog to sniff you. Continue to ignore the dog as he approaches and sniffs; carry on a friendly conversation with the owner. Keep your voice calm and in a low tone. An excited voice excites a dog and an excited dog poses more of a bite threat than a calm one. When the dog and his nose have determined you are not a threat to them or their family they usually lose interest in active sniffing and then it’s safer to pet.


If you are one to pet a dog on its head, stop this. Some dogs interpret a hand moving toward or down on their head as that they are going to be hit. The dog may become fearful and defensive because they perceive the human as a threat to their safety and so the potential for a bite increases.

Without leaning over the dog, pet under the chin or on the chest area and do not “thump” the dog. By thumping I mean slapping the dog on its side which seems to be popular with men. If you’re meeting a dog that came from an abusive situation thumping just might trigger some painful memories for the dog and he may react to protect himself. You may cause the dog pain or fear. I’ve seen some pretty heavy thumpers and I think how I would feel if someone would slap me on the back like that. I don’t like it, it stings!


Small children and teen-age girls love hugging and cuddling stuffed animals. What’s better than a stuffed animal? A live one of course! How many times have you seen an excited child run to a dog and hug it? I shudder every time I see this happen. Picture yourself being rushed by an excited stranger and hugging you. Are you uncomfortable? Don’t you feel a need to protect yourself?

Dogs don’t hug one another. Hugging is a comfort for the human not the dog. Like you, dogs have that “personal space” need and hugging invades these invisible boundaries. Although most dogs allow it without incident and many even appear to ask for it, dogs aren’t comfortable being hugged. Most humans don’t see the emotional discomfort hugging may cause a dog, even their own, because a dog calming itself is not obvious to the human eye.

MOVING FAST in the Presence of Dogs

This section is particularly important for children and sports minded people like joggers and bicyclists because this has to do with fast movement in the immediate vicinity of a dog.

Running towards a dog may cause him to interpret the runner as a threat and he may bite to protect. Running away from a dog may trigger any number of interpretations to the dog but a big one is prey drive. Prey drive is an instinct which is stronger in some dogs than others. Instincts cannot be trained out of a dog and this is one exception to behavior over breed where breed holds some importance.

Some breeds are bred for prey driven activities. Yorkies were originally bred for catching rats in clothing mills in the 1800’s. Australian Shepherds (Aussies) have herding in their genetic makeup. To help humans understand this, dogs relate to catching rats and herding sheep as their jobs. To some dogs, fast moving objects are something that needs to be caught, taken down or corralled. In the dog’s mind he’s only doing the job he was bred to do. Think about it, neither of these jobs can be done gently. A dog’s mouth and teeth essentially become their hands and a human may get bitten and the dog declared vicious and maybe even put down for doing his job.


Most of us are guilty of this one. Never step over any dog including your own. Not only are you invading their personal space but you could be mid-stride and the dog could suddenly get up, knocking you over. You could misstep, lose your balance and land on your dog which might not only injure your dog but you as well. This will most definitely startle the dog at the very least and startling, scaring or hurting a dog may result in a bite. If someone sneaks up behind you and goes “Boo!” don’t you just want to slap them?


There are a number of medical conditions that might cause a dog to act in ways that concern you and/or lead to a bite. Dogs can’t tell us when they’re not feeling well and they are experts at hiding pain and suffering just as a matter of survival. There are breeds, sizes and even shapes of dogs that are prone to various different ailments such as Hypothyroidism which may cause a dog to display inappropriate aggressive behavior. A simple blood test can diagnose Hypothyroidism and the medication for it is very inexpensive.

Please make sure to have your dog checked by a vet if it displays unexpected or inappropriate aggressive behavior. You may save someone from being bitten and you may save your dog’s life.

I hope I’ve been able to give you some tips on how to help keep yourself and your children more safe in the presence of dogs. I also hope that I’ve been able to show you that there are many reasons a dog may bite and that the instance of a dog being truly dangerous because it’s bitten is almost non-existent. Most bites can be prevented just by people educating themselves and their children. Dog owners need to educate themselves in the language and behaviors of dogs and get a little training or behavior modification help if you have concerns your dog may bite.

187 responses on “Understanding Dog Bite Behavior or Don’t Blame the Dog When it Bites

  1. Denise R. says:

    Found this article helpful. We are in a dilemma currently. We adopted a rescue dog from Georgia; she is either a Corgi-chihuahua or Shiba inu-chihuahua mix. Full of energy, playful sweet girl. A few days after we brought her home she bit my youngest son for what appeared to be no obvious reason (dog was sitting on couch next to husband, son went to pat her on the head). Then last week she bit my other son; this was more or less stupidity on my son’s part for trying to take a rawhide chew out of her mouth (he feared she was going to swallow it and choke). She has on a number of occasions growled/snarled at my husband. After the second bite and the 4th snarl/growl, my husband decided she couldn’t stay (she had been with us just over two weeks). So we started the process of returning her to the rescue adoption program. In the meantime I continued working with her and her behavior has improved. Until last night when she apparently bit my youngest son again, not breaking the skin this time. I haven’t given up on her, and my husband has grown fond of her; “she’s growing on me.” So I think a call to the vet is in order, and definitely obedience training. We hope our Maggie will be able to stay with us, potty accidents and all! Even the cat is beginning to tolerate her (okay, that might be a stretch but she is an old lady, 15 yrs old).

    • Mom says:

      Hi Denise,

      Thank you for stopping by and letting me know my article was helpful to you. I’m very happy that you’ve decided to give your little girl a good try instead of just returning her and soooo glad your children were not seriously injured! Is she actually biting or is it more nipping?

      You didn’t say how old your children are which may have something to do with it. It could be your dog has never been around children the ages your sons are and if they’re little ones, well, little ones move quickly sometimes and can scare/startle a dog. That’s just the nature of kids in general and if a dog hasn’t been socialized with small children can be a problem.

      As you probably know, little dogs are sometimes referred to as “ankle biters” although it’s not always the ankle they bite. Small dogs are prone to bite more often than bigger dogs. But a lot of what I’m saying is already in the article.

      If this is the first dog your children have had and they’ve not been taught how to act around a dog they can learn and you can help them which you apparently feel is worth trying to do. Yayyy! I would certainly not recommend nor wish for you to keep a dog that you feel is dangerous to your children or anyone else, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Just like anything else, children and dogs need to learn how to behave around one another and precautions can be taken to keep everyone safe. If Maggie didn’t learn this in her previous family that means its up to you if you keep her.

      Your Maggie is in a new environment and she may still be scared or not totally comfortable which can be a contributing factor as well. She may be missing her previous family. I would give her a safe place all her own — a crate is a good and safe place. If things get real active around your house at times, I would put her in there where she can see the activity and help her get used to it from the safety of her own space. Other times when things are calm leave the door open and she will learn that this is *her* place, her safe haven where she can go if things get to be to much for her. We like wire crates here because the dogs can see better than a plastic crate, and plastic crates can get stuffy from lesser air circulation. Some dogs prefer the plastic crates if they need more security or if they’re on the shy side. I would teach the children that when she’s in there it’s an off-limits place for them so the dog can rest and feel safe. (No fingers through the crate!) Just like sometimes people need their own space, so do dogs. Kids don’t like parents invading their rooms especially if they’re teenagers — same principal for the dog. When there are things going on at our house that our dogs are not comfortable with they go to their crates on their own because that’s where they feel safest. The crate doors are always open unless they are in there while we’re gone.

      With the bites that have already happened there is likely to be an understandable element of fear in all or some of your family members. Just know that Maggie will pick up on this — to a dog it’s an element of instability and that may set her off. Dogs can be fearful or uncomfortable when they feel instability but it can be super hard for people to get over a bite fear so this can be a vicious circle.

      I wouldn’t call the son that was worried about her choking on the rawhide and trying to remove it having done something stupid — just uneducated. He was trying to be helpful and keep the dog safe and just didn’t know that some dogs don’t do well with having their food, chew or toys taken from them. This is something that can be changed in many dogs as well and now your son knows not to do that anymore at least until Maggie learns that its ok for her to give up her chew. Biting or nipping someone who’s trying to take something from a dog is unacceptable behavior but can be corrected in many cases.

      Maggie’s a rescue so you may not know a lot about her life history before she came to live with you. That’s what we are up against with Riley. From some of the things that have happened we do suspect some abuse may have occurred. Not knowing a dog’s history makes it more difficult to determine why a dog reacts in certain ways — we can only guess and our guesses are not always accurate. For example, she may have learned that nipping or biting gets her what she wants – to have people not take her toy or for them to go away when she’s not in the mood for people.

      If I might add a word of warning — we believe that rawhide is *not* a safe thing for dogs. Many people use them, some vets think there’s nothing wrong with it. I really wish they were safe because we’d have them in a heartbeat. What happens is that the dog can swallow pieces of the rawhide that can then lodge in their digestive tract causing a blockage. Rawhide doesn’t digest well. The rawhide also swells inside them and can swell enough so the dog can’t pass the pieces without injury or may not be able to pass them at all if it’s a big enough mass. So you see, your son wasn’t that far off because rawhide can be dangerous! And it’s not unheard of for a dog to choke on a piece of rawhide, either. Some people think it’s safe to let the dog chew on it until it’s soft and then take it away before the dog bites any pieces off — dry it and let them have it again later. I personally don’t trust myself to monitor this closely enough and small pieces the dog has bitten off I may not notice until it’s to late. I’ll take someone calling me paranoid vs. permitting my dogs to do something that is known to have dangerous consequences.

      We don’t allow any kind of “hide” chews here no matter what they are, beef, pork (or whatever — hide is hide) or even pigs ears for this reason. Also, in case you didn’t know some rawhide and pig ears are produced in China (remember the melamine recalls?) and then there’s the fact that if you’re purchasing pig ears or rawhide from the store vs. a butcher that smokes their own, the rawhide process uses toxic chemicals and bleaches them to make them white or adds chemicals to make them brown. Additionally, if you remove rawhide from the equation it’s one less thing your dog has to bite or nip about.

      I had to giggle at your “old lady” cat comment. If she gets used to a dog at age 15 that to me would be really something and one heck of a special cat!

      We wish you the best of luck and hope that you are able to work with Maggie and bring things around to safety at your house. I hope you will stop back and let us know how things go! Thank you so much for giving Maggie a home and a chance!

    • Elle says:


      Thank you so much for publishing such a helpful resource. Although the dates from previous posts are several years old, I would really appreciate a response as my husband and I are reeling over what occured about three weeks ago. We have both had dogs, mainly larger-sized rescues who lived happy and uneventful lives, including GSD’s and Pitties. My five year old dog, JRT Lucas is a very well- balanced dog who attended intermediate behavior training and doggie daycare. He has never had any incidents with humans or dogs. About 3 years ago we received a call from our vet, inquiring if we would be interested in adopting a 3 month old great Dane/Mastiff male puppy whose family could no longer control him ; he was confined to the laundry room. We met him, and instantly fell in love with this malnourished dog who also had kennel cough which was not being treated. We named him Jake, and for the next six months, it was fabulous, although we both noticed issues with bite inhibition and grabbing onto the leash when any person or dog went by. We had him neutered and had immediately taken him in for puppy obedience classes after he was cured of the kennel cough. He did well with his training and we practiced a lot with him at home. We bought a gentle Leader which eliminated his junpimg up and biting the leash behaviors. We introduced him to the same doggie daycare and he and Lucas went 2x per week for several years. We did realize he had food agression issues, so worked with a therapist on reducing those. He even went through advanced obedience school. We realized we had to walk Jake and Lucas separately because Lucas would sometimes react to squirrels and that would set Jake off enough to resort to his jumping and trying to bite the leash behaviors, even with the Gentle Leader. After he turned about 1,5 years old, we recognized his bullying behavior with Lucas and rough play with my husband. He became more and more reactive to noises, sights and smells, and though he was trained with an electronic fence, he went through it and nipped a walking neighbor on the leg, but did not break the skin. We installed a solid 6′ fence in the front of our house and a 6′ split rail fence in the back, which is all wooded area.

      When he was 2, we came to pick him up from day care, my husband was holding onto his leash to take him to the car when a worker approached and tried to give Jake a bear hug- Jake reacted by biting him in the hand and he needed stitches.We immediately took him to the vet to rule out any medical issues. There was nothing unusual, except that once we began feeding him a grain free diet his stool improved and so did his reactivity. Things were fine for about 6 months when both dogs were seeking our attention and Jake went over to play with Lucas and Lucas retaliated bit biting his ear, which resulted in a scuffle which left Lucas with wounds requiring stitches in his neck and puncture wounds.

      We again sought the advice of our vet who referred us to a behavioral therapist. We had strict feeding and entry and exit protocals which were helpful and they both began going to a new daycare center. Things were fine for several months until we received a call that Jake had bitten a trainer in the hand ( said it was so sudden they had no idea what caused it,) then turned around and bit another female dog in the leg.

      We were aware of Jake’s triggers, body language, and intense eye contact, so made our utmost attempt to use all of the training by the specialist. We played soccer and fetch with both dogs, both went on daily walks and things were going well, until 3 weeks ago when my husband was doing dishes and I came into the family room (cleared of toys, food and bones,) and sat down on the couch. Jake would often come up to me for scratches under his collar after he was intructed to sit first. This time was far different, he slowly approached me, noiselessly then latched onto my hand, bit and shook my arm and tried to get me off of the couch, resulting in my husband prying him off of me, 20 stiches, a fractured thumb and severely swollen arm. We contacted several rescue centers who declined to take him due to his size, unpredictability and severity of the bites. After several days of endless crying, we decided we had to have him euthanized. We have neighbors with children and dogs and also feared for Lucas’s life. It is heart-wrenching and it has taken me three weeks to write this. We have rescued many dogs in our lives who enjoyed long, healthy lives. We loved him very much, but felt we had done more than we could do, especially after the County contacted us to tell us he was to be quarrantined. My best to everyone who is going through this and best of luck with your beloved pet.

      • Mom says:

        Ohhh Elle,

        What a truly sad sad end to a whole lot of work and trying your very best to help this boy. My heart breaks for you and your family. I’m so impressed at what you went through to help him I can’t even begin to tell you. You saw a problem, you attacked it from all angles and you didn’t give up until you were left with no other alternative. If only all dog families would do at least half of what your family did to save your boy, we would have so many less dogs put down or in shelters due to a bite. Thank you so much for sharing your heartbreak with us and our readers. It’s proof positive to me that there are people who do whatever it takes to save a dog. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for loving your boy so much.

        It’s not surprising no rescue could take him. Due to the high cost most rescues are not able to carry insurance for dogs that have a bite history so they have to refuse to take them. Try not to blame the rescues if you are. They have so many dogs and so many more they want to and try to help but they have their limitations mostly due to lack of foster homes and funding.

        I can only share with you now what’s in my heart and what my gut is telling me. It sounds to me that aside from what sounds like some serious resource guarding issues your boy had some medical issue that wasn’t discovered in his vet exams. This kind of behavior is not normal in my opinion, your boy was escalating and he truly had become dangerous no matter what you did to prevent that from happening. You found some relief for him when you switched to grain free which points directly to how the wrong diet can and does contribute to a dog’s negative behavior(s).

        More and more bad things are being found in commercial dog foods all the time. Take a look at what’s going on now with the current Purina Beneful lawsuit. This is happening way too much and too often and the blasted food makers just automatically deny any wrong-doing. Really? They freaking put anti-freeze ingredients in dog food!!! What purpose could that possibly serve to the well-being and health of any dog??? I provided you with just one link but there are many more out there — Google it if you’re not familiar. Beneful has killed thousands of dogs and this is not the first time nor will it be the last that commercial dog food has been guilty of this same thing. Every single time I hear of something like this going on I am grateful all over again that we feed our dogs a raw diet. If it can’t go in my mouth it’s not going in my dog’s.

        Do I think a switch to raw would have helped your Jake? We think a raw diet helps any dog and that in Jake’s case may have been a contributing factor at least at one point but in Jake’s case I think it was a whole lot more than just his diet. I honestly believe as I said earlier he had something medical going on that your vet(s) just didn’t find and to that end, I personally think it is more centered in his brain, he may have had a brain tumor that caused his issues. Some of his behaviors reminded me of Rage Syndrome which although very rare, it’s not unheard of and he could have been suffering from this. His biting behaviors went far beyond the common reasons a dog bites.

        You sound very much like me and if that’s the case I know you’re blaming yourselves for having put Jake down. Please try not to do that. From what you’ve told me you exhausted yourselves and probably your bank account trying to fix him which is so much more than your average dog family would do. My gut tells me that whatever was going on with Jake was beyond taking extra safety measures and everything else you did to prevent a bite. I believe Jake was suffering badly from something unknown and I feel strongly that by putting him down you put an end to his suffering.

    • Denise says:

      Hi my name is Denise . I have a Chinese shrapi.4-5 years old. She was my daughters dog. She had to give her up when sandy stom . She lost her apartment. move to Florida. I have her ever since. She went taught the stom my herself.in a house in the Bronx because we couldn’t take her to her mother I laws house. The problem with Sonny is she dose not like to go for walks. Won’t let me put on her leegth. Every time I am going to put it on she snaps at me. Bit me once. I love her.need a bath.that s onther problem. Had a hard time to take her to the vet this year for her shots.

      • Mom says:

        Hi Denise,

        You might try putting some really high value treats in your hand or pocket (boiled chicken usually works well) she may follow that. Have some in your hand when you’re leashing her up but she doesn’t get any until she’s fully leashed and ready to go.

    • Curtis Rushing says:

      2 days ago, my 12 yr old Welsh Terrier was sitting on the foot rest of my wheeled electric chair….he rides there with me all the time. He was sitting quitely and a lady came up to him and began talking to him and she began to try to get him to “shake” I told her he didn’t shake, more than one time. She continued til my dog snapped and bit her arm. He didn’t charge her or make any noise ..he just bit her arm…broke the skin. My dog is not a bitter, but he had some surgery on his tail, it was still hurting him, and he had “blew” a knee and it was hurting..he was totally in pain. We all live in an assisted living complex. I, worried about the situation. I not heard anything fr the lady except I saw her coup[le times, told her I was sorry and call me if there was anything I could do. I’m afraid my dog will get in trkouble or I might be sued.

      • Mom says:

        Hi Curtis,

        First, the woman came to the dog. No. No. No. The dog goes to the person. That’s proper doggie etiquette for meet & greets. Your dog already had his silent alarm going off in his head when the woman approached him, he was already uncomfortable at that point. Please read How to Meet a Dog.

        This is what we do … if we tell someone the rules for our dogs and they insist on breaking the rules, we leave. If they can’t follow a simple “please don’t do that” they are trouble and they are not safe to be around our dogs so we prevent a bite. We feel it’s our job to protect our dogs from situations/people that make them uncomfortable and may cause a bite because if they bite *they* will pay the price for *us* not doing our job!

        Your dog needs to trust you, to know that you will protect him from uncomfortable situations. In the future, please be your dog’s protector. It’s your dog, you be the boss. Watch for signs that your dog is uncomfortable. Be the parent and protect your dog. Making your dog protect himself is a bite waiting to happen and your dog protected himself because you didn’t do that for him.

        Because he’s bitten it’s even more important for you to take charge and protect. She may not have said anything to the authorities but if she mentions it in passing to anyone and they pass it along and along and along you could be looking at consequences for your dog that could put his life in jeopardy. The world has not yet accepted that almost 100% of the time people bring on their own dog bites and probably won’t accept it in your or my lifetime.

  2. Kelly says:

    Thank you for this article. I especially found the medical section interesting. My mother and father have a 7 year old Belgian Shepard that was a rescue from the inner city. He has been a family member for 6 1/2 years. My parents are the only two that live in their home but they have guests there often. Our family has been going through a lot of stress lately and we have had some loss. Duke was sent to the kennel for one night while we had a funeral. Duke goes to the kennel any time my parents travel and is very familiar with the place he goes. Duke attempted to bite two kennel staff and did bite another. She had a small mark from what I have heard. This is very out of character for Duke. There was also an issue about two weeks ago. A stranger came to the door and let himself in. He came to the wrong home. Duke did try to bite his hand. We all thought that was a good thing since this man was not a guest. He did not get any praise and my mother firmly told him no. My mom is now thinking that he needs to be put down due to the combination of the above situations. She is open to getting more information but does not know where to turn. He hung out with us on Christmas and was fine with the family and guests. It is so out of character of him. He really is very gentle. I will say a bit high strung and always has been. He is a barker and jumper. Duke and my mother have both been in training to work on the jumping and barking. He is a very stong. She is going to take him to the vet to see if this could be due to a medical issue. I have also read about diet changes. Could this “change” a dog? Are there other options? He really is a great dog but aggressiveness is something we have never dealt with in pets (we are long term pet owners and love them like family). This is really tearing us up along with all the other stress in the family at this time. Any suggesstions or references would be appreciated.

    • Deb says:

      Hi Kelly,

      Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story. I totally understand this tearing you up. It’s emotional torture to go through something like this. I think you’re absolutely right to have him checked medically. Sudden behavior changes can very well be health related as can what you’re feeding him and any number of what we humans would never think would affect a dog’s behavior.

      For example, when Riley was diagnosed with hip displaysia we realized that he’s been in severe pain all his life! That’s 5 years of pain built up! I’d be grouchy, too!

      In the case of the stranger entering your home, wow that’s a tough one. Telling him no can mean to him he’s not supposed to protect his home and family from intruders and that it’s ok for them to be in your home. On the other hand, you can’t have him biting people that are welcome in your home.

      I do hope you can talk Mom out of putting him down. There are many workarounds to this kind of behavior, keep people safe and ways to help him get better. One example is that because Riley has so much built up stress from his lifelong pain *and* me not exercising him enough (bad bad FurMom!) he’s stressed out. We’re working on keeping him more stress free. I’ve gone back to crating the furkids when we’re not home rather than giving him freedom because that just tells him “Oh, they’re not home, my job to guard the house.” When it’s time for the mailman to come ’round he gets crated and the door closed so that he feels safe and isn’t in guard dog mode. I’m taking that job away from him so he can learn to relax more. It’s my job to protect them, not the other way around only he doesn’t know this … YET.

      Both FurKids are getting more walks and exercise. Dogs in general *do* need mental stimulation, but it’s even *more* important for dogs of the active, working class which Duke is. Even us humans have television to occupy our minds, books to read — things to dooooo that help keep us mentally well and happy. What do dogs have if we don’t give them mind work? We get bored, we get cabin fever and we get grouchy when we don’t get what we need to keep us mentally and physically healthy. Dogs don’t have an outlet unless we provide it for them. The longer a dog doesn’t get what they need, the more the bad stuff builds up inside and eventually it has to come out. Like when people “stuff” their feelings — one day those feelings explode.

      I’m not accusing the kennel staff of lying but if you weren’t there and didn’t specifically see what happened — you’re taking their interpretation for what transpired. Their interpretation could be very different from what *really* happened. Again, they aren’t lying but they see things how they see them, which may not correlate to what happened in Duke’s mind. Remember, dogs interpret things very differently than humans. Riley is *very* sensitive to direct eye contact — he takes it as a confrontation or a threat and immediately morphs into protection mode.

      I wish you sooooo much luck! Please do come back and let us know what happens?

  3. trish says:

    Hello. After reading your article I have decided to post. My 3 year old American Bulldog just had a littler of puppies. She barks and growls when a stranger comes into the yard but she has never bitten anyone untill 3 days ago a 89 year old lady came into the yard when we wern’t home and bit the lady tore her down to the bone and rip her vein open. Unfortunatlly my husband has decided that she has to be put down. I am beside myself because I love her so much and I don’t know what to do. It is thought that now she has a taste for blood so it’s over. I am so confused and it was good to read that they don’t thurst for blood. Unfortunatlly hes made up his mind and I have to eaither find a home for a momma dog and 10 5 day old pups or she goes and I don’t what will happen to the babie they are too young to be taken away from her. Do you have any suggestions?


    • Mom says:


      I’m soooo very sorry this happened. Please remember I was not there and only have what you told me to go on.

      In my opinion there a number of things going on here that triggered the bite. It could have been one thing or a combination. Have you determined why this woman was in your yard? Was your dog tied up or loose? It sounds like she’s someone you don’t know so that’s what I’ll base my thoughts on.

      If your dog was tied up, that in itself can bring on aggression. I talk more about tethering dogs here. We believe very strongly that one should not ever leave their dog tied up unattended. If something does happen, you only have the other person’s word on what transpired which can be very different from the truth or how your dog perceived what happened. For all you know the person who got bit was perhaps teasing your dog, hurting your dog or doing something else that would trigger a bite. You have nothing in you or your dog’s defense unless you get lucky and there’s a witness and even better if the witness is educated in dog behavior. A small child could wander into your yard and if your dog is playing with the child, the child can get caught up in the leash and get seriously hurt or even choke. Now, let’s hope no child’s mother would ever let their child out alone, but children have been known to be little Houdini’s when it comes to getting out of the house.

      It’s quite normal for dogs to be protective of their territory, that’s part of being an *animal* which is first and foremost what your dog is. What does your husband think your dog should have done? Your dog doesn’t know this woman is 89 years old. Her age doesn’t necessarily mean she’s harmless either. You don’t know that your dog didn’t give every warning possible before biting and this woman (not seeing the warning signs) continued whatever she was doing which could have included something that made your dog fearful of her. All your dog knows is that a stranger has entered what she considers to be her property where *her* family lives. If those pups were outside and this woman tried to pick one of them up, she’s probably *very* lucky she didn’t get hurt worse. She could have walked directly towards your dog and even given unintentional direct eye contact which to some dogs is taken as a threat. If she somehow managed to give your dog a “cornered” feeling that’s one thing you *never* want to do with a dog.

      Now, everyone is going to look upon the 89 year old woman with pity and take her side. So you can expect to get flack on that. If she’s got Alzheimer’s or some other health or mental issue and was wandering it’s probably going to be worse for you. I’m not saying I don’t have feelings for this woman because I most definitely do. I’m just trying to prepare you for what could turn real ugly. At 89 even if she’s totally with it mentally there’s a more than good chance she doesn’t know about true dog behavior. So much of dog behavior has only been learned more recently than her age probably allows for.

      This is HUGEyou’ve got a MAMMA DOG with PUPPIES! Of COURSE she’s going to protect her babies! Ask your husband what he would do if some stranger walked into the house. Would he not take steps, perhaps even resort to whatever weapon was handy if he felt the situation warranted it? A dog can’t shoot a gun, grab a knife or anything else for that matter. The *only* weapon a dog has is their teeth. I have not researched this, but it does come to mind that a dog having recently given birth to puppies might very well have a similar hormonal thing going on that a woman does after having a baby. We all know that sometimes it’s not pretty!

      Let’s say someone entered your home and hubby protected his family and the intruder got seriously hurt or died. Should your husband pay with his life for protecting his family? This is what your dog was doing! Even if the pups were in the house, Mamma dog knows where her babies are. Should your Mamma dog pay with her life for doing what any parent would do to protect their family from a threat? At our house this would be an ABSOLUTELY NOT answer.

      Your husband is very much mistaken in his belief that now that your dog has tasted blood she will have it in her to go for more. This is absolutely NOT true. We feed our dogs a raw diet, so we’re giving them blood and there is absolutely no sign of any bad behavior with regards to blood. If that were the case, there would be a whole lot less people feeding their dogs a raw diet. This belief is very much old school and UNTRUE.

      Dogs bite for a reason, the reason is most often unintentionally brought on by humans. In most cases people that get bit triggered the bite without knowing what they did or that they caused the problem. It may not be a way a human would think would trigger a bite, but it makes 110% sense to a dog. We need to educate people to the fact that humans perceive things *much* differently than a dog does. For example, Riley perceives people hugging me as people hurting me so we need to be very careful how we handle this common everyday human activity. When my husband hugs me, Riley always comes to me afterwards and makes sure I’m alright.

      I hope you can find enough proof that your dog was doing what dogs do to show your husband that you have what sounds like a normal mother dog and nothing more. Even the most docile dog who’s never shown signs of a bite has the potential to turn into a Mamma Bear protecting her cubs when it comes to protecting their babies or their human family. When a dog has puppies, even family members need to be careful.

      If your husband still won’t listen, please contact a Bulldog rescue and see if they can help you. If the first one you contact can’t help, keep trying and ask that one for references to other Bulldog rescues. Rescues are usually very good at helping one another out. With the little bit of information I have and all the possible reasons it happened it’s my feeling that this dog does not and should not have to die. Please come back and let us know what happens. Our hearts and thoughts are with you.

      • TIFFANY says:


        • Mom says:

          Hi Tiffany,

          The brief narrative you gave of what happened is not nearly enough for anyone to make any kind of assessment of the actual incident nor place any blame. Since you’re involved in a lawsuit over this and I’m not a licensed dog behaviorist, nothing I say would be accepted in court because I would not be considered a qualified witness. I would suggest that you consult with several reputable licensed dog behaviorists so that the entire incident can be gone over in detail and studied by those that would be acceptable witnesses in court and also might agree to come to court on your behalf. I’m so sorry you lost your dog and we wish you the best of luck with your court proceedings.


    in 06 we adopted a mastiff american bulldog mix named hank. we dont know his history but knwo he suffers from anxiety to the point of us having to kennel him when we leave the house so he doesnt destroy it. we have doen this with him since we got him and he knows that his kennel is his safe place. we have a 13 yer old and 1 year old who crawl all over him and tug at him (mainly the 1 year old) we even have a 2 year old shih-poo. Hank is the biggest baby you would ever know….to us. he has never bitten anyone until last night.

    my daughters grandma (my ex’s mom) stopped by the house last night unannounced. i was picking up my daughter from her track meet and my husband was int he back yard grilling. we had the front door open but the screen door shut she came to the door and knocked. Hank at 110lbs charged the door and jumped on it and popped it open. hank and my ex’s mom never met and to stop him fom coming outside she grabbed his collar……he turned his head and bit her wrist. he has never doen anything like this before, had he gotten out of the house and had she not grabbed his colalr he would have jsut sniffed the heck out of her and probably not bitten her. she ended up getting a few stitches. luckily he had just been to the vet for his routine check up and shots a week before.

    she admitted that she probably shouldnt have grabbed him and understood that he was probably protecting his home since he knew no one was in the house even though my hsuband was just in the back yard. not to mention he didnt know her. had one of us greeded her at the door he would have probably wanted to sniff ehr and check her out but im sure he wouldnt have bit her.

    we will be taking percautions now to make sure the screen door is more secure and we are going to put up a beware of dog sign, not because he did something wrong but, knowing he drew blood we need to protect our visitors and any strange person who comes to our home along with protecting ourselves and our dog.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Angela,

      Ohhhh, I’m soooo glad you shared your story with us! What happened with your dog is right on with what can happen and one of the main reasons I wrote this article. You are very lucky the person bitten was understanding and knowledgeable as to the why’s and what-fors this happened. I’m sorry she got bitten but the way this was handled is fabulous!

      If I might add to your new safety plan – stop children from climbing on the dog and interacting with the dog on such an “intimate” (to the dog) level. As dogs age they get aches and pains just like you and I, however they don’t always show it nor are they able to tell us about it. He may start loosing his sight and become easily startled. Anything is possible (as you’ve now witnessed) and a dog that size could do some serious damage (or worse!!!) to children.

      Children need to be taught to respect a dog’s space just like they are taught to respect other human space. This kind of activity although widely accepted not only by people but buy many dogs can change in a heartbeat. My youngest daughter at 4 years old was once bitten in the face by one of the biggest Akita’s you have ever seen. This boy had been a family pet with small children all it’s life and my daughter was no stranger to him, but she climbed under a table to pet him thus violating his safety zone … totally unexpected. This dog’s bite could have taken her face off but luckily she got away with just some puncture wounds that healed up very nicely, unless you look for them today you don’t see them.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Help !!!!
    i have 2 dogs ,great dane and a mix of i think kelpie and cattle dog. The dane is not as big as i thought he would be but is big enough and very dopey. he is a lovely natured boy . He is great around children and people but i just not social with other dogs ( thats ok with us as we live on acreage. ) The girl is the mix and she is a bit of a hunter but has a beautifull nature and believe it or not quite timid , she will wet herself if feeling compromised )Both animals will play together and jump about as they are only 2 , they do fight but in a playfull way and you do see the submission from both of them at times. When strangers come to the gate they just want to see who they are and if they can get a pat from them ( not really what we wanted but !!!! ) at least we tie them up when the electric man comes or if they are too active when people come but by no means have we had any of our friends be scared of them, even with their children ( one little boy slept in the bed with them for a bit during our bbq ( are you getting my point ) Well our neighbour has a dog and our dogs have had fights through the fence so we had extra fencing put up . Our property is fully fenced and we even have a penn for them for while we are out as they dont like the big storms we sometimes get so they run away. They never have like the dog next door and last weekend unknown to me as i was visiting my husbamd in hospital , they managed to get next door on him property and attack, well i dont know if they attacked him or just went for the dog on the lead. The man got very injured to his hands and is now in hospital too.This is the part where i need guidence as im am so torn, i have not told hubby yet as he has heart problems in hospital and still quite yooung for all that ) i feel they should be put to sleep to be fair to the neighbour but we love them so dearly and they really are not viscious to poeple but its happened and he has always been scared of them.Unfortunatly there has been 1 other occaision like this before when the dogs got let out by accident and attacked another dog, they have scince been neutured ( they were only pups at that point ) Even after reading this i guess we have not been carefull enough to check the fencing and have been sidetracked by whats happening in our life right now so i think i may have answered my own question. Anything you have to say on this subject will be apricated.

    • Mom says:

      H Rebecca,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

      Regarding your comment about how your dogs greet people at the gate, I’m not 100% sure but it sounds like you’d prefer they were more protective and alerted you of visitors in a more “chase the intruder away” fashion rather than the friendly way they greet them. I consider you to be very lucky! Although we appreciate our Riley being so protective we would prefer he were *less* protective when there is no real danger and to behave more like your dogs when it’s just a friendly visitor or someone walking by the house. We believe that although Riley decided to be our self-appointed guard dog it’s really *our* job to protect our furkids just like we would our own children.

      Fence fighting — I wish it weren’t true but unfortunately this behavior is more common than people think. Whether they are the instigators or not, your dog(s) participate in this unpleasant “sport” and you’ve already figured out that it’s your responsibility to do whatever you have to in order to keep the fence fighting from occurring so I’m happy you added additional fencing! I do not recommend keeping any of these dogs tied up in view of one another! Please read my Tethered Dogs Can Be Deadly Dogs article which will describe what can happen with dogs that are tied up.

      I’m so sorry to hear about the incident with the neighbor, that’s awful! Because it was the man’s hands that were injured, it sounds to me like he got injured trying to stop the dogs from fighting. I do not believe your dogs attacked him or his injuries would not be so specifically related to trying to stop the dangerous activity going on between the dogs. I’m sorry he was injured but he made the decision to intervene. I’m not saying he’s wrong because I’m pretty sure I would do the same thing. What I am saying is that I don’t believe your dogs decided to intentionally harm your neighbor.

      Only you can decide, and hopefully only after speaking with his doctor(s) when to tell your husband about the incident. His condition sounds like it could be serious and so that must come first.

      I do not believe your dogs should be euthanized because of what happened. Killing your dogs is blaming them for what you could have prevented. Why should they pay that high price? This is a situation that has viable solutions without taking their lives. Again, the man decided to try to break up the fight and that’s the bottom line. He did have the option of letting the dogs handle things on their own. Male dog to male dog fights are resolved by the dogs. Males fight until one is declared the winner in their minds and then they walk away and it’s all over. Females (female to female) on the other hand are known to fight to the death. He could have chosen a different way to break up the fight, such as turning the hose on the dogs. Although most people don’t walk around with whistles around their necks, because you and your neighbors know the dogs don’t get along grabbing a whistle when the dogs are out is a simple thing that can be implemented in case there’s ever another incident. Sometimes the loud blare of a whistle can startle a dog out of whatever activity they’re involved in. It worked for me once when a strange off-leash dog approached us and I prevented a potential bad scene.

      I totally agree with you that you do need to be more diligent about fence-care and with everything personal and health-wise going on you need to come up with something temporary so that you can deal with any fencing issues when hubby is feeling better. Just a thought, is there a way to fence the yard so that the dogs are kept out of view of your neighbor’s dogs and residence? You would still have to make sure your fencing was very sturdy and high because even out of view of one another they will know the other dog(s) are there but out of view of one another would likely be very helpful in keeping the dog’s stress levels lower. If they can’t see one another I’m betting they’ll be less likely to want to seek one another out and it would cure the fence fighting as well.

      Would it be possible for you to have someone come stay with the dogs when you have to be away? Can you keep them in the house?

      You already know that your dogs getting into your neighbor’s yard is because of something you did or didn’t do. Fix it and fix it so that this cannot happen again. Please do NOT tie the dogs up anywhere near that fence because dogs will attempt to jump fences and if tied they easily can hang themselves.

      Although your neighbor made the decision to intervene and got injured doing so, he would not have had to make that decision if your dogs had not gotten on his property and he was defending his furkid and I can’t blame him one bit for that. I agree that you answered your own question. Keep your dogs alive and fix the problem :) and it won’t be a problem anymore :) Best of luck and please stop back and let us know what happens!

      • Rebecca says:

        Hi , thank you for your comments and support , unfortunatly it was out of our control . We had to surrender our dogs to the council, they had deemed them dangerous , it was a very sad day on friday and has left a huge hole in our hearts.They will be missed so very dearly by us all and the children i looked after. I value all the comments as we will get another dog at some point and will be making changes to the yard and repairing any fences.We will be going for bigger and better training for the animals next time but in the mean time we have an old dog who is not doing so well so we need to care for him first , not sure how long he has either.
        once again , thank you.

        • Mom says:

          Oh Rebecca, that’s just horrible. I’m so sorry. There needs to be a whole lot more education about dog bites, why dog’s bite and more more more laws that deal with and protect dogs that have bitten on an *individual* case by case basis. This blanket “take the dog and kill it because it bit someone” is sooooo wrong!!!!!!!

  6. Kristen says:

    I found this very helpful.. My friends dog might get put down because he bit someone in his yard he was on his chain and was well maintained in his yard on a leash no longer then 5 feet and a 21 year old walked through the yard knowing that the dog is protective she obviously was not paying attention and the dog sensed something that he obviously didn’t like and the dog bite her she had to get 3 stitches in her leg.. His dog had to get quarantined for 10 days and he has ALL of his shots.
    I think he shouldn’t be in the dog pound i think it was not necessary at all. His dog is a very loving dog but he hasn’t been around many people.
    He has to pay 500$ for dangerous dog and 250$ for nuisance!
    Do you think his dog will get put down? and Do you think this is fair because his dog was well maintained in his yard on a leash no longer then 5 feet?

  7. Mom says:

    Hi Kristen,

    Thank you for joining us and sharing your friend’s story. There is a lot of valuable information in your comments! This is a really unfortunate incident and like so many others, absolutely and totally preventable!

    In this country it’s legal for people to protect their homes and families by shooting an intruder. Why then is it not ok for a dog to protect their homes and families by biting an intruder? Are people put down because someone gets in their face and punches someone? No. A dog can’t punch, the only weapon they have is their teeth. It is their yard, the owner’s yard and someone else invaded this space where they had no business being. It’s instinctual for a dog to protect it’s homeland and its family. Why do we blame a dog for acting on its instincts? The fact that the dog was chained up escalated its stress level. Like I mentioned to Rebecca above, please read and have your friend read my Tethered Dogs Can Be Deadly Dogs article. I think you’ll both find this helpful. Also I urge you to Google for other like topics to get even more information.

    It’s common practice and law in most places to impose a quarantine after a dog bite. Try not to let this upset you or your friend to much. It’s bothersome yes, no doubt about that but it’s not at all unusual. When Riley bit our floor installer he also was quarantined but was allowed to be “under house arrest” for the 10 day period because I did have proof of rabies and signed a document that he would not be walked or left unsupervised when outside for the duration of the quarantine. I could not walk him for 10 days and he got a little stir crazy which in my mind only heightens the problem but one can do other things in the house or yard to help keep a dog’s brain occupied and body exercised during that time so it’s not the end of the world.

    In our city if there is a history of a dog biting (I think it’s three instances) they still do not order a euthanization, they order the dog be removed from the city permanently. I don’t like this either because it causes people to lose their furkids, but it sure beats killing the dog for being a dog. On the other hand if an owner allows multiple bites, they haven’t learned diddly squat about their dog and so losing it is something they probably deserve. Unfortunately, losing the family they know and love is undeserved punishment for the dog which is something that no dog will understand. There is no way a dog can understand that they’re now in a strange place because three days ago they bit someone. What they will know is that suddenly and for absolutely no reason they can possibly comprehend, they’ve been ripped away from their homes, family and everything they know to be comfortable in their lives. To a dog, biting is not something that deserves punishment — it’s an instinctual dog behavior.

    When a dog bites for the first time, the owner needs to sit up and take notice, determine why (in the mind of the dog not people-understanding) the dog bit and take appropriate corrective, counter-conditioning action. This does not mean take the dog out behind the barn and shoot it, either! We also have to remember that a law enforcement agency’s job is to protect people which in the majority of dog bites the laws themselves takes things out of the hands of law enforcement. They don’t make the laws, but they do have to enforce them. There aren’t enough laws and the laws that do exist don’t do enough to protect dogs.

    The fines imposed are absolutely unfair in this case. The dog was in it’s own yard, not like it was out and about when this happened. Imposing a fine is in this situation is just plain wrong in my opinion. I do not know what your municipalities laws are for putting a dog down after a bite so I can’t possibly answer your question “Do you think the dog will be get put down?” I think if that’s a law in your area someone needs to start a fight to change this law. Once a dog bites does not make it vicious. This dog was doing nothing more than being a dog.

    Wayyyy too many people think that all dogs should be automatically friendly and not bite for any reason and that if they do bite they are just plain vicious. This could not be farther from the truth! People need to get educated about dog behavior and practice proper people behavior around dogs. Although many people believe their dogs are furry little people and treat them accordingly they really are still dogs, meaning they are animals first and foremost. There needs to be a huge change in people’s perception and respect of a dog’s normal behaviors.

    An incident that occurred with us just this morning proves this! I was out walking our furkids, we were passing a building with an open loading dock area. Riley wanted so badly to go inside and investigate (he’s got this thing with loving big rigs!) but of course we couldn’t do this, we’d be trespassing. I let him sit outside the open door for awhile and then started to move on. I was not paying enough attention and did not see the man walking quickly towards us. Not only was he walking fast (prey, herding and/or protection mode kicks in with some dogs) he was looking directly at us (can be taken as a threat by some dogs and I know does with Riley) and because one or more of these dog behaviors kicked in (my belief is threat and protection drive(s) because I know my dog) Riley went off on him and the man nearly got bit.

    Had Riley bitten this guy it would have been hands down, no doubt about it my fault because I a) wasn’t paying enough attention to our surroundings and b) didn’t have a good enough grip on his leash to be able to reel him in quickly enough. The man did not get hurt but I have a feeling there were brown spots in his shorts afterwards! I have no doubt it scared the living daylights out of him and it gave us (me!) a black mark because I let Riley over-react. It scared me and made me angry at myself because I know better! As a dog owner, people must know their dogs and when they have a reactive dog they must take all precautions at all times. I was a bad fur-mom at this moment and I repeat — I knew better! I blame me because I got lax. It was 4:30 in the morning and I didn’t expect people to be around which was stupid because this business was already open for the day. I should not have assumed the area outside the building would be people-free.

    What would have been a much better solution? I could have put Riley in a sit and allowed the man to pass. Alternatively — the instant I saw the man coming I should have asked the man to stop, put Riley in a down (which can calm a dog more quickly than a sit), allow and encourage him to calm down by starting up a calm conversation with the man and then once Riley was calm asked the man for a meet & greet. I could have and should have seized this moment and given Riley the opportunity to know the man was not a threat and to do a bit of socialization. Bottom line? I blew it. This would have been a great learning opportunity for both Riley and me!

    Dog behavior needs to be learned, understood and respected. If this were to become more the norm, so many dogs would not be murdered because they bit someone. All circumstances surrounding a bite should be considered on an individual basis along with all viable alternatives and acted upon accordingly in an individual way based on the surrounding circumstances. Putting a dog down just because it’s bitten is just flat out wrong.

    Back to your friend … the person that was bitten had no business being in the yard, especially knowing the dog is protective puts the blame on her. What in the world possessed her to pass through under these circumstances is beyond me. She put herself in a position to be bit. If she had not chosen to be in the yard, she would not have been bitten. She made the choice, nobody made her walk through the yard and especially close enough to allow herself to be in bite range. On the other hand, your friend knows (or should know) how their dog reacts to people in their yard. Your friend needs to be more responsible about the dog. So, in effect the responsibility for this incident belongs to both the trespasser and your friend. It sounds like they both knew better.

    I feel your friend is making a huge mistake tethering their dog in their yard. A tethered dog should never be left unsupervised! By tethering the dog, your friend is asking for more incidents just like this and repeat offenses are likely to get the dog ordered to be euthanized. I urge you to encourage your friend to find an alternative to tying their dog up outside, especially unsupervised if that’s their common practice.

    I don’t mean to sound cold-hearted but when it comes to dog behavior I am 99% on the dog’s side because I do believe that people bring on their own bites and that owners allow bites to happen. Dog bites happen because of what people do or don’t do. The large majority of dog bites simply do not have to happen. It’s that simple. Dogs are just being dogs (animals first and foremost!) and there isn’t nearly enough respect for that in this country.

    There is no doubt in my mind that this bite was absolutely avoidable, it was not the dog’s fault. I truly hope your friend’s dog is not required to pay the ultimate price of death for what happened. Please stop back and let us know what happens? Whatever the results are, you will be helping others whether they’re dog owners or not!

  8. Gina & Harley says:

    I rescued a German Shepherd several months ago and I have been socializing him since he arrived at 13 weeks old. However, he has always been a very reactive dog, he barks at the vacuum, broom, anything new to him, as if he will attack. Therefore, I have been extremely proactive in giving him as many new experiences as possible and he has been walking with me even prior to receiving all of his vaccinations, he has also been lucky enough to go on trips with the guide dog foundation to the airport, in stores, etc… However, he was still very reactive to strangers! We took him camping and he was reactive to the new surroundings but settled in, we walked him at least 3 times a day and he got to play ball, he always gets a ton of exercise and I have now trained him to use the gentle leader, which has been fabulous on walks and he no longer barks at strangers if they talk to me, which was a problem. He was totally fine and still is with a ton of people around him, walking by, etc…but if they stopped to talk to me he would bark as to say “go away”. I have been using a ton of positive training giving treats whenever strangers are around so he says “when strangers are around, good things happen”. Now he is fine if people talk to me but not OK with them approaching and trying to pet him, which we were working on as well. He has the “look” command down, and he is amazing with me, my son, and my husband, although he does continue to react poorly (barks as if he wants to attack) to things in our environment, as long as we give him an opportunity to smell it, he is fine. Then this morning, my sister came to the door unexpected and she was rolling a bike up to the house which he was scared of, and was barking as to say “go away”. I had his collar and had him settle down, he was lying down and I gave him treats but as she approached the door he got up again and was beginning the bark again “go away”, I had him by the collar and was trying to settle him down, she entered the door, and I let him go, thinking he would just smell her and be OK, which he has done in the past. He bit her, and released, my husband grabbed him and crated him but he did give my sister a puncture wound. I am beside myself! I totally get this was not a good choice by me and on top of him not being comfortable with the bike and my sister who really hasn’t met him yet (her son is allergic to dogs) my 4 year old son was screaming and the excitement in the air was overwhelming. Not to mention, I am sure my sister was scared and her body language and tone of voice was not good. My question, now that I have learned from this experience is it reasonable to think I can keep this dog in a family where kids are in and out and craziness is sometimes the norm. Do I just resign to keep him in the crate when people are here, is that reasonable. I work from home so I am constantly with the dog. Would keeping him crated when people arrive if he is reacting the way he did today be reasonable or does he now need to be in a crate if any stranger approaches? I have people in and out all the time and if it is a person that he has been exposed to from a young age he is fine with them and I have also introduced many people that have come to give estimates who were total strangers and he was fine.

    I have worked so hard with this dog and I have a 4 year old son and he will be having friends over, etc… I live on a block with about 50+ kids, and although he is fine walking by them, although he does tend to get excited when kids are around he has been fine on leash with them around. Although, he has also reacted poorly while on leash in a family setting while camping. For example, I was sitting with him at a camp fire and he was totally calm laying at my feet, well exercised, but when a 2 year old came around the opposite side of the group, and jumped on the chair, my dog lunged and barked as he did with my sister. Of course, I had maintained distance enough where it wasn’t a problem, I just crated him immediately after that response.

    I am extremely upset, I have been working with a behaviorist too and I will be contacting her. But, is it unreasonable to think that I can keep this dog? Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Gina and Harley,

      Thank you for joining us. I’m so sorry you are having these issues with your FurKid. Situations like these are so very difficult and heartbreaking. I know this because we have some of the same issues. You didn’t mention your dog’s actual age but from what you did say I’m going to guess he’s under a year old at this time. To me this is a good thing because you do have him during his young years but as you’ve witnessed, some dogs have a mind of their own which is very difficult to change for their own (and your) good.

      Puppy Socialization

      I don’t know the history of his rescue so his background prior to him coming to live with you I’m going to guess is unknown. One thought that is really nagging at me as what may be a big part of what’s going on with your dog is that he may have been denied what is suppose to happen during a crucial window of time when he was a few weeks old …

      Puppies have a window of time from about 4-12 weeks when it’s crucial for them to receive extensive socialization. This includes many of the things you are working on with him by introducing him to every day things that he’s apparently not familiar with such as the vacuum cleaner for example. A well socialized pup is not real likely to be afraid of or reactive to the vacuum cleaner because had they should have become accustomed to it during their early weeks and the vacuum would then be just another common activity in their lives. Nissa was afraid of the vacuum until quite recently and she’s five years old now having come to live with us when she was 12 weeks old. Formerly running from it, she has just recently begun to allow me to use the vacuum when I brush her!

      The most unfortunate thing about this window of time, is that if it’s missed or not done right this window is gone forever with no way to get it back. Having lost this opportunity permanently, it makes socializing a dog later much more difficult. I think this happens more often than not because there are more people breeding dogs (or allowing breeding by accident by not spaying or neutering) that don’t know this than those who do.

      What happens all to often is that the dog has a litter of pups, the pups stay with Mom until 8 weeks and then are then sold or given away. People who don’t know any better think this is all that’s needed. We actually think neither Riley or Nissa had the benefit of proper socialization during this crucial time and feel this is why we have some of the issues we have with them. Good experienced breeders see to it that their pups get proper socialization during this time which doesn’t mean just living with the kids in the home so that they can say the pups have been raised with children. I can’t even imagine leashing up a litter of 6-8-10 week old pups and going to stand around in their local Walmart, Home Depot or other public entrance and giving all these pups a chance to interact with strangers but as I understand it, there are good dedicated breeders who do this! My hat’s off to them! Unfortunately, these wonderful breeders are a minority all their own.

      It’s also possible that he could have been taken away from his Momma to young. This alone can lead to behavioral issues later on in a dog’s life. Some people don’t know any better and believe it’s ok to transfer a pup to a new home as young as six weeks of age which is way to young. Some pups wind up at shelters and because shelters are so short of funds, employees and volunteers they are forced to adopt out pups as soon as possible after they’re weaned, again this is way to young!

      Fear reactivity is extremely difficult to deal with and it definitely can make a dog dangerous. A fearful dog is the most dangerous dog there is. You never know when something is going to occur that will scare your dog so you can’t possibly be prepared for every little thing. When something happens that scares your dog, if it’s not handled correctly, the problem is compounded. It sounds like you understand this very well and are doing everything you can to help him and I think that’s super! I totally understand how time consuming, frustrating and emotionally draining this is!

      Thanks for Taking Responsibility

      I commend you on recognizing and admitting that you allowed the situation with your sister being bitten to happen. This is so very important! I’m always happy to hear that there are people out there who realize it’s not the dog it’s the human at fault. That’s not a criticism either, it’s just that I don’t hear this very often. Most people still just blame the dog because in their mind the dog is supposed to know better. It doesn’t work that way as you well know. You know exactly how and why this happened and I have no doubt you’re not going to let it happen again.

      You might also think of the possibility that your sister riding a bike is a moving object and so prey drive may have been a part of your dog’s excitement level.

      Passing Along What We Do

      You’re in a very tough spot. I wish I had a magic wand to wave over your FurKid that would cure him but we all know that isn’t an option. The fact that you have a neighborhood full of kids is a two-sided sword. It can be good for helping socialize your dog, but on the other hand your dog is a danger to them. I don’t envy you this decision. All your work could prove to make a very well behaved, confident and non-fearful dog. The flip side to this is that some dogs just can’t get past their fears and reactivity and so what you wind up having to do is manage it (and the dog) for safety reasons. I won’t tell you to keep your dog or not keep your dog, that decision belongs to you and your family. What I can do is tell you what we do to help keep people safe. You can do as you wish with this information.

      The Mailman (‘er … Person) and Passers-by

      Riley is now just past six years old and it’s become obvious that either we have never found what works to keep him from wanting to eat the mail person or he’s just so bull-headed and territorial when it comes to this that there just isn’t a cure. Believe me, it’s not for lack of trying many many MANY different ways to change this. I tried for five years and at least a dozen different positive training methods to get him to just accept that the mailman and people walking past our house is just another daily activity which doesn’t need his intervention.

      We finally had to just admit and accept that he’s NOT going to give up his need to “scare away the aliens that have come to harm us.” In his mind everyone that walks by our house is a bad-guy and he’s going to keep them away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked the curtains up off the floor and had to re-hang them. I even resorted to moving the couch in front of the big living room window giving him just the small window to the side of it. He loves looking out the window and is so good as long as there are no people or other dogs within his view. I hated taking away something he loves doing (looking out the window) but I was exhausted from trying, out of alternative options and could not take it any more. In a way it’s nice to know that there isn’t a person in their right mind that would try to get in this house but it’s sad for me that I haven’t found a way to make him understand that not every passer-by is a bad-guy and that he doesn’t need to protect us from everyone out there. I’m supposed to be the protector but he’s not about to give up that job.

      Visitors to the House

      If a visitor is a friend or family member, the dogs are put in a down on a rug across the room and made to stay there until the visitor is inside, we’ve done our human meet & greet and the dogs are calm. This takes some time, Riley doesn’t settle quickly when aliens have landed on his planet. But that’s the rule. If you want to try this and don’t have a second strong adult personality to help you at the time, you can leash him across the room to something solid and immovable so that he can’t get to the visitor. It’s even better if you do have someone who can help you by feeding high value treats during calm moments on the rug. Promote the calm! I would start practicing this with a visitor he does know and is just happily excited to see without fear or any dangerous reactivity. Friendly excitement is: a wiggly body, a mid-height to low level slow wagging tail and relaxed ears — anything else is not calm as I understand it.

      If the visitor is a stranger, someone come to fix something at the house for example, I crate Riley or put him in the back yard weather permitting. Depending on who it is, I will sometimes put him on the other side of a very securely installed tall doorway gate. This isn’t a cheap baby gate propped up in the door that he could knock over, charge over or charge through, it’s a metal gate that’s screwed into the wooden door jam and has a latch that you actually have to lift and turn to open. This is my preferred method so that he can see what’s going on which is part of socialization. Him sitting there watching (and believe me he IS watching) is also enough intimidation to keep some yahoo stranger in my house from trying something stupid towards me. So, Riley’s protecting me without having to do diddly squat which I like very much. There just is no way I’m going to allow him to interact with a stranger in HIS home because very simply put … it’s not worth the risk. Nissa is allowed to be out. She sniffs and walks away because she really doesn’t have much of an interest in people she doesn’t know. As gentle a soul as she is, we’ve been told many times that she’s more scary looking than Riley which unknown to her is her way of protecting me without actively participating. I love this, too, because she’s not being put in the pro-active position of protecting Mom.

      Out for a Walk Meet & Greets

      If the person we meet up with wishes to meet the FurKids we have rules for allowing this. NO ONE (and I do mean NO ONE) meets them if they aren’t willing to follow our rules and believe me, there have been a number of people who don’t feel our rules should apply to them. These folks are told “Sorry, you don’t follow our rules you don’t get to meet them.” and we then just walk away. Most of these people are of a mind that all dogs love them or they get along with all dogs and so they don’t have to play the game our way. I’m not about to go through a dog bite incident because they don’t understand. It’s just not going to happen.

      Our rules are few and simple, the person must:

      • Stand relaxed at a safe distance with their hands relaxed at their sides.
      • Look at me, talk to me *not* the dogs. Think “ignore the dogs.”
      • I put my FurKids in a sit where they must remain until the person has fully complied *and* my FurKids are calm.
      • When this has all been done and it’s time to meet, I tell the person to just continue their relaxed stance, do not make any movement towards me, talk to and look at me — not the dogs. Then and only then and in a friendly, confident, not too excited tone of voice I tell my dogs to “Go say Hello.” We go to the person, the person does not come to us.
      • After the dogs have had a reasonable amount of time to sniff, the person can then pet them but are warned against using any direct eye contact.

      I noticed that you’re working on letting people approach you and/or your dog. I can’t stress enough that this is not a good idea. The CALM dog needs to go to the person, the person does NOT approach you or your dog. When someone is approaching you or your dog, your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to sniff first on their own terms — an approaching person puts a dog into high alert mode, they’re invading your dog’s space and it can kick in your dog’s protective or resource guarding instincts. Any one or more of these things is bite mode waiting to happen.

      Dealing with Kids

      Kids are where things get even more scary. They have no fear and they’re going to be kids — unpredictable, spontaneous, noisy, excitable, constantly moving and making quick motions and blah blah blah. Unfortunately, being a kid automatically makes them targets for fearful, reactive dogs.

      Some things I would not do, and I’m not saying you do any of these, they’re just things I would not do:

      • Tie my dog up outside unattended. Read my Tethered Dogs Can Be Deadly Dogs for more on this.
      • Until much more well socialized with children, I would not allow my dog to be around children especially groups of them where you can’t possibly watch each child closely.
      • Always supervise my dog’s outside time so’s to avoid any kids teasing them. We have a couple of neighbor kids that have a tendency to do this.

      Some Socialization Techniques

      Your situation offers you a wonderful opportunity to socialize your dog with kids because there are so many of them in your neighborhood. We don’t have that here so we’re at a disadvantage. You also have your dog’s young age in your favor. You could:

      • Sit outside with your leashed dog sitting or laying beside you and just allow him time to watch. Do not allow any kids to approach until he seems comfortable with this environment, which could take weeks or months. Feed him really (good for him and low in calories) high value treats (our dogs favorite is bits of cooked chicken) during his calm moments and tell him what a good boy he is. Encourage his calm moments!
      • After he’s got this calm down really well, you can practice meet & greets in the way I outlined meeting people on walks. I would start in neutral places, not his own yard because of the territorial thing that may be part of this. You’ll also be teaching children how to properly meet a dog and while you’re at it — stress to the kids to always ask permission to pet a dog before approaching. This will help keep them more safe!
      • Be choosy about which kids you allow to meet your dog. We don’t allow small children to meet Riley. Children at eye level or shorter can be a target for a reactive dog simply because they are at eye level and will naturally be looking into the dog’s face and eyes. Some dogs take direct eye contact as a threat or confrontation and will react accordingly. The child has to be at least two heads taller than Riley before I’ll allow them to meet him. If they are calm, tall enough and willing to follow the rules Riley would probably be fine but I’m not willing to risk a child’s face just to prove my point.
      • Riley is a bit on the claustrophobic side (doesn’t like his space invaded) and so we do not allow any crowding around him.
      • When we pass a school and the kids come running, screeching and wanting to pet through the fence, it’s hands ON the fence — no fingers THROUGH the fence. They are also made to stop running and walk as they approach.

      All of this pretty much boils down to me being vigilant and totally in control of who gets to interact with my FurKids and probably more importantly, how they may do so. We don’t entertain the idea of re-homing Riley because of his quirks. We play it safe, take additional precautions (sometimes I can be a bit paranoid with this) and what we can’t control, we manage with things like crates, gates and closed doors.

      So, Gina — I agree that you do have a decision to make. Only you can decide how far and how much work you’re willing and/or able to put into this dog. In case you don’t now already, it’s unfortunate and very sad for me that German Shepherds are high on the list of dogs that are quickest to bite. I think they’re #2 if I recall correctly, surpassed only by the Rottie. This is a breed thing and there isn’t a whole lot you can do to change something bred into a dog. This fact just tells me that I have to be extra cautious and so that’s what I do. But that’s me and I’m certainly not telling you to be like me and I didn’t tell you this to scare you into feeling you need to find him a new home. I’ve been able to bring Riley a very long way away from his original reactivity level but he’s not cured and I don’t foresee him ever being totally cured. It’s a part of him that I choose to accept (not like but accept — big difference there) and deal with accordingly.

      A thought that comes to mind is that it’s great you’re working with a behaviorist, but that doesn’t mean the behaviorist you’ve chosen in the right one. They all have their own methods and beliefs as do dog trainers (some of whom I’d like to practice some of their own training techniques on them!). I relate it to choosing a lawyer or a counselor — the key is finding the one that works for you, your dog and your situation. If the first one you try doesn’t work out, you try again until you find one that does. This is not a derogatory comment towards your current behaviorist, it’s just a fact that they are not all from the same mold. You may find that your dog responds better to someone else with different positive methods and beliefs.

      Riley and your dog have similar characteristics but they are still different dogs just as you and I are different people. Although your and I sound similar, we handle our dogs in our own ways. Your dog is much more reactive than Riley ever was and you have many more children to deal with than I do. My Riley is GREAT with kids he knows. I have no doubt that he would protect them to the point of giving his life for them, especially my one grandson who he adores. I so wish I had more kids around here so that I could work with Riley and his reactivity towards these constantly moving excitable creatures called kids. I don’t hold out any hope of him ever releasing his sometimes reactive nature towards them so I manage it and him because I could not bear to be without him.

      I’ve been told by some that Riley’s a very lucky dog because most people would have put my boy down long ago. These people would not have spent the time or money we’ve invested on any dog. Having a reactive dog can be literally and totally mentally exhausting. Honestly speaking, I do have my moments when I wonder why I keep my boy but that flips in the blink of an eye because just looking at him melts my heart and I know he belongs with me. Not too long ago I was talking with the owner of a doggie day care/campus and mentioned the occasional momentary thoughts I have of wondering if I’m the right Mom for my Riley. Her response was “He’s exactly where he should be because you understand him.” Wonderful thought, heh? If I’ve done nothing else at least he’s alive and safe with me and that means everything to me.

      We wish you and your pup the very best! I would love it if you’d come back and let us know how things are going. If you keep him maybe you’d share what you found that works for you? Our hearts are with you and paws up from the FurKids!

      Note: Just a reminder that these are my methods and that I’m not recommending them to you, I’m simply sharing them with. It’s up to you if you choose to give them a try. I cannot be responsible for the results good or bad. If I help you, that’s GREAT! But if it doesn’t work, please don’t blame me or hold me responsible. The final decision is yours as I’m sure you understand.

  9. Terri says:

    Hi there,

    I have an 11mth old Terrier/Chihuahua mix female, weighs about ten lbs. She has all her shots including rabies and is spayed as well. What a wonderful dog she is and smart and really friendly other than just a few small barks when meeting someone new for the first time. However, she comes around quickly and loves attention from other humans and is great with other dogs.

    I have one rather small but not really small issue with her that is on going and seems to have got worse. Whenever I take her on walks and have to tie her up outside for a few minutes, she goes into this panic state and starts jumping on me and biting and ripping at my clothes. She has broken my skin on my legs and left some nasty bruises and even does it to my boyfriend as well. She will also do this when she knows were leaving the house to run errands in the car and will start grabbing and biting at whatever piece of clothing or skin she can sink her teeth into. I am at a loss as to why she does this and it is not getting any better and in fact, worse at times. I am going to see my Vet to find out what I can do to correct this behaviour as for the main reason, I don’t like getting bit and having my clothes shredded but it’s slightly embarassing when people see her going through this fit. Any advice on what I could do to stop this?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Terri,

      Wow, that is a problem! It sounds to me like you may have hit the nail on the head when you said “panic state.” My first reaction when I read your post was that she’s terrified of something. You didn’t say how old she was when you got her, or if she’s a rescue or if you do or do not know her background from puppyhood. If you don’t know her background this makes it a bit tougher. She is displaying some pretty extreme behavior in my opinion. What happens to a dog before they come to live with us can play a huge part in their behavior without the benefit of knowing anything that may have happened to cause their behavior.

      I’m glad you’re taking her to the vet, I would have him give her a really good physical including a blood test for hypothyroidism and also a blood test to check her vitamin and mineral levels or any other tests he’s aware of that provides results aimed at checking for things that might cause behavior issues. This is by no means a derogatory comment aimed at vets but my personal experience with vets and behavior recommendations, is that they have their hands full dealing with medical issues and aren’t in general, behavior experts. For example, when I relayed some behavior issues to our vet, she recommended we work with a behaviorist which is no different than sending a patient to a specialist. If you rule out medical issues, then again in my mind this is a behavior issue and should be dealt with accordingly. It could also be a combination of both, a medical issue manifesting in behavior issues so then both aspects need attention.

      Separation Anxiety and Fears

      Three things I would recommend researching are; separation anxiety, fears and tethering. You can start with my posts Does Your Puppy Have JAWS Syndrome and Tethered Dogs Can be Deadly Dogs and go from there via Googling.

      Separation anxiety seems to be at the core of things and can cause panic attack type symptoms. In your case it sounds like it’s manifesting into some dangerous behavior. Even though she’s only 10 lbs, she has the power to do some real damage. A bite is a bite, no matter what size your dog, and is definitely not a behavior to be taken lightly. Adult skin is tougher than a child’s and although it hurts an adult to be bitten by a dog of any size, she could do some real harm to a child especially small children who’s faces are closer to her face level. Tiny fingers can be severely injured and even bitten off. I think you probably get where I’m going here.

      It sounds like she’s panicking when being left alone. Dogs are pack animals and being left alone without their pack members can be a scary thing for them. Since you and your boyfriend are her pack members and you’re leaving her behind, she’s afraid. Giving her something *safe* and “long acting” to keep her occupied when you leave the house might help. There are very few things that are considered safe to leave a dog alone with. When giving my dogs anything whether I’m staying or leaving but particularly leaving them alone I ask myself “Would I leave a toddler alone with this?”

      One thing that is thought to be a good, safe object are Kongs but you must be sure to use the right size and strength. A dog’s age is not always the best tool to determine which Kong toy is the best size and strength so the Kong Company provides a diagram on their website of the different colors to help you choose. But remember, you as the owner are still responsible for choosing the right toy, which means you need to know your dog’s chewing strength. You can have a Great Dane that chews lightly, or a toy Poodle that chews like a voracious Rottweiler so learn to know your dog! They also give you some treat layering suggestions for tasty treats to put in the Kong. At any rate, you’re looking to stuff the Kong in layers with goodies that will take time for your dog to empty the Kong. Being able to empty a Kong or other treat dispensing toy in record time won’t be of much help in keeping your dog occupied for long.

      Do not give this to her when she’s acting up as you walk out the door or she may take it as a reward for her bad behavior. You will need to allow some extra “exit time” for awhile to get this to work. Terriers are known to have a need for a lot of activity. Ever seen a Jack Russell Terrier? This breed seems wired for bouncing off walls if they aren’t given enough exercise and activity! If you can first take her on a half hour walk to take the edge off that would be a good start. Cesar Millan recommends a brisk walk but we found that our dogs do better when they’re allowed to do a lot of sniffing which gives them a lot of brain action combined with walking briskly in between trees and other interesting sniff locations. For some dogs nose work is more beneficial than trying to tucker them out physically. You’d have to see which method or combination of methods works better for your dog. Alternatively, you can find ways to take the edge off in the house. A 10 pound dog can get a good dose of energy released by tossing a ball and having them bring it back to you as you zip around getting ready for work.

      When you’re ready to walk out the door and your pup starts acting up, make her sit and get calm before giving her the stuffed Kong or another safe treat dispensing toy or even a favorite toy. You are rewarding her for her good behavior if you get her calm before you leave. Don’t make a big deal of you leaving by talking to her or giving her other attention. Get her calm, give her the toy and leave without any verbal or physical attention frivolities. She needs to learn that you leaving is not a big deal, that she’s ok alone while your gone, and that Mommy always comes home.

      If she gets all hyped up on your return, ignore her and I do mean ignore! Nissa went through a period of heavy duty separation anxiety and I found I was compounding her problems by giving her all kinds of attention on my return. Three days of consistency in me coming home, walking calmly and silently to the back door to let her out and silently letting her back in cured her of her over-the-top “Mom’s home!” excitement. When I leave the house I put my FurKids in a down on a rug across the room from the exit door. Three to five minutes before I’m out the door, I put one of our home-made dehydrated beef jerky treats in front of each dog and they must wait until I’m about to close the door and tell them “ok” before they can have them. No muss, no fuss, no bizarre activity from either dog. You could do this with your treat dispensing toy. It sounds like you will have your work cut out for you training the down/calm state first so make some training time to do this first when you’re home and have time to spend teaching this.

      You can also feed your dog from a Kong which is an additional doggie activity because it works the mind, it’s more physical than just eating from a bowl and slows down their eating pattern, especially if you have a food-scarfer.


      Tethering a dog, can be a scary thing for some dogs. Not only are you walking away leaving her alone, you’re walking away and leaving her alone in what some dogs consider to be a terrifying, very vulnerable position. They’re tied up, they can’t get away to a safe place if they feel threatened by something.

      You can do similar calming activities when you must tie her out. Although I don’t recommend ever tying a dog up, sometimes this is necessary but only for very brief time periods. In a safe quiet place without other-people activity, tie her up and give her a good experience with it by then sitting down next to her and work on calming activities. After awhile pull out the stuffed Kong you’ve tucked in your pocket, sit or down her, get her calm in some fashion. Get up, give her the Kong when she’s calm and silently walk away ignoring any bad behavior. Get out of her sight going where you can see her but she can’t see you. She should get interested in the Kong. The moment you see calm, silently come back so that she associates being calm with your return. You can slowly lengthen your time away (but never too long for a tethered dog) as she gets the idea more and more into her head that Mom comes back when she’s calm and reinforces that it’s ok to be alone.

      Building Self-Confidence

      Dogs suffering from things like separation anxiety are generally thought to be lacking in self-confidence. I would do some Googling for ways to build this in her. I don’t live in your house so I have no way of knowing how much personal one-on-one time you spend with her. If you’re not spending quality time with your dog, behavior issues will be the result. Every dog has their own level of need for this. You may think you’re spending enough quality time with your dog, but it may not be enough for her. I don’t just mean sitting on the couch vegging out in front of the boob tube with her laying next to you either. I’m talking about taking time for training, both obedience and fun stuff. She’s still a pup, if you haven’t attended a good basic obedience course with her, do this now. You’ll both benefit from it and it will help build self-confidence in her as well. Even if you have a well behaved dog without a lot of issues, obedience training and other structured group dog activities are great bonding experiences for both dog and FurParent. Here’s a list of suggestions:

      1. Obedience Training
      2. Agility
      3. Go Fetch (anything to do with retrieving including ball, Frisbee, and Flyball)
      4. Dog parks/ Take a walk
      5. Hiking and Camping
      6. Swimming (make sure to put a doggie life vest on your dog)
      7. Tracking/ Earthdog
      8. Teach your dog a new trick
      9. Harness and pulling activities

      Notes on Safe Swimming for Your Dog

      A great number of people believe that dogs just instinctively know how to swim. This is oh so not true! You should never ever just toss or force a dog into the lake or pool and expect they’ll start to and enjoy swimming. You can do a lot of emotional damage to your dog and cause a huge fear of water by doing this! Would you toss a toddler into the lake minus a life jacket and expect the child to just start swimming? Dogs are no different than toddlers in so many ways that people really need to learn to make more of a correlation between the two especially when it comes to safety precautions.

      There are some dog breeds that tend to actually sink and easily drown because of their physical build. Bulldogs and Pugs for example, are not known to be the best breed for swimming activities because of their round bodies and very short legs. This is kind of like tossing a quadriplegic person or pot-bellied pig into the water. Imagine those results? On the other hand some dog breeds are more or less born to swim such as Portuguese Water Dogs and Labs but that doesn’t mean you should ignore safety measures for the more water-loving breeds either. Here’s a YouTube video that shows a good, safe way to introduce your dog to water. This trainer isn’t using a life vest, but I would definitely use one myself.

      A few years ago we had a very bad experience with a doggie aquatic center. I was one of those people who thought dogs just knew how to swim and so the need to research it never came to mind. I very stupidly trusted this place would do it right, after all at that time I believed swimming would just be automatic. Was I ever wrong! The end result is that this dude caused Riley to panic and now he’s afraid of swimming. Nissa’s helped him to get better going into water but he stops at the point where he can no longer touch bottom. He doesn’t swim but he does play in shallow water. One of these days we plan to work on the proper way to help him learn to swim but because of this bad experience, we’ll have our work cut out for us. The key is to take it slow, use a life vest and to take the time and steps to help your dog learn about deeper water and that he can have fun in it.

      Her Diet

      Always remember that what we feed our dogs can definitely have bearing on their behavior. If they’re allergic to something in their dog food, some bizarre behaviors can occur that people might not readily associate with what they’re eating. Hyperactivity in dogs is one of the things the wrong food for your dog can cause. We’re more than very happy with the results of feeding our dogs a raw diet and never plan to feed a prepared processed dog food again.

      Figuring out what’s causing our dog’s bad behavior(s) and working to change it can be a very time consuming process. Having the patience and fortitude to follow through is something too many people won’t put forth the effort in so it’s great to see you trying to find a way to help your dog! Hopefully, there’s enough information on our website to help you get started on eliminating your dog’s dangerous behavior and please do research other sources as well for more help. We’ll be thinking about you and hoping for the best! Good luck and we’re looking forward to hearing how things are going!

  10. Terri says:

    Hi there,
    Thanks for you reply, there are some very helpful suggestions you have given me. I will give you a brief history of her. She comes from a litter of five, she was the smallest and most quiet of the bunch. I got her when she was 3mths old and she picked me actually, she seemed really drawn to me when I first met her and I was sold on her, The family I got her from had two kids who absolutely adored all the puppies and they even came with the father when he drove three of the pups out for me to see so I could pick one. They were very kind and gentle children and were sad to see any of the puppies go, but happy knowing they could always be there to meet the new owners and be assured they were going to good homes. Casey is pretty smart and was easy to potty and crate train. When I go to work in the afternoon for 3hrs, she goes right into her crate with no problems. I never tie her up outside when we are home and the only time she gets tethered is when I need to step into a store to get a couple things. I love to take her with me no matter where I go, but unfortunately most places won’t allow dogs and because I like to include her in all my daily errands, I typically tie her up for at most 15-20mins and I always have cookies with me to reward her for being such a good girl and waiting while I was shopping. I have been working on the “calming her down” routine now as we go out and leave her in the house or need to tie her up outside (for merely minutes) and it seems to be working a bit. I tell her “NO” in a firm voice too and then get down to her level and try to reassure her, it’s ok, I go out sometimes but I always come back. She has had all her blood tested and fully checked out and she is very healthy, just seems to have an issue not being included in EVERYTHING I do even though she can’t always do that. I only feed her good quality food from the Pet store and she is not a big eater and doesn’t shovel her food down at all. In fact she is a very lady like eater and even when she gets her treats, she knows to sit and lay and takes them very gently.

    I thought about muzzle training her too while we go on walks so that when and if I do enter somewhere to get something and have to tie her up, she can’t bite or tear at my clothes. Just to see if doing that over time and her figuring out she can’t bite or get ahold of something that she might learn to stop. Im not sure if this is a good or bad idea but very tempting. I just want her to be able to relax while she is alone be it for only a couple minutes or when we were leaving the house for a little while. I do see slight improvement with her though and this gives me hope. I like the idea of the Kong and I will be sure to pick one up this week and see if that won’t help with the tethering and house anxiety she seems to display.

    Thanks so much for all your advice, I will be sure to keep you posted on the results as we progress and this is for both of our benefits. I just want her to be a happy little girl and not worry about a thing :)

    • Mom says:

      Muzzles are a great safety measure but that doesn’t mean I have to like them and I don’t. I think muzzles make people afraid of dogs but I also believe they are sometimes a necessary evil if you follow me. I’ve muzzled Riley maybe three to four times in over six years for things like if the vet was going to give shots and cause him pain. But he’s always been very good with the vets and has never once tried to bite them. So no, I just straddle him facing away from the vet and hold his head and we don’t use the muzzle at the vet anymore unless it’s a new vet he hasn’t met.

      When I took him back to the Orthopedic vet for a checkup after his second hip surgery, the vet tech had to help me get him out of he car. Riley growled at him but he was in severe pain and the vet tech was halfway inside what Riley considers to be *his* car, LOL! I was so darn proud of him for growling instead of the alternative! So, we put a muzzle on him because the vet tech had to lift him out. I didn’t like it but I had no other choice. You do have good reason to use a muzzle and the right kind is humane so’s not to hurt her. But if you do, please help Cassie to learn to like it before just plunking it on her face. She might learn from your idea, but she might not. It’s hard to say. Do some research on how to use positives to get a dog to accept a muzzle.

      I’ll probably never like a muzzle, but I have sense enough to know that we don’t always get what we like and that safety comes first so I have to put what I don’t like away in the back of my mind and just do what needs doing. If that means a muzzle, then so be it.

      It sounds like you are doing what I do and that is taking our dogs everywhere we possibly can. So, they learn that they go everywhere with us but they don’t understand there are times they can’t accompany us and they don’t like being left behind. They’re lonely for their pack members! Unfortunately, to much togetherness can promote insecurities in dogs just like it can promote co-dependency in people. If I have to take one dog and not the other, the one left behind has a hissy fit the first few minutes but they do then calm down. I screwed up long ago and should have given them more alone time so they could be comfortable in their own skin on their own. Much easier said than done but some alone time will probably do Cassie more good than harm. The problem is that people like you and I don’t handle being away from our dogs well, LOL! I have a real hard time leaving mine home, I can’t wait to get back to them. This really is detrimental to both dog and human and being hopelessly addicted to my dogs really isn’t a good enough excuse, LOL!

      Another idea is when you tie her up to run into a store and after you get her calm, maybe take a step back (still facing her) making sure to keep her sitting and calm and then toss her a treat when she behaves well. Repeat slowly a step at a time for 3-4 steps getting a bit farther away each time before you actually turn and walk away. You can increase this over a period of time to 5-7 steps, then 10 steps. As you return, stop about 10 steps away, get her calm from there and toss her a treat. Take another step, repeat etc … this may save your clothing and help her to learn that calm gets her more goodies than frantic does. Make a game of it! I’m guessing she’ll get the idea after awhile.

      I hope I’ve helped you and that we’ll see you visiting us again here at Riley’s Place! Do keep us posted!

  11. Jobi says:

    We have a black lab Dalmatian mix who is about 3 and a half. He has never been an aggressive dog although he loves to jump on people and is a runner if he gets loose. He was in his kennel one night in our fenced in back yard while we were at football practice with our kids. When we got home we realized he was out. We looked for him for several hours and it was dark and we couldn’t find him. After looking everywhere we thought to look we came home. About midnight we had a knock on our door saying he bit our neighbor, whom we don’t know. We have heard about three different stories the one they are telling now is that their female wolf/dog whom they believe was in heat was tied in their fenced in back yard. Their fence was left open is how our dog got in. Their dog was barking so dad and girl went out to see what was going on. The dad says our dog lunged at him and he knocked him away and then dog lunged at his 20 yr old daughter. He bit her in face leaving three teeth impressions one on each side of nose and one on her chin. When people arrived to help get dog they say they were guarding the gate area so he couldn’t get out. But everyone said he never acted aggressive or growled just sat their head down like he knew he was in trouble. My husband went over and called dogs name he came straight to him and our police officer actually put leash on dog cause my husband has a broke hand. He walked him straight to animal controls van and jumped right in. We got him back and now our neighbors are claiming he is a viscious dog. We have ten children and now I’m nervous. We have fixed our fence and his kennel and are doing daily checks so he can’t get out again. But should I worry about my kids now even though I’ve never seen this side of him. Any thoughts or help would be appreciated.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jobi,

      Thank you for sharing your story. It makes us very sad when things like this happen, particularly because they are most often preventable. You may not like me very much for what I’m about to say and I don’t say it to hurt your feelings, but it has to be said or I feel like I’m being dishonest by avoiding a big part of the problem. This topic is upsetting and very close to our hearts because loose dogs are one of our biggest problems here. They are why Riley feels he needs to go on the defensive immediately upon seeing most loose dogs because they always charge us or run at us in some fashion and to Riley, a charging dog or one running at him is a confrontation waiting to happen. He feels he needs to protect himself and us and so he does. Our dog walks are never relaxed and comfortable for me, I really dread them because I cannot relax. I’m *constantly* having to be on guard for loose dogs. It makes for a dangerous situation and walking one’s dog should be a pleasant experience.

      I personally would be working very hard to teach my dog that jumping on people is not allowed. This kind of training should *not* include knee-bumping the dog in the chest because you can injure and even kill a dog doing this. It should also not include stepping, or stomping on their back feet. Training a dog does not mean hurting it to get it to behave. There are plenty of ways to reroute jumping behavior, but I can tell you from experience it can take a long time for the dog to catch on. The longer the dog has been allowed to believe this is acceptable behavior, the longer it will probably take to reverse their understanding. I would be Googling my butt off for some positive training methods for this and remember, what works for one dog may not work for another. You may have to try several different *positive* methods before you find the one that works for your dog. Even though your dog only does this in excitement, he’s not a small dog and he could accidentally hurt someone. It doesn’t matter what size the dog, jumping on people is unacceptable behavior. Dalmations are excitable dogs by nature. We had one many years ago that we had just very recently taken in and were working on her bad habit of jumping on people, which in her case was not easy because she was so excitable. One day she jumped up on my young daughter and accidentally pushed her down a *huge* flight of stairs that were covered in snow and ice to the cement below. I don’t like to admit this but we were very uneducated dog owners back then and the fact that my child was injured was enough to tell me that we were in over our heads with this dog and so we did find her a home with people that were much better dog-educated than us and were also already Dalmation owners.

      I question why, since you knew your dog is a runner some time ago, that you did you not take precautions to make sure he doesn’t get loose long before this? I’m not asking for a reply, just making a point because all of this could have been prevented had he been kept more securely confined. I don’t mean he should live in a kennel either. And most definitely please do *not* tie him in a kennel! This is a good way for your dog to hang itself.

      Since you’ve heard at least three different stories from these people that you’re not familiar with, I do wonder if they’re being truthful. Is there someone you know and trust that actually *saw* what happened that you could get the honest truth from? To me it would be of the utmost importance to know the truth without a doubt. I’m upset with these folks for having a dog that they apparently leave tied outside unsupervised, gate open and *in heat!” That is an invitation to every intact male dog within about a five mile radius to come and make puppies! The odor a female dog in heat puts out is in fact an invite to breed and this odor travels long distances! It’s part of nature. This to me is very irresponsible dog ownership on their part. A dog should never be tied out unsupervised and one in heat is even worse. We have sooooo many dogs needing homes, the world does not need more litters of puppies being allowed to happen. Your dog cannot be blamed for what comes naturally, but he wouldn’t have had the chance to go visiting if he were better confined (I would keep him in the house) when you can’t supervise him personally.

      Breeding is a very strong animal instinct. I haven’t researched this so I can only give you information based on what I do know about dog behavior in general. My thought is that faced with the opportunity to breed, a dog might very well display some uncharacteristic behavior. Your dog is first and foremost a male animal and will revert to animal behavior under the right conditions. If these people, who your dog doesn’t know, tried to stop a potential tie or tie in progress I don’t have a lot of doubt that he could become momentarily and uncharacteristically aggressive. I’m not saying he did because I’m not convinced of that, I’m only saying I don’t have a lot of doubt that any dog *could* behave aggressively under these circumstances.

      I really have no doubt that even unintentionally, these strangers scared him. They may have rushed him and he got scared, they may have cornered him which is something you *never* do to any dog — even your own most trusted dog. A cornered dog can be dangerous because they’re scared and feel they have no way out to where they feel safe. A fearful dog is a dangerous dog and they only weapon they have are their teeth.

      Since you know your dog has never displayed aggressive behavior in the past, I believe something out of the ordinary triggered it. Even though I wasn’t there, I have absolutely no doubt of that. A normally docile, friendly dog just doesn’t get aggressive without a good reason. The good reason would be in *his* mind and not necessarily one that a human would consider to be a valid reason. Remember, dogs perceive things differently than people.

      We do not believe in the “once a biter always a biter” theory. Because your dog *supposedly* bit someone (I’m not totally convinced he did), doesn’t mean his overall personality has changed. I don’t believe he’s morphed into Cujo. I believe he’s the same sweet loving dog you’ve always known but he was faced with a situation that triggered his defense mechanism. If someone punched you in the face out of the blue and you reacted by punching them back, does this mean you’ve turned violent? No. You were defending yourself, and my thought is that your dog was defending himself from *something* as well. If one of your kids gets into a fight at school, does this mean he’s become a dangerous juvenile delinquent that needs to be sent to a boy’s home? No. Kids will be kids, dogs will be dogs. At our house this is considered the same principal. It sounds like these people may have gotten in the way of nature trying to take its course.

      I cannot guarantee that *any* dog will not bite under the right circumstances which means I cannot give you a 100% guarantee that he won’t harm your children. The fact that your children are part of his pack leads me more in the direction that he would not harm them and furthermore, my guess is he’d protect them with his life if the need ever arose. The potential for being bitten by one’s own dog is a risk that every dog owner takes just by owning a dog. I personally don’t feel your family is at any more risk of being bitten than they were prior to this incident occurring. However, that is just my opinion based on my own experience, research and knowledge. For example, I know for a fact that Riley will bite, but I’m 99% sure he would never bite me, my husband or member of our family. We believe that no one should trust any dog (their own included) 100%. Dog owners must always remember dogs are animals first and that under the right circumstances any animal will bite. We don’t believe our docile Nissa would ever bite anyone, but we still have to be honest with ourselves and know that being a dog, even she has at minimum a 1% bite potential in her. She’s just never shown it to us. Your dog is a perfect example of this — again IF he was the biter. Their dog is part wolf and tied up, I tend to think that dog may be more likely to bite than yours and they could be protecting their own dog. No matter which dog it was, it may have been totally accidental but unless you find the real truth you’ll never know for sure. Your dog may have just jumped up on that gal and his “bite” may have just been excited snapping. they may take jumping up as lunging. There are just so many possibilities to even pursue!

      If you are truly afraid your dog may bite your child, then for the dog’s sake I hope you will find a new loving home for him where he will not sense fear because sensing fear is an invitation for a bite, too. If you can, take a few days to calm down and try to relax over this. I’m thinking it was a scary, unexpected, isolated incident triggered by something out of the ordinary that’s thrown your trust in your dog off guard and depending on what really happened, your nervousness may be totally unwarranted. Remember, you really don’t know for sure that your dog is the one that bit. You may find you have trouble getting over it, I never did totally get over Riley having bitten the contractor about four years ago, even though I know HE felt he needed to protect me when this guy came at me. So, I can definitely relate to that loss of trust and fear that he will bite again. Unfortunately, both our dogs sense this and it makes for a bad situation.

      I would closely supervise any interaction between your kids and your dog, don’t leave them alone with your dog for even a moment. Watch him closely but don’t let him know you’re doing this. I think you’re going to find it’s “business as usual” between your kids and your dog but I can’t guarantee it.

      If this incident should be taken further by these people, I would contact a lawyer and stress that (at least from what I’m getting) there are no actual *trusted* witnesses and so it becomes the neighbor’s word only that this is based on. I’m not saying they’re liars, but the fact that they keep changing their story is at the very least, questionable in my opinion.

      Thank you for taking steps to keep him more secure. I really don’t mean to be hard on you, I’m sure you feel bad enough already but I need to stress the safety measures that I did for the sake of all our readers. Even the most responsible down owners can make mistakes simply because we’re human. Riley bolted once when he was about 18 months old and we both nearly got hit by a car with me stupidly chasing after him. At that time, I didn’t know that chasing him would only make him run farther and faster instead of coming back. When escapes happen, the best we can do is to learn from it and do whatever we can to prevent further getaways which thank goodness, you’re now doing.

      We hope everything works out and that in short order things will be back to whatever normal is at your house! Please let us know how it goes!

      • Jobi says:

        Thank you for your reply. I really do feel responsible for what happened. If he had not got out he would have never been in a situation where he felt he needed to bite for what ever reason that was. We honestly didn’t think he could get out he was in a locked kennel which is in a locked privacy fence. Although I guess we should have recognized that day he was more restless .He was actually pacing in our back yard and kept going to fence and I should have put him in house but I never thought he could get out. He actually bounced on the kennel till he bent the door and could slip out. Then dug under the fence. Someone else said he could smell this female dog in heat and that’s probably why he was acting so restless. But again we have fixed the kennel and reinforced his kennel also concreted so he could not dig under fence. We also got him neutered. So hopefully he will and Noone else will be put in this situation again.
        As far as the jumping I have been looking up ideas on how to stop it. And really the only time he does this is in play or when he first sees someone. And he is trying to get their attention. So I have found if he jumps up I turn sideways and ignore him. Or I simply say down. I ignore him till he quits he is learning tht I won’t play until he is sitting down so he is already starting to quit jumping. If I’d only knew it was that easy before.
        I was concerned about how my uneasiness would affect him. But I have been with him for about a week now and he acts like he always did. Although I feel so much better with him being around kids we are still constantly supervising him. I guess my biggest issue was that they were calling my dog viscious and people were saying I was wrong for keeping him. Though with any dog I know something can happen. It’s my job to keep it from happening again and to keep him safe.
        They have decided to sue and we turned it in to our homeowners which in turned cancelled us. We have found new insurance. No one else witnessed the attack so it’s basically their word. Also the humane society did something called an aggression test on our dog and said he exhibited none.
        So as of right now he is happy and well contained and we are enjoying being with him.
        Thank you for giving advice to people and for being completely honest. I live in a small town and didn’t feel comfortable talking to some one here about my situation. Thank you again!

  12. Carly says:

    Hello! I just stumbled across your website when looking up what to do when your dog bites. You seem to have some wonderful information and I was wondering I you had any advice for my situation. I am living at my boyfriends house taking care of his 8 month old catahoula Queensland heeler mix while he is away on tour. I have been around since he was 5 weeks old( we rescued him too early) but am not his main owner. He has been bit 4 people recently. Within the last 2 months. None of them have been serious, but enough to rattle the person and leave a bruise. He seems to be biting out of fear and mainly because he is protecting the house/ car/me. I was wondering if you had any suggestions to lessen this overdrive in protectiveness he’s experiencing. Also what I should do directly after he bites, snaps, or tries to attack someone on leash. With biting we have been smacking him pretty good because he is such a large dog. But I feel at this point it’s only feeding the behavior. On the other hand isolation or a simple no feels wrong as well. What do you suggest?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Carly,

      I can understand your concern totally! You are absolutely correct, smacking the pooch is the wrong thing to do so please please please stop this reaction on your part. Isolation is also not the answer because he will never learn through isolation. Socialization is a big key factor and you seem to understand this very well.

      I agree with you that his behavior does seem to come from fear. Because he was only 5 weeks old when you rescued him (thank you!) you can’t get back that window of time where his Mom would have done some really good socialization and learning about life. That happens around 4-8 weeks and it’s preferable to leave pups with their Mom until 12 weeks but we all know that isn’t always the case. Socialization in to-early removals from a pup’s Mom then becomes the owners responsibility. It’s never the same as having it done by Mom or a responsible breeder, but it’s a darn sight better than not doing it at all. Socialization is a lifetime process for any dog but especially in cases like yours.

      I don’t know if this is what’s happening but it sounds to me like perhaps you don’t have any “meet and greet” rules that you follow which means you’re allowing people to approach the dog as they see fit. If this is the case, I would stop this immediately and get a meet and greet routine down. Our Riley is the same way and so we’ve adopted a protocol for people who want to meet our FurKids. Actually, this is the way it should happen for *all* dogs, not just those who have visible issues with people approaching them.

      Never ever allow people (especially children) to just walk (run!) up to your dog. Never. Dogs have a personal space which surrounds them no different than people. Invading this space is a violation of the “personal space code” makes the dog uncomfortable and is an open invitation for a bite to happen. A person should *not* meet the dog, the dog should meet the person. It’s common practice for people to stick their hand out for the dog to smell, but this can backfire and because it’s also is an invitation for a bite to happen. Some dogs may interpret this as the potential for being hit — especially in your case because you have been smacking him. He doesn’t know that the friendly stranger on the street isn’t going to smack him, too. A person’s hand should never be a weapon but that’s what it becomes when this kind of people-behavior is used.

      If someone wishes to meet our dogs, for their own safety and to help our dogs feel safe, they must follow our rules. If they don’t wish to participate they don’t get to meet them and we continue on our way.

      This is our routine … I first tell the person “Do not approach us under any circumstances and do not make any fast movements.” The person must stand still several feet away, far enough so that they are beyond the end of the leash. They must stand relaxed, hands at their sides and look at us *never* look at the dog. Standing at a slight angle to us rather than straight-on is also preferred. This position tells the dogs that this person is not a threat. I put my dogs in a sit. The friendly stranger and I continue to talk in a gentle tone of voice for a couple of minutes. I keep an eye on my dog’s body language, they *must* be calm before a meet and greet occurs. Once everything is in place, I tell my dogs to “go say hello” and they are then allowed to approach the person but the person must remain in their relaxed position (as described previously) while the dogs sniff. They should *not* make a move to touch the dogs until the dogs have had a moment or two of sniff-checking the person. When I say so, they are then allowed to begin petting the dogs. The “when I say so” usually occurs when Riley’s tail starts wagging gently because this tells me he’s ok with this person. If Riley doesn’t show me that this person’s ok, I will calmly back the dogs away. Jerking on the leash and getting nervous may be interpreted by a dog as “danger” and they could react badly before you can get far enough away for safety reasons.

      Following these rules makes all the difference in the world with Riley. Once the petting starts, he will allow the friendly stranger keep it up all day long! He truly loves people, but he has to feel safe first. Because your dog has bitten it’s a given that you are nervous when people are around. I know this feeling all to well! The problem is, your nervousness travels right down that leash at the speed of light. Whether it’s obvious or not, your dog senses you being uncomfortable. Although I really hate using a muzzle, I would suggest that if you’re going to practice our routine, that you do muzzle your guy for quite a long time — 6 months to a year at least — until you get the routine down and you feel your dog is feeling better about strangers. Even after your dog is comfortable meeting people this way, you should *never* abandon it. This is a forever routine. After you do this enough, your own confidence will hopefully come back and your nervousness will go away. I still have trouble and it’s been years since Riley’s bite incident. So again, this is easier said than done. I’m not proud of myself one iota and I’m not doing my Riley as much good as I could be for not being able to move past this into confidence.

      Unfortunately, you can’t just ignore a bite or even a nip. You do have to act on this behavior. A fearful dog is the most dangerous dog and it does sound like your dog is biting out of fear with the possibility of some resource guarding in the picture. As you already know the smacking needs to stop immediately because it is making things worse. It sounds like your dog is defending himself with a warning bite or nip. He bites and he backs off if I’m understanding correctly. Contrary to popular belief, most dogs do not first give a warning growl – they go straight (and silently at the speed of light!) for the warning bite.

      What I would do, is first of all remain calm (harder to do than to say!) and silent. Immediately remove the dog from the situation. This doesn’t mean jerk the leash, it means quietly and calmly lead your dog away. Tie him to a tree or something nearby if possible, your goal is to secure the dog safely with whatever means you can for the time being so you can attend to the person and the wound. You do need to see it and evaluate the severity. The important thing here is that you have not reprimanded your dog for protecting itself or you. You never want to tell a dog it’s wrong to protect itself.

      Provided it’s not a severe bite and they’re not in immediate need of medical care, if you have a camera (your phone camera will do) snap a photo or two if possible (and when time permits) just in case the person is not understanding and pursues legal action. Do not *ever* admit to the bite being your or your dog’s fault because chances are, without knowing it the person who was bitten invited the bite. Unfortunately, most courts don’t understand this should it come to a court case but an admission of guilt on your part will likely make things worse for you. Of course, you then need to take care of all the other civil and legal aspects of a dog bite.

      I also suggest you read up on Resource Guarding and how to handle it because this could also be part of his issues. You may have a double-whammy situation going on.

      I hope this helps and we wish you the best of luck! Please come back and tell us how it goes?

  13. Melody says:

    I have a question regarding my new dog biting our dog. We just adopted (2 weeks ago) a 10 month old lab/mix as a companion to our 1 year old husky/mix. They’ve gotten along GREAT. They both play identically with one another and tire each other out every day! Last night however, a bite occurred. The dogs were playing outdoors, as they usually do, running and chasing each other, when all of a sudden my husband and I head a screeching noise. It was our husky. We ran outside (it was dark by this time and porch light didn’t offer much help) and yelled at them, but our husky was still pinned to the ground by her head by the lab. My husband had to physically pull the lab off of the husky in order to get the lab to stop biting (it was only one, firm bite). Our husky suffered from a dime size puncture wound next to her eye. Thankfully it was nothing too terrible- but we’re not sure what to do about the lab. In the two weeks we’ve had her we’ve taken her to dog parks, had people come over to our home, little children run up to her, strange dogs approach her- and there hasn’t been a single sign of aggression, not even a bark! Her fur does stand up and she’ll bark at the neighbors occasionally, but they own dogs that like to bark at her first. Her and the husky, though they play quite rough and there have been several times the lab will grab onto her neck and not let go, have gotten along thus far. The husky is extremely submissive in nature, and won’t even defend a bone! Any advice you have to offer I would appreciate. We’re trying to decide if this dog needs to go to a home without other pets or whether this was a one time ordeal. She is a sweetheart and SO obedient. Thank you!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Melody,

      Sounds like you got yourself a couple of great dogs! Lucky you!

      Not being there when it happened puts me at a disadvantage but my gut reaction is that your Lab mix was telling your Husky who’s the boss in this house. Albeit to a human a bit on the scary, possibly over-kill side of things — she was asserting her dominance. The “dominance dance” can be very scary for humans to see happen. The first time I saw it in action I was pretty freaked out and lucky for me the people standing around me were quite dog-savvy and stopped me from getting in the middle of it. They literally held me back which at the time made me angry but watching it was actually a very good learning experience for me so now I can honestly I’m grateful to them. I would actually like more opportunities to see this happening so that I could learn more from this behavior.

      Your dog’s ages mean this is a key time to begin establishing their pack order. Being that you have a “new kid on the block” is also a big part of this. So you’ve got two dynamics going on in my opinion. In most cases the dogs will work this out on their own and people should not intervene. Pack order establishment is normal dog behavior and should be left to the pack to work out provided there is no true fighting going on. To an uneducated on this topic human, the dominance thing can look very much like a fight so what I would suggest is do some digging into helping you figure out which is which. There can be a very subtle line before dominance mode flips to fight mode so it’s important to get a good understanding.

      There’s more to consider though and that’s the gender of the dogs. Yours are both female and this *can* make things more difficult. This is not said to scare you, I only say it so that you learn this. When dogs actually fight, males most often duke it out until one wins, they walk away from one another and life goes on. When two males are literally fighting, it’s my understanding that it’s best to let them handle it. They may have some injuries that need tending but that’s about it. They’re like male humans — they get in their punches, they shake hands and walk away.

      Two females on the other hand *can* be a whole ‘nudder story. If two females get into a *real* dog fight, in many cases they don’t know when to call it quits and they may fight to the death. Again, this is not said to scare you, just know it happens so that you can be an educated situation monitor.

      Should you be concerned? Yes, but at this point I’d say not overly so. These gals are very young and brand new to one another and they still need to establish the order of the pack. The fact that they started out getting along so great to me means they will probably be ok together. I can’t guarantee this, but it’s a good sign in my opinion.

      If they are not spayed, I would spay both of them immediately. They are plenty old enough for that and that should help the puberty thing go a bit smoother and may also help them to co-exist as friends forever even if they have some spats along the way. The hormone thing takes about 6 months to work out of the system after a dog is speutered so it’s not immediate. Two unspayed females can be quite a dangerous combination especially around heat time. Even if they normally get along, I would keep them apart during this time. It’s during stressful times such as the heat cycle, that fighting to the death is more likely to happen (if they fight at all) according to my understanding.

      It sounds to me like you have one incident that scared you but should not necessarily be reason for you to be scared out of your mind or anything close. The one dog has a non-serious puncture and the screeching you heard may very well have come from just being pinned and not liking it. She may not necessarily have been screaming in pain. Riley still nails Nissa now and then and she lets out a screech that momentarily startles and concerns me. I always check her out but never find anything serious. The fact that the puncture is near the eye is not something I like to hear but that just happens to be where the dog got nailed which could have been anywhere on the body but just happened to be near the eye.

      If these were my dogs and I really wanted to keep them both, I would at least at this point *not* re-home the Lab. I don’t see any reason to do this from what you’ve told me. They’re still very young and you have a long ways to go before you will know their true co-existing personalities. I would definitely spay them and always supervise their co-activity. I would not leave them unsupervised at any time and never home alone with access to one another as a “just in case” precaution. Because they are both females that’s a lifetime precaution I would take or at the very least until they’re both over three to four years old and I have proof that they’re getting along ok until after they’re adults (approximately age three to 3 1/2). Some all female packs live together forever and don’t have any real issues with one another and other all female packs can have real serious problems needing serious solutions but not always does it mean re-homing one of them. People who really want to keep problem females in a multi-dog home have done things like alternate crating or room confinement (one in one out and rotate throughout the day) for example. I personally would not like to do this but I would if I really wanted to keep both dogs. There are other alternatives if it came to this, this is just one that I’ve heard of that works.

      If you have one submissive (your Husky) and one dominant which sounds like your Lab is, my thought is that they will work this out. If you had two dominant personalities I’d be much more concerned. May take a few spats of the same nature but they do have the potential to be friends forever. Like humans us females have disagreements with our daughters and our girlfriends, dogs aren’t much different there it’s just scarier because dogs have teeth and teeth are their only true weapons. Think “cat fights between women.” Women fight dirty compared to men — get the picture? In general men seem to have an unspoken code of ethics when fist fighting. Women on the other hand? Well, they just let it all hang out and some don’t seem to know when to stop. Same principal with dogs.

      If you continue to have issues and they seem to be escalating, then I’d start looking at alternatives and the alternatives don’t *have* to be a re-homing. I would not just automatically believe that re-homing intentionally to a home without other pets is necessary. Just because a dog doesn’t get along with another dog, doesn’t mean it won’t get along fine with other pets. Isn’t there someone in your life that you really dislike with a passion but you get along fine with everyone else in your life? Again, same principal. You may find that you have to re-home one eventually and if you do she may do just absolutely fine with a male or even another female.

      You may find they will live together just fine, you may find they really don’t like one another or anywhere in the middle. The bottom line is that for me, it’s way to soon to make any kind of final determination and I would not make a decision like this based on one incident.

      Do you by chance have any teenagers living in your house or have some experience with teens? Well, right now you have two furry pre-teens on your hands. Yes, I’m serious! Dogs enter their teen years at about 7 months of age (give or take) and continue being a teen until about two years of age. You’ve got several different dynamics going on between these two, including teenage growing pains. Follow me?

      As a side note, should you ever have to break up a dog fight it’s best to not do it up close and personal. In a true dog fight, your husband could have been seriously injured. I’ve never had to break up a dog fight but two more safe alternatives are spraying them with a garden hose or blowing a loud whistle very sharply. Startling them is supposed to do a really good job of stopping a dog fight quickly and it’s more safe for all.

      Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

  14. Whitedove Applea says:

    wow you got some articles, lot to read later, me, my problem, I’m 68 & love dogs, finally got a house w fenced in yard to get one. problem may 17th walking to a job interview 1 miles from house and out of the clear blue, i see this dog barrelling towards me out of the corner of my eye and before i knew it ( i mean half a second) I felt this impact on my leg. then pain,turn toward dog, said you bit me. it was growling at me like it would jump in my face and kill me. I screamed for help several times & finally this couple came out. I lifted up my slacks and blood everywhere and tissue hanging out of leg. they called paramedics and so on. they caught the dog and Animal Control kept it 10 days before putting it down. the whole ten days they said it was very vicious. It was a Queensland Healer. After talking to owner a few days later. Her comment was ” I’m sorry but we’ve been concerned about her behavior this last YEAR. she’s been antsy and eratic behavior. shes bit before but not like this. NOW almost 7 months later 9 stitches and horrible scar but fear. Every time I turn around I run into dogs, At Home Depot one came running around from checkout (on alease thank God) but I jump out of my skin. I have been out 5 times by myself. How do I get over this. i want a dog maybe that will help but what if my dog gets loose and does this to a person. thaks god it wasn’t a child that got bit, they could have been killed. I could have been killed had i passed out from blood loss. I know all dogs are not bad but this one had a spirit of murder in its eyes. Waht is the answer to the fear, Sat on my couch with chest pains for 2 hours Thanks Whitedove

    • Mom says:

      Hi Whitedove,

      Wow, that was quite an experience! I’m so sorry about your injuries and we hope that you are all healed up now and doing ok.

      “I’m sorry but we’ve been concerned about her behavior this last YEAR. She’s been nasty and erratic behavior, she’s bit before but not like this.” Are you kidding me? These people allowed their dog to behave in this way and never once took it to the vet or did anything whatsoever to help her? That’s way beyond unacceptable dog ownership! How freaking stupid and irresponsible! This is a classic example of a dog paying the price of losing their life simply because they had bad dog owners. Situations like this absolutely break my heart and in more cases than not, can so totally be avoided! What the heck is wrong with your animal control that they 1) didn’t tell the owners to have it vet checked? and 2) why the heck did they keep the dog on death row for ten freaking days? What was the point in that? Those ten days could have been spent digging into the dog’s health and a solution other than death might have been found!

      Dogs aren’t born vicious nor do they turn mean for no reason. I have no doubt in my mind that there was something physically wrong with this poor dog yet her owners chose to simply put up with it scratching their heads after every disturbing incident wondering “What’s up with that?” A simple visit to the vet might very well have given them the answer and there’s a good chance it could have been treated. Dog owners like these are unforgivable at our house. People like this don’t deserve to have a dog! You are so right-on that had this been a child this could have been sooooo much worse! Although it’s so very rare, when you say the dog “had a spirit of murder in its eyes” it sounds to me like this poor dog may have been experiencing what’s known as “Rage Syndrome.” The Wiki says there are treatments available, but the last I knew — should a dog be diagnosed with a case of true Rage Syndrome, it’s very sad because there is so far no cure and so the dog should be euthanized. I’d have to research further into this to be more sure of an answer and I would be ecstatic to know there truly are treatments now available!

      I know how hard it is to get over a dog bite. Your injury sounds pretty serious but in a majority of dog bite cases the injury itself will heal, it’s the emotional healing that’s worse and that’s where you are at right now. The aftermath of a dog bite can be emotionally crippling for some people. Sadly, people have been known to be afraid of the specific breed of dog that bit them or even afraid of all dogs the rest of their lives after being bitten. I also know all to well about the problem of loose dogs, in fact I just finished my newest blog article on it called Don’t Make Me Spray Your Dog! The problem of loose dogs is beyond being a serious problem and prevalent all over.

      I give you a lot of credit for seeking out ways to try to alleviate your fear, you can be quite proud of yourself in my opinion! You’ve loved dogs all your life and at 68 — that’s a lot of love! It sounds like up until now you’ve never been bitten. That in itself says a lot and points directly to the fact that dogs aren’t born vicious and don’t become aggressive without a reason. You’ve probably had countless wonderful times with other dogs which again says that not all dogs will take chunks out of you. This is one dog in 68 years of dog loving — what does that tell you?

      Here are a few suggestions for you that I hope will help you gain some confidence back, alleviate some fear, help you find the right dog for you and help you care for it after you adopt or purchase it so that your dog doesn’t become a problem dog:

      • Spend time quality time with dogs you already trust, maybe friends, neighbors or relative’s dogs. I would do this a lot before proceeding to get my own dog. The more time you spend with trusted dogs the more the possibility you’ll move past your fear. Remember though, that dogs will sense your fear.
      • Read some more of our website and hit Google for other dog-friendly dog blogs to read. Subscribe to the RSS subscriptions of favorite sites you’ve found so you receive notification of new articles and information. This will save you some time hunting down good reads.
      • Research the breeds of dogs you’re interested in. Learn more about their general dispositions and personalities. In the case of German Shepherds or Rottweilers for example, you’ll likely find some personality traits such as the breed being considered as “protective” and then cross that breed off your list of potentials. There is no point in inviting potential problems by adopting or purchasing a breed that might be quick to bite. Your goal would be to find a breed that’s considered good with children, solid dispositions and easy to train.
      • A super-great source of information are dog breed forums! Google for some on the breeds of dog(s) you’re interested in and then join up to one or more of them. Forum boards are a wealth of information for any dog owner and are particularly helpful because they are filled with very helpful people who own the breed(s) your interested in so you get real information to work with and can ask questions ’till you drop if you want to.
      • When you get to the point of adoption or purchase, choose a calm dog. Stay away from dogs that seem fearful – fear is the #1 reason any dog bites. You want a confident, calm dog and once it’s living in your home — spend as much time as you possibly can socializing the dog to anything, everyone and everything you possibly can.
      • Research ways to keep your dog’s brain occupied and satisfied. A dog left to long without good brain stimulation can become a problem dog.
      • You have a fenced yard — FANTASTIC! You know it’s your responsibility to keep your dog safe! Just don’t let the fence turn into a built-in all-day babysitter or you’ll be inviting behavioral issues.
      • Consider the fact that although a small dog is more likely to bite than a large dog, a small dog will likely not cause serious injury so you might want to choose a small dog. At least then you know with a fair amount of certainty that should it ever bite you or someone else the chances of “worst case scenario” as far as bite-severity won’t happen.
      • Feed a good quality diet. What our dogs eat contributes not only to their physical health but to their emotional and behavioral well-being. For example, if a dog’s allergic to a food ingredient it can become irritable which brings with it more potential for a bite. We feed a raw diet and feel it’s the best way to avoid any potential harmful ingredients or allergic reactions to ingredients. A dog’s diet can make a huge difference in their overall physical, emotional and behavioral health. A raw diet is not as expensive as one may think and we save a ton of money on vet bills because our dogs aren’t suffering from any of the potential issues that kibble fed dogs can and so we’re not having to vet our dogs more than their annual physicals. We also don’t have to take them in for teeth cleaning which can be very costly and putting one’s dog under sedation for any reason is always a risk. As you can see I’ve included a couple of links in case you’re interested in reading about our experience with a raw dog food diet. If the raw diet interests you at all I suggest the next thing you do is to grab a copy of Tom Lonsdale’s book Raw Meaty Bones which you can find in our website’s Dog Shoppe. A raw diet is not as expensive as one may think
      • If you prefer to feed a dry food, purchase a good quality grain-free brand. Many dogs are allergic to the grains in dog foods which is why I say grain-free. When researching dry dog food check out this Grade Your Dog Food information. We must have gone through a dozen different kinds of dry foods before we decided on moving to a raw diet. Food grade lists and the forum boards I belong to were tremendously helpful.

      I hope some of these suggestions help you. We wish you the best of luck and please do come back and let us know how it goes! Anyone else have any helpful hints for Whitedove?

      • Whitedove Applea says:

        wow, that was a lot of info, thanks will keep this letter and start looking thanks again Whitedove

      • Wendy says:

        They keep a dog for ten days to make sure it doesn’t have rabies

        • Mom says:

          This is true in many places. When Riley bit our contractor, I was allowed to keep him confined at home for 10 days because I had proof that he did have his rabies up to date and with 3 mandatory visits to the vet during that time. He could not even be walked during that time. It was a very long 10 days for all of us. So, this is normal. I haven’t researched it but I really don’t think there’s an abundance of dogs that have rabies these days. That should ease your mind some that your son probably won’t have to go through rabies shots.

  15. Jacklyn says:

    I love this article. I have grown up around animals and had a dog of my own. I was never bit because I knew how to behave around animals. When my neighbor’s dog became deaf and blind she could no longer hear or see me so if I wanted to pet her, I used her nose, putting my hand close to her so she could smell it then gradually touching her so she knew I was going to pet her. Unexpected touches can result in a bite, especially with animals with disabilities.

  16. Mom says:

    HI Jacklyn,

    This is wonderful! We always appreciate hearing from folks who know there *is* a correct way behave around dogs! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience, what a great story about your neighbor’s dog. This is good information for everyone. You are so right, if a dog can’t see you and you don’t take precautions to help and reassure them you are most certainly asking to be bitten. This is a very good reason for asking the dog’s owner first before just proceeding to meet a dog. You never know if the dog has a disability if it’s not obvious and the owner can help you avoid a bite from a dog with a disability when greeting the dog.


  17. Devon says:

    Hello, my name is Devon and I thank you tremendously for your article. I have recently been bit by my boyfriends family dog and am now extremely afraid of him. A few months ago we had to move back into his parents house after leaving about 2 years prior. The family has two soft coated wheaten terriers, a boy and girl. each about 6 years old. Over the past year the boy dog has gotten aggressive towards the family, he has bit his mother, sister, and father. And now me. Each time he has bitten someone there has been a cause, once someone stepped on his foot when he was under the dinner table, and other times have been when someone is trying to brush him. This dog has a tendency to be very possessive of his things, anything he has in his mouth he will growl at you if you even come near him or look at him while he has it. And if you go to take it away he will definitively bite you. About a week before I was bitten he bit his mother and she ended up needing stitches in her hand. I have never really been freighted of this dog because he has always shown such love for me. If I were to step on him he would jump up and just look at me, not bite me. He has always been favorable of me. This led me to believe he would never bite me, but I was wrong. I was walking near him (he was laying in the hallway, like usual) and I identically tapped his paw with my foot, didn’t step on him at all. He jumped up and started to look at me, then he walked towards me and started to paw at my legs. Before I knew it he had my arm in his mouth and wouldn’t let go, 5 bite marks and a tetanus shot later I am now scared of him. He stands from afar and just stares at me. I know now not to stare back but it frightens me to take my eyes of him thinking he will be behind me and I will trip on him ending up getting bit again. I’m wondering what I should do, the family is defiantly not going to put the dog down even though he has bitten now 4 times. (his mother twice, both times sending her to the hospital) Since he is a full grown adult dog I feel he will not be able to break this behavior, but all of the family including myself walk around slightly afraid of this dog now. I know he can sense the fear in me but it is so hard to live in the same house with a dog that bit me so badly. I have never been afraid of dogs even knowing they have bitten before, until I myself was bitten. Other dogs do not scare me, only this one.
    Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for reading this.

    • Mom says:

      In my opinion the first thing that needs to happen is a very thorough veterinary exam, one that goes well over and above what general vets perform for an annual exam with special attention paid to his eyes, ears, thyroid and anything that can cause a dog pain. When a dog has this degree of a change in behavior the chances of it being caused by a medical issue(s) is without a doubt, entirely possible to be at the root of the change in behavior and should always be the first thing checked.

      Some of what you explained seems to be “startle” responses and points to him possibly losing his sight and or hearing. You were walking near him, accidentally bumped his foot and he over-reacted. He may not have seen or heard you coming like he used to. If he’s not properly seeing or hearing the environment around him he’s going to react differently. He may be afraid because he can’t see or hear like he used to. Startling a dog can definitely cause a bite. A dog in pain is prone to bite, think of how grumpy you might get if you were in constant pain?

      Dogs are able to pretty much roll with so much that happens to them, but I’m not convinced that a loss of hearing or sight isn’t going to make a dog edgy, fearful and reactive. Imagine losing your own sight or hearing, don’t you think you’d have some fears? Think of someone sneaking up behind you and doing the “Boo!” thing. You jump, right? Think of someone turning the lights off on you and the room becomes dark. The room is familiar but not being able to see makes people a bit edgy. Are you not going to jump at a strange noise or something like say, the family cat for example, brushing up against you in the dark not knowing it’s the cat?

      When you bumped him, you said he jumped up, looked at you, walked towards you then pawed your legs. He didn’t rush you, didn’t approach you aggressively at first. Reading this (and I’m not psychic) but when he was looking, walking and especially when he was pawing your legs I got the feeling that he was trying to tell you something, I don’t know what, but something. You didn’t say what you happened to be doing at the point things went from leg pawing to what sounds like a dog in a frenzy.

      Humans are likely to react to being bitten in some kind of an excited manner. So what happens when humans get excited around dogs? The dog’s behavior when the human gets excited (biting you in this case) heightens the dog’s excitement which escalates the dog’s behavior. A dog in bite mode is excitement level in high gear. Let’s say he bites once and the human reacts like humans tend to do with a squeal, a screech, maybe a loud scream, perhaps a bit of panic? At any rate, a person who’s just been bitten is likely not in calm-mode. The dog gets more excited and the human gets bitten again. In this case it progressed to five bites.

      If his sight or hearing is impaired, he may be attempting to see and/or hear what’s around him with his “stand and stare” behavior. He can tell someone is there but you may be up-wind of his sniffer so he can’t tell it’s you right away and so he waits it out until he feels ok with whatever else is in the room.

      You already know that his sensing your fear is not helping and we all know that getting rid of our fears (no matter what they are) is much easier said than done. You can appear unafraid to other people. “Fake it ‘till you make it.” comes to mind and works quite well with some people but you can’t fake-out a dog. If you were to find out the reason this dog has taken on these new scary behaviors is medical, I venture to say once the dog’s condition is under control your fear will lessen and maybe disappear altogether after a while. If you find out that there is a medical reason for the dog’s dangerous behavior (I suspect there is) you can get treatment options from the vet, take care of the medical problem and then you can research how best to work with the resulting learned negative behavior that may remain after his medical condition has been dealt with successfully. Find articles, books and trainers that work with deaf and or blind dogs. They’re out there! There are deaf and blind dogs that work as service dogs!

      Don’t forget to have his thyroid levels checked as well. Whether he’s got hearing or sight loss or not doesn’t rule out hypothyroidism and other medical issues that may cause a dog to behave in the ways you have told us about.

      Take a good hard look at his diet. Allergies in dogs can cause some pretty bizarre things to happen.

      Those are the things I’d thoroughly follow through with first.

      I commend the owners for not just putting the dog down but that comes to a screeching halt when it comes to ignoring finding out and dealing with the cause of their dog’s unacceptable behaviors. This dog is dangerous and it sounds like the danger is growing. To ignore the danger and just walk on eggshells around this dog is absolutely wrong. They could find themselves faced with a financially devastating law suit or worse, perhaps one day living with the harm this dog might do to someone.

      How much damage would those five bites you took be on a child’s arm? Would a child have been tall enough and strong enough to avoid being bitten on the face during this incident? Although not a large dog, at 30-40 pounds the Soft Coated Wheaton has the power to do some real harm and his height puts him at eye to eye face-bite level of smaller children. The bites you as an adult took, might very well do permanent damage to a child.

      Where are the Police in all of this? Does your hospital not notify law enforcement when a dog bite is attended to in the E.R? Don’t doctors have to report bites treated in their office?

      In situations where you’re afraid to take your eyes off him, what I would do would be to turn and calmly walk away at a normal pace. Don’t take the chance of making accidental eye contact and don’t run or you might become prey in his mind. If your backside is what the dog sees he *should* sense that you are not a threat. If he should happen to come after you, I myself would rather be bitten on my backside than anywhere on my front side. As you turn to walk away, cross your arms in a relaxed manner in order to keep your fingers from becoming targets at your sides.

      The possessive behavior with what he considers to be “his” possessions – this sounds to me like resource guarding and should never have been tolerated from Day 1. There are behavior modification techniques for dogs who engage in resource guarding. Letting it go for so long it’s going to be harder to correct but I believe it can still be done with the help of a really good trainer very experienced in working with dogs who suffer from resource guarding. The owners would have to be quite dedicated to solving the problem as well. However, this needs to come after his health and other things have been dealt with.

      I’d also like to suggest that you become a member or at least visit some Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier forum boards. Even though the behaviors this dog is displaying and the information in my responses applies to all dogs, you might become involved in finding out medical conditions and behaviors this breed is prone to. As much as a dog is a dog is a dog, there are still some things that can be considered more breed-specific in any breed of dog that could be contributing or at the heart of some of this dog’s issues. If possible, getting in touch with the breeder for a health background on the dog’s parents may be helpful.

      I hope this helps and best of luck to you. Please do come back with updates!

  18. Candice says:

    Hi there, I need some advice on educating others. I have 2 pitbulls. They are both males, we got them from completly different people. Tyson we have had since he was 7 weeks old, he is now 3 yrs old. He is neutered & was put through petsmart training classes as a puppy. Wally we got when he was 5 weeks old, he is now 2 years old. He is still intact & was not professionally trained like Tyson. We also have a 1 1/2 yr old daughter. We have been through 2 cross country moves since having our daughter. Since learning to walk Wally has been displaying some aggression with her. He growls at her if she gets too close, nips at her even for things that aret happening around him. Tyson.is the exact opposite. She does no wrong in his eyes. She does hug & kiss him. A few days ago while I was using the restroom, my daughter crawled into Wally’s kennel & I am assuming she tried to hug him & he bit her cheek. The bite did draw blood, however my fiance & I both agreed it wasnt bad enough to seek medical attention. She didnt have any flowing.blood, it was more of a surface injury. She didnt even cry tears. Anyway, since the injury, my family has been demanding we get rid of the dog. I cant give him to anyone with a clear concious knowing he has bitten & I know if I were to surrender him to a pound, being a pit bull, hed be euthanized. We are taking the steps to correct it, we moved their kennels outside, we are neutering Wally on thursday & putting.him through behavioral correction training but I feel like my family is being very judgemental. They keep saying if it happens again the state will say I neglected her safety by keeping him. I honestly at this point dont feel safe with.him but would like to try neutering.&training instead of sending him off to slaughter. What are some ways I can educate my family & explain my reasoning?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Candice,
      Wow, you have a scary situation going on and I agree that something needs to be done for your child’s safety. First, let’s call them “dogs” instead of Pit Bulls because they are dogs that just happen to be Pitties. I will say that although I try my darndest to *truly* believe this, I still have problems getting away from that bad rap Pitties have. It’s really sad, I don’t like myself for being stuck in this and I know there are some GREAT Pitties out there, but on the other hand it seems like when there is a serious bite incident — so often a Pit is the breed involved. I wish there was a way to change this but I don’t know how and I don’t know for sure why it is this way.

      We very recently had a *horrible* thing happen one county over where two Pits killed a 14 month old child and sent his babysitter (the owner of the dogs) to the hospital with injuries serious enough to require Flight for Life to transport her. The dogs were put down almost immediately afterwards, even before anyone could determine what the heck happened. I don’t agree with this and I feel it’s wrong but it’s done.

      Moving on to your situation … obviously your child’s safety is of the utmost importance. Try not to think of your family as being judgmental, they are concerned for your child’s safety and probably scared. These dogs don’t live with them and so it’s much easier for them to take the stand they’re taking. If they are of the old mindset that once a biter always a biter you’re probably not going to change this.

      You can take steps to protect your child such as having moved the crates; however, more importantly the parent must take on the role of educating the child in being around dogs. She could corner the dog somewhere else in the house and have the same result or worse. When my youngest daughter was 4 she was bitten pretty bad in the face by my sister’s dog who grew up around their children. I wasn’t there when it happened but today I take some responsibility for not having taught my children to respect dogs or educate them on dog behavior. In my defense, this was like 30 years ago when there wasn’t much known about dog behavior. Had I known then what I know now, I would have taught my children better. My sister and her family never ever thought this dog would react the way he did, but my daughter cornered him under an end table – very similar to what happened with your daughter in the crate. The point is that no matter how well a dog does with children, they do have their limits and they will react like a dog. You can’t take the dog out of a dog.

      Remember that I was not there when your incident happened so take that into consideration. Your child needs to be taught how to behave around dogs and very importantly to respect them and their space. The younger this education starts the better. Teaching your daughter that crates are off-limits would definitely be something I would do. She’s very young so this would not be easy but she can learn. I can understand moving the crates but that isn’t going to teach your daughter anything at all. It may tell the dogs that they are not so welcome any more and add to the problem. You may have moved the crates to an area that makes it more difficult for you to monitor your child going into the crate area. Removing a dog from its pack (your family and living area) can have some negative results. Could you put a high gate up between your living area and the dog’s original crate location and teach your daughter not to cross this line, not to put her fingers through the gate and not to climb it? Perhaps put some colored tape on the floor several feet from the gate and teach her to never go beyond it? Approach it like teaching her to stay out of the street.

      Then there’s the fact that a dog’s crate is HIS personal safe space. Your child invaded it and in my opinion that’s why she got nipped. Under these circumstances, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that he nipped her. If he really wanted to harm her he could have done some serious even fatal damage with her in the crate. I don’t think he wants to harm her but he’s simply not comfortable around your (a?) young child and he’s doing his best to keep her away from him without causing her any real harm.

      To me it sounds like this was a nip, not a true bite and for me there’s a big difference. It feels like your dog is not comfortable around your child. Maybe he’s not comfortable around small children in general. Little ones being little ones are noisy; they make fast movements and in general are unpredictable when it comes to what they’re going to do next. There is no way any parent can watch their child or their dog every second of the day. A big kicker for some dogs is the fact that little ones are at eye level and that direct eye contact makes some dog uncomfortable and to some eye-to-eye contact is a confrontation and invitation to rumble. Riley is one of these, some dogs cannot handle the eye contact thing and never will. I can stare him down until doomsday but someone else looking him in the eye is an open invitation to for a bite to happen. At her age your daughter can’t help but be near eye level to your dogs and little children have a tendency to stare, but your dog doesn’t know or understand this. To your dog, she’s intentionally staring him down.
      If someone invades your personal space you can say “Please step back.” If they’re being really obnoxious you can take alternative action – some people might slap the person. A dog doesn’t have this verbal ability but it does sound like he’s trying to take alternative actions in ways he knows how – instead of slapping he’s nipping. He may have growled pre-nip but a 14 month old child has no idea what growling means and that she better back off!

      The fact that your dogs were there before your daughter is important. She came along and she invaded their space, takes up your time and your attention from them because you must care for her. Same thing, some dogs just don’t handle this well. In your case it does seem like after a year and a half of your daughter being in the home and he can’t get comfortable with her, he may never get comfortable and so he’s living on edge which adds to his discomfort.

      It sounds like he’s not a happy boy and continuing to make him live in a situation that puts him on edge is not good for him and it’s possible this could cause his negative behaviors to escalate.

      I agree that taking him to a shelter would probably get him killed just because of his breed, but there are other options. You could contact a Pittie rescue, they may have an all adult family that is looking for a dog just like yours or some other suggestions. I would definitely be upfront about why you are looking to re-home him. Anyone taking him needs to know he’s got issues with little ones. Take us for example, there are many people that would not tolerate some of Riley’s negative behaviors and would have put him down or found a new home for him long ago. But we work with it and take extra precautions. Because we don’t have little ones in our home makes it possible for us to do this and although he’s GREAT with our Grandkids, we would never allow him to interact unsupervised with little ones he doesn’t know. He doesn’t tolerate commotion; it hypes him up and makes him more unpredictable. He wasn’t raised with small children and doesn’t know how to handle all that kid activity, I think it scares him to some degree and so he’s reacting from fear. If we have people come over, he gets crated and no one is allowed near the crate. I have no doubt that somewhere out there, there is someone like us who’s more than willing to give your dog a home where he can be emotionally comfortable and are equipped to deal with his issues as long as they know what the issues are and aren’t left to learn them the hard way.

      As much as you love him, and I’m one for working with dogs rather than re-home whenever possible, it sounds like your dog would do better in a home without small children. Your child’s safety is of the utmost importance, but your dog’s emotional health is something that needs your attention as well.

      I would also take the dog for a really thorough vet exam including a check of his thyroid. You need to find out if there’s anything medical that’s contributing to his negative behavior.

      I hope this helps and it would be great if you’d come back and let us know how it goes and what your solution(s) are.

  19. Carol A. Yozzo says:

    I am so happy to have found this site. I need some insight as to why my 16.5,lb.9yr old Yorkshire Terrier bites.
    What is driving me nut’s is, it’s always unexpected! He was purchased from a pet store and came from
    Budapest, Hungary at the age of 8wks. I”m thinking perhaps bite inhibation may have something to do with this.
    I have researched this problem forever. He has had a trainer for guarding which is now almost non-exhistant
    as long as I stay focused on what will trigger it. I have had him to a behaviorist also and she could find nothing
    wrong with him either. He is very well trained and rarely barks unless it’s called for. He listens well and is a pleasure
    to be with. He has bitten me at least 4times over the years. He bit my granddaugher twice as well. In defense for
    the dog I had a reason each time for my granddauther. Once was he got onto the kitchen chair and I’m assuming
    thought he would get something when she approached him to pet his face. He bit, that was the first time. No real
    damage done, he did break the skin tho. I freeked out. Second time was two yrs later when I had her over and they
    played all day long together, no problem. He likes to be by himself at night and rarely comes to sit with me in the TV
    room. It’s only he and I. This particular night he joined us, laying between us and we both were petting his back.
    He turned and went after her and I put my arm out and took the bite. Thank God. It was a bad one as well. This I believe could have been prevented as I should have known he’s a loner as night, but he joined us so I didn’t think
    much about it. He has gotten me both times when were playing on the floor. I sit with him in the am before leaving
    for work and give him some of my time playing and training with him for the past 9yrs because he’s alone all day.
    First time he got me was in the face, hand and arm after giving him a back massage, which he loves. He comes to
    me for it by turning around and sitting next to me. I have done this for years, this time I guess he didn’t want it
    and that was his way of saying no thanks. But why? That was 2yrs ago and just three weeks ago I was sitting on the
    floor in the am playing with him when I noticed a long pine twing sticking out of his mouth. I reached for it pulling it
    out slowing, when I heard a low grown, never does this usually just lunges, it was to late he once again body slammed me in the face when my arm went to protect my face and he bit me bad in the left forearm. Why, or why?
    What am I doing wrong. I read and read that if a dog bites it’s owner it’s the owner’s fault. He no longer sleeps with me since this has happened. He’s in his own bed along side of mine. I am guilty of spoiling him I”m sure. I have,
    I guess treated him as an equal over the years although I knew he had this guarding gene that will never go away but
    he’s so loving and so smart. Maybe too smart for a dog if you know Yorkies.
    Any insight to what Im doing wrong would be most grateful. The thought of him being PTS is terrifying to me and I
    don’t want that to happen. I have recently been treating him more like a dog and not getting down on the floor with him.
    I feel bad about this but I am now,for the first time in 9yrs, getting nervous. My face swelled up like a Navel orange
    after the body force against it from him and turned every color in the rainbow for two weeks. I hid from my family
    because they would have taken him to the vet to be put down, without a doubt. He’s not a bad dog at all but why
    does he do this? I can’t thank you enough in advance for any insight as to what I can do to make it better for both
    of us. He enjoys people, kids and small dogs. Is always excited when every company comes even other dogs are
    allowed into our home and as long as he knows them there is no problem. I have absolutely no problems other
    than this unexpected bite when he get’s annoyed. The behavorit and trainer said he is who he is! What am I doing
    Thank you,

    • Mom says:

      Hi Carol,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit to our website, thank you for your blog post. If you cruised around our site you know we had Yorkies before we had German Shepherds. I got my first Yorkie when I was in high school and we lived with Yorkies for about 36 years. I absolutely adore them!

      The first thing that struck me about your story is that your Yorkie was purchased from a pet store at 8 weeks old arriving from another country a very long ways away. Ideally pups should stay with Mom until they’re 12 weeks old to get the best possible socialization from Mom and their sibling’s. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

      What I see as a base issue is that in order for your pup to be available for sale in a pet store at 8 weeks of age having come all the way from Hungary, he had to have been taken away from Mom way too young. I would venture to say there was significant travel time from the day he was taken until he arrived at the pet store. I see this whole scenario as being *very* traumatic for a pup and who knows what happened (or didn’t that should have) during his travels. Imagine being snatched from the only safe warm fuzzy world you’ve ever known, tossed into a cold hard box or crate for who knows how long and flown thousands of miles only to wind up in a pet store cage. I have to wonder if anyone even fed or watered these little tikes during their trip. The bottom line is that you unknowingly purchased a pup that’d been denied proper parent-sibling socialization time and also been seriously traumatized to get here from Hungary.

      You got hit with a double whammy because pets sold in pet stores are very close to if not 100% always from puppy mills. No reputable breeder would ever allow their pups to be sold in pet stores. Your little guy’s life from birth may very well have been horrific.

      I have no doubt you loved him from the second you laid eyes on him and never stopped in all the years he’s lived with you but none of this can take away how he started his life, give him what he missed in pup-family socialization, the trauma of his travel here or his initial experience in how not to trust humans. Let’s not forget that just because the pet store told you he came from Hungary, doesn’t guarantee he really did. For all we really know he could have come from a puppy mill the next city over and if you have papers that doesn’t mean they’re legitimate.

      The first thing I would do is take your guy for a very thorough vet check. You mentioned twice that bites have occurred after contact with his back which may mean there’s something with his back that’s painful for him. He may love backrubs but unknowingly touching that one little spot that causes him pain could flip his behavior in a heartbeat. The older he gets the more sensitive this may be for him. At nine his sight and/or hearing may be starting to dwindle which might mean he’s becoming easily startled which can make him more prone to bite.

      The vet check should include a blood test for hypothyroidism. Dr. Jean Dodds founder of Hemopet is probably the leading expert in our country on canine hypothyroidism and her studies show that there is “… a significant relationship between thyroid dysfunction and seizure disorder, and thyroid dysfunction and dog-to-human aggression.” If you learn that your dog has hypothyroidism, you can learn more from Dr. Dodd’s book The Canine Thyroid Epidemic.

      The Yorkie breed is prone to cataracts and slipping kneecaps (our Crocket had this). A dog suffering from slipping kneecaps may experience frequent pain or be bothered by it only on occasion.

      You didn’t say how old your Granddaughter is but your comments lead me to believe she’s pretty young, guessing at 6 or 7 years old or younger. In any case, has she been educated on how to behave and not behave with dogs? Among other things, has it been explained to her that direct eye contact can trigger a bite? I think it would be a good idea for you to learn more about dog behavior as well so that you can learn to “read” your dog’s mood a bit better and help your grandchildren learn. I’ve passed along quite a bit of information to my own grandkids and this has helped them around my own dogs. I found On Talking Terms with Dogs — Calming Signals written by dog behaviorist Turid Rugaas to not only be helpful but it’s really interesting to learn more about the little things that humans just don’t pick up on!

      A few things that come to mind regarding the incident on the couch; normally he’s a loner at night but since he came to you, being human I’d have figured the same as you – he wanted to be there. Light bulb! That’s the human thinking process but my guess is that he’s like our Riley and was actually in resource guarding mode. He didn’t like your Granddaughter being so near you and so he got up in between you. Again, guessing … some kind of innocent human interaction went on between you and Granddaughter the instant before the bite. Something that put Granddaughter just that hair to close to you triggering the last straw from your dog who then reacted. Think of a dog who growls when you try to take their toy or food away. That’s resource guarding and unfortunately you are his resource and he was guarding you. I find it depressing that my dog thinks of me as an object that belongs to him but unfortunately, that’s what it is with Riley and I suspect is a big part of what’s going with your dog as well. This could be in addition to or instead of some medical issue.

      You’re a Grandma but like me you still work every day which tells me you’re not suffering from anything where your family would need to step in and take over decision making for you. This means it’s absolutely none of their business what goes on between you and your dog. They can voice their concerns, get angry or whatever they want but they cannot walk into your home, take your dog and have him put down.

      They do have a say-so on whether they want their children to interact with the dog which you should honor. Under the circumstances; my suggestion is that when grandkids visit that your pooch is crated for their safety and as tempting as it may be, no matter how much they may whine at you “I wanna play with the dog!” make no exceptions. If the kids are there for the day your dog will need potty breaks and some out of crate time. This can be accomplished by exercising some creativity. Give the grandkids some supervised alone activity time such as tv, puzzles, board games, whatever but on the other side of a gate with orders that they are not to come near the gate or interact with the dog.

      If your dog were quite a bit younger I would say you could work on the resource guarding and I’m not saying you can’t now. What I can tell you from my own personal experience is that it’s very trying and nerve wracking and I haven’t had much success other than to learn about it myself and know I need to do certain things for safety sake. I’ve spent way too much money on several trainers and one behaviorist and have not found a single one who’s methods work for my dog. I’m done spending money on help for him. We’ve decided to just love him and deal with him as he is taking additional safety precautions as necessary.

      Not only do I believe that our Riley was taken away from Mom to young, I also think his resource guarding behaviors stem in a big way from the fact that about 90% of the time it’s just me and the dogs in the house. I don’t have people-resources for the counter-conditioning it takes to work a dog out of this and because we’re alone so much I tend to think it wouldn’t be successful any because our living arrangement is not something that’s going to change. You may very well be in the same boat we are here.

      You want to keep your dog; you need to keep you and your grandchildren safe. Yorkies are feisty little-big dogs known to not be the best breed choice with small children, which is not meant as a derogatory comment, just passing along a fact. Your dog is nine years old and his temperament may become more unpredictable and negative as he ages. Our last Yorkies lived to 14, 15 and 16 years old so you may have quite a few more years of dealing with this dog’s negative quirks. You’ve fretted over this for countless hours, suffered painful bites and had to do the “family avoidance thing” when you were injured, probably spent a tidy sum of money on trainers and behaviorists and bent yourself into the shape of a pretzel trying to overcome the behaviors. Maybe it’s time to give yourself and your dog a break and take a different direction?

      It’s uncomfortable and difficult to get used to (I still don’t like crating mine just because there’s company — but I remind myself of the potential bad things that can happen if I don’t) but once you make it a habit to switch to safety-mode when the grandkids and other company are visiting you’ll probably be surprised how well it works and how much more relaxed you and your dog will feel. I’ll bet you find yourself enjoying your time with your grandkids more because you are not constantly worrying about your dog’s behavior with them. You’ll be eliminating any stress your dog experiences when there are visitors. Don’t forget that our dogs sense our worry which can put them on edge and add to the problem we’re trying to correct.

      Let us know how it goes?

      • Carol Yozzo says:

        Thank your so much for taking the time to answer me. Buddy is very healthy and goes to the vet yearly for his checkup. His eyes are fine, that was the first thing his vet did, thinking maybe his site was going. As much as the kids, now 12 and 6 love him they don’t come here anymore. My SIL won’t let them
        even if I put up a gate. That’s ok, I go there. Buddy will have a home here as long as he needs it. I love him and yes it’s just the two of us on a daily basis.
        I just wanted to know if I was doing something wrong that could be fixed. It seems that your Riley and my Buddy have a lot in common. I’ve done some
        more modification in our daily lives and he’s adjusted nicely. He never complains unless I’m leaving for work. I can’t imagine my life without him
        and it’s comforting to know there are other’s out there who share the same problem with their pet. He has had a guarding issue his whole life. I thought
        he had a screw loose as a young puppy until I started doing reseach on it. I can’t understand why our government does not ban puppymills and BYB.
        THey are allowing millions of animals to die yearly. I guess they can’t do without the tax money they make off the suffering the animals endure.
        Well anyhow Mom, I thank you again for your expertise. I am so happy to have found your site and will stay in contact with it.

        Your truly,

  20. Jessica Bryant says:

    I find your article very good. I have a certain circumstance that I would like advice on. My boyfriend has lived with me for 2 years one year ago out of the blue as he was petting her snuggled up next to her which is nothing unusual she bit him on the cheek just enough to draw some blood. Now another year has passed and she out of the blue does the same thing. I didn’t see this one. But he said he was loving on her and as he went to move away he bit his face again. Same thing just enough to draw blood. I don’t know what to do because this is my furbaby I love so much. I couldn’t imagine life without her. I am trying to figure out what her trigger is. I know that prior to this my dog has snapped at my cousin as she grabbed her bag off the coffee table and my dog was asleep under but she has never bitten anyone. I took her in 5 years ago. She was starved and acted very skidish around people for awhile. I am guessing that she might have been beaten on. Please any advice would be appreciated.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jessica,

      First, I very much apologize for the delay in my response. I work a full-time job + mandatory overtime and I run my web design business and additionally, lately I’ve also received quite a number of blog posts here from folks looking for help. I’m truly sorry!

      First I want to commend you, it sounds like you’ve made some very positive changes in your dog’s life since you took her in so for that I give you a huge pat on the back! It’s super that you are paying attention and trying to find her trigger(s). Perhaps keeping a good journal on any incidents so that you can study them and see if there’s a pattern would be helpful. It can be very hard to read a dog and it’s easy for us humans to forget details over time, so your notes should be very specific and written just as soon as humanly possible after any incident.

      I’d like to remind *everyone* that when your dog displays new, unwanted and especially dangerous behavior the first step is to get them to the vet for a *very* thorough exam. You want to be looking for things that may be causing your dog pain — dogs are masters at disguising pain! I found this out the hard with with Riley and his hip dysplasia and to this day I’m still feeling very guilty I didn’t suspect this earlier. You also want to check for things like thyroid problems (hypothyroidism) along with eyesight and hearing problems. When dogs start experiencing loss of sight or hearing they can become easy to startle which can lead to a bite and it does seem at times you may be getting startle responses from her.

      You may be seeing some resource guarding tendencies when you mentioned in your response to my follow-up email that she’s still seems territorial when someone other than you attempts to take food or bones away from her. I would not rule out this carrying over to her people. So, I do suggest you do some research on resource guarding and learning how to stop this behavior. I would not allow anyone to attempt to take anything away from her. Allowing it is just putting things in line for a bite to happen and there is no point in pushing the issue. Since she seems to accept you removing things from her, I would restrict this activity to just you doing it but keep in mind that she may at some time react badly to you doing this as well so be prepared. If she’s resource guarding (you) and she felt that boyfriend was getting between her and you is another potential trigger. If she reacts negatively in any way when boyfriend pays you physical attention (hugging, kissing etc) then I’d say she’s a candidate for resource guarding.

      I think it goes without saying that boyfriend should no longer put his face near her — ever. I would also consider that she may be sensitive to the direct eye contact thing. Some dogs take direct eye contact as a threat and/or confrontational thing. If boyfriend is looking her in the eyes/face when he moves away this could be a factor.

      I hope this helps. Please let us know how it goes.

  21. Adrian says:

    Your dog is going flying if it tries to bite me, just saying. They come to me I never go to them, I actually love animals. Owners are idiots truth be told, over aggressive fantasy fools.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Adrian,

      Thank you for your comments. I agree in too many cases dog owners are idiots. Unfortunately, the owners are not blamed nor punished but their dogs are. I feel you have a right to protect yourself. I’m not proud of this but I now carry two kinds of spray when we go out that I hope I’ll never have to use to protect me or my dogs which is just my way of dealing with this kind of thing. I hope that it never does, but should something ever happen that makes it so that you feel you must “launch” a dog … I hope you will take it up with the owner and your law enforcement agency as well. If you understood the article, you know that the owners are the ones to blame and not the dog. I applaud you for letting the dog(s) come to you vs. you going to the dogs. That’s one way to help keep yourself safe.

  22. melinda says:

    I am at my witts end n looking for any insight to help me with my problem…… I live in a small trailer park…..maybe 19 neighbors…… i live n number 13.. middle of park my neighbor has six big mixed dogs n one puppy….. none spayed or nuet…… no fenced yard…… my 13 yr old boy was bite….just ripped his shirt……i waited to catch neighbor n told them….. reported it to landlord who in response told me to contact sheriff for there is no leash law in county i live n…. the neighbors response was just a shrug of shoulders…..i told him next time i would contact sherriff… the next inncident was two feet off my porch….on my dog…… i called sherriff……was told i could press charges but it would also charge landlord for it has been reported numerous times before. … or to shoot attacking animals on my property…….. after visiting landlord son one day while he was doing lawn maint…found out reason y neighbors front bay glass windows are broken due to his dogs breaking to attack other walking neighbors……. i fenced my yard to stop attacks on my dog……offered to fence neighbors front yard to give stop point from attacks also….he declined……. the next incident was my son n daughter walking our dog on leash while pulling 1 yr old grandbaby in wagon….again attacking our dog……….neighbor rushed out to try to control his dog….which was trying to avoid being kicked by his owner…….. next incident was son playing with landlords grandson in open play area by storm shelter…….i took the grandson home n spoke with his mother about i dont mind they play together but they need to do so in my fenced yard or at their home…. she understood n replyed how something has to be done about these dogs….. last incident was yesterday…. again son playing tag other neighbors kids. Dog went to attack him…. my nephew was watching n started to go through gate when my own dog broke threw gate n attacked neighbors dog before it reached my son…… i know my dog is no angel. For attacking neighbors dog …..which he understood for normaly when he gets chance to get out he runs straight to woods chase rabbits….. he walked back into yard from just scoldin….its not just one specfic dog of the neighbors….. of the six. Adult dogs. Three are problem over n over again…… when any friend comes to call the neighbors dogs try to attack….. when u face them they back off…..usually…… i am n need of serious help… single mother i be ….no funds for moving…….i strive for living peaceful around my neighbors but am at witts end on how to get neighbors dogs under control for….. human n dogs safety…….. any advice be sooooo helpful n considered

    • Mom says:

      Hi Melinda,

      You have multiple issues going on here and none of them can be solved by you or me alone. In my opinion your local law enforcement needs to step in and your landlord needs to step up to the plate and deal with this. You may not have a leash law but your landlord could and should implement some “laws of the trailer park” that need to be followed and if not, the offenders need to be dealt with accordingly. The dogs in your area are not being controlled by their owners and in order for this to happen there needs to be consequences to those people that don’t control their dogs. The offenders in cases like this are not the dogs but the dog owners as they ultimately are responsible for their dog’s behaviors. The dogs are being dogs and doing what dogs do within the boundaries of what their owners let them do. They’re out of control because their owners are allowing them to be out of control.

      There is no excuse (other than sheer laziness) for a landlord to not get a handle on this. I would think that should anything serious happen that he could be held responsible as he’s the owner of the property. I would go to my local law enforcement agency and sit down with them and try to come up with a solution. Perhaps get your local humane society involved to help with ideas. Together you all should be able to come up with a safer place for you and others to live but everyone has to do their part consistently. Laws are different all over, new laws are made all the time and old ones are put out of service. If you must live there you have every right to live there as safely as possible as do all the others and the children who live there.

      Shooting the dogs is not the answer – it’s not the dog’s fault that they’re allowed to be so out of control and besides that there are children running around all over it sounds like which means a child could be shot. I’m also not a fan of guns to begin with. Too many innocents die from gunshot wounds as it is already.

      There is no simple one-step solution to this. You need to get everyone involved that can help. The only way this is going to get better is if you get yourself, others in your same situation and law enforcement involved to find a solution. You may need to go to some community meetings and get some new laws on the books.

      This situation is well outside of the realm of what I might be able to help with other than to give you the suggestions I’ve given you and is much bigger than one owner having behavior issues with their own dog. This isn’t confined to a dog behavior issue, it’s a people behavior issue and the people involved are behaving *very* badly which needs to be addressed by people who have the authority to act on it. It sounds like utter chaos where you live. I’m sorry I can’t do any better than this.

      • melinda says:

        Thank you for responding to my plea…. I have exhaustedly went to all ppl involved…landlord dogs owner n local sheriff ….. since i sent you my plea there has been two attack on my child again….contacted all ppl envolved…… my efforts fall on deaf ears seems for from last incident which i video on my phone.was viewed by landlors and the dogs owner With local sheriif informing dogs owner …this was last warning to him for lack of controling his dogs if they enter my property once more. It will be shot n killed… that evening my brother brought me a 22 pistol n sherrif examined it n i will now use it to protect my child……I am a avid dog lover but my childs welfareto be able to play freely is more important to me then a vicious dog that a owner wont control….. the whole fact of the situation that bothers me most. Is being the one to have to forcefuly get a neighbor to understand his pack of dogs i tried to help him control with fence at my expence will die for his lack of care for the love of his pack….. all six of them……

  23. Dee says:

    Hello, our family adopted a female boxer/shepherd mix puppy 3-1/2 weeks ago. At that time she was 9 weeks old & 7lb from our local Humane Society. She appears to have more boxer in her, same body type but with shepherd color, eyes and ears. She is mixed w/other breed(s) because currently at 13 weeks she weighs approx 15lb so she’s not going to be a large dog. She was a puppy that came to our local Humane Society from another down south. She had 3 other littermates with her (1 other female and 2 male), and her mother was not transported w/them and have no history on her or the pups. Upon meeting her she was calm and friendly. Our 1st week with her was absolutely perfect, she plays with us, her toys, loves to be on our lap, or lay on our feet when sitting on the couch. We could pick her up and put her in her crate, pick her up to go outside to go potty, or to take her downstairs or upstairs from our rec room, etc. She really seems to love all people and also playing with other puppies (she has met 2 other puppies and played nice). Her personality seems to have starting coming out after the 1st or 2nd week. She is still perfect in every way with the exception to the puppy mouthing she still hasn’t outgrown yet (but is improving) and some growling and nipping she has exhibited. The growling only occurs “sometimes”, and depends on her mood. When she’s resting you can no longer pick her up without her growling and sometimes turning her head to nip at us because she doesn’t want to be moved. When she’s overly excited she will growl if you attmept to pick her up (if we have to move her from 1 room to another because she won’t go on her own). Or, she might bark at us if you try to push her away from somewhere she shouldn’t be, and this is only sometimes, not all the time. She is not allowed on the furniture and sometimes when we scoot her off the couch she will growl (although now she’s learning she shouldn’t be on the couch so she’s not going there as much). If we’re sitting on the floor she will come sit on our lap to go to sleep and if we try to move her with our HANDS “sometimes” she will growl, but if we just stand up and she slides off our lap that doesn’t bother her. She likes to play tug of war with her toy but we will no longer play that with her becasue she gets too excited and doesn’t settle down if she gets too excited (we are now learning to not allow her to get overly excited when playing, we will stop before she reaches that point.) Because of her behavior we have enrolled her in puppy training class, our 3rd class was yesterday. There is 1 other puppy in the class her age and she plays wonderfully with the pup. She is very smart, she is crate trained, potty trained, knows sit and we’re teaching her other commands. Her only issue we have found is the growling and the trainer indicated that was unusual for a puppy at the onstart of 10 weeks old to growl when being picked up. She is helping us with this. Also, I have just enrolled our puppy in “puppy daycare” to get her socialized with other dogs and will take her there 1x per week. Please let us know why she might be growling and snapping at us in those situations noted above. We have two kids, 12 and 15, but we have so many young kids in our neighborhood who visit us that we need to know the best way to help work with our puppy in all hopes to work through this growling and snapping. We don’t want it to turn into a “bite”. Also, more info, she is not food aggressive, she is not toy aggressive, she is not protective of her territory. I put my hands in her food bowl when she eats, we can take her toys away with no issues. Your tips are welcomed!! Thank you.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Dee,

      Before I begin I’d like you folks to know that Dee and I had a few back and forth information exchange emails before I actually tackled a response to her blog post. I also did a little Boxer research. Here are the links I visited that you may wish to visit yourself:




      It seems Boxers are popular with families with kids. I did see commonality in the comments made on Boxer breed charactaristics which include things like “hyper” “excitable” “cuckoo” “nutsy” “active” along with that I saw “protective” “dominant” and “aggressive.” Do NOT anyone take these charactaristics out of context and make snap judgements. I just wanted to get a bit more information on breed charactaristics before responding.

      When dealing with a mixed breed dog you must take all known breed charactaristics into consideration. Sounds like Boxer and Shepherd are the dominant ones so you can *probably* narrow your research to these two breeds but always remember there may be something else tossed into the mix. Just because a mixed breed dog *looks* predominantly more like one or the another breed, I don’t believe it necessarily means their behaviors would also automatically go in that direction. Think of it this way, the tattoed guy wearing leather and metal who looks like one big bad dude can be an absolute soft fluffy kitten inside.

      Although the baseline is that dog behavior is dog behavior, we should never ignore a dog’s breed(s). In this case we are dealing with both Boxer and German Shepherd because those are the known breeds in this pup’s heritage and it seems these two breeds share some common charactaristics.

      Puppies nip and growl beginning with their littermates. It’s part of their early socialization, learning boundaries and playtime. In addition to Dee’s description, there’s the fact that this pup’s trainer witnessed the behavior that concerns Dee and commented it was unusual for a 10 week old pup. Dog trainers see more puppies in their work than I probably will ever see in my lifetime so I must consider her comment. For me it’s like having a virtual second set of experienced eyes confirming Dee’s concerns.

      I’m glad to see that Dee did take up obedience classes with her pup and went an extra mile to include regular puppy daycare experiences. Way to go, Dee! We believe every puppy should at a minimum participate in puppy obedience school and whenever possible advancing courses through at least the pup’s first year. You don’t send your kids to kindergarten and then pull them out of school do you? Obedience school should not be thought of as a last resort ot something you only do when you think you have a problem pup on your hands. Obedience classes are much more than just obedience. There are many benefits to classes like this which totally outweigh and absolutely justifies the cost. If you can financially swing puppy daycare on some kind of regular basis that’s even better.

      Dee was going to be taking her pup to the vet. Provided the vet found nothing physically wrong with the pup that would cause her out-of-line growling and nipping we need to move on to other possibilities. This is my take on things and suggestions of what you might try.

      It sounds to me like you may very well have adopted a dominant personality pup. Just like all kids test their parents, all puppies will test their fur parents and their people family. Testing isn’t a bad thing as long as the parent wins. In the case of a dominant personality dog, you and your family have got your work cut out for you. Although there are times it can look like it, remember that dominance is not the same as aggression. Puppies are not born aggressive and I don’t believe you have an aggressive dog.

      My suggestion is a family meeting and the result of that meeting has to be every family member agreeing to being firm and consistent in dealing with your pup. Firm (not mean) and consistent are the key to dealing with any dog but dealing with a dominant personality dog it’s even more important. If even one person breaks away from this you’re going to loose a battle and make the next battle harder to win. For every battle you lose you not only confuse the dog but you give the dog a leg-up to winning the war. No has to mean no, not maybe. Consistent means consistent not sometimes it’s ok to … blah blah blah and other times it’s not ok. You’ll only confuse your dog and make any kind of issue harder to deal with.

      You may not have a territorial dog now, but that may also come on down the line. Some behaviors don’t kick in until later one. Both our Riley’s territorial and protective instincts didn’t show up until he was around a year old which I’m told is common in Shepherds. This may or may not happen with your dog, but if you’ve been showing her all along that she does not rule the roost you may have better luck if these behaviors do start up.

      Being that she’s young, I personally think you have a good chance of rerouting her “don’t touch me” “that’s mine you can’t have it” attitude. I don’t believe it’s going to be easy but I do believe if your entire family works together and is consistent it can be done. I’m not saying you won’t have a few bruises or puncture marks for your efforts but anyone who’s got a puppy has those.

      She tested you big time with the cord incident. You moved her away once, she went back for more twice and got sassy with you. You need to win every one of these little battles. She needs to learn that growling, snapping etc is *not* going to get her what she wants. She needs to be redirected to a more interesting activity than potentially getting electrocuted by the lamp cord. You can try redirecting her with a favorite toy or calling her to you, making her sit and then give her a quick treat. Don’t give her three chances at something you don’t want her to have. Don’t make a game of getting her away from things like the lamp cord or she’s gonna continue to want to play the game. Keep treats or toys nearby in a dish or in your pocket at all times. You see her heading for the lamp cord, call her away in a fun, happy voice — you have to make *you* more interesting than the lamp cord. You won’t get interest by scolding. Get her to come to you, sit and treat her.

      When she started getting snarly at your son you told him to release the dog. Granted you have to be concerned with your son’s safety first, I get that and I would imagine you got a bit scared for your son’s safety at this point. I would, too. On the other hand, releasing the dog when she growled would have given her this message: “Oh, cool! This growly thing works! I don’t want to be held, I growl and they let me go. I win!” Bingo, you’ve just reinforced your dog’s growling to get what she wants behavior. Your son apparently understood that he needed to win this battle, big pat on the back for him! I hope that he held her just tight enough that she got the point that she wasn’t going to win and that he wasn’t squeezing her too hard because that would just make matters worse.

      I’m going to suggest that you get a comfortable muzzle for your pup. After spending a couple of weeks going through the exercises for properly getting her used to the muzzle you can then have your son sit on the floor with her. Spend literally just a minute or two a day or so on this at first, don’t over-do.

      I would start with son sitting with his legs crossed, him calling pup to him would be ideal — yummy treats help! If pup won’t come, bring her to your son and plunk her down between his legs. While you’re bringing pup, have son repeat the come command (happy fun voice!) so she understands no matter how she gets there, it’s called “come” and if she doesn’t do it on her own four feet, someone will help her get there.

      Ok, so pup is now positioned between son’s legs. Key here is son being calm and speaking in soft gentle voice, you’re not wanting to get puppy all excited. Excitement escalates into excited nips which is normal puppy stuff. If you excite the dog you can’t blame the dog for nipping. Son should gently pet puppy while she’s in an upright position (unless pup rolls over on her own — which would be a good thing! — don’t force roll her) for say 10 seconds maybe 15 but for a pup that’s a long time so you may find you need to scale that time-frame back. You do *not* want to spend so much time that pup gets antsy or growly-snarly and you don’t what pup deciding it’s time to get up and move away. That’s your job.

      With treats in your hand and a fun happy voice, call pup to you while son opens his legs so that pup doesn’t have to climb over your son. Climbing over your son may give her the idea that she’s escaping. Your son allowing her to just walk away should let her know it’s ok for her to leave now and go to you.

      The more I read your other emails the more I’m thinking your pup has you bullied already. She’s got the upper hand and you’re going to need to change that starting immediately. The first thing you need to do is gain your confidence back. You cannot let an almost 4mos old puppy rule the roost and even a pup can sense when their pack leaders aren’t leading and they think they then need to step in and do that job. The more you cow-tow to her growling at you when you do something she doesn’t want you to do, the more problems you’re going to have. This to me is even more important because your dog is a mix of at least two protective breed dogs.

      I don’t believe she’s still adjusting to her environment, she’s had enough time for basic adjustment so don’t give her that excuse anymore. I do believe she’s fine tuning her place in the family pack order and you’re helping her to achieve the role of Queen Bee which with a double whammy of two protective breeds in her is not a good thing. I believe she’s got a dominant personality to begin with. She’s stubborn, she’s manipulative and she’s got you wrapped around her little pinky which to me means she can absolutely become dangerous if you let her.

      I think it would be good for you to familiarize yourself with NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free). I like this page on it: http://k9deb.com/nilif.htm and seriously consider putting it into practice at your house. As a dog owner who’s dogs only need to look at me with those big brown eyes that melt my heart, I will tell you it’s much easier to say than do NILIF. I can also tell you I wish I were better at practicing NILIF myself.

      Safety Note #1: Never ever pick your pup up under their front arms and let their bodies dangle. You can do serious harm to your pup and I’ve even heard of a pup or two that has died from this. Make sure to always cradle the butt end.

      Safety Note #2: I also recommend not picking up a pup/dog unless there’s a specific need for it. Being carried the way humans carry a dog is unnatural to a dog. Mom carries by the scruff of the neck, remember? Some dogs may never be comfortable being picked up especially if you roll it on it’s back to scratch it’s tummy. Dogs do not roll on their backs unless they feel absolutely safe and secure. If you force this, you are forcing a dog into a fearful position. Would you feel safe and secure being held several feet above the ground rolled on your back? Most will wiggle to upright themselves.

      The bottom line (I think) is that you folks need to make it well known to your pup that YOU are the bosses. She needs a strong hand and I mean emotionally, not physically. Good luck and phttp://www.rileysplace.org/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-formlease let us know how it goes.

    • Mom says:

      I received an update from Dee that I’d like to share with you:

      I have been meaning to get back to you with an update on our boxer/shepherd mix. We had been working with her and she has made huge strides. The pack order has been establish through positive training/reinforcement. She is extremely loving and wants to please. She still has just a couple quirks but we have learned to work with her and we hope that within the next year those little quirks will be gone as well (or maybe not, but we’ll still love her). Good is that we know what her quirks are and know how to “read” her. She needed time with our family and to trust. She will be 1 year old in a couple weeks. I’ll report back in a few months and let you know if we have resolved those other “quirks”. Thank you for all of your help!

      This is all GREAT NEWS, Dee! Thanks so much for coming back and letting us know how it’s going. We’re looking forward to the next installment!

  24. Alex says:

    Thanks for the very helpful article – it has given me so much to think about for my own situation with my dog. My dog is a 2-year old lab-mix. He’s an incredible dog, loves other dogs and until this past week, has always love meeting new people. However, in the past few days, he’s snapped at 2 different neighbors. In both cases, he may have actually bitten them but didn’t break the skin. The first time it happened, our neighbor was in the hall of our apartment complex. My dog often barks at people in our hallway so I waited to see how my dog reacted. He didn’t bark when he saw the neighbor so I allowed him to approach the neighbor. The hair on his spine was not raised, which is his typical cue that he’s not happy. The neighbor reached out to pet my dog, and initially my dog was okay and then instantly snapped at the neighbor and started growling and barking. I was really upset because it had never happened before but I assumed that my dog was being territorial in the hallway. Then today I was walking him outside and another neighbor approached us. My dog has previously met this neighbor and their interactions have been great. This time, again, my dog didn’t have of the signs of distress and was pulling me to see this neighbor. When my dog got right up to the neighbor, he instantly reacted, again snapping/biting, barking, and growling. I’ve been doing all sorts of research and can’t figure out what happened. Although I went to great lengths to socialize my dog and work on his bite inhibition, it’s clear that I need to do additional work with my dog. I’m just not sure the best approach because I’m not sure if his biting is due to fear, dominance or other types of aggression. I am taking him to the vet to tomorrow to rule out any heath problems. Any thoughts or suggestions? Also, do you think that it might have to do with me being a female and the neighbors being males? Thanks!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Alex,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, thank you.

      A dog barking or not barking at someone isn’t the only behavior to be looking for before you deem it safe for a meet & greet. Some dog behaviors are so subtle that unless you’re trained in it, the everyday dog owner doesn’t see things that a trained professional would.

      A few things I see as potential lead-ins to his negative behavior are:

      Neighbor #1 reached out to pet your dog. You didn’t say where the neighbor was going to pet your dog. If this neighbor attempted to pet your dog on the top of his head, that isn’t a good idea no matter how familiar a dog might be with someone. Some dogs take this as a threat — afraid they’re going to be hit by this person. Watch your dog the next time you go to pat him on the head. It’s a common everyday occurrence for me to pet my own two on the head but I do notice that even after all these years of me never having once struck them for any reason and they have no reason whatsoever to think I’d hurt them — they still duck when I go to pet them on their heads.

      #2 Anyone meeting a dog should be calm, standing still, no excited high-pitched talk, hands at their sides and looking at you not the dog. You mentioned your dog was pulling you towards the neighbor — that’s excited, uncontrolled behavior. Dog should not decide he’s going to meet someone, the owner makes this decision. Instead, make the dog sit until they are calm and when you see he is, allow the dog to approach the person and allow him time to do his sniff-job before anything further takes place. It sounds like in both instances these neighbors approached you and it needs to be that the dog approaches them. To me it doesn’t matter how well a dog might know someone, the best approach is always doing it the “dog-way” which is respecting how meet & greets should be handled. Don’t rush a meet & greet either, give the dog plenty of time to get comfortable.

      I’m glad to hear that you’re visiting the vet. You’ll find plenty of mentions in my responses to many people of what kinds of things one should have checked during a very thorough vet exam.

      If your dog has always reacted differently to males vs. females there might be something to your thoughts on this, but if he’s been consistently friendly in his interaction with both then I don’t think I’d consider this has anything to do with things. Being that his reaction was different to the one neighbor that he’s been ok with all along, it seems there may be something new going on. Perhaps think really hard about if there was anything at all different to this meeting vs. all previous meetings. Was neighbor in a big hurry, rushing this time for example? Was neighbor perhaps wearing a hat or grown a beard or something since the last time your dog visited with this neighbor that might cause your dog to feel unfamiliar with the person? Obviously there are any number of possibilities so I won’t keep bringing up different potential triggers. We once were out for a walk long ago and a guy came out of nowhere it seemed and was moving really fast as we passed in opposite directions. He was just in a hurry to get where he was going but his rushing past us was not taken lightly by our Riley. We were able to control him and avoid a bad situation but it’s an example of how dogs can react if they feel that someone is a threat. We as people don’t see things the way dogs do. We knew this guy was just in a hurry but Riley didn’t. He thought this dude was rushing us and potentially going to harm us which sends him into instant protection-mode.

      I hope this helps and that you’ll stop back and give us an update on what the vet had to say.

      • Alex says:

        Hello again,

        Thank you so much for your response – I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to provide an update sooner.

        When I took my dog to the vet, the vet told me he had an ear infection. I’m not sure if this contributed to the snapping situation, though it certainly may have. The vet gave much of the same advice as you (like petting the head as a sign of dominance). Our vet said that in the interactions she has had with my dog, she’s never perceived him to be aggressive or threatening. She said he may be an anxious dog, and if he was feeling stressed in those particular situations, he may have snapped as a reaction. In thinking back on the situations, the second neighbor has a dog that my dog really reacts to and I do wonder if he got a whiff of the dog and snapped in reaction to that. I’ll probably never know what happened but I’ve taken some steps to hopefully prevent that kind of situation in the future:

        Since the snapping-incidents, I’ve been doing research and trying to pay more attention to reading my dog’s body language. I admit that I was not very aware of the different signs and just assumed barking/raised hair = bad & wagging tail/no raised hair = good. Now I’m trying to be more sensitive to his threshold which seems to have made a big difference.

        For my dog, I’ve been working with him on two things mostly: leash interactions and general relaxation. I’ve been bringing treats on walks with me, making him sit whenever we see other dogs and people, and using treats to lead him away from situations that he appears to be stressed. In general, I’ve decided to try to avoid people and other dogs just to be safe and to protect my dog. Sometimes it’s awkward or feels uncomfortable telling people that I’d prefer them not to pet my dog, but I recognize the importance of this for my dog’s safety as well as theirs. I’ve also been working a lot on his relaxation using Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. It has made a big difference! My dog barks less to noises in the apartment and seems to react in a more controlled way.

        But I really appreciate your comments and suggestions. More than anything, it helped make me feel like I wasn’t alone and that my dog wasn’t a bad dog. We both just needed some extra work. Thanks again!

        • Mom says:

          Hey Alex,

          It’s great to hear you! I’m so happy that things are going better and that you’ve taken charge in helping your dog and others stay safe! Thanks for the tip on Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. I’m printing it out right now and fully intend to review it. Sounds like you may have found some great help tips! Maybe I can find some help for us and my readers. You are so welcome for whatever I was able to do to help and I so appreciate you stopping back to update us. I too, feel better when I talk with people who have like dog-issues so I can relate to that very closely. Take care and please stop back with more updates as you can. Helping one another is what so much of this is about.


  25. Sky says:

    Thanks for this article. It’s very helpful. Our 2-year-old Staffordshire/Weimeraner mix recently “bit” someone for the first time and unfortunately had a second incident shortly after. Both happened while he was with our dog walker and neither my wife or I were around. In the first incident, the dog walker had the dog on an automatically extending leash and wasn’t paying attention for a moment when a stranger came running by our dog very fast. The dog chased the guy (he always chases fast moving things like joggers and bikers, etc.) and nipped him in the butt, breaking a little bit of skin. We went through the 10 day quarantine and the whole bit – no charges pressed because my understanding is that the victim had little more than a scrape (thank god!). Not two weeks after he comes off the 10-day quarantine, he was at our dog walker’s house for a play date (which we send him on often) and a friend of the dog walker tried to enter the backyard through the fence and all the dogs on play date were there – but not our dog walker. Having no witnesses, I have no idea what happened but this person who was a stranger to my dog entered the unattended yard with a pack of dogs in it and my dog nipped her on the butt (no broken skin) and then bit her arm and broke skin. It doesn’t sound like an attack as he never clamped down hard on the woman’s arm or made any aggressive sounds (from what I’m told). Her injuries were also minimal (again, thank god!). I’m thinking these are two incidents that are very isolated, but unfortunately happened in a tight timeframe. My dog is the sweetest pup around and meets strangers all the time (of course inside of my supervision!). I’m beginning to wonder if some other habits of his, such barking at strangers through the fence when I’m not outside with him (not a lot just with a low, “mean” sounding bark a couple of times) or getting overexcited when we’re walking and he sees another dog and then getting frustrated and barking (again low and “mean” sounding) with hair on neck raised after a couple pulling attempts that I stymie (I’m working very patiently on training this out of him and he has been getting better) are connected.

    • Mom says:

      I doubt I’ll make friends with my response here but I will always tell my readers straight up how I see things because I feel my part in responding to dog blog posts and *especially* specific requests for help or ideas is that I *must* respond for the good of the dog and their relationship with their owners. You didn’t mention any extenuating circumstances as to why you utilize the services of a dog walker rather than walking your dog yourself. From the sounds of it, you use a dog walker regularly and that is something some people do that I just do not understand.

      I’m not a fan of dog walkers. I understand if you’re ill or incapacitated and there is no one else that can walk your dog it may be a *temporary* necessity but I would sure opt for something else if I could. Dog walkers can be beneficial in a situation like this but temporary is the keyword here in my opinion. I do NOT believe in dog walkers as a permanent fixture in any dog’s life. In my opinion when you get a dog it’s YOUR responsibility and this responsibility should not be handed over to anyone else on a permanent basis. There are good dog walkers out there and I’m not condemming them, I just do not believe in using them as a permanent crutch to what I feel the dog’s owner should be doing. I don’t care how well-natured one’s dog is, they are still a dog and will revert to dog behavior under situations the dog feels it’s necessary. We as humans will NOT always know or understand why either.

      Why do I not believe in dog walkers? The bond between dog and owner is of the utmost importance. Walking a dog is a big part of a necessary bonding experience. Letting someone else take on this bond weakens the bond between dog and owner in my opinion. To be very honest with you, and this is going to sound harsh — I believe that if you don’t have the time or the inclination to walk your own dog then you shouldn’t have a dog. To me it’s no different than people who keep their dogs in kennels or tied up outside as a regular practice. What’s the point in having a dog if it’s not going to be a true part of our lives and live in our homes? I simply do not understnad handing your dog over to someone else to do what you as the owner should be doing.

      I will not even allow my kids or my grandkids to walk my dogs on their own. There is too much at stake should something happen like what happened with your dog. You weren’t there, therefore you only have other people’s statements to go on for what really happened which isn’t fair to you or your dog. People who were there and are afraid of what might happen to them should they be found responsible for what occured are likely to lie to keep themselves out of trouble and because you weren’t there you have no way of knowing whether they’re telling the truth or not.

      Some people let their children walk their dogs wihtout adult supervision. Last summer I saw two very young girls (guessing 6-10 years old) walking two quite LARGE powerfully built dogs ALONE. A child cannot possibly control a dog should another dog attack and the child is likely to be injured or worse. Why anyone would put their child in a situation like this boggles my mind. I can’t think of a single person I know that would want their child to witness a dog fight, but parents who send younger children out walking their dogs are setting their child up for the potential for this to happen. They’re opening the door for their child to perhaps witness their beloved little dog be attacked and killed by some larger loose dog. Can you imagine the trauma and guilt that child will live with for the rest of their lives?

      Because you only have other people’s input on what happened, you’re at the mercy of the law with not much to stand on for yourself. Depending on the laws in your area, you’re potentially inviting the loss of your dog without being able to defend or explain what happened because you weren’t there. From what you’ve told me, I just would have no faith or confidence in this dog walker. Once incident (depending on what it was) would start me wondering, two incidents — they’re fired. I’m NOT going to lose my dog(s)s due to someone else’s handling or mis-handling of them. No way no how.

      We do not believe in the use of flexi-leashes either. There is not enough control and there is no way to gain control quickly should the need arise. It’s one thing to have to quickly try to reel in 4-6 feet of leash, it’s another thing altogether to have to reel in 12-15 feet or more of leash if you have to. A behaviorist we briefly worked with suggested flexi-leashes be used for our dogs OUT OF TOWN only — no in city use because of the number of loose dogs around here. I personally don’t feel comfortable using them at all so I don’t. If something happens not only can you not gain control quickly because of the length of leash that may be extended when the problem hits but think of all that extra leash that can then wrap around the dogs — their necks, their bodies. Dogs wrapped up together like this causes them to panic which then escalates the situation causing more potential for injured or dead dogs. A good example is my experience the night Riley got his teeth wrapped around Nissa’s collar and how I almost lost both my dogs that night. I will never forget this nor will my dogs ever wear collars at home again.

      Since you apparently read my original article you already know that many dogs tend to chase moving things and you’re aware that your dog is one that does this. Was your dog walker made aware of this? Even if he/she wasn’t specifically advised by you as the owner, if they’re in business as a dog walker they should already know this about dogs in general and should be constantly on guard for ANY potential behavior/danger. If you’re going to be a dog walker I believe it’s your responsibility to know a LOT about dog behavior before you take on even one client. It doesn’t sound to me like your dog walker is aware enough of dog behavior and since both incidents occured in your dog walker’s care this dog walker doesn’t sound like they take their job seriously enough. If you feel you absolutely must have a dog walker, I would at the very least be looking for someone else to take on this job but ideally it should be YOUR job. Your dog may not get walked as often, but at least YOU know what happens on the walk. There are other things you can do at home with your dog if you can’t get out and walk as often as you’d like.

      It sounds like your dog spends significant unsupervised time in your dog walker’s yard, that the gate is not locked and that anyone can just walk in. Put a pack of dogs (seemingly not well supervised) together (even the most well-behaved dogs!) there are things that are bound to happen that will bring out negative (dangerous!) pack behavior. All it takes is one dog to start a problem and the rest tend to follow suit. The stranger walking into the yard is darn lucky they weren’t literally attacked by ALL the dogs there and wasn’t seriously injured. If these dogs spend a lot of time in this yard you can bet that at least the dominant ones (if not all of them) believe the yard belongs to them and someone they consider to be trespassing on their territory means for some dogs that they will protect their territory.

      You’re absolutely right — you have no idea what really happened in either of these instances. I agree it’s a great thing that there was no serious harm done BUT the fact remains this kind of environment is a tragedy waiting to happen. Very recently there were two 18 month old babies KILLED by packs of dogs in separate incidents in separate states. In one case the two dogs belonged to the babysitter where the child died, in the other instance the dogs belonged to the child’s family. Seven dogs mauled this baby to death. Pack mentality can be deadly.

      I also believe the use of a dog walker confuses a dog. The dog walker has their way of walking your dog, you have a different way of doing it. Even subtle differences matter to a dog. How can the dog get any sense of consistency this way? One of the keys to having a well behaved dog that feels safe is consistency.

      It’s GREAT that you want your dog to interact with people and other dogs but in my opinion this should be done only when you yourself (or other responsible adult family member) are able to supervise. Professional doggy daycare is somewhat different in that the business owner and employees must be trained and certified in a number of things and the dogs are supervised. I could be wrong but the feeling I’m getting from what you’ve told me is that you may have hired a dog walker who just decided to start walking dogs and/or taking them into their yard for some reason and it doesn’t seem like they have any certifications in their background. Walking a dog(s) *seems* simple enough to a lot of people and even a quick’n’easy way to make money but not everyone is qualified to do this job. There IS a lot more to it than putting a collar and leash on a dog and heading out the door. If your dog walker makes it a practice to walk more than one dog at a time, the problems that can occur are multiplied. Should a stray dog attack your dog walker will definitely have way more to deal with than one person should have to take on. I had one bad encounter with a dog that was leashed and my two (also leashed) and it was NOT pretty. Getting control of the situation took all my efforts and it shook me up considerably. I can’t imagine the chaos and injuries that could occur with multiple dogs packing up and me having to try to get control by myself. Very scary stuff!

      If this were my dog and I felt I absolutely needed a dog walker, my dogs would no longer be put in the care of this particular dog walker. I’m truly sorry to seem harsh, but to me this dog walker thing is just not a good idea. As you have now seen — bad things happen that you have no control over nor recourse in when they happen and yet you are ultimately the responsible party for what your dog does. You have to clean up the mess and deal with the consquences. You asked for my input and the bottom line here is — take care of you and your dog — yourself. Don’t leave it up to anyone else. I can tell you from experience that trying to “fix” a dog who’s been involved in negative incidents with people or other dogs is NOT an easy task and you already know you don’t like the results.

      • Sky says:

        Thank you for this detailed response. I think you have confirmed my exact concern. We use a dog walker only to get our dog some exercise mid-day. I take him on long walks (and sometimes runs) with me every morning and my wife takes him on long walks at night. We added the dog walker in to get him some extra exercise thinking it would help him to meet other dogs. Occasionally our dog walker takes him to his home for a “play date” which is where the second event occurred. However, with two events back-to-back I think it’s time to put an end to this and your perspective is very helpful. My dog has never done anything like this in mine or my wife’s care and it’s probably best to keep that streak alive and avoid the dog walking scenario. Thank you again for the detailed response. It’s a great help to have this perspective.

        • Mom says:

          Hi Sky,

          You’re very welcome and I very much appreciate the thanks post. I’m so glad you didn’t take offense cuz I sure didn’t want to hurt your feelings. I totally agree that dogs need exercise and walks are great but in cases like this – I also believe it is doing more harm than good.

          From the sounds of your routine you two are doing a GREAT job! I’m really impressed with your walking habits! There aren’t a lot of dogs who get this much walking and jogging, too? Wow! Way to go!!!

          If you’re into biking you can get an attachment for your bike made for taking your dog with you. When I researched mine I found that WalkyDog to be rated the most safe but that was a few years ago. If you go this route, get a harness don’t use a collar and never more than a reasonable trot for the dog’s pace. 10-15min on this gives the dog some good exercise! Don’t overdo the bike. Start out slow, a few minutes so that your dog gets accustomed to it. Nissa loves it, Riley doesn’t. The Walky Dog wasn’t expensive either, like $30 when I bought it. It’s a pole that attaches under the seat and keeps your dog out far enough so their leash doesn’t get tangled and the length of the leash is adjustable for your dog’s height. Watch for potholes, other dangers and loose dogs! I used to take both of mine, one WalkyDog on each side of my bike but no more. If another dog charges us we’re all going down and Riley does not take kindly to other dogs so on top of going down I’d have that problem to deal with, too. If it’s super hot I would not take my dog on the bike. The hot pavement and heat can put him into heatstroke real easy. The bike would be for an occasional change of pace is my suggestion.

          There are other things you can do to help keep your dog’s mind occupied and body exercised when you can’t walk a lot. You might try stuffing Kongs for one idea.

          You can have play dates w/other dogs – but do it at your house where you can supervise or the other dogs house when you can remain there to help supervise. He doesn’t have to be doggie-friendless just because he doesn’t have a dog walker.

          But seriously, it does sound like you don’t need to worry to much about your dog while you’re gone. He gets lots of exercise especially since you do the morning thing :)

          Take care and really truly GOOD LUCK!


  26. Ann says:

    Thank you for posting this, I spent all morning reading all the replies. We are on a “trial adoption” of a 2-4 year old Australian cattle dog. We are her third home, and I’m pretty sure she was kept outdoors and tethered in her last home because the lady lived on a ranch and Gracie wouldn’t leave the goats alone. We have only had her a month, but our trial period is over and we were without a doubt going to adopt her. She is very shy around strangers, but not unfriendly. From the second we got her she attached very strongly to me, and now wants to be next to me at all times. We have three young children, 2,4 and 6 years old, and her interactions with them have been very positive. She typically doesn’t bark, or jump on people, and its obvious that she’s had some training. She bit me the first week we had her, but my husband and I blame ourselves because we were trying to get her to play and were rough housing with our older dog and I think it freaked her out. Didn’t break the skin or even bruise, more of a nip. She is not all the way housebroken, so we’ve been gating her off while we work on it, she’s always in the room with me so I can keep an eye on her. Yesterday, my older cattle dog was on one side of the gate, and she was with me when my mother in law came over. Our older cattle dog always barks like a hooligan when people come over and raises his hackles (he’s never bitten anyone though, and is fine as soon as someone comes in the house.) so he was on one side of the gate away from the door, and Gracie let off two quick barks and then bit my mother in law in the leg from behind. It did not break the skin, but she will have a bruise from it. I don’t know if Aussie’s barking made her agitated and set off her protective instinct, but she didn’t growl so we felt like we had no warning. We have her in obedience classes with a trainer that ‘specializes’ in aggressive behavior (she says) however when I called her to consult on this behavior she basically told me that it wasn’t worth our money to pay for a consult. She told me to give the dog back to the rescue, that rescue dogs are all unpredictable, and cattle dogs are terrible with children (our older dog is a cattle dog rescue also, and is amazing.) She said for us to buy a puppy from a breeder and move on. She told me its like keeping a loaded gun on the table, we’ll never know what’s going to set her off. I should note that we’ve only had her a month, and otherwise she’s been a perfectly well behaved dog, so if we return her to the rescue she will go on to have a great life with someone else but they probably won’t give her to someone with kids. I’m very upset that this happened, and worried that if she can bite a 90 lb woman she can easily go after the kids. But, I feel like she was acting out of fear and at least that is something we can work on. Any advice? She we return her to the rescue or give her some time and training to get past this? If she bit once does that mean she’s more likely to do it again?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Ann,

      I’m going to start with the comments the trainer made and then go into the rest of your information.

      I feel that the trainer you (hopefully *were*) working with condemning all rescue dogs as being unpredictable is to me a totally an unfair umbrella judgement. There are plenty of wonderful rescue dogs out there which you already know from your other rescue dog. If I had been the one this comment was addressed to it would have been my cue to thank the woman and find another trainer. This one doesn’t seem to have any respect at all for dogs as individuals. It also sounds like she’s not rescue-friendly and prefers to work with puppies. Anyone who passes judgement on all rescues with such a broad blanket statement doesn’t get my vote of confidence, trust or my money.

      You may be absolutely right in thinking what your new rescue’s life may have been like at her previous home which would mean her socialization skills are lacking. I’m also picturing an Aussie — who was born to do things like herding — being tied up and perhaps only allowed to watch other dogs do what her instincts tell her she should be doing. Can you imagine the frustration this dog suffered if in fact this is what her life was like? We went to a herding event a few years ago and the lady who owns this sheep farm and holds the events swears that Aussie’s are the greatest herding dogs on the face of the earth. Her own Aussies were impressive herders.

      I cannot make the decision for you to keep the dog or return her to rescue. I can tell you that due to insurance reasons there are probably more rescues than not that will not be able to re-adopt a dog out that has a bite history. If they don’t have a specialized trainer that will take bite history dogs from them, they have no other alternative but to put the dogs down. Some rescues can afford the more expensive insurance which allows them to take returns of dogs with bite histories, but it’s my understanding these rescues are few and far between. Rescues that can’t take bite-history dogs back may have connections with rescues that do. If you have any thoughts of not telling the rescue about the bite, I strongly suggest that you be up-front and honest with them. Not telling them of the bite if you choose to return the dog could one day come back on you and it probably won’t be pleasant. On the other hand, I don’t believe your dog bit your MIL, it sounds like she nipped her and to us there’s a big difference.

      The other thing is that if you tell the rescue what happened but that you are still considering keeping the dog, they may grace you with an extension of your trial adoption period to give you time to work through this and make your decision. If this is a true Aussie rescue, they may also be able to help you through this. My experience with Aussie breed charactaristics is zilch but a good Aussie rescue should be quite well educated.

      I see three possibilities as to what triggered this “bite” and I’m keeping in mind that her socialization skills may be sorely lacking due to what kind of life you think she may have had.

      #1 — She’s a herding dog by breed and instinct. No matter what the breed, many dogs like to chase fast moving things. If MIL was moving quickly the fact that she zapped her on the back of the leg (more probable if the nip was the calf or heel area) she was herding MIL or chasing a fast moving object.

      #2 — She’s attached fast and hard to you. If MIL (new person the dog never met) was moving towards you or a family member(especially if she was moving quickly) dog may have thought MIL was going to do harm and went into protection mode. The alternative to this is that she’s got some resource guarding issues. Protection and resource guarding can be *very* hard to differentiate! Many people think their dogs are protecting when in fact the dog considers the object/person they’re property.

      #3 — Your other dog alerted to potential danger in high energy mode — someone coming into the house and it sounds like your older dog goes bonkers. New dog picked up on this excitement/dog alarm and reacted accordingly. New dog may have also had some fear of MIL because she’s a stranger. You already know she’s shy around new people so in my mind you need to give her a break for that.

      No matter which of those three (or could be other) possible triggers occurred, they can all be worked with. None are easy fixes especially for a dog that may be lacking in socialization skills. It sounds like this was not a true bite, but rather a nip. Whether she was herding, protecting or resource guarding she gave a warning nip — she didn’t attack MIL and there is a huge difference in my opinion between the two. Had she gone into attack mode she would not have hit and backed off. If you’d seen true attack mode then yes, my opinion is that the dog needs to be returned to rescue with a complete explanation as to why so the rescue can determine the best route to take with her.

      For the rest of my reply I’m going to go on the assumption you decided to keep the dog.

      I believe you and your husband’s take on the incident where you were trying to get her to play is right on. Rough housing gets a dog excited (freaked her out as you mentioned). This kind of play may not be something your new dog is familiar with and therefore didn’t understood that this was only play-time which she doesn’t know how to handle. New things that excite dogs who don’t know what to do with what’s going on are likely to bring on unpredictable behaviors. Nipping can be part of excitement mode.

      You have a 2-4 year old dog that you don’t have a history on. You’ve had her in your home just one month. You’re bound to run into things that you don’t know how she’s going to react to. But obviously you can’t take forever to give her the chance to experience everything before deciding to adopt her or not.

      I think you need to be more careful with people entering the house. We make it a rule that no one just walks in. People must knock, I corral both dogs and put them in a down on the far side of the room or behind our gated area. They can see people enter and our interaction with them but don’t have immediate access to them. We allow the people in and take a moment or two for our greeting — time enough for both dogs to settle down and see that everything is ok and that we gave this person permission to be in our home. We are always watchful of Riley’s behavior — seriously, dogs are as fast as greased lightning, so I never take my eyes off them during greet-time.

      Once things have settled down, the guest is advised to stand still, arms at their sides, look at and talk to us — no loud/excited voices either. When they’re calm, we then release the dogs for their sniffing activity. Dogs *need* to sniff people before interacting with them. Whether they know the person or not, they need to do this. Don’t take that away from your dogs. Give the dogs time to perform what they need to do and after the dog’s nose is familiarized with the person we then allow the guest to pet the dogs. We haven’t had a problem at all with this method.

      Your older dog should be included in however you corral your new dog. Don’t single one or the other out. The entry to your home should be controlled by you. Dogs being at the door when people walk in can have some unpredictable results as you have seen. Dogs need to know you’ve ok’d this person to enter.

      You have small children that you’re understandably concerned about your new dog biting them after what occurred. You already know the dog does will with your kids. Sounds like she understands they are part of her pack. It’s important to *teach your children* how to respect and properly behave around dogs. Being you have herding dogs and your new one seems unfamiliar with what to do with some things yet. Running children are no different than running sheep to a herding dog. Without taking some safety precautions you’d be taking a chance your new dog would go into herding mode and nip your children because it’s how they herd sheep.

      One thing I would do would be to safely practice some back yard activities. Take dogs *on leashes* and kids outside. Sit relaxed in a comfortable place with the dogs and tell your kids to “have at it” and do what kids do. Run, screech, yell, play hard! From a safe distance, your new dog needs to get accustomed to how children play. Have the kids run by you and the dogs at a safe distance far enough away that the dogs cannot reach them. Watch the dogs’ reactions. I’m sure you already know how your older dog reacts and with time, your new dog is likely to take her cue from your older dog. This is not a one day practice session, it should take place over a period of weeks at the very least and perhaps all summer. If you can’t be outside with the kids, the dogs don’t go out with the kids. You MUST keep the dogs on leashes and monitor them at all times right now.

      After doing this a few times, get up with the dogs still on leashes and go run and play near the kids taking the dogs with you but keeping a safe distance. Follow the kids around keeping up with them from a safe distance. The leash will help you control the dogs while new dog learns that this is what kids do. If she appears to be going to herd your children tell her “no” gently pull her (don’t jerk her) towards you and have her sit — treat her for sitting! Do not continue your part of play-time until she’s calmed down.

      Your children should be told to *not* approach the dogs, to ignore them and keep their distance and enforce this until you can see how new dog reacts to high level excited kid activity.

      After awhile you can let your older dog loose to do what he normally does with the kids. Let the new dog observe him with your children. New dog *should* take her cue from older dog and learn from him. Do your best to keep new dog calm. She will want to be part of the action but until you feel it’s safe you can’t allow this to happen. I can’t stress enough that she has a learning curve to go through. I tend to think eventually she’ll get the picture and be just fine with kid activities. But this may take time, patience and work.

      I suggest you read up on resource guarding to determine if your new dog is a candidate for this. Keep an open mind to resource guarding as a possibility and if you feel she is a candidate, then you need to take steps to redirect this.

      I don’t think you have the hopeless case the trainer told you that you have on your hands. I think that with time and work she will be fine. It sounds like you’ve just given her too much freedom in a new place and she doesn’t know what to do with it after living a tethered or otherwise restricted life. She’s trying to fit in but she’s a bit lost as to how she’s expected to do this. It sounds like there’s a lot she hasn’t experience. Being kept on a tether allowed her to become excited at surrounding activities including people coming and going but would have been given no solid direction or proper outlet for her excitement which then builds into frustration.

      I don’t see this dog as being aggressive. I see a dog who’s new, confused, needing guidance and being misunderstood for the nip by people who need to learn more about dog behavior and safety precautions. Too many people bring dogs into their homes and let them have the run of the place either immediately or too soon. We made this mistake ourselves with every dog we ever had but now that we know better, we won’t do this again. This isn’t a puppy, it’s an adult dog who’s got 2-4 years behind her of behaving as she was told to or allowed to at her previous home. Don’t expect her to just move into your house and in a month’s time know the ropes.

      Reintroduce her to MIL under the safe terms I mentioned. Introduce her to new people in the same way. NEVER allow anyone to approach your dog, YOU determine when it’s safe for your dog to approach people. You need to learn doggy body language and how to read your dog’s behaviors. This is not easy as dog behavior is generally very subtle and means things other than what we humans believe them to be.

      When we’re out and about and people want to meet our dogs we have rules. People do NOT come to us, we go to them when WE feel it’s safe. People must agree to follow our rules for their own safety and the sake of our dogs. I’m not losing my dogs because some idiot refused to follow our rules and got bit. If people won’t comply we keep walking. They’re our dogs, our responsibility, our rules. People must stand at a safe distance, hands relaxed at their sides and look at us not the dogs. We put the dogs in a sit and converse momentarily with the people. When our dogs are calm and people are following the rules, we then allow our dogs to approach and sniff. After the initial doggy sniff-greeting the people can then pet them. They are told to pet under the chin or on the body not on the top of the head. Reaching to pet a dog on top of the head is a bite waiting to happen. We believe that old “stick your hand out for a dog to sniff” is dangerous bunk and a bite waiting to happen. Some dogs take hands poking at them as a threat of potentially being hit and will react to protect themselves from that threat. We’ve not had one incident after putting these rules into practice. We live near bar district. If someone who’s been drinking wants to meet our dogs, the answer is NO. You can meet them when you’re sober.

      Keep in mind that if you’re nervous or scared your dog WILL pick up on this even if you *think* you can fool them — know ALWAYS that you CAN’T. It’s not possible to fool a dog when it comes to their owner’s inner thoughts and feelings. You can show on the outside you’re ok but dogs feel, read and go by the inside of you. If you’re nervous and hubby is not, let him do the re-intro. Keep the children (and any nervous-about-this-greeting people) away while this re-intro activity goes on so there is no excitement during this time. Be patient with her, she has a lot to learn and she wants VERY much TO learn!

      I hope this helps and that you’ll come back and let us know how it goes! Good luck!

      • Ann says:

        First, THANK you SO much for responding to my questions! I have been doing a ton of research, both online and by asking people and your response has been the most helpful! Also, the trainer and I have indeed parted ways, she typically does not issue refunds but was willing to give me a partial refund for the class. I was really shocked at her bias against shelter dogs, but now I’ll be more educated when looking for a trainer!
        I have contacted the rescue, and they are being very helpful and proactive for us. They have extended our trial adoption for as long as we need, assured us that if we choose not to keep her they will happily take her back (and probably adopt her to a family without kids), and are sending their preferred trainer to our house tomorrow to give us a consult and some tips on her behavior. We got her from a Cattle Dog rescue and they agree with you that this is more of a nip than a bite, thank goodness!

        Looking back on her behavior I can see that all three possibilities you gave are true. Our other cattle dog is a mix, and this little girl seems to have a very strong herding instinct. My mother in law was not moving quickly, however, she has a movement disorder that makes her muscles tense and spasm, and has been bitten in the past by dogs making her fearful. So I think the combination of her being tense and afraid from the get-go created a protective instinct in Gracie. For her part, my Mother-in-law is not angry, and in fact wants us to work with Gracie and hopes we will keep her. Gracie has attached VERY strongly to me, and never leaves my side. Also, I’ve never considered our older dog aggressive, but looking back on it I can see that he is (although he’s never bitten.) He reacts poorly when people come over, and the cattle dog trainer says he needs to be retrained also. I can see that his behavior, in addition to the other factors, caused Gracie to be on high alert and she reacted out of fear.

        We are implementing your advice about people coming over and the kids playing outside immediately. In fact, we’ve already started gating them both away from the door and not acknowledging them until they are calm. I hadn’t thought about the kids playing outside with her until you mentioned it, although they are never unsupervised together but I like the suggestion about keeping the dogs on leash for a while. And we definitely gave her way too much freedom when we brought her home, I didn’t even think about how challenging it would be for her!

        Our hope is that after we meet with the trainer tomorrow, that we will have a clearer idea of where to go from here. We want very much to keep her and work with her, we are all very attached to her!

        Thank you so much for your response, I am SO happy I found your site!!

        • Mom says:

          Hi Ann,

          You made my day, I’ve got tears of joy in my eyes! Another dog owner that didn’t just throw in the towel and give up! I love it when people are willing to work to keep their dogs! Oh and I love the name, Gracie :) It was on my list of names when Nissa came into our lives.

          I’m glad you decided to part ways with the trainer. Trainers with this much bias (to me) are just not good trainers. It would be another story if your dog had literally attacked someone, but a nip? Seriously, not the right response from the trainer.

          My hat’s off to the rescue, what a wonderful offer they’ve made you!

          Ah ha! Movement disorder! Disabilities can very easily make a dog uncomfortable until they are used to the person. The fact that MIL was afraid is more than likely what triggered the nip, though. Gracie picked up on the fear immediately. You are very lucky your MIL is so kind and is willing to stand behind you. Please give her a hug from us. What a sweet lady!

          Be prepared for Gracie to lunge and even may bark at running children. Just hang tight and stay calm. It’ll backfire on you if you get excited and nervous. Remember, she’s on a leash so you have control. These dogs are smart, I have faith she will catch on and she’s already good with the kids. Oh! Treats! Keep yummy treats handy at all times (but no treats Made in China! those are killing dogs) and treat whenever she does something good/right. But timing is important, she has to know exactly what the treat is for or she’ll think she’s being treated for something else which may or may not be appropriate.

          Now, don’t push your dude-man out of the way or you may wind up with dog-to-dog jealousy. He’s the TOP dog in the house because he was there first, so don’t play favorites, ok? It would probably be beneficial to give them both some special one-on-one time away from one and out of site of one another every day. Just a few minutes is all it will take.

          I’m glad you found our site, too, and I’m happy that we were able to help. Please come back with updates, we want to know how things are going. Take care and big hugs to your and your furkids. You rock!


  27. Naomi says:

    Tonight I was in the yard with my terrier and he was very excited by the rabbit next door. He totally ignores me and just stays out of my reach when I try to get him inside. And then I fell. He quickly darted in and bit the back of my head. Not to break the skin but ouch.
    He has done this dive in and nip before when I’ve exercised on the floor. He barks at me for a while afterwards. He seems to find it pretty funny since his tail is sort of wagging. I know he is probably startled but I am at my wit’s end to figure out how to change the behavior.
    Its crazy-making. Any ideas?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Naomi,

      Thank you for your post and your patience.

      Wildlife has a way of exciting dogs, no doubt about that. It sounds like when outdoor things get your dog excited you go to your dog and attempt to “shoo” him away and into the house. This generally involves a bit of the owner chasing the dog. If this is what’s happening your dog is more than likely taking it as a game and chase games will escalate a dog’s excitement level. Ideally, you need to get your dog to come to you when you call him. Many Terriers were bred for hunting and things like chasing wildlife, digging and burrowing into holes to go after animals, so I don’t believe wanting to chase wildlife will be an easy behavior to change. But you can work on getting a better dog recall.

      As for the dive’n’nip activity, honestly, I’m not sure what that’s all about but it does sound like nipping and not actual biting and there is a difference. I tend to think it’s a play thing for him, that you’re getting down to his level without knowing it’s for other reasons than play-time for him. An easy way to keep him from putting holes in your head is to put him on the other side of a gate or crate him for the duration of your exercise routine. As for literally changing his behavior, you might try teaching him to ignore you or sit/lay quietly next to you when you’re exercising. On the other hand, you might want to venture into doggie dancing and get him involved and you’d both benefit from the physical activity. Here’s a nicely done example:



  28. Michael says:

    We recently (about 4 weeks ago) rescued a 2 year old Norwegian Elkhound/ German Shepherd mix from the humane society. We were told by them that he was a stray taken in by a family and then given up when the family decided to move back down south.They did an interaction with our 8 year old daughter and the dog showed no aggression or tendencies and our daughter fell in love with him. Around the house the dog seems very docile and tends to attach to my wife first and then to me. Our child has been visibly disappointed that the dog shows these preferences, but still loves the dog. She partakes in getting his food ready, giving him treats and likes to walk him around the yard. My wife and I had talked about her being a little sad that the dog is not that much into playing with her, but it is clear that she has grown attached to the dog. The only times I have witnessed the dog being aggressive is when I would come to bed and the dog would bark as I approached. A soothing “it’s just me” usually put him at ease and he would lie back down. However, my wife told me that one day last week, while driving our 8 year old daughter to school, he growled very loudly at our daughter and caused her to scream. My wife thought that the dog had bitten her, but our daughter said she was just petting him and she was scared by the growling. Yesterday, while the whole family was in the living room, our daughter had the dog come into her fort, he went in for a bit and then quickly exited at some point. We all laughed because it was obvious that the dog was not comfortable. Our daughter went to console the dog and gave him a hug and a pet on the back (we have told her about hugs and staring at dogs and the problems associated with this behavior). However, the dog responded with a viscous growl and quick bite to her face. We were able to immediately separate the two and got medical treatment for my daughter as soon as possible. She required 5 stitches and said she was “afraid of him” now, but does not want to “give him back”. It was a scary moment for all involved and we are faced with a dilemma. We are aware that our child’s actions caused the dog to be uneasy and possible fearful at that moment, but also were quite surprised about how quickly it happened and what if we had been in the other room. My wife grew up with Norwegian Elkhounds her whole life, but says that none ever bit like this one did and wants to take him back to the humane society. She does not want to live in fear of another attack and feels that she can’t feel safe if our daughter has friends over and something happens. I am torn because he has appeared so docile and that I understand what could have made the dog feel threatened. However, the bite was scary. Our daughter keeps saying that she doesn’t want to give him back, but she is obviously uncomfortable right now. I want to wait a while for everyone to talk about this and what we could do, but my wife is insistent that she doesn’t trust the dog now. She had the best relationship with the dog and that was obvious. Since this incident just happened, I think emotions are still high. Any suggestions would be helpful as we want to be responsible pet owners.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Michael,
      First, I’m so sorry your daughter was bitten and that you’re all going through this awful-ness. It’s a hard time, I’m sure.

      What I feel is that you’ve adopted is a dog that isn’t fond of children. He bonded quickly with you and your wife who are adults and he’s tolerating your daughter to the best of his ability before reacting negatively by biting her. The incident in your car? Your daughter was very lucky. You also now have had first hand experience with how fast dogs are. Contrary to popular belief, most dogs don’t give a warning growl, they just move like greased lightning and bite. If you can exclude the bite circumstances you now know that dog speed is impressive.

      If I’m reading your info correctly, the interaction test with your daughter showed no aggression — but was anyone watching the dog’s comfort level? Did the dog show any interest or special attention to your daughter or did he seem to prefer you and your wife, perhaps more or less ignored your daughter after he initially sniffed her?

      You all have a valid reason for being afraid of this dog *with your daughter* and very possibly all children. It sounds like he just doesn’t handle kids well. He prefers adults and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that. He was a stray so you don’t know what his life was before he was found. He may have been teased, mistreated or worse by children and so now has no use for them, may be afraid of them and just wants to keep them away. He may have grown up in an all-adult home and just doesn’t know what to do with all the energy children have so it scares him. It doesn’t matter how or why the dog feels this way, the fact that he seems uncomfortable around children and you have a child living in the house is not a good life for him. In my opinion this dog and your daughter are just not a safe combination.

      Now add the fear that’s living inside at least two key people in this mix. Being fearful of a dog is dangerous. Dogs sense when people are afraid which causes instability and makes for a very stressful environment in which nobody – human or dog – feels safe. I think it’s likely your wife will *never* trust this dog again — he hurt her baby. She’s being a good Mom in wanting the dog to go to another home.

      I know your daughter is attached, but remember she’s 8 and kids attach hard and fast to critters in general. Kids fall in love with anything and everything furry. Her dream of having her dog be her best friend, lavishing love and attention on her isn’t happening. It’s got to be heartbreaking to see her sad little face and to know that inside she is hurt every day when she sees the dog prefers you or your wife.

      This is how I believe I’d fix this. It’s rare for me to feel a dog needs a different home but my gut is telling me that he belongs in an adult only home, that’s where he’s going to be happiest in my opinion. Perhaps a house with late-teens kids might be ok but I don’t think I’d go any younger than that.

      Nobody wants to break their child’s heart by taking a dog back but in my opinion keeping *this* dog is too much of a risk to her safety and forces a dog to live an uncomfortable life. You may have spoken to her about how to behave around dogs, but she’s a child, children forget, children want to love up critters. Just having a talk or two about these things is not always enough. Teaching her how to behave around dogs is a life skill that she needs to get a good hold on. The better she gets at this the safer she will be throughout her whole life. You generally have the talk about the birds’n’the’bees once, the talk about how to behave around a dog is not a one time chat it’s an ongoing process so it becomes a part of us.

      I feel some of the reasons your daughter doesn’t want to give this dog back is because she’s afraid he’s going to be lonely and not have anyone to love him. I also think she feels responsible because not following the dog rules got her bit. She’s feeling like it’s her fault that she broke the rules and now the dog is being punished by returning him.

      Although your daughter will hurt over losing this dog, I feel a better alternative for her sake would be to return this dog and find one that attaches to HER right away while you’re still at the shelter. You will probably be amazed at how quickly she’ll forget about dog #1 when dog #2 is lovin’ on her and behaving the way she dreamed dog #1 would be. I’m not saying you have to take dog #1 back and come home with dog #2 the same day. This isn’t something you rush just to not have to see your daughter sad or because she’s begging as kids do. If you rush this you could wind up in the same boat or worse. I think if you explain to daughter that dog #1 dog will live a happier life with adults that she will understand that and want the dog to be happy. Maybe stress to her that it’s NOT HER that the dog wasn’t comfortable, that it might be because some mean kids hurt or teased him and made him uncomfortable around all kids. That in order for him to live a happy life she needs to let him go live in a house where no kids live so that he’s not uncomfortable anymore. I think she’s old enough to understand the logic in this. And maybe this will help … tell her that it’s very special when a dog picks HER! My Riley picked me and it’s one of the best feelings in the world :)

      Being that she’s only 8 a few things I’d like to see you consider before getting dog #2 includes doing some research first so that you don’t unknowingly pick a breed that’s known to not be the best choice for kids, like Yorkies for one. Don’t stick to one website for your research, if you have a breed in mind go to some breed forums where you’ll find bookoodles of information and very helpful people. I like to see families with younger kids have dogs that weigh at least 20 pounds because it’s less likely the dog could be injured in simple things like child play, being stepped on etc. Little dogs actually bite more often than big dogs. Mutts are also known to quite often have better dispositions than purebreds.

      One other thing, when you find a dog that is obviously in love with your daughter put a deposit or a hold on it if you can. Tell the shelter you just want to be really sure so your daughter doesn’t get her heart broken again. Then go visit with some other dogs at another shelter and see if there’s a “click” between any of them and your daughter. At this point I think you’ll just know what to do.

      Good luck and please come back with updates?

  29. Will says:

    I work around a dog that isn’t very friendly to strangers (in fact he bites them first chance he gets) though I have managed to make friends with him for the most part. the only thing that confuses me is he will allow me to approach him, pet him, and do anything I want for the most part with him, but when I get up to leave he bites my ankle. he does this with most people even if he get’s along with them.

  30. Jenny says:

    Thanks for your article. I was wondering what you may think of my situation: I have a mixed dog I adopted at 4 months old, now she’s about to turn three. She is my absolute best friend and stays pretty close to me at all times. She isn’t loud, has never chewed up something she wasn’t supposed to (only toys from her toybox) and learns commands quickly (she sits, stays, heels, shakes, begs (with a paw on my hand for balance), speaks, twirls…) I brush her teeth, kiss her face & sometimes hand feed her, or “treat” feed her because she has a habit of eating fast. She is very docile with me and most people. When I adopted her she was scared of everything, she had a pretty severe case of demodectic mange and was sickly. She’d been in shelters for (as far as I know) over a month… I don’t know before that… she was taken out of a kill shelter in the south. It took a month of living with me (& lots of patience and treats) before I heard her make any noise (a play bark at her toy), before she seemed to relax and become less fearful. She is beautiful and sweet and I am very close to her. She was highly socialized with people and dogs the first two years of her life, but never children, except my niece, who was ten when I adopted her. One and a half years ago she was bit by another dog. The other dog was growling at her, she was backing up, tail down, ears down… not being a threat, and the dog lunged and bit her ear. It wasn’t bad, but did puncture the skin. The owner of the other dog was a friend of mine and acted really cavalier about the whole thing, which I am still angry about. My dog didn’t get hurt badly, but she was very scared and hasn’t quite acted the same since when meeting new dogs. Around that time I moved way out into the country and there wasn’t as many oppurtunities for my dog to socialize. Prior to that she was always playful with other dogs (spent time in the dog park, etc.) Now she seems to walk into every situation with her ruff up/defensively. most of the time she’s awesome, but never seems as relaxed as she was. Some times, especially if the other dog shows any signs of aggression or warning, she’ll jump on it. She seems to have a lot of bite inhibition, as there has never been a bite, but those times she was very loud and scary sounding. Thats ONE of my concerns. The SECOND deep concern I have is regarding kids. They definitely make her uncomfortable and nervous. She’s seen very few of them in her life. When she was a puppy she was around a newborn a couple times and we took a long road trip and she met a toddler and was curious, nervous, but “fine.” (I put fine in quotes, because I guess being nervous isn’t actually being “fine.” By nervous I mean she backs away and flinches if little kids (under 8 or so) reach for her. If they’re ignoring her I’ve seen her walk up and sniff it and relax.) After that she didn’t see one for a while and the few we saw while walking she would back away from. i’ve only seen her act like this with younger kids, she is fine with 8 or so year olds and up. My niece, who was ten/eleven when I got her is great with the dog and babysits the dog sometimes. The dog adores her, more than anybody, and plays with her and some of her friends… none younger than about 8 though. She’s amazingly docile and wiggly and tail wagging relaxed seeming, pretty much when she’s the center of attention with those kids she’s the one of the happiest i ever see her… the kids have dressed her up, cuddled her in thier blanket forts, plays ball, runs around the woods with them… (they’re sneaking her food/treats constantly though… hmmm) anyway, last year my friend came to a bar-b-q with her 4 year old and i had to leash my dog because she kept barking at her and snapped the air. :-( yesterday, the same friend stopped by the house with her same little girl (the dog hadn’t seen her since the bar-b-q) and the dog snapped the air. I don’t understand it. The child didn’t appear to do anything, didn’t touch her… but, may, after reading this article, I realize have been making direct eye contact. A couple of weeks prior to this my niece’s sister (complicated family) brought her two small children to my gram’s. One was a five year old boy. He is a very quiet and smart little guy. His mom is very comfortable and smart about animals and has taught him how to approach dogs. My dog didn’t display any nervousness when meeting him at all and he pet her and all was fine. After she bit the air, yesterday, next to my friend’s girl, I was talking about it with someone and they reminded me that my dog wasn’t comfortable with that child last year at the bar-b-q, something i’d actually forgotten until then. Between those two incidents she’d had only one other incident… which was one day when my boyfriend and i were argueing i raised my voice and took a step towards him, when i did that she started barking at him and nipping. it startled both of us. many times if we argue she’ll bark. anyway…

    ANYWAY, the things my dog is doing are segues into bites so i am quite concerned and want to stop this behavior before it becomes anything worse. it’s bad enough as it is. But, i am also puzzled…she is such a docile dog on so many levels… & i love her with all my heart.

    Thanks for your help.


    • Mom says:

      Hi Jenny,

      Thank you so much for your patience. I know you’ve been waiting for a reply and I do apologize for the delay.

      I’d first like to give you a quick tip on your dog’s fast eating. Here is a link to what’s called a “slow down” or “slow feeding” bowl that you may wish to look into.

      I’m so sorry your dog was the victim of another dog’s bad behavior and I’m glad she wasn’t seriously injured. An encounter like that can definitely cause your dog to be fearful of all other dogs. To be blunt, it really sucks that your so-called “friend” reacted the way he or she did. I totally understand your anger and I feel you are justified in feeling the way you do. It’s shameful the way so many people don’t take responsibility for their dog or their dog’s actions. It sounds like your friend blew it off as no big deal which unfortunately, is the attitude of too many people. I get real sick of hearing things like “that’s what dogs do” because it doesn’t have to be that way. If the situation were reversed and your friend had to deal with the resulting issues that you are, they might look at it differently. I totally understand where you’re coming from and in my mind, your feelings are absolutely justified. We’ve been charged by one too many loose dogs and so when he sees another dog Riley immediately goes into his “I’ll get you before you get me!” mode. For me this is heartbreaking because he’s missing out on the joy of being a dog with other dogs! It’s also up to me to keep him under control during these times which isn’t always easy. I hated to do it but I was forced to just keep him away from other dogs because I don’t have someone available to work with to attempt to re-socialize him with other well-behaved dogs that would enrich his life if he could just interact with them safely. When I remember how things used to be when he played so well with other dogs it tears me up. We used to spend hours at the dog park every week and now we can’t even go there.

      Neither of my dogs have experience with babies and very limited experience with small children. Riley is great with my grandkids and always has been but I would never trust him with a child younger than about eight nor a child no matter what age that isn’t significantly taller than eye level with him. Kids move fast, they’re unpredictable and do unexpected things. They run, jump, screech and holler and my dogs don’t know what to do with all this activity. Nissa will just back away, but Riley is a whole ‘nudder story. We walk past a playground and he’d just love to get in there and chase the ball with the kids, but even if schools would allow it I could not.

      There is such a thing as desensitization and counter-conditioning. The problem with this is that you may be putting children at risk in attempting it so do not try it alone. You might want to seek out a trainer who’s knowledgeable and skilled in this that can help you with it and might know how to get around not putting children at risk — you sure don’t want to make bait out of a kid! I would also suggest that the trainer you choose also be very strong in understanding dog behavior because there is a difference between the two. Since you know your dog isn’t comfortable around some kids, the safest thing to do is to keep her away from them. I’ve had young kids want to interact with my dogs and I politely tell them that I’m sorry but they have to wait until they’re bigger. Right or wrong, I’m just not willing to take the chance.

      I never allow anyone, child or adult, to reach for my dogs. That’s just off limits, period. My dogs go to meet people when I say it’s ok, people do not move toward my dogs to meet them, I stop them dead in their tracks for their own safety. You have already seen the huge difference in your dog’s behavior when the kids ignore your dog and she’s able to meet them on her terms meaning she goes to the kids when she feels ready. Follow your dog’s lead! She’s telling you that she’s ok when it’s done her way but it’s not ok the other way around! This is one area that I feel a dog needs to have control on how they need to meet or not meet someone. She’s comfortable with your niece so you may want to limit her interaction with kids to your niece. The child from the BBQ is one that your dog is not comfortable around just like there are people you’re not comfortable around — we all run into those people. Under these circumstances I would handle this by respecting your dog’s instincts and play it safe by removing the dog from having any contact with this child. In order to show your dog that you will protect her from things that make her uncomfortable you can step between your dog and the child and then in a confident voice tell the little girl something like “I’m sorry, I know you would like to play with my dog but she sometimes just doesn’t want to play. Maybe she’ll want to play another day.” You haven’t hurt the little girl’s feelings and you’ve shown your dog that you will handle a situation she finds difficult sometimes. Then take your dog’s leash and just calmly and uneventfully walk away from the area until you get to the point where your dog is comfortable again. Your dog may never be comfortable with all children, so let her pick her favorites and stick with that. The more positive comfortable experiences she has the more likely she will become better at dealing with more people.

      My take on the argument between you and your boyfriend is that your dog felt your boyfriend was a threat to you at that moment, that maybe you were moving forward to protect yourself and so she jumped into protect-mode and she took action to try to move him away from you. When my husband and I argue our dogs just leave the room. They go as far away from the activity as they can get. Dogs don’t like to be around the kind of energy that human arguments produce, my guess is that at least in part it’s because they don’t understand it. They don’t know what to do with it and so it can make them nervous. Think about this, you might be uncomfortable in a room where two people begin arguing. Unless you feel a need to attempt to break it up — you’re likely to just leave. Your dog may have been attempting to break it up. She can’t talk, she can’t put one hand on your chest and the other on your boyfriend’s and say “Hey, let’s cool things down, ok?” So, she makes her point by barking. Arguments are going to happen, my suggestion is that when one starts up — take your dog into another room where you can close the door, or the two of you go into another room where you can close the door to keep her out or lock her in her crate away from the ruckus. The idea is to remove either the dog or yourselves from all being in the same room. She’ll feel more like she’s in a safe zone and you and boyfriend can continue your argument without the dog being present.

      I see things this way, you have a great dog who just happens to occasionally have some issues which is exactly what we have at our house. Love your dog, accept your dog for everything that she is and that she isn’t. If you can get into some training or work with a good behaviorist to try to get her past these things all the better. If you can’t, then do whatever it takes to keep the nervous issues to a minimum to keep her comfortable and take additional safety precautions when you see that she’s getting uncomfortable which means get her to a safe zone wherever that is for her. Don’t force the situation, take control of it.

      I would also suggest that you read my How to Meet a Dog and practice it until it becomes a consistent habit. We were out on our walk this morning and had a chance to do this again. It went beautifully and my dogs had the opportunity to meet and socialize with a new person. When were out on our walks and someone makes a nice comment as we pass, I stop and thank them and then ask them if they’d like to meet the furkids. If they say yes (they almost always do) we follow the steps in my article and it’s a great experience for all of us. I love it!

      I hope this helps!

  31. Will says:

    Hi again, I can’t find your comment to reply to so i’ll just do this. Depending on the time and who is at the farm he will be loose but later in the day we do tie him up. the dog is boarder collie (which explains why he goes for the ankle) the people he is around are just employees, seeing as he lives on the farm. His owners have owned this breed of dog in the past and do treat him kindly, and he get’s very excited when he sees them. The dog looks to be very healthy, though I cannot tell you his age (my guess is between 1-5 years). as for the work environment it all depends on the time of day, when animals are in the barn it’s busy and noisy, when there are no animals its calm. As I said he has gotten use to me by now and he now get’s excited to see me and is willing to allow me to pet him. even at the door that he goes after me from I can approach him, pet him, and play with him but if I try to leave he goes for my ankle, at any other door or area he will allow me to pass no problem. when he sees new people it’s not a nip, but his whole attitude changes, he is tied up if there is a new person but he tries his best to lounge at them, he is always growling and barking when he does this and in the few moment of calm he will start to show his teeth, I have no doubt that if he was off the tie he would bite them. A co worker told me a story about him going after a new employee (like he always does) but this employee kicked him. due to the kick the dog did bit the man hard enough that he had to go to the hospitable and required stitches (not sure how many) I don’t believe that kick set anything up because he had been doing the same thing long before the kick. when I first came to this farm I was told to give him time and give him a treat and he’ll be kinder to me faster. I am told that I was one of the quickest to get along with this dog. In the end my real question is why he will not allow me to leave him at one door but will allow me to leave him at any other.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Will,

      Thanks so much for your patience. You already know why this dog goes for the ankle, he’s a border collie which is a member of the herding category so I won’t go there. When sheep don’t go the way the dog says they should go they get nipped in the ankles or the butt to move them in the right direction. But their job is not just to herd the sheep, it’s also to guard them.

      It sounds like there are a lot of comings and goings and a fairly regular pattern of new employees which would mean the dog is often seeing people he doesn’t know.

      I think in order to really narrow this down, you’d need to keep a very detailed journal with notes specific to what was going on immediately before the dog reacted. Your notes would need to include things like time of day, was the work environment busy or quiet, what door was the dog at, was he tied up and on and on. There are a lot of variables that you’d need to see if there’s any kind of pattern you can put together after awhile.

      You somehow managed to befriend him and get him to trust you at least to some degree because he allows you contact that he doesn’t allow everyone else who works there.

      One of the things that I feel strongly is a contributing factor to him lunging at people is that he’s tied up. Check out my Tethered Dogs Can Be Deadly Dogs for more on this. I’m not telling you to tell the owners to let this dog run around unsupervised especially since it sounds like he’s got some reactivity issues going on. Many dogs that react the way this one does under the circumstances you described. But a better solution would be to put him in a nearby fenced area, build a kennel or somehow confine him so he’s not tied up.

      It sounds like for some reason the doors are a key factor in this. I do wonder what’s going on the other side of the doors when he’s reactive and what’s going on when he’s not? If the sheep are inside when he’s reactive then I’d say he’s likely in guard dog mode. If it’s when there’s a lot of activity he may be stressed trying to do his job and keep track of everyone and every thing that’s going on.

      From what you are telling me there’s a lot of people who try to approach this dog when it needs to be the other way around. People should not approach dogs, dogs should approach people to meet them properly which should always be supervised by the dog’s owner. Any other way can be dangerous. Please read How to Meet a Dog article. If there are people who are attempting to approach him when he’s in reactive mode someone needs to check if they have the word “Idiot” stamped on their foreheads. Unfortunately it sounds like rather than working with the dog to get him be more accepting of the people and goings-on there, the owners just tie him up which is similar to tormenting him. It builds anxiety which without a healthy outlet, just increases the dog’s reactivity level.

      Let’s go back the the herding instinct which is very strong in border collies. My original article talks about people, bikes, joggers moving past a herding breed dog – the dog is going to want to herd them, get them going in the right direction which means he’s going to go for their ankles and butts.

      If I were you, I’d pay very close attention “what am I doing, what’s going on around me” when the dog allows you to leave him without incident and then “what am I doing, what’s going on around me” when he gets nippy when I try to leave. Then there’s the “how” are you leaving him? Are you getting up, turning your back to walk away when he nails you? He thinks you’re going the wrong way and he wants to get you going the right way or to stay put is what I’m thinking. He seems to think of you as part of his herd and his job is to keep his herd with him.

      Maybe try this .. have some really yummy treats in your pocket next time you are going to spend a little time with him in a location where he normally nips at you. When you get up to leave, get him to sit and treat him for sitting. Instead of you turning and walking away, get him to sit, face him and take a step backward making him hold his sit position. Treat him for the sit. Continue taking steps back one at a time treating him for every time he remains sitting. Do not toss the treats or you’ll encourage lunging. Roll them to him. This isn’t going to be an overnight fix but I think you will have success if you quit walking away like any normal human being would and offering your ankles and butt to him when you turn and walk away. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  32. Heidi says:

    This is GREAT! I hope you don’t mind but I have shared it all over Facebook and copied it for my local police station. Putting a dog down when it bites is an old fashioned, lazy way out. When I fostered a English Setter named Sebastian he fought with my Irish Setter Alex constantly, and Setters are not mean dogs. I cannot tell you how many times I got bit trying to break it up (I know bad idea). He did not mean to bite me, I got in the way and when dogs are in the red zone fighting, they do not SEE the human, one they both realized I was there in the middle of it, they stopped because they did not want to hurt me (I think). After a while with some behavior modification and lots of training (He was used as a stud for a puppy mill for 2.5 yrs and never learned how to live in a house) he is a perfect angel now. We have no idea what rescue dogs have been through, they are typically scared and abused. Sabby was attacked daily by stray dogs people dropped off in the rural area the puppy mill was in and he was chained up so he could not protect himself, poor guy has the scars to prove it.

    I kept Sebastian and adopted him, My first Foster failure, (besides the fact that I LOVE him) I did this because I worried, if he got scared again and fought with another dog, maybe bit a person while fighting, some moron would put him down for it and my heart could not take that. He is a wonderful dog, he just has a few fear issues that he couldn’t help and he needed someone who understood him and took the time to help him. All they need is a chance and a bit of patience to prove what wonderful dogs they can be. :o)

    • Mom says:

      Hi Heidi,

      It’s always nice to know when someone finds our website useful and we love it that you shared our site with others, thank you! A big hug to you for being a good Mom to Sebastian!

  33. Nicole says:

    What a great article!! Just wanted to share a story from a few years back, in case it is helpful to someone who comes across a similar situation. We had a husky/malamute that was abandoned in a co-worker’s neighborhood, and we took him and had him for several months, maybe even a year, when he bit my roommate who actually was his “person”. It happened when she got too close to his face, something he generally tolerated, but this time he reacted quickly and bit her in the face, resulting in scarring and nerve damage, and some initial fear, and many saying to put this dog down. Of course we didn’t want to do that and had never considered euthanization for anything other than grave and terminal illness. After some research, it appeared that a medication our dog had recently begun, Proin, I believe it was, could cause increases in fight or flight reflexes, among other things. We stopped the medication (changed to a different method for the veterinary issue he had), and he never bit again. Though he was 9 when we got him, he was with us to the ripe old age of 15, many years after that one bite, and is still a favorite memory of all including my now five-year old son, who, despite close watching, of course fell on the dog at least once or twice while toddling around, with no reaction from the dog (i.e., no bites, thank goodness).

    Again, what a great article. Just wanted to add this so people remember, as you wisely advised them, to visit their vet and/or do a little research of their own on any new medications that may cause behavior issues.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Nicole,

      What a GREAT story! I love this! Thank you soooo much for sharing it with us and for helping to educate others about this! Personal experiences are great teaching aids!

  34. Jamie Lim says:

    Hi, my family just adopted a dog from a distant relative. She’s a shih tzu and is a year old. She loves everyone else in my family and is very sweet and loves to just lounge. But she snaps at me a lot more often than anyone else in my house, if ever. I admit, sometimes I can be a bit of a bother too her, sometimes getting too close to her face, but I’d say 75% of the time, i feel likeshe snaps just because she can. I am her primary care giver, feeding her in the morning and night and walking her and spending the majority of the day with her. She’ll snap if I try to wipe her after a walk and I guess I do it wrong (?) because most of the time there is no issue and then other times she tries to bite me. I feel like because she wasn’t really noticed much in her old home she doesn’t like all the interaction, but we’re trying to train her to listen to commands, eat at the right times, etc because of the lack of structure in her old home, so it is inevitable. I would just really appreciate some help in finding out why she does this or how I can get her to like me a bit more I guess. It stresses me out because my entire extended family has lovely shih tzu and shitzu mixes and not once has anything like this ever happened. One of my aunt’s dogs is even my dog’s brother and he’s the sweetest. Not that she isn’t sweet or anything, she’s really loving, but it’s like she loses it for a little bit sometimes. Please help! I’m sixteen by the way.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jamie,

      Normally, the first thing I would suggest in situations like yours is a really complete vet exam. She may have a health issue or a sensitivity that’s painful to her when you dry her off after a walk. I’d suggest that you have a complete thyroid panel done. Although not real likely but not impossible, she may have hypothyroidism which can contribute or even be the cause of her issues. If your vet says it’s not necessary, your parent(s) can insist on it or you all can find a new vet who’s more open to their client’s being pro-care rather than just believing every word our vets say. Our vets should always take our concerns seriously. There are thousands of dogs walking around with undiagnosed health issues and many of them are because our vets just assume they can’t possibly have this or that ailment even though their clients feel something just isn’t quite right. I suspected it in Riley but my vet didn’t and we were both flabbergasted to learn both our dogs have hypothyroidism. Nissa didn’t display any symptoms at all and we only tested her because I wanted to know for sure about both dogs.

      In your case however, I doubt that there’s a health issue at the core of her behavior so let’s get down to what sounds like is the real problems in this relationship. You’ve admitted you may be annoying the dog and it sounds like you aren’t just maybe annoying her — you are annoying her. You’ve admitted that you’re getting in her face. Your answer to both of these is to knock it off. She’s reacting to your behavior. If you want the dog to stop her reactive behavior you need to stop yours first. I’m not trying to insult you or intentionally hurt your feeling but I am going to be honest because I don’t want your dog to seriously bite you. She’s the one that will pay the price for that because there’s a good chance your folks may do away with the dog in some fashion. Parents really don’t like it when a dog bites their child. There’s still too much “Once a biter always a biter — we can’t trust this dog, it’s gotta go.” going on in this world.

      I’m going to ask you right now to remember that you asked me for help and to understand that in order to do that, I have to be honest with you even if it hurts you. The visual I’m getting from your description is that you’re making a game of this and getting a kick out of trying to get a rise out of her. You already know your actions annoy the dog yet you continue them. Maybe you need to ask yourself why you are you are giving her reasons to bite you? That’s what I see from what you’re telling me. You’re 16, so why are you acting like a 6 year old around your dog when you’re old enough to know better? Do you have a brother or sister or maybe some kid at school who insists on bugging you? Maybe poking at you, playing jokes or tricks on you, taunting you, getting in your space? Don’t you just want to tell them to grow up? Sounds to me like your dog wishes you’d grow up. Not only are you annoying her, you’re teaching her that she might get treated the same way by other kids so she may become fearful of other kids and want nothing to do with them or she could become negatively reactive to other kids. Dogs usually love kids. Dogs that don’t like kids have usually been mistreated by kids in some way. Intentionally annoying a dog is a form of mistreatment.

      She’s conditioned to not getting much attention. She may be overwhelmed with attention and she doesn’t know what to do with it or maybe you have a dog like our Nissa who isn’t interested in receiving attention unless it’s on her terms. I’m not buying either one of these as the answer. Your dog seems to have adjusted to everyone else just fine since coming to live with you. So your thoughts on why adjusting to the attention level with you is different than your other family member and my thoughts that she may be like our Nissa are probably total bunk.

      Let’s get real here. Why are you blaming the dog? Your dog isn’t stressing you out. You’re causing your own stress by behaving in ways that irritate your dog which make her not like you and certainly not trust you. Then you get upset because she doesn’t like you. I wouldn’t like you either under the circumstances you explained.

      I give you credit for admitting that you’re doing what you’re doing and I like that you’re taking some responsibility for your actions but you’re stopping short of not taking full responsibility. Now you need to move on to the next step and that is to fix what you messed up.

      First of all, immediately stop all the annoying little kid behavior with the dog.

      Next, do your job of feeding, watering or whatever your delegated responsibilities are for her. If she needs to be dried off after a walk, dry her off but stay out of her face and if you’re drying her off by rubbing back and forth — stop that. Dry her off gently from front to back. Some dogs are sensitive to their fur being rubbed the wrong way and back to front is the wrong way. If you’re covering her face or touching it when you dry her off she may not like that either. Her face will dry on it’s own if need be or if it’s necessary another family member can dry her face. If you’re rubbing her ears you may be causing her pain especially if she’s got an ear infection which the visit to the vet should reveal.

      Finally, let the dog come to you when she wants attention from you. She’s learned that your role has been to bug her so to change that, she has to learn to trust you which may take quite some time. She may already be to the point that she just really would prefer not to interact with you like she does with other family members. She has to learn that you’re not going to get in her face anymore or annoy her in other ways. So, if she does come to you, let her just sit by you. Don’t try to touch her. If she wants more than just sitting by you she’ll let you know but she may be very content just sitting next to you. If she asks for more (and you’ll know it if she is so don’t push it) at that point, pet her gently but stay away from petting her face. Talk to her quietly. If she starts to move away, let her go, don’t force her to stay with you. Her trust in you is broken. Trying to gain her trust has to be on her terms so you may have to be very patient. She’s young and she may come around, but if she doesn’t you will just have to accept the fact that you and this dog are never going to be BFF’s and you will have a very hard lesson to learn because loosing the trust of a dog can really hurt the heart.

      I’m sorry for being blunt but 99% of the time I’m going to be on the dog’s side because too many people aren’t. I hope I’ve been able to help you and that you will come back and let us know how it goes.

      • Jamie says:

        Hi, not offended by your comments because that is how you interpreted my explanation; however, your comments were quite harsh in not completely understanding the situation. But that was due to my vagueness so again no hard feelings. By the annoying her, I meant doing necessary actions and her ” not having it. ” for example, having to grab a toy when we need her off the couch, getting her to put her leash on, and having her go upstairs when it’s time for bed. I would never intentionally try to “get a rise” out of a dog who I knew was capable of biting me. As her primary care giver I guess you would say, I’m just doing what I have to and giving her space when she needs it, but I can’t help the things I have to do. She came from a house with little kids, and is generally a very playful dog, just can be stubborn and resorts to biting. Hopefully this will give you a better insight. Thanks.

  35. Bob Smith says:

    I’d like to remain anonymous, so I used a generic name.
    A year ago we adopted a dog from a shelter (they said he was a terrier mix about 2 years old). He never barked at first, but now he barks when people he doesn’t know or other dogs are near our front door. He also barks at other dogs and occasionally people on walks. He’s bitten a few people, but most of the time we found a reason; he was going for a ball and they were in his way, a scooter had just sped by, they were messing around with his mouth. We try not to let more than two people pet him at once, except when they are people he interacts with on a daily basis. However, last night, the young girl who he bit for messing around with his mouth (after that incident she had still patted him without bites on several occasions) saw him at the park and came to pat him, and he bit her. I was not there (my grandfather was) and I’m not completely sure what happened. There have been a couple times before that we couldn’t find out why he attacked, such as when a neighbor watering his lawn waved at us while I was walking Leo in the morning. The leash was too short for him to reach the neighbor, but he did lunge at him (I’m pretty sure the neighbor has a dog though). I’m not sure how to stop this biting, and I’d be happy to hear any advice you have.

    • Mom says:

      Hi “Bob,”

      It’s fine that you want to be anonymous, we don’t mind at all. We’re just happy you stopped by and visited with us.

      I would say that what happened with the barking at home is that your dog was originally new to his home, family and territory when you got him. After he settled in and realized “I’m home!” he went to work doing his job of alerting you to people in his territory, alerting you to possible danger. He’s being a dog!

      As for the young girl he bit … Why are you allowing people to get in your dog’s face? Why are you letting people mess with your dog’s mouth? There is absolutely no reason I can think of that anyone aside from you or your vet needs to be in your dog’s mouth. You only need to be in there if you suspect a problem, the vet only needs to be in there for his exam. NOBODY else needs to be in your dogs mouth. Would YOU want someone in your mouth aside from your dentist? This person was in your dog’s “personal space” and he didn’t like it. People need to learn to respect the fact that a dog has personal space around him just like people do. When uninvited guests invade your personal space don’t you move away or ask the person to move away or take some kind of action to gain your comfort zone back? That’s what your dog was doing, he was uncomfortable with this girl in his face so he made her remove herself from it. I would suggest you read On Talking Terms with Dogs by Turid Rugaas.

      Dogs are individuals, some tolerate personal space issues better than others, heck some dogs tolerate all things and all people better than others. We all need to learn our own dog’s quirks, what makes them uncomfortable and act accordingly and it’s very important to also respect each individual dog’s needs and quirks. For example, I can stare down (evil-eye) Riley and he’s fine with that – he looks at me with so much love when I do this that I get teary-eyed! Should someone else try to do the same thing he’s going to take it as a confrontation, a threat and he’s going to react differently and likely bite or attempt to bite that person. Remember, it’s not “a dog is a dog is a dog” it’s “a dog is an individual dog” and should be cared for and respected as an individual.

      I personally would not let more than one person pet your dog at one time and only after they have followed the meet & greet rules. It’s your dog, you set the rules. If they are not followed no meet & greet happens. You must stick with this, I don’t care who they are or how many times they’ve met your dog. Treat each meeting as a brand new one so your dog doesn’t get confused. Your dog needs to know there are rules for meeting him and so does everyone you encounter that wants to meet him. If you stray from this even once you will confuse him. You have a dog that reacts like our Riley when it comes to people approaching him/us. Don’t let this happen, follow the meet & greet rules because they deal with how a dog understands meeting and greeting which is quite different from how people think it’s supposed to happen. This is like Doggie Protocol 101 and you happen to have a dog that needs to follow this without fail. Accept this quickly and learn to deal with it now.

      You may not like t his but it sounds to me like you need to be more of a responsible dog-parent to your dog. You’re letting way to much go on without you stepping in to stop it. You need to take control and make solid rules over what other people do with him. He’s not a toy, he’s not something to poke and prod and he looks to you to protect him from people who want to mess inappropriately with him. Letting someone mess in his mouth and get in his face is absolutely inappropriate. Letting children get away with acting inappropriately with him will only make him hate children and become more “bitey” to protect himself. I also feel that you need to get consistent with everything you do with your dog. Your entire family must participate and do things the same way no matter who it is or what is being done.

      It would also be a good idea to share the the proper meet & greet rules with this young girl’s parents. They need to teach her and any other children the have the proper way to meet a dog. She apparently wasn’t hurt seriously by your dog but she may not be so lucky next time.

  36. Shannon says:

    I grew up with “biters” and was raised to respect the space of dogs and was trained to lock up the dogs in crates or a room whenever guests came over. we introduced long term guests and other dogs very slowly and carefully to our dogs. My husband and i now have two dogs, a lab/pit mix named Link and a beagle/pit(?) mix named Tucker. Tucker was left on the doorstep of an acquaintance in very poor condition when he was only a few months old. We took him in when he was about 6 months and have had him for 2 1/2 years. Tucker is fear aggressive and has nipped at the hands and backsides of three or four of our friends and family members. Now, we are very cautious about when people come into our home. However, we went to visit our families and had left the dogs with my in-laws for a night while my husband and I stayed with my sister. We warned his parents that Tucker will bite someone if they come in the house. They insisted that they didn’t believe that he would do that and that they didn’t plan on having anyone over anyway. Regardless, my sister-in-law invited a friend over who just walked into the house. My sister in law held Link and tucker bit the girl who went to the doctor and had a report filed about our dog. My husband and I are really upset about the situation and it has caused a falling out between my us and our in-laws. They believe they did nothing wrong and that it is all the fault of the dog–even though 24 hours earlier they loved our dogs. They say that we can’t keep dogs that are aggressive and will bite. I feel that Tucker was in a really bad situation– he was outside of his home for over a week, he was exhausted from the travel and excitement, and he was separated from his pack. I am sure that if we were there, it wouldn’t have happened. We know to grab the dogs and either ease them into a situation or remove them from a dangerous situation. I am furious that my in-laws did not heed our warnings and now we have to deal with Animal Control. Our dogs are like our children, is it wrong to let this situation cause a divide in our family? Right now, we are in the mindset that we will never leave our dogs with my husband’s parents again. It’s proving easier to train our dogs than our family members. If we need to, we will leave them with my mother who is used to taking care of dogs– including biters.

    Although i’m upset at the situation, i am happy with my dogs. I live in a city and my husband is on duty every 3-4 nights, so I am home alone a lot. I like that I have dogs at would protect me if there were a dangerous intruder. When we have friends over, we bring the dogs to the guest and make sure they know that the person is “safe”. If a worker someone is in our house for a short time, we crate the dogs. Is this sufficient precaution to take to avoid another incident? Should we be concerned that our dogs will be taken away and euthanized?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Shannon,

      I like your safe approach to crating your dogs when there are visitors in your home. You’re removing any chance of anyone being bitten as long as no one is allowed to put their fingers in the crate that is. I always also double check to make sure the crate door is closed properly.

      Although you live with these dogs, you know their personalities and quirks and you warned your in-laws that Tucker may bite — your in-laws chose to not believe or respect what you had to say about your dog. In my eyes this was wrong. Our rule and belief is that we never trust *any* dog 100% — ever. Your in-laws willingly took on the responsibility of temporarily caring for the dogs in their home. I cannot find them blameless in this and it doesn’t matter whether they were expecting guests or not. Someone who has permission to just walk into a house seems obviously someone well known to the family which also means this probably isn’t the first time people have just walked into their house. It sounds like unexpected guests are not uncommon at their house so they should always be expecting unexpected guests.

      I cannot comment on Tucker biting the friend because I don’t know specifically what led up to it and that’s very important. If the doctor filed the report he was simply doing his job in following the law. I agree there are some elements involved that probably contributed to the bite which you already mentioned. In short Tucker was outside his element and not totally comfortable but I don’t think this is the entire cause.

      I don’t believe that anyone else has the right to tell me what dogs I can or cannot keep. They are my dogs and if I choose to keep “a biter” that’s my decision. But this gets a little tricky all around.

      Leaving your dogs with someone else to care for them does not absolve any dog owner of responsibility — the dogs are yours not your in-laws. Not only is it not safe to trust any dog 100% it’s not safe to trust *anyone* you hand them over to be cared for 100%. I feel the elevated bite risk started when you and hubby took a known biter to your in-laws to visit. The risk level increased when you left your dogs in their care and jumped again when you warned them and they didn’t respect your warning. I think you will always find it’s easier to train dogs than it is to train people about dogs.

      Anyone who has a dog that’s a known biter needs to be pro-active with additional safety layers. This is how we would have handled your situation. If we were to take our dogs visiting, we would take the dogs to visit and then we would take the dogs with us whether it is home or to our next destination. Although Riley was protecting me when he bit and likely would not bite unless he was protecting me or a family member, I’m not willing to take the chance with him. We simply do not leave our dogs in the care of others. I don’t care who they are or what their relationship has been with our dogs – these are my dogs and my responsibility. If I’m not there and something does happen, I have absolutely no way to know 110% what happened and no matter what did happen. In the eyes of the law I’m the one responsible for my dog having bitten someone and I have no way to defend me or my dogs because I wasn’t there to witness it. My dogs and I are the ones who have to live with whatever consequences are handed down by the law and the temporary caretaker would likely walk away with no repercussions. I also believe that someone who might think they’re in trouble for being the one caring for a dog when it bit *might* not be 100% truthful in relating what happened. Let’s face it when a dog bites someone usually feels responsible.

      Crating your dogs when contractors, repair or other unfamiliar people come to the house is what we do. Weather permitting another option is to put the dogs in your fenced yard. It was a flooring contractor that Riley was protecting me from when he bit so I’m not about to open the door to that happening again. GSD’s are often mistrustful of strangers; but Riley is over the top protective of me which aside from his also over-the-top house-guarding is the only things I don’t appreciate about my boy. I really wish he’d learn to relax before he gives himself a heart attack one day!

      Bringing the dogs to meet your visitors rather than the visitors going to them is proper in the dog world.

      Are these two safety measures enough to avoid another incident? My opinion is that you have a good start but not 100% prevention but there is no such thing as 100% prevention. Having a biter means you must always be on your toes watching for anything that can trigger a bite. I would suggest you read my original article again because they are common everyday human activities and occurrences that you likely will deal with at one time or another which can trigger a bite.

      As far as being concerned about having your dogs seized and euthanized, I can’t answer that question. You should find out the laws in your city because that’s what will prevail for incidents in your city. I would do that immediately because I’d want to know what I was up against. It sounds like the bite may have occurred outside your city. I know I myself would not have peace of mind until I found out what the laws are in the city/area that the bite occurred as well. If the dog doesn’t live in the jurisdiction the bite occurred I don’t know if there’s anything the visiting jurisdiction can do. They may be satisfied banning the dog from ever being in their jurisdiction again. The severity of the bite might also come into play. For example, there’s a big difference between a bite on a leg and for example a child’s eye being destroyed.

      Hope we’ve been of some help. Good luck and stop back and let us know how it goes?

  37. Connie says:

    I have had sheps for a number of years and also foster for a GSD rescue
    (and an all breed rescue).

    A number of years ago I pulled a male shep with an unknown history. He
    was fine most of the time, but after about 2 mos with us he began acting

    One night he was lying on the floor next to my husband (who was petting
    him from the sofa). He watched him walk into the kitchen to get a drink
    of water. When he started to come back into the family room he lunged at
    him and was very aggressive. It scared us both. Over the next few weeks
    he bit 3 people. One was an estimator who was permitted into the home.
    He was told to ignore him. Butch smelled the man, and when he backed
    away we proceeded into the kitchen (through our family room). At this
    point the man was following behind me. As he moved into the kitchen
    (back to Butch), Butch came up and bit him in the back of the thigh. He
    punctured skin through his jeans. He also bit our builder in the stomach
    as he exited our kitchen to look at something outside. The builder had
    been walking through the house with me for some time before this
    happened. Then, he was beig introduced to a young woman interested in
    adopting him. A co-worker of hers came out, (behind him). As she moved
    past him (totally) he attacked her from behind. Often he tried to grab a
    hand during normal stride. The vet sad their was something mentlally
    wrong with him. He even tried to bite a kennel tech at the shelter who
    walked by and she was just out of strike range from an 8 ft lead.

    Now, two weeks ago were adopted out another shelter dog (White GSD
    male). All the while he was with us he was a gentle giant (108 lbs). His
    family turned him in saying he was too big and had started to get
    nervous around children. I saw the opposite with him at the dog park and
    in our neighborhood. He was a great dog. His GSD savvy (German
    immigrant) owners just informed me he puntured skin on the vet tech’s
    arm during a visit..having just licked her in the face. He also bit the
    vet. The tech was on her knees petting him. He bit as she was getting
    up. Same with the vet.

    This behavior is eerily similar to the dog I had several years ago that
    was actually euthanized as a result of his unpredictable biting.

    Any thoughts.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Connie,

      The very first thing I would do for this dog is to get a complete vet check including a blood draw for testing his thyroid, he may very well have hypothyroidism. I suggest you do some heavy duty research on thyroid aggression, fear biting and resource guarding. It may be one of these, all of these or none of these that he’s suffering from but in my opinion he’s suffering from something that’s triggering his bite behavior. Here is a link to Dr. Dodd’s book The Canine Thyroid Epidemic to help get you started. There is something absolutely not right about this dog and it may not be limited to just one thing. He needs serious help, much more help than I can give on a blog. I would also be contacting a really good dog behaviorist and it also sounds like he might benefit from NILIF.

      Since you pulled the dog, you probably don’t have his history which could be an extremely important missing ingredient that unfortunately, you have no way of recovering. At this point you can only go forward from the very first bite. In order to help you figure out his trigger(s) I suggest that you get a notebook and starting with that very first bite, think back and make notes of exactly what was transpiring up to the moment the dog bit. Do this for every bite and make the notes as explicit as you possibly can *including” what the human that was bitten was doing. You may find a pattern this way that could be quite helpful.

      You’re probably not going to like what I have to say but from what you’ve told me it needs saying. Since you know this dog has a (significant and growing!) bite history why are you allowing him to be in the company of all these contractors etc? Why is he not crated or safely out in a fenced yard (where they do not have access) when these people are there? There is no reason I can think of that more than one person should have been bitten by this dog. By not protecting both the people he’s bitten and the dog you’re not only allowing the bite behavior to continue, you’re inviting it. When Riley bit our flooring guy it was because he thought this guy was going to hurt me so he jumped to protection mode. From that moment on when we have unfamiliar people in our home Riley is crated or he’s standing on the other side of a very sturdy gate that’s actually screwed into our door jam and requires a bit of human skill to open. No baby gates here!

      I do not understand putting a known biter up for adoption. Now there may a lot of your story that’s missing but I can only go on what you’ve told me and under the circumstances you’ve described I would not allow this dog to be around others. If it were a foster dog it would definitely not be going up for adoption. Adopting this dog out without some serious and extensive fix-it’s is not the responsible thing to do. He may be a dog that can never be safely adopted out.

      AS for the returned dog — you have no idea what those children were like around this dog. They may be teasing him, provoking him, hurting him .. you just don’t know. The dog was getting nervous around the children, that in itself is not a good sign. You weren’t there when the vet tech was bitten so you have no idea for sure what really happened. Even if you had been there, if you’re not skilled in dog behavior you still may not have understood what triggered the vet incidents. But since you have this dog back, I would do the same thing with him as I’m suggesting you do with the other dog.

      We wish you the very best of luck. Please let us know what happens!

      • Connie says:

        Sorry if my message confused you. The dog that bit the 3 people was only in our home as a foster for 3 mos. The bites to contractors occurred in the first three weeks.
        He was put down after working with him 3 mos.

        The other dog that was adopted to an older couple was at the vets when he not the tech who was on her knees, in his face and giving him a lepto shot.

  38. Heather K. says:

    In my whole life I’ve only ever had problems with my SIL’s dog. He’s a little aggressive with people who aren’t family members because he’s protective of her and I took this into account at the start. When I first met him everything was fine until the second night. When we went to my inlaw’s house he came to greet me, jumped up and his nose accidentally went in my eye when I was taking my shoes off. I didn’t react except to say oww, and then say I was ok. When I went to go to bed though, just like I had on the previous night, he lunged at me with teeth bared. And it continued like that for the whole weekend. I realized that it probably was a combination of them having put his bed outside my bedroom and the older dog then being very protective of me. That dog (who’s now dead) would actually get between me and my SIL’s dog to keep it from happening. I’ve tried to be calm around him and try to ignore him so as not to make eye contact, but he (understandably) goes after me if I do anything that he feels is invading his space, which includes sitting on any of the chairs or the sofa, or even entering the house. I don’t blame him for it, and I feel horrible every time he does it because I know I probably come across as terrified which doesn’t help, but it’s hard to not react when you’re knocked down on the way to the bathroom. Do you have ANY suggestions I can do at all other than just not going?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Heather,

      It sounds to me like he’s resource guarding. People often think of a dog as being protective when reality is that he’s resource guarding. The two behaviors are quite similar and people very easily confuse the two especially if they’ve never heard of resource guarding. My own short version comparison is a dog that’s truly protective seems to know instinctively when someone needs protecting and acts accordingly – his guarding behaviors are “sane” like the older deceased dog’s behavior in standing between the two of you. When a dog is resource guarding their protective instincts seem to have gone haywire (“insane” if you will) it’s like they have a screw loose somewhere and their protective behavior is in overdrive. A resource guarding dog is overly protective. Because the two are so easy to confuse (and unfortunately there are still too many people who take the easy way out and put a dog down rather than finding out what’s really going on and taking steps to cure the problem) I think it’s a big reason why some dogs are put down. It’s very hard to trust a dog who’s a resource guarder especially when people are involved vs. just toys or food. A resource guarder is literally dangerous and the owner needs to be even more responsible and take really good precautions.

      All is not lost because the good news is that this is a behavior that can be modified! Keep in mind that modification is not easy. Dog’s who resource guard are often very bullheaded and stubborn and the owner really has to be dedicated and consistent to make the modification work. A resource guarder can really wear on a person, it’s a difficult behavior to deal with and turning it around is pretty much a full-time job.

      My suggestion is to research resource guarding in dogs via the Internet. The dog’s owners are the ones that should really investigate this. It’s not your job to find a solution for their dog’s bad behavior but some people aren’t up for do-it-yourself dog research. If they are not interested, you could get into it yourself and then pass the knowledge on to them if they’re open to it. You also might want to check out a book written by Jean Donaldson called “Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding” which is a good place to start. You can find it in our site store.

      Another something for you (them!) to look into is “Nothing in Life is Free” a.k.a. NILIF. This dog sounds like he could use some lessons in who the boss really is and it’s not him. But again, since you don’t live with the dog and he’s their responsibility the owners need to get serious about his behavior issues. It sounds to me like they have a dangerous dog on their hands, like they’re not controlling the dog or taking responsible precautions and if they’re not careful he has the potential to hurt someone one day. That’s my take on things going by what you’ve told me.

      Hope that helps! Let us know how it goes!

  39. Don Fava says:

    To anyone who can help! I adopted a female rescue dog who is a bit over 4yrs old and recently spayed. She appears to be boxer/bulldog mixed (sorry she’ not a Shepherd… ). The Director of the Rescue Center claimed she was a Bull Mastiff as the “pet store” papers said so. The Director also said she is great with adults and “LOVES” children – her caps. I was warned however, she is dog aggressive and her name is “Bear”. Bear was turned over to the Center as the original owners lost their home in Hurricane Sandy. I’m retired so Bear and I have been together 24/7 since June 4th of this year. Her dog aggression is something I have never seen before as she wants to attack any size dog she sees. Having been in the Army for 20 yrs., and have had experience handling large dogs, I can control her lunges and have now “almost” eliminated them though I know that if she got away from me, she probably fight to the finish! I should note Bear is 80 lbs. THE PROBLEM: though Bear is very gentle with adults and teenagers, though my youngest grandchild is 6 there is no aggression there, she has on several occasions growled and made a partial lunge at girls ages 3 to 7! Each time this happened, Bear and I were inside of my fenced yard, the child had a bike helmet on and was approaching the fence with dad to say hi to Bear. The last incident was yesterday when a three year old girl got off of her tricycle and ran towards the fence to pet Bear; as she started to place her hand through the fence, my dog growled and partially lunged at her. Of course this scared the little girl who by the way has her own 200 lb Mastiff at home so there was no fear of big dogs on her part. There was one incident outside of the fence where one of the three year old girls who didn’t have her helmet on was standing near her dad and when she approached Bear and I, my dog made a low growl and started to walk towards her until I yanked on the leash. The confusing part is the 7 yr. old girl who approached the fence weeks ago that Bear growled at, allowed this same girl to pet her outside of the fence. I love Bear dearly, but because I don’t know her background, if I can’t solve the problem, sending her another family is out of the question due to her size and strength. I should note Bear is extremely gentle with me and will allow me to take a piece of meat from her without so much as a growl. Any ideas what I can do to stop this behavior towards small children… I have nine grandchildren with one on the way though they seldom visit due to their geographical locations a visit is probable. Thank You!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Don,

      We may love German Shepherds, but dogs of any breed and their owners are welcome here :) Thank you for stopping by to visit us!

      Mastiffs are generally pretty laid back for the most part, but the breed can also be quite protective so don’t let the usually calm, slow lumbering Mastiff fool you. I don’t have a lot of experience with Boxers but as I understand it they, too can be quite protective. I really know nothing about the Bulldog breed and I could be wrong but I have heard or read somewhere that they were originally bred for fighting. Many dogs of any breed are territorial and will protect what they consider to be their territory. Your yard is your dog’s territory and she also may consider YOU to be her territory so she’s going to protect her yard and you if people approach especially if they are running towards her. A child running towards a fence with your dog inside is a threat to territorial dogs so I believe your dog went into protection mode. No one should run towards (or away from) a dog period, including a dog inside a fence. Just as no one should put their hands through a fence to pet a dog, this is a very dangerous practice. We pass a school on our walks and kids will begin to run to the fence to pet the dogs. I stop them in their tracks telling them “No running, you must always walk.” They of course want to put their hands through the fence to pet my dogs, that is not allowed either. I tell them “Hands on the fence, no fingers through the fence.”

      Children with dogs at home usually don’t have fear of other dogs, but that belief can get them hurt. They assume that all dogs are like their dog which is far from the truth. Parents should teach their children proper dog etiquette whether they have a dog at home or not and they should always teach their children that not all dogs are like their own. It sounds like you also need to learn about dog behavior, perceptions and etiquette and proper meet & greets. Meeting a dog in a way that a dog perceives to be safe does not include allowing the person to approach your dog. You know the old “stick out your hand for the dog to sniff” ??? That’s now known to be an invitation for a bite. We do not allow people to stick out their hands for a sniff when they want to meet our dogs.

      There are many dogs who are great with older children but don’t handle younger ones well. Children aged about 6-7 and younger are considered to be at dog “eye level” and direct eye contact with a dog who takes this as a threat or confrontation can be a dangerous combination for the child with a dog who’s eye-contact sensitive. Age isn’t the determining factor either, the child’s size is.

      I strongly suggest that you learn more about dog perceptions and behavior which is different than training and immediately begin taking precautionary measures. No matter what breed this dog really is, it sounds like she’s territorial and protective, just like our Riley. You may even be able to toss resource guarding into the mix because these behaviors can be difficult to tell apart. We have absolutely no plans to find Riley a new home nor will we even consider putting him down for these behaviors. We’ve chosen instead to love Riley for who he is and respect his personality (quirks and all) and take additional precautionary measures based on how a dog perceives people behavior, not how people (including children) perceive dog behavior which more often than not means way too much assuming on the part of people. I won’t kid you, it’s not fun and it’s a lot of work, but the alternatives are totally unacceptable. I hope we are never faced with a situation but if we were, I have no doubt that Riley would die protecting me. This is just one reason (of many) why he deserves better than me finding him a new home or poking a needle in him until he’s gone if I were too lazy to deal with his protectiveness effectively. My solution was to learn and do things differently. We don’t always like our dog’s behaviors, but the truth is that for every behavior the dog has a valid reason for it. We as people don’t always understand it but the dog does which is what most people don’t stop to think about. They instead jump to conclusions which can result in them putting down a dog that was simply being a dog.

      A quick territorial/ protection mode example, the mailman is someone that Riley goes ballistic at the windows when the he comes around. Meeting that same mailman on a walk away from what Riley considers to be his domain is a whole ‘nudder story. After a proper meet & greet, away from his home territory Riley is more than happy to be loved up by the same mailman he wanted to chew up and spit out when said mailman was on his turf. True story.

      Please don’t take this wrong but the fact that you were in the military for 20 years and feel you learned how to handle large dogs may be something you should learn to forget. From what I’ve seen of military dog handling (which I admit is very little so please forgive me if I may not be on the money here) the military trains dogs for their own uses, they do very little to nothing having to do with dog behavior. Their method of handling dogs is using brute force and more unkind methods than kind. If your thinking is in dog training mode, I suggest that you open your mind and convert to dog behavior mode in order for your brain to learn and accept a different outlook on handling dogs. I was 52 years old when Riley came to live with us and because I’d had dogs all my life I assumed way to much. My Dad taught me this or that about dogs, well guess what? Dad was wrong about a lot of dog stuff just as you could possibly be if you continue to treat this strictly military style. I had to learn to open my mind to dog behavior because my history with dogs was training based I found out quickly that behavior needs to take the front seat. From the time Riley turned a year old, he’s led me on what is probably the biggest learning adventure of my life and believe it or not, I’m grateful to him for taking me on this roller coaster.

      Jerking your dog away from other dogs in my opinion, can not only injure her but is not the way to handle her other dog aggression. Should you be hurting her when you jerk her away you are teaching her that other dogs cause her pain. Is this what you want her to learn? My method of handling this behavior has been addressed in one or more of my responses here to others dealing with the same thing.

      I think your concern about how she may react around small children is quite valid and I’m glad you see the potential for a potentially dangerous situation. When grandkids visit, put her in a safe place away from the kids instead of allowing interaction with the kids. Kids can be very rambunctious, that’s just kids. That doesn’t mean your dog will handle all the activity well and allowing her to be with them has a potential for bad things to happen. We have three grandkids with two dogs of their own. These kids see our dogs and have since our dogs were pups. Although their own dogs are quite different behavior-wise than ours, they don’t behave around our dogs the same as they do their own. They know how to behave around our dogs because we’ve taught them proper dog etiquette, that not all dogs are like theirs and most importantly how dogs perceive people behavior. Our other four grandkids live farther away and so our dogs are not familiar with them. We simply crate our dogs when they are here and the kids are not allowed in the dog room. Problem solved. Our dogs were not raised with kids in the house so they have no clue how to deal with kids. With kids comes excitement, excitement around a dog who’s not familiar with it gives you a dog that is more likely to bite out of excitement or fear and it’s a risk we’re not willing to take. I would never throw my dogs in the lake to teach them to swim, just as I will not put my dogs in any other unfamiliar position and just expect they will swim. All too often, people are of the mind that a dog just knows how to behave which is not only untrue, but very unfair to dogs.

      I urge you go back and read (or re-read) my original article, you’ll see your own dog’s behaviors discussed. If you’ll read the comments from others and my responses and suggestions, you should see that all your dog’s issues have been addressed throughout this thread which should give you some ideas and some help on how to deal with your own situation. Good luck! Let us know how things go, ok?

      • TIFFANY says:


        • Mom says:

          Hello Tiffany,

          First of all I must please ask when you post on our blog to please not capitalize your comments. All caps is considered shouting and we are not fond of being yelled at. I also received two posts from you on the same thing so I will respond only to one of them.

  40. megs says:

    I have had my dog for 4 years now and can be the sweetest boy I have ever seen. In retrospect, he can also seem so scared and aggressive towards new people. I live on my own so having people over is pretty rare. He has been conditioned to a few friends and loves them to death. When I visit family he adores my father and probably follows him around more than he follows me. Unfortunately today and the last few days he got aggressive with my mother. He has been around her just as much as my father. She was sitting beside him and her hand was placed down on the couch and he decided to growl and attack it. His demeanor was very aggressive like. She was scared at first and quickly removed her hand. She tried putting it down again and he did the same thing. So she decided to make light of things and act like she was playing with him, which in turn he started playing with her. He still growled and just nipped at her hands. Later tonight he had fallen asleep on the couch and I came over to wake him up. My mother came in and happened to put her hand on the couch cushion and he repeated his aggressiveness but it probably went from a 6 to a 9. It honestly scared me and her. I could see him doing this to people he rarely ever sees but this just worries me about my mom. He has also done this to my cousins (which he rarely sees). I guess what I would like to know is how to get him to stop attacking hands that land near him or move down to his level. Some things I have seen is…he is lying on floor and someone goes to tie their shoes next to him…he’s laying on the couch and a hand happens to fall next to him. Please help!


    • Mom says:

      Hi Megs,

      I can certainly understand your fears, this is scary behavior.

      First and foremost, whenever our dogs display new, scary behavior a trip to the vet for a really good physical is the #1 priority. I would have them check his thyroid level, he may have hypothyroidism or some other illness that causes this kind of behavior. Have your vet look for things that may be causing your dog pain. I would have his eyes checked, he may have some sight problems and at least some of these human movements may be startling him which can also cause this kind of behavior. Not all GP vets are able to diagnose eye problems, so take him to an eye specialist vet. I would also get a second opinion on all your vet’s findings whether they find something or not. Vets are people, too, and can make mistakes or not know about something that another vet does know about.

      With that being said, your dog may be (or also be) suffering from a lack of socialization. You live alone and don’t have much company, he’s not used to people coming to your home. If you can get him out more for walks and whatnot to meet people that would be helpful and good for both of you in the big picture.

      I understand his recent behavior may make you fearful of doing this, but remember — you should *never* allow people to approach you and your dog. The two of you have to go to meet the person/people. Here is an article on proper meet & greets which we believe should be followed by everyone, not just people who are experiencing socialization or other issues. You being in control of all meet & greets should help alleviate your fears.

      You can always put a good basket muzzle on him to more safely participate in this kind of socialization. Here is a Baskerville basket muzzle which is a highly recommended muzzle and what we have for our dogs. If you decide to try a muzzle, be sure to introduce your dog to it properly so he becomes accustomed to it rather than just putting it on him and expecting him to be comfortable with it. You’ll only make things worse by making your dog uncomfortable with it.

      Do not use a soft muzzle for this, not only are they not safe enough (they come off too easily) but more importantly the dog cannot breathe properly when wearing a soft muzzle. They’re ok for very short periods of time but I don’t recommend their use for more than a few minutes especially in the summer when it’s hot. Remember, dogs breathe through their mouths (pant to breathe) and stressing him by not being able to breathe properly and comfortably will only make matters worse. I found this video on YouTube that teaches how to introduce your dog to both a soft and hard muzzle. There’s no talking in this video so you can safely turn off the annoying music, you won’t miss any verbal instruction and I believe the trainer in this video does a wonderful job.

      You might get your dog a vest to wear for these social outings that says something on it that invites people to ask to meet your dog. Keep in mind that you can NOT put a service dog type vest on your dog. It’s illegal for a non-service dog to wear a service dog vest. You don’t want people getting the idea in any way that your dog is a service dog or service dog in training so make sure the message on the vest is clear. You might make it a cute, friendly message rather than the service dog type message. Perhaps something like “I’m learning to be social, please ask to meet me!” I also suggest that you not do this until your dog has been medically cleared by the vet that whatever is going on with him is not a medical issue or that if it is, that it’s under control. For example, if you find your dog has hypothyroidism do not do this until the blood work shows that your dog is now within good clinical levels.

      Always remember to error on the side of caution. You can have your dog wear a muzzle any time he’s going to be in contact with others, Mom for example. This may be necessary while you figure out what’s going on with him and this could also be a long term forever kind of thing. I would rather muzzle to be safe than take a chance on a bite. If muzzling has to be forever, the so be it. You will both get used to the muzzle thing and it will just become a part of your lives and no big deal given a little time. At least you get to keep your dog!

      Good luck and let us know how things go!

  41. Jacquelyn says:

    I have a 9-year old Pomeranian/Shi-tzuh who has always been high strung but recently has been downright unpredictable. When he was younger my brother and dad used to tease him about food, pretending they were going to take it away because they thought it was funny to see such a little guy react so aggressively, growling and guarding his food. I suspect this was the start of his downward spiral into aggression, but it’s no longer just related to food. Over the years, it’s gone from growling and snarling to biting and now it seems like full-on attacks, and he does it to anyone and everyone. I’ll admit he was never well socialized; we got him from a breeder and the same day we took him to PetSmart and an employee there said he was highly anemic by looking at his gums, and the mother dog was very barky and excitable when we got him, so I’m sure his short time there may explain why he became so high-strung. He had fleas pretty badly so we knew he wasn’t taken care of. He may also have been removed from his mother too young. The breeder was clearly not reputable and the reason we ended up taking him was that we feared for his safety if he stayed with her and the many other dogs in a home that smelled like urine.

    Up until now he has lived with my parents while I’m away at school but he has had a lot of episodes lately where he seems to attack for no reason. I think it’s resource guarding because when I’m not around, my dogs are closest to my dad who feeds them and spends the most time with them, so they feel the need to protect him. So if he’s in the room and anyone makes a sudden movement, whether they get near my dad or not, sometimes he’ll attack either that person or my dad. It’s like a switch goes off in his head and he loses sight of what he’s even angry about, just attacking whoever is nearest. While I was on vacation with my parents and boyfriend, my sister and her boyfriend were watching the dogs and Kix attacked her boyfrend’s hand, drawing blood. My sister said they were just sitting on the couch with the other dog between them, not even touching and Kix came running from the other room and bit her boyfriend. I’ve never seen him do anything that out of control but with as often as he’s been attacking lately, I dont know what to think. Because she knows he’s bitten before, my sister said if it happened again she would call animal control.

    Scared that he would have to get put down if anyone else in my family was it, I recently moved him and my other dog into my new apartment with my boyfriend, hoping that he’d calm down if he was around me, his momma, but the attacks seem to have worsened. I’m gone 3 days/week for school (I have another apartment in the town here my school is), and Kix seems to be ether when I’m not around and it’s only my boyfriend, so again I think it’s resource guarding (him trying to protect me), but he also gets very aggressive if he’s put in his crate, throwing a fit and trying to bite through the wire. He got my boyfriend the other night when he was putting him in his crate, and so he was locked in for several hours and then when my boyfriend opened the door for Kix to come out, he wouldn’t move. Kix stayed there all night and this morning was still in it, and growled anytime my boyfriend walked past the crate. My boyfriend had to leave for work so he just left food and water near the crate for him. Almost every day since the move (about 10 days ago), he’s either bitten one of us or tried to. Sometimes it even happens when it’s just one of us around, so maybe it’s not resource guarding.

    I keep hoping he’ll adjust but I wonder if I made it worse by taking him from a familiar setting. My boyfriend is willing to put up with him for my sake, but he gets really upset when Kix tried to bite, and I think it just escalates the problem. He has hit him to “show him who’s boss,” And Sometimes Kix will back down just if Cameron looks at him or tells him to go away in a stern voice, but once Kix gets into what we call “demon mode,” he completely disregards all commands.

    I’m now scared of my own dog, who snaps with no apparent trigger and bites whoever is closest. Ive started keeping him off the furniture because it gives me at least a little space to get away if he snaps. And if my boyfriend is in the room while Kix is near me and he starts to growl, I get away as quickly as I can. Should my boyfriend continue trying to be the dominant figure in the house? Is he making it worse by making Kix fear him? Sometimes I’ve been able to calm Kix down before he attacks, if I catch it early enough and talk in soothing tones, but when my boyfriend is around he tells me not to comfort him when he’s being bad and instead he yells at him. If Kix continues growling, it just becomes a battle of the egos amongst them and never ends well. Kix will usually go hide in his crate where he feels safer. His crate used to be a punishment but it’s now a safe haven from worse punishment.

    I’ve probably contributed to the problem because I’ve always seen him as my baby, and he snuggles up to me and demands attention which I readily give him. It’s hard to be firm with him because he’s so used to getting snuggled and loved on, but I know he needs to learn that he doesn’t own me and he’s not on an equal playing field with people. I can’t imagine getting my baby put down but I feel like his existence lately is just miserable because he doesn’t like being home alone when we’re both gone, but when either of us or both of us are home he feels he needs to protect something and we become the enemy. I plan on having a behaviorist work with him but do you have any tips on how we can work on the problem at home?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jacquelyn,

      I totally agree that your dog having been teased when he was a puppy was what started his problems. My father teased me about many things and even as an adult that teasing left negative emotional marks on me. If he was taken from Mom too soon, that’s another strike against him. I believe you did what was right in getting him out of a bad situation, but like so many others, you weren’t aware of a number of things about dogs at that time so you weren’t able to compensate for what he lost such as socialization skills he would have gotten from Mom.

      As I’ve said repeatedly when dogs have behavior issues, the very first thing that needs to happen is a thorough vet checkup, including blood tests for things like hypothyroidism and illnesses or conditions that cause pain or suffering. Being that he’s 9 years old, he’s very likely feeling pain somewhere that you may not be aware of and at least some of your dog’s bad attitude could be due to being in pain from something. You need to rule out or treat physical causes of aggression.

      I also suspect that at nine, his sight and/or hearing may be starting to go and so some of what’s going on may be resulting from startling a sight-challenged or hearing impaired dog. At nine it could even be both.

      Boyfriend needs to STOP HITTING THE DOG. I realize that in some cases it’s simply the human reacting to pain inflicted on him by the dog but It’s GOT to stop. It’s great that boyfriend is trying to be helpful but hitting the dog is not only unacceptable, it’s only going to make things worse. If boyfriend is not able to control his urges to strike the dog, then boyfriend should stay away from the dog.

      It sounds like the crate is or has been being used for punishment. This also has to stop, the crate is supposed to be a dog’s safe zone not a place boyfriend tosses the dog for hours on end when he displays unwanted behavior. Leaving him in the crate for an excessive amount of time is “cruel and inhumane punishment” in my opinion. After probably less than a minute the dog has forgotten why it was crated (if he knew at all) and has no idea why he’s being left in there for overly long periods of time. Even if a crate were to be used for punishment (it’s NOT!) it doesn’t work like making a child go to their room and “think about what they did.” A dog doesn’t have the ability to think like a human and has no clue at all why he was crated. A dog should also not be “put” in the crate, it should be crate trained to *like* going in the crate voluntarily and/or on verbal command. If your parent constantly banished you to or shoved you into your room as punishment, just how much do you think you’d like your room after a while? Don’t you think your room would become more like a jail cell than a safe haven?

      Moving to a new home is stressful on many dogs, some do just fine but I tend to think those are younger dogs with a big sense of adventure in their spirits. If your 9 year old dog has lived in one place for his entire life, then I really do think moving him would be stressful. I don’t fault you for trying to make things better for him by moving, I know you did it with the best of intentions. I’m simply agreeing that unfortunately, your good intentions could be part of the whole picture.

      Moving away from a growling dog is good and bad. By moving away you are keeping yourself safe, however it’s also telling the dog that growling at something will make it go away. Works with the mailman doesn’t it?

      We’re learning that our new dog, Gracie, is a growly thing but many of her growls are play growls, so you might want to have a hard look at what’s really going on with the dog each time he growls. Is every single one a warning or might some be something else?

      If your boyfriend is not ordinarily a dominant person, trying to be dominant for the sake of the dog probably won’t work and your dog is not so stupid to believe the charade either. The battle of egos you mentioned is only adding to the stress level all around. Being dominant is not about instilling fear into a dog. What if you were constantly in fear of your parent slapping or spanking you? No dog should EVER be afraid of its owner, that’s not only a miserable way for you all to live (including the dog!) but a bite waiting to happen.

      The stress level in your house must be through the roof with everyone trying to fix things and be things that they’re not. Has anyone thought to relax and just be themselves?

      I agree with your boyfriend not to comfort Kix when he’s misbehaving because you’re rewarding him for this behavior. However, boyfriend yelling at the dog isn’t going to help one bit other than to help make the dog more fearful of or dislike boyfriend even more. Raised voices cause our dogs to run for the hills. They run to their crates or upstairs to get away from this kind of negative energy. Do you like being around people that are yelling whether they’re yelling at you or not? Dogs don’t like being around angry voices whether the anger is being directed at them or not.

      I know exactly what you mean about treating our dogs like our babies, cuddles and all because I’m guilty as well. It’s very difficult for people like us to stop this kind of behavior in ourselves. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s not an easy process and I believe a lot depends on the dog, what behaviors need to change and how the owner goes about changing it. Also remember that “can change” is not the same as a guarantee.

      Changing the behavior in a nine year old dog that’s lived his entire life tied up in emotional knots is going to be a huge challenge. I seriously doubt this dog knows how to truly relax.

      I think the first thing you need to do is some serious soul searching as to whether or not you and your dog are up to a totally new lifestyle or if you just want to find safe, humane ways to manage his quirks so that all humans and dog can alleviate the stress and live the rest of the dog’s life out peacefully. Actually, either choice requires that the stress level become as non-existent as possible.

      Here’s an example of a stress reliever/safety management technique we use for Riley. He gets all fired up when someone comes to the house. I close him in my office using a walk-through gate that’s attached to our door jam. He can see whoever is in our house; in fact he’s only about 4-5 feet away from the visitors. I carry on my conversation with the visitor and within just a few minutes he’s calm and laying down safely on the other side of the gate. It’s now safe for him to come and meet the visitor so I open the door and he goes in much more calmly for his “Ok, so who are you and what are you doing in my house sniff?” sniff. If he starts to get a little too over-exuberant when I go to open the gate, I turn around, walk back to my visitor and try again in a few minutes. One of the best things we ever got was our walk-through gate!

      My thought is that you’re dealing with a fearful/anxious dog who’s also displaying resource guarding behavior so those are a few topics you can research to see where you feel your dog’s behaviors seems to fit. I don’t believe need to put Kix down. I would get him to the vet first and deal with what the vet may find. Then figure out what your heart wants and what you honestly feel you and Kix are capable of as far as what direction you want to go. You have at least two to choose from and neither includes euthanasia.

      Please do read the rest of the comments and replies on this topic, you should find plenty of information. I hope this helps, the very best of luck and we look forward to updates from you!

  42. Sarah says:


    I have a 4 year-old pure bred German Shepherd we got from a breeder (edited to remove breeder’s name). He recently bit a 10 year old child on the back. The bite was not enough to require stitches, but it did break the skin. (we are taking appropriate measures with local police and vet) The kids approached him when my son was taking him on a walk across the street from our house and he pulled the leash out of his hand. He did give warning growls. The last couple of years he has shown signs of being upset (barking and sometimes growling) towards certain people, usually people who are afraid of him. He has not bitten before this. He did chase a neighbor our of our yard and grabbed at the bag in her hand. He will also bark at some people and children who enter our house (we do have him confined in one room when people come over) And, he did get into a minor fight with another dog a couple of years ago and did bite him once. We met with a trainer since then and have been working on his socialization and exercises to keep him stimulated and physically exercised daily.

    We have 5 children, who frequently have friends over. I don’t think it would be responsible of us to keep him in our home any longer. Do you have any ideas of who might be able to rehabilitate him? He is a great dog around our family and there is not a problem with him around our children. He is very well bred and the trainer suggested he would be a very good search and rescue or police dog. He has a strong drive and is very intelligent.

    We have contacted the breeder and he offered to take him back. We are not sure exactly what he would do with him, so are exploring other options. Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.


    • Mom says:

      Hi Sarah,

      I’m sorry to hear about what you feel are issues with your dog but I’m more sorry that you’ve decided to make your dog pay the consequences for being a dog. Going just on what you’ve told me I’ll share my thoughts but know that you may not like what you hear. I feel your dog is facing undeserved serious if not deadly consequences so I’m going to tell it the way I see it.

      The 10 year old who was bitten: I personally do not believe a child should nor would I ever allow a child to walk any dog alone. I don’t care how big or small or how well behaved the dog is a child is not safely capable to deal with incidents such as the one your son encountered nor should he be expected to. What if it had been worse?

      What if a loose dog had charged your son and your dog? Is your son old enough, big enough and educated enough to handle a dog fight? It’s quite likely your GSD will go into immediate protection mode if he feels there is danger. Remember dogs perceive things differently than people. Your GSD will not let the charging dog anywhere near your child and he will do whatever it takes to keep your boy safe. I can pretty much guarantee that you do not want your son to witness a dog fight. It’s likely your child will screech and scream (normal human reaction) and try to stop the fight. The screaming will escalate a dog fight and your son trying to intervene could get him seriously injured or worse.

      Back to your son’s incident where children approached your son (who your dog is going to protect) and pulled the leash out of your son’s hand which by the way your dog probably took as a threat to him and/or your son. Those kid’s parents need to teach them better manners and how to properly and safely act around dogs because this is not the way it’s done. READ How to Meet a Dog for more on this.

      To your dog’s credit he gave warning growls, many dogs won’t bother with warning growls and go straight to a bite. These kids (who by the way sound like a bullies) had their chance to not get bit but instead ignored your dog’s warnings and got bit. I am not seeing where this is your dog’s fault, he did everything right and then some and this kid not only asked for but deserved to get bit.

      I’m going to venture a guess that should you decide to remove your dog from your home, your son is going to blame himself for not preventing his dog from biting someone and he’ll feel it’s his fault you got rid of your dog. As an adult I know how badly I felt when Riley bit our floor contractor. Even though he was protecting me, I would not wish these feelings on anyone especially a child.

      Before I forget, one contributing factor is that in the past couple of years your GSD went from being a pup to being an adult dog. It sounds like you are going through some of the things I went through when Riley grew into adulthood. His behavior scared me pretty good a few times until I learned why — he’s a German Shepherd! Something told me there was more going on than what met the eye, that I needed to learn more about why dogs do what dogs do and why are German Shepherds different?

      Barking and sometimes growling towards certain people: You say he usually does this towards people who are afraid of him. If these people are afraid why are they getting near your dog? Anyone who has any fear whatsoever of my dogs is made to stay away because I know it can trigger a bite. I’m not about to get rid of my dog because he *might* bite someone who’s afraid of him. I choose instead to be aware of the potential for a bite and act accordingly to protect my dog from being put in the uncomfortable position to have to deal with fearful people.

      Chased a neighbor out of your yard: Was your neighbor invited onto your yard? Were you outside to witness this incident or are you just getting the neighbor’s version of what happened? Most all dogs will protect, protective breed dogs are more protective. You have a German Shepherd which is a protective breed dog. There was someone on your (his!) property where his family lives that he felt shouldn’t be there. Your neighbor running away likely kicked in your dog’s prey drive and/or his herding instincts as well. What was in the bag? Food maybe?

      You should see how my dogs react to the mailman and other people who pass by our house. If my dogs had access to these people they’d likely be biting every time someone came near. Problem solved by not letting my dogs out on the front side of the house, they only place they’re allowed unleashed is in the back yard which is fenced and locked.

      Barking at people who enter your house: Your dog is alerting you to a stranger in the house which is what dogs do whether your dog is a German Shepherd or not. If you’re concerned this will escalate into a bite, do as you’re doing now and confine him before you open the door to anyone. Don’t allow uninvited entrance to your home, you or another family member, preferably an adult, should have to (preferably unlock and then) open the door to anyone entering.

      We prefer to use a gate rather than closing our dogs in a room where they can’t see. We want them to know that some people are welcome in our home because we invite them in. Using the gate allows this to happen because it’s very close but a safe distance to our entry door. Once the people are in our home, the dogs have seen that they were invited, are friends and have had a few moments to work out the initial excitement so they don’t knock someone over, we open the gate and they greet our guests.

      One of the best things I ever did was to get hubby to install a metal swinging gate between the entry area to our home and my office. It’s sturdy and allows 100% visibility for both my dogs and visitors. It’s securely screwed to the door jamb so I don’t have to mess with clumsy baby gates that as a human I might not get set quite right and that can easily be knocked over by a big dog. I just have to unlatch it which takes all of about 1 second. Locking a dog in a room where they can’t see what’s going on can be construed as punishment by a dog.

      If we’re having more than a couple people over we would either put the dogs on the office side of the gate or crate them because Riley can’t take a lot of commotion, it makes him nervous so I’m going to make sure to not put him in a position where he’s uncomfortable. I don’t need to be constantly on guard for people being people and doing dumb things like people will sometimes do which can cause a bite.

      He got into a fight with another dog: I don’t have nearly enough information but what I do have, It sounds like you could compare this to one of your kids getting into a scuffle at school and popping another kid in the nose. Unless there is a whole lot more to this that you haven’t described, I would not make too much of this especially if your dog normally gets along with other dogs. If he bit another dog once and it was over, there is probably nothing to make anything out of and you can more than likely chalk it up to being nothing more than “a dog thing.” I don’t know that I would even call this a fight, but again I have very limited information.

      Five kids with frequent friends visiting would not be a reason to get rid of my own dog. I personally would go with managing the situation. From what you’ve told me your dog isn’t dangerous, he’s being a German Shepherd and he sounds like a good boy.

      You and hubby would do well to learn more about dog behavior, dog safety and management solutions and educate your children and all the neighbor kids as well about how to behave around dogs. It sounds like you are not seeing things for what they really are (like from where your dog sees things) and going with a knee-jerk reaction because you’re not understanding what’s going on so you’re blaming your dog for things that aren’t his fault and are normal dog behaviors.

      You say he’s a great dog around your family and you feel he’s safe around your children. German Shepherds are most often one person/one family dogs and anyone else is outside this comfort zone. Please don’t blame him for this, it’s part of his German Shepherd heritage. I really don’t think he needs to be rehabilitated, it sounds like he’s doing everything right!

      What I think needs to happen is that your family needs to understand him better which means in particular understand the German Shepherd breed better. Having a protective breed dog is different than having a dog that isn’t a protective breed. Because you’re not understanding him, not respecting his breed or the fact that he’s a dog not a human and very important — dog behavior in general — you’re treating him unfairly.

      Please read the original article I wrote from the beginning which I’m fairly certain will give you some important insight into why dogs bite. Then read every single comment and my responses. I think if you do this, you will have a much better understanding what’s going on with your dog and you’ll learn it’s not your dog that’s the problem. What I see going on here are people thinking like people which is what usually happens. Dogs perceive things differently than people.

      I would definitely continue to socialize. I don’t think it’s possible for someone to socialize a dog too much. Training and activity is a great idea as long as it’s a good trainer who uses positive methods.

      Possible medical issues: Because he’s a German Shepherd he’s prone to having hypothyroidism. Like I’ve told probably everyone who’s asked me a question here – have his thyroid levels checked? You will see this mentioned over and over and over again along with having a full veterinary examination. That doesn’t mean the usual look in the eyes and listen to the heart exam. You should dig deeper for things like him experiencing pain from some illness like hip dysplasia for example.

      What your feeding him can contribute negatively and positively to how he behaves. Check out my Venturing into RAW Feeding, my What’s in Your Dog’s Food Bowl? articles and Grade Your Dog Food links.

      If you still feel he’s got to go, I would be surprised if any police agency would take him simply because he’s four years old. Most police agencies retire their dogs around 8-9 years of age so he only would have about 4-5 years left to work and the first two or so would be taken up training him. It’s doubtful that a police agency would put thousands of dollars into training a dog that they’d only get about 2-3 years of active service from.

      Search and rescue may be another story. I don’t know about age limitations on S&R dogs. I would think there would be a greater possibility this may be an option. If you decide you still need to remove him from your home, I do have one official S&R contact that I can check with and perhaps put you in touch with so let me know.

      Sending him back to the breeder: I’m not sure what they’d do with him either but some of the possibilities are scary. Breeders are in the business to make money. Taking a dog back and doing something else with him may not be something breeders consider cost-efficient and cost efficient for them may be to destroy the dog. It may depend on the breeder and the dog, I honestly don’t know. I would want to know *exactly* what every option is that your specific breeder would do before I would return him.

      I hope you’ll take the time to consider things from all angles before you actually do something such as re-homing or returning your dog to a breeder. I can’t tell you want to do with your dog, only you can make that decision but I hope you will at least take a little time to think about the information I’ve just given you before you take action. Your dog has a strong bond with your family, that’s quite obvious to me. I would hate to see that bond broken due to simply misunderstanding what’s going with him. He’s being a dog and from the sounds of it he’s what many German Shepherd dogs are all about. Are they all like this? No. I’ve got one that’s very protective and two that aren’t so obviously protective but if push came to shove I have no doubt they’d take on the job. Some are just more outwardly protective than others.

      If you do re-home him and decide to get another dog sometime, I hope you’ll rule out protective breed dogs because you may very well go through the same kind of situations with any protective breed. They are what they are and if you and your family are not comfortable with this, then please find someone to love and care for him that is comfortable with the breed.


  43. Ronnie says:


    The quality and depth of information you have provided here is excellent and an eye-opener, as most of the times the dog is the victim.

    I have a situation for which I seek your help. I have three dogs, a rottweiler, a fila and a neapolitan mastiff. Each having an age difference of two years between them. Of course, the most powerful of them was the Fila, but he respected the Rot, who was the eldest. I lost the Neapolitan mastiff last year. He was six. I was traveling and was a wreck upon hearing this. So the very next day, I got another Neapolitan mastiff pup at 2 months age. Now none of my other two dogs ever played with him and every time the Fila tried to bite-train him, somebody intervened, saving the pup and scolding the fila, despite my telling them to leave them alone as I know the Fila never meant to kill any pup.

    As the pup got stronger, it kept on challenging the older dogs and on two occasions, attacked my rot out of the blue and would have killed him if I had not interfered. He attacks my fila when the fila is sleeping or completely vulnerable. The Fila nearly killed him twice but he still won’t give up.

    Now, the neo is a year and 2 months. A week back. I was with him in a bedroom, caressing him, the door was closed as I started keeping him separate from the other dogs. Then suddenly he heard the Rot coming up towards the bedroom and he quickly when at the door and his tail went down. I got up and just opened the door a bit to see and he tried to get out but I “very” gently blocked his path with my leg and he attacked me, 4 bites and I fell down and that is when he suddenly stopped. I diverted his attention to the window and got out and after washing my wounds when I came up he was normal and was licking my wounds.

    It seems he suddenly gets these pangs of anger. I thought maybe its the Rage Syndrome but its not. He is fine other wise, but there are moments. Like when he is relaxing near the door and if I walk past, he might just grab my leg, or he may not.

    I realised that I did make a big blunder by getting him in my absence and my family couldn’t handle him the way I would.

    Do you think there is something wrong in his head? Please help.

    Thanks a million

    • Mom says:

      Hi Ronnie,
      Thank you, it’s nice to know that you found useful information here.

      You already realize that there are issues surrounding how and when you got your pup and with differences in how the pup was handled by various family members from the beginning. I’d just like to mention for everyone a few things that come to mind.
      If there was a tight bond in your pack that included the now deceased Neo, I can’t help but think that the remaining pack members may have needed some time to heal, too. They lost a member of their family when your Neo passed away. There is evidence that dogs grieve and I know that many will do things like wander the house or sit by the window looking for a missing pack member when one disappears. If your Neo passed away outside the home, to your dogs he simply disappeared without explanation and they don’t know what happened to him. I really like my sister’s approach to losing a member of the pack which you may wish to read for future reference. I plan to use it myself when the time comes.

      Also, for future reference that it’s best to wait until a pup is 12 weeks old to remove it from its Mother. The weeks between 4 and 12 are crucial learning and socialization times for a pup that Mom and the pup’s siblings provide. Dogs that remain with Mom until the age of 12 weeks are believed to have better temperaments and socialization skills all around.

      No matter when you bring a new dog into the home, the entire family needs to be on the same page about how you’ll all be raising the dog. It sounds like that isn’t the case as you mentioned your family couldn’t handle the pup the way you would have. Consistency is unbelievably important and everyone going in different directions when it comes to dealing with dogs makes for absolute mass confusion in a dog’s brain. If sit means sit for you, it must mean exactly the same thing for every member of your family.

      Let’s say you’re driving your car with two passengers. You come to an intersection and one passenger says “turn right” the other “turn left.” Are you not confused? Think how confused your dogs are when you do things one way and the family members do things another especially if your family members each has their own way – you can multiply your dogs’ confusion by how many family members are sending the dogs in different directions.

      You mentioned the term “bite-train” which is a term familiar to me only as bite work for police K9’s and so I’m guessing this is your phrase for the way adult dogs will discipline the younger pups helping them learn the proper way to behave. Feel free to correct me if my assumption is wrong. It sounds like you feel the fact that this behavior was not allowed to be a natural thing between the dogs is in my best guess, and I would agree with you. It’s also possible that the issues you’re having may be at least a part of what you’re dealing with now.

      To my knowledge healthy dogs (both physically and mentally sound) don’t just get “pangs of anger” as you described what’s going on. I do not ever toss around rage syndrome lightly. Although it’s extremely rare, it does exist. I’m certainly not qualified to diagnose a dog with this and you didn’t say how you determined your dog is not suffering from it. Not only is he in the age group of onset, he displays some of the symptoms. If this were my dog I would dig into this further to include contacting one or more qualified rage syndrome experts.

      Because rage syndrome is so rare, in my mind it’s more likely he was going for your other dog, got overly excited and your leg just happened to get in his way. On the other hand, I can’t get past the scary thought that four bites are over-the-top excessive. I remember one time when Riley went for another dog (that we were contemplating adopting) and I put my knee between them to protect the other dog. My own fault, I got nailed once and he knew immediately he got Mom, not the other dog and he put himself in a down. The look on his face also told me he knew what he’d done. This to my understanding is a more normal dog bite behavior in a similar situation to what happened with yours. They hit once and they’re done and they know when they’ve hit the wrong target kind of thing. Your dog doesn’t seem to have the ability to do this.

      Below are a couple links I found Googling the symptoms of rage syndrome and also include information on other types of aggression which in your dog’s case I feel needs further research.

      Rage Syndrome in Dogs

      Rage Syndrome in Spaniels and Other Dogs

      As I’ve mentioned countless times throughout this topic thread, I suggest a thorough medical check-up including things that might be causing him pain that aren’t obvious to the eye and have his thyroid levels checked. Hypothyroidism can lead to aggression. Check into what medical conditions your dog’s breed may be prone to and follow up with whatever you can to diagnose or rule them out. I’d be looking anywhere and everywhere for any and all medical conditions that even remotely cause aggressive tendencies or outbursts in dogs.

      I do think there’s something wrong, but I’m not qualified to make a diagnosis of whether he’s got some off the wall mental or physical illness that’s causing him to behave so dangerously. Your trio of dogs will seemingly never live together safely for them or your family. Some people whose pack doesn’t get along will keep the dogs separated for a lifetime. We did this for just over two months when Gracie came to live with us. Just thinking of having to do it for years is beyond a depressing thought so I hope for the sake of all involved it doesn’t come to this for you. It’s hard on the dogs, the family and sure doesn’t lend itself to the possibility of them ever becoming even tolerant of one another. In fact, trying to keep everyone and all dogs safe from one another in this way permanently, I believe is likely to cause isolation related problems.

      They don’t need to be best buds, but if they can tolerate one another without harming one another that’s acceptable to me. We live like this every day. The only time our three are separated is when there is no one at home to supervise; then there’s a gate between Gracie and the other two. I could probably leave them alone together but I prefer to error on the side of caution, I’m paranoid that way. I have two females that only tolerate one another and we have had a few very lightweight spats so I’m not up for pushing that envelope. Maybe in a few more months, we’ll see.

      I hope you’ll keep us up to date on how this goes. Your situation seems to be unique from the other ones here, so your input could be very valuable. I’m still deciding if this should remain under the dog bite post or be given its own post more geared at dog to dog aggression.

  44. Bette says:

    I got an almost-three=year-old, show-bred Belgian Malinois in July of 2013 after one of our two GSDs died. The Malinois had been in a Portuguese Water Dog show home, where he was mistreated. We took him, after 25 years with protection and/or schutzhund-trained GSDs, because I had hand surgery which precluded my working with such big dogs. The Malinois was a better fit.

    He has adapted beautifully to our home and routine, and gets along well with our remaining GSD. I can feed them side-by-side without incident, etc. He is perfectly trained in basic obedience (on and off lead). However . . . he has bitten my husband roughly 12-15 times since we got him–nothing causing injury, although sometimes he does draw a small amount of blood. It is a reflexive type of biting, where some fear trigger causes him to act before he can stop himself. He does demonstrate good bite inhibition in that he has not done any damage, but the behavior is still unnerving. Generally, he adores my husband–following him everywhere and responding well to commands. The bites usually occur about 2-3 weeks apart, and he is fine in between. The dog has never showed the slightest aggression toward me.

    Ours is a quiet home, with no children present. Richard is a very gentle man, well-used to dealing with dogs as we had a show kennel of Finnish Spitz for many years. I had an obedience training school, and have done extensive graduate work in canine behavior. However I am too close to the situation to be objective, and I recognize this. I do not see this as a “he is too protective of me” issue, as the dog makes no attempt to get between us; nor does he get anxious if Richard and I are close, etc. The dog has caused no problem with guests in our home, although he is cautious around some of them.

    I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have on the matter. He was thoroughly vet-checked when we got him and the vet, whose opinion I respect, agreed that his basic temperament is sound.


    • Mom says:

      Hi Bette,

      First, thank you for rescuing this boy from his abusive home!

      The first thing I would do is if your vet check didn’t include a thyroid level test, I’d get that done. In my experience, unless the pet owner asks for it, a thyroid test is not considered part of an everyday vet check by many vets. It’s usually an additional test performed only if thyroid issues are suspected. We decided long ago that any dog we bring into our home will have a thyroid level test done whether they display symptoms or not. Because your dog’s behavior seems limited to one person (your husband) I lean towards him not having it, but it doesn’t hurt to find out and may be helpful to know.

      There is a lot of information relating to hypothyroidism and behaviors in Dr. Dodd’s article: Behavioral Issues with Thyroiditis

      I would in addition, error on the side of caution at this point. Being that your dog does have a bite problem, even though so far he’s directed this problem only to your husband I personally would not rule out the possibility that he could unexpectedly turn on a guest. This could turn out to be a “not just your husband” issue but a problem with men in general or just some/certain men for example. I probably would not allow my dog to socialize with guests at least until you figure out and hopefully correct what’s going on with him.

      Mals are generally very high activity, hard drive, excitable dogs. It’s just part of who they are which helps to make them really good working dogs in some areas. I could never handle the Malinois breed, it’s simply too much for me.

      Something to think about, since he’s not breaking the skin when he bites are you and hubby absolutely positive this is an intentional bite or just that your boy is over-excited? Our newest girl, Gracie, sometimes gets overly excited and nips me. She’s not biting, she’s just so worked up and letting off a bit of that excitement. It smarts a little but she’s not being aggressive. I’m working on “no teeth” with her but she’s quite the stubborn bull-headed girl so it’s not easy.

      Based only on what you’ve told me I agree it doesn’t sound like a protective issue triggering the bites. It sounds more like hubby is unknowingly doing something or looks like something or someone that reminds the dog of his abuse or something that scares the dog that you’re not aware of.

      Does your husband physically resemble anyone in the home where you rescued him from that may have been your dog’s abuser? Does your husband’s voice sound like any of the men in the home where he came from? It’s possible your hubby has a behavior that reminds the dog of a behavior in his abuser and is relating the two. Is there a word or phrase hubby unknowing uses just before the bite happens? It could be these people used that same word or phrase just prior to abusing the dog or that they used as a command to train the dog to bite.

      One way to possibly determine what’s triggering your boy’s biting behavior is to start a log (MS Excel works well for this) with entries for things like time of day the behavior occurs and probably most importantly EXACTLY what hubby was doing just before/as the bite occurs. Hubby could be doing something so innocently human as making direct eye contact with a dog who’s sensitive to this and hubby doesn’t realize he’s doing it. Because we’re humans we most often aren’t paying really close attention to what we’re doing immediately prior to the dog’s behavior no matter what that behavior may be.

      I think I’d also include things like what hubby is wearing. I know that sounds odd but anything and everything that duplicates itself each time your dog bites may be the trigger or what contributes to the trigger. Example, you may find that hubby is wearing his favorite cap when he’s bitten and the cure may as simple as to throw the cap away if you find it’s the trigger.

      The fact that you’ve already determined it’s an every 2-3 week occurrence this should help ease the burden of constant vigil in between because you already have a starting point to the pattern. You can ramp up the observation as the usual bite time occurs. Are the two of them perhaps in the same place every time the bite happens? I ask because the location could be a contributing factor. For example, if this behavior only happens in the garage, the car, or the barn for example.

      To help this process along, you could pay extra attention to the two of them every time they’re interacting with one another. You may see something that hubby does not.

      Keep very good notes, what you’re doing is looking for a pattern which may emerge through this method.

      I hope this helps! Let us know how it goes, ok?

  45. Mamabear says:

    Awesome blogs thank you. I still need some advice pls.
    Last week my son was at his grandmas house and a friend came over with his dog tied in the back of his truck. My son went to pet the dog and it bit his arm. Left lower bite marks and the three canine punctures. There was no warning by the dig and my son did nothing wrong. This dog has been around my son and knows him. I’m totally confused and upset. My son went for a tetanus shot and got stitches. I’m a pretty grumpy mama bear here and was wondering if you have any thoughts???? Thank you.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Mamabear,

      Glad you like our blog, thank you!

      Sounds like a nasty bite and I’m so sorry your boy got hurt. I hope he will heal up well and quickly!

      I do understand your concern and your anger, but from what I can tell it’s misplaced. You’re angry with the dog and just from what you’ve told me there is no reason to be angry. You’re thinking like a human which is normal, but the dog will always think like a dog and dogs perceive things differently than humans do. You didn’t say if the dog was a protective breed, but that’s *almost* unimportant. It just would be more likely this would happen with a protective breed dog.

      Ok, now consider the situation from my take on the dog’s point of view … the dog was in his truck (translation his turf) doesn’t matter if he knows your boy or not. He was also tied in the truck, which means the dog likely felt helpless and cornered. He could not get away from your son and fear is the #1 reason a dog will bite. Most dogs don’t warn, they simply bite if they’re going to bite. Consider yourself lucky if you meet a dog that does give a warning growl and then simply … walk away (do not run) if that happens. Don’t talk, don’t do anything but quietly and nonchalantly turn your back and just walk normally.

      So the bottom line is that your son approached a cornered, helpless dog on the dog’s property. Like most normal average kids, your boy thought absolutely nothing of approaching a dog. Even if a dog has met you (your son) before, that doesn’t make it ok for you/him to approach. The dog approaches the human, that’s the way it’s supposed to be done. Perhaps you missed my article How to Meet a Dog. It should give you more insight to what I’m talking about. When you’re finished reading then please teach (your) children to never approach any dog. Not a bad idea to help educate adults on this as well. I do this every chance I get. If more people would learn things like this, we’d have a whole lot less dog bites in this country which is better for the people and a lot less dogs that will pay the ultimate consequence simply for doing what dogs do.

      On a side note, your story made me angry at the dog’s owner. Dog’s do not belong in the back of pickup trucks. It’s dangerous! One fast stop or unexpected big bump and the dog is more than likely dead. Tied in means he may not hit the ground when he flies out, but you can bet that jerk will choke him to death or snap his neck. Any time I see a dog in the back of a pickup, I just want to throttle the driver!

      I hope this helps and that you understand a little more now I hope the dog doesn’t have rabies (pretty unlikely) and that the dog will not be harmed for what happened. Please stop back and update us?


  46. Dollyann says:

    Hi – what a great site, so informative. I have 2 dogs one M one F both 5, from the same litter and collie x Labrador. They have great temperaments and generally I have no problems with them. However, we were off on holiday and stayed in a lovely friendly B&B which welcomed dogs – no problems. On leaving we put the dogs in the truck and strapped them in – we went back to pick up our bags and when we returned to the car the gentleman who part owned the B&B commented how wild our dogs were! They don’t normally make a sound when in the truck, so I was surprised at this. He asked if he could pet them and I said Ok – I opened the door and introduced him to the dogs, let my male dog who was nearest have a sniff, he seemed quite happy so I said it was ok to pat. Said gent patted my dog and then went to pat the other dog, as he leaned into the truck my male dog snapped and lunged at him – he didn’t bite but what a fright I got – this has made me really wary of how he might act with other people. Sometimes there are a few people he seems to bark at but generally doesn’t bother with anyone. On meeting new people I always tell them just to ignore the dogs and let them come to them rather than them approaching the dogs. If we meet other dogs my male dog is usually ok, but occasionally will have a bit of a growl and snap, but not actually bite – this is more often if he is on the lead. When my male dog was about 6 months old he got attacked by a large adult boxer when on the lead – the other dog was free – and I wonder if this is part of it, in case he is worried it might happen again and is trying to assert his authority! We did meet a boxer a year or so ago -it was on the lead and my dog was not and gosh did he have a go at it – I could only apologise profusely to the owner, as this is not at all usual behaviour. Since the incident when my dog lunged at the B&B owner I an very wary of him meeting new people and get a bit anxious – I think he is probably picking up my vibes and wondering what is wrong but I find it hard to trust that he will not snap at anyone again – it has never happened since but I worry that it might and I think my nervousness is transferring to him!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Dollyann,

      I can definitely relate to your nerves after something like this. Just quickly what I see as having happened here is that the B&B guy (a stranger to your dog) stuck his head (and maybe part of his body) into your dog’s truck. He invaded your dog’s personal space and property. My Riley is very possessive of my (his!) SUV. It doesn’t surprise me at all your dog reacted the way he did. The answer here is to never allow this kind of thing to happen again. The fact that your dog reacted without actually biting is huge! What a great dog! He warned, that doesn’t happen too often!

      It’s nice to hear that you’re making your dogs meet people and people meet your dogs in the right way! I love hearing that!

      Having been previously attacked, it also doesn’t surprise me that your dog is on the defense with other dogs. “I’ll get you before you get me!” That’s my Riley, too and for the same reason – bad encounters with other dogs. Some dogs also suffer from leash and fence aggression behaviors.

      Yup, you’re right on … he’s also picking up on your inner fears, so this is a contributing factor to how he behaves. Keep up the good work with meet & greets and you might add if you don’t already do this, make your dog sit until he’s calm before he walks up to say hello to anyone. While he’s doing that, explain the rules to the person who wants to meet your dog and I think this will help you and your dog gain confidence. We’ve been doing this for years without an incident.

      Thanks for stopping by and telling us your story! We’re always happy to have visitors that talk to us :)


  47. Deanna says:

    Thank you for your clear, non judgmental view and thoughts on this.

    We adopted a 3 year old boxer in December. He is leash aggressive and we’ve maintained “Please no touching, he’s learning his manners on a leash.” with anyone that approaches us/him. We allow our Boston Terrier to be approached, pet, ect. A couple weeks ago a friend approached him, while he was on a leash, in many ways that clearly felt aggressive to him and he jumped and got her in the cheek. It required a few stitches.

    We know the exact “variables” that led to it. However, he’s quite disliked in our neighborhood now. And, as a dog lover, it’s hard when something, someone you love is disliked!

    We’re worried about going to any “average” trainer and more interested in finding a dog behaviorist as he has much to work on with social skills. He’s a fantastic dog. While not on a leash he’s personable, well mannered, enjoyable to all. On a leash.. well… yikes.

    How do we find a good person to help us? How can we tell the difference?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Deanna,

      Unfortunately, there still aren’t enough people who understand the human behaviors surrounding dog bites so even though the person that was bitten behaved in such a way as to invite the bite, the dog takes the hit for it as do the dog’s owners. Since you know what really happened, I would keep my chin up and work towards preventing future incidents. Eventually, the neighbors will find something or someone else to talk about.

      The first thing I’d like to suggest is that you read my article on How to Meet a Dog. The second thing I’d like to see you do is to apply what’s in the article to both dogs. Your Boston Terrier should no more be allowed to be approached than your Boxer. They’re both dogs and the same meet & greet fundamentals should be applied to all dogs. Your Boston Terrier deserves the same respect as your Boxer. If you walk them together at the same time it’s confusing for them to be treated differently, not to mention it makes it more difficult on the person walking the dogs. Why have to remember two different techniques when the right one applied to both dogs is much easier to remember?

      To be very honest, we didn’t have any luck with trainers or behaviorists. We feel the experiences we had with at least 6 different trainers and their various methods only served to confuse Riley and none of them taught techniques that were successful. I finally just modified bits and pieces from each trainer, training book or training tv shows I watched and made my own training techniques geared to my dogs and what works best for us.

      On the behavior aspect of things, we tried two different behaviorists and in my opinion both taught absolutely ridiculous methods which would take forever for any dog to change their ways at a cost of $70.00 an hour and were of no help to us. Their methods may work for countless numbers of dogs but they weren’t right for our dogs and that’s the key – what works for the individual dog.

      Our experiences with trainers and behaviorists are one of the reasons Riley’s Place exists and why we do what we do. I now use my own methods based on research which includes various training and behavior methods, our personal life experiences together with variations of what I learned from the various trainers and behaviorists but mostly we do what my gut tells me is best for my dogs. I honestly feel that although I’m no longer a Cesar junkie, how we deal with our dogs follows his methods more than as compared to others. We graduated to “take what you like and leave the rest” when it comes to Cesar and we also like many of Victoria Stilwell’s methods.

      The best advice I feel I can give you is to interview your behaviorist potentials and go with the one that feels right for you and your dog. Does one of these trainers seem to click with your dog or dogs in general or are they just teaching from a book? Research the methods they claim to be certified in and remember that just because they claim to be certified in one technique or another doesn’t mean they are effective in their job. If none of them feel right, don’t spend your money on them. I’ve come to the feel that anyone can take classes to earn a “certified trainer/behaviorist” title, but that doesn’t mean the the person has what it takes to do a good job at it. This instinct isn’t something you earn, it’s something you’re born with. It doesn’t mean that some certified behaviorists or trainers don’t have the instinct, it just means you have to find the one that does and that works for your own dog(s).

      You may find that researching and applying leash reactive techniques along with practicing the correct and safe way for how to meet dogs that managing your dog may be your answer. This is what we do with Riley and it’s worked without incident for several years now.

      Best of luck, hope you’ll come back and let us know how it goes.


  48. Jason says:

    Hi Deb,

    I love the fact that you are actually responding to our questions. So many sites offer the tips but won’t respond to individual situations.

    Like many on here I have a new adopted puppy to the household. We adopted a dog brought to Canada from Mexico by a local adoption agency. We have 2 pre-existing kennel dogs: 9yr old male Border Collie/Australian Shepard cross and a 3 yr old female Jack Russell/Blue Heeler cross. The new dog appears to be a dobie or mini-dobie mix with something else that we don’t know as the coloring and size are offering no hints. She gets along with the other dogs perfectly and has done a great job of picking up the house habits from them.

    The new dog that has been with us 3 months is about 8 months old, and from my understanding she was found on a beach in Mexico and was somewhat wild and in poor health. She has received some training prior to joining us and we are continuing on with socialization and obedience training, however…

    In the last 3 months she has snuck up behind 2 strangers in our yard who were performing various trade tasks for us and she tugged on the back of their pants leg with her teeth. In each case it was a male and a stranger. I’d call it a nip as there was no skin contact but of course it was alarming. We corrected by immediately telling her the “ouch” command and she went to her kennel by herself, I suspect knowing that this was not acceptable behaviour. Unfortunately that has not stuck though and while a friend of mine was over with his kids the dog nipped his daughter on the back of the leg. Both he and I were standing mere feet away and there was no indication whatsoever that it was going to happen. She had never shown this behaviour towards children before and we made sure to expose her to as many of our friends and various ages of visitors as soon as we felt she was stable in our home. This was my friend’s first visit with his children, but not the first visit by children to our yard. There was no growl, no tracking, nothing that I could see to indicate it was going to happen. The child was not running, simply walking back to play with her brother. It should be noted as well that the child was wearing tight leggings and I suspect the dog was attempting again to tug on the pant leg and got skin instead. The skin was not broken and she only ended up with a small bruise on the back of her calf but we feel terrible about it.

    I suspect that the dog is still somewhat insecure due to her origins and although in most situations she trusts us without question, she still can have brief moments where she is skittish and almost cowers. Can you offer any advice or guidance on further steps we can perform to curb this behaviour or socialization techniques which could increase her chance of learning to trust people she doesn’t know?


    • Mom says:

      Hi Jason,

      Before I get started I’d like to mention that I did try contacting you by email but was blocked by your additional requirement to “register” with your email. Although I can appreciate your attempts to weed out spam, it’s a road block for me that I simply don’t have time to deal with. I consider myself lucky if I can get a blog response posted every couple of weeks which I’m sure you can see by the time frame it took me to get to your comments. I’m glad you’re pleased with the fact that I do respond, although sometimes it takes me awhile so under these circumstances I hope you find this.

      You stated your other dogs are “kennel” dogs. I’m not sure what you mean by this but to me it means they spend most of their time in some kind of confinement which if that’s the case I’m sorry to hear it. Both of these dogs have herding instincts due to their breed, Border Collies, Australian Sheps and Blue Heelers are herding dog lines. Jack Russells are usually high activity, quite excitable and like to jump and chase as I understand it. Since you don’t know what your new girl is mixed with you might consider that there could be herding dog in her as well. Her behavior could be the herding instinct she’s displaying. She’s a pup yet, and what she’s doing could also be how she attempts to get others to play with her. You used the word “alarming” and I’m wondering if “startling” might be more a more appropriate word? A child moving away from a herding dog doesn’t have to be running to get the dog’s attention that she’s straying away from the herd and in a herding dog’s mind needs to be brought back.

      Don’t take this wrong but I’m wondering if you’re reading to much into the behavior your dog displayed? I can’t answer that because I wasn’t there, but think about it please? Did she seem to be playing or did she seem to be acting aggressively? This to me is a key factor as is the fact you’re dealing with a pup with probably no discipline training before she came to live with you.

      Obviously, nobody wants their dog running around nipping at people for any reason. It’s not acceptable behavior even if it was play so needs to change and of course best and usually easier to change it when the dog is young. I’ve mentioned before that most dogs do not growl before biting, they just simply bite (seemingly) without warning and the same goes for nippy behavior. To me it sounds like your dog was nipping and not biting which is a huge difference in our minds here.

      She’s only been with you for 3 months which isn’t in most cases enough time for any dog to adjust to a new home so yes, she may be still a bit insecure and still trying to learn acceptable behavior and boundaries. I would continue to teach her the boundaries and appropriate behavior and give her some more time to learn and adjust. Try not to overreact to unacceptable behavior, simply react appropriately. It also sounds like you maybe could use a bigger dose of patience with her. It just seems like you’re expecting too much too soon and that she’s not learning fast enough to suit you.

      At our house if we have contractors here, our dogs are put in a safe place. They’re not allowed to intermingle with strangers, especially those that are only there temporarily probably never to return once they finish the project they were hired to do. For us it’s just not worth the risk and there is no point in allowing this kind of interaction. Socialization is absolutely needed for any dog but that doesn’t mean they must meet every single person you have contact with whether it’s in your house or elsewhere. It’s up to you to be selective who your dogs interact with. A dog should not be required to trust every single person out there, some people aren’t trustworthy and don’t deserve her trust. Most dogs are really good judges of character and this instinct should not be discouraged. They not only need to trust you, they need to trust themselves in order to be confident.

      I’m not going to guess what your “ouch command” is, many commands can mean different things to many different people. Additionally, if you’ve only used it twice (in these instances) I hope you’re not expecting your dog to remember it after just two re-directions. That’s asking way to much for any dog and many dogs, especially pups are going to constantly test their owners. You need to be consistent (huge for dog learning!) and help her build her confidence so research methods for these things. Find methods that you’re comfortable with and that work for this dog and stick to them. If you allow your dog to misbehave even once on something that you’ve been working on, she will take it as being ok behavior and you get to start over from square one.

      One thing you could do is to leash your dog and sit in the yard while groups of children run around and do what kids do. Allow her to safely get used to kid-commotion without being able to interact until she’s more secure. Kids run by, she sits and watches she gets some yummy treats which is teaching her that kid-commotion is ok. Have the kids run by her at a safe distance and then circle back and one at a time sit down gently and give her a treat. This may help her learn that the kids will come back on their own so she doesn’t have to herd them to make it happen. Eventually you should be able to slowly get the kids to run by closer to her a little at a time and then beyond that you can try letting her loose with just your own kids so that if she does herd and nip it’s not a child belonging to someone else who doesn’t understand and might cause problems over it. Certainly I’m not saying to put your own children in danger so please don’t misunderstand. Doing this with kids your dog is comfortable with helps her learn that this kid stuff is safe.

      Hope this helps!

  49. Megan says:

    My boyfriend surprised me with a 8mo. Puppy Chihuahua two weeks ago. He got her from a friend of a friend. She was very weary of Rich (my boyfriend) but was attached to me after 5 minutes. We’ve been inseparable since. She’s getting better with Rich, but still not great.

    If her and I are in the other room (particularly laying in bed) and Rich makes noise, or heaven forbid he comes in to the room, she growls and barks. We’ve now locked her out of the bedroom until he comes to bed or gets home.

    She’s trying to be very dominant which we are trying to break her of. Stubborn little pup that just refuses to listen. I’ve been working with her and she can play fetch wonderfully. Other than that- training has just been frustrating ;)

    She’s started to learn to not bark as much when he comes home. Once she sees it’s him, she calms down but won’t come when called and huddles to the ground if he comes near her. She looks like she’s in trouble. She either lays down or runs away, ears pinned back and tail between her legs. After a bit she will go greet him and even play a little. If I’m not home, they are best friends. The second I walk through the door- it’s over.

    Today- they were playing and it was going so amazing today!! Then they were sitting in the chair, resting for probably 30-45 seconds from playing. All of the sudden, she reached out and bit Rich’s thumb. Hard. Drew blood. He said “ouch” but before he got to react more than that, she hopped off the chair, huddled down, ears pinned and tail tucked.

    The idea of needed to put her down came up and I am heartbroken!!!! He can see how upset I am and he feels awful but He doesn’t want a dog who doesn’t like him. I understand but I’m a wreck. I think she’s just learning, she knew she made a mistake. If there is a blog that I missed that could help, please let me know. If not, please help! Please tell me this was just a puppy learning! What should my next move be?

    Thank you so much for your time,

    • Mom says:

      Hi Megan,

      It’s a fact that dogs pick their favorite people. At our house Riley and NIssa’s favorite person is me, Gracie’s is my husband. I can understand your boyfriend not wanting a dog that he feels doesn’t like him which may and probably isn’t even the case but why does the solution jump to being drastic and murdering an 8mos old puppy without trying to work with her first? Dead is dead, there is no changing that. At 8 mos of age she has great potential for learning good behavior and one of the things it appears she needs is boosting her confidence level so that’s one thing I’d research and work on.

      You just got this dog; she lived somewhere else for 8 months before she came to live with you. I’m assuming she had a life and a family she loved and cared for those 8 months so she knows nothing else of life but where and with who she lived and (hopefully) was comfortable with. Suddenly she’s scooped up and dropped in another home with people she doesn’t know and she’s expected to automatically behave in whatever way you want her to which may be very different from what was expected of her at her first home. She needs guidance and time to learn. Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not automatically just know how their humans want them to behave.

      Let’s say you have about a 4 year old child who’s known only living with her family in her home and everywhere she goes her Mommy and/or Daddy are with her. One day you take your child to day care and you leave her there for the day. Would you expect your child to just automatically know how to behave in this new and very scary environment? I would think not! She will need time and guidance to learn the rules. I don’t just mean one day either, dogs can take long periods of time to adjust to a totally new life. Gracie’s been with us 7 months and she’s still not totally comfortable I don’t think.

      You believe you have a dominant pup. It’s my understanding you can’t train dominance out of a dog, it’s part of the instinct(s) they’re born with. What the owners can do is be more dominant than the pup.

      I didn’t hear any mention of obedience classes in your comments. That would be where I’d start and both you and boyfriend need to a) attend with the pup and b) be consistent in training and especially in training methods. For example, one of you can’t train “sit” one way and the other train “sits” another way. Obedience classes help form a bond between the dog and the handlers and help your pup learn who the boss is unless you allow her to teach you that she’s the boss.

      As for the bite on the finger, the two of them had just finished playing, it’s likely that although boyfriend was done playing your pup was wound up and she wasn’t done playing so she was trying to get your boyfriend to play some more. This is just one of the behaviors that dogs use on other dogs when they want to play, they’ll jump at and nip the one they want to play with. Your boyfriend doesn’t have a fur coat on his thumb; your pup doesn’t likely realize how hard she nipped.

      There’s also the great possibility that no one ever taught the dog that nipping is not an acceptable behavior. We do not allow teeth on skin at our house. If one of our dogs puts their teeth on our skin I quickly grab them gently around the muzzle with both hands and hold for 1-2 seconds and use the phrase “No teeth.” You have to be lightning fast to accomplish this effectively. You can’t do it longer than that because a dog breathes by panting. It you take the ability to pant away from them they may panic. You obviously will not need both hands for such a small dog.

      I don’t believe your dog dislikes your boyfriend; after all they do play together. If she didn’t like your boyfriend she wouldn’t have anything to do with him at all or she’d be mean and nasty to him more like 100% of the time. It sounds more like she’s displaying resource guarding behaviors. In her mind you (her favorite person) are her property (resource) and the bedroom thing is that she’s guarding her property trying to keep boyfriend away. A dog can pick anything to be what it believes to be it’s personal property, food, toys .. people. Do some research on resource guarding, especially as it pertains to people.

      Dogs repeat behaviors that get them what they want. Every time your dog growls and barks at boyfriend and boyfriend heeds her warnings and goes away she wins. I have the same thing here with the mail person.

      • Mail person comes;
      • dog goes berserk because it’s a dog thing that a dog must protect home and family from the intruder;
      • mail person goes away;
      • dog thinks dog made mail person go away by barking and growling like a lunatic;
      • dog doesn’t realize mail person was going to go away on their own.

      Locking her out of the bedroom should help but I would also put a crate in the bedroom and that’s where pup sleeps, not in the bed. This tells her she’s in the room with you two, but she can’t claim the bed or you as her property. Bed is a privilege not a right. The crate allows boyfriend to come and go without fear of being nipped and the two of you walking near the crate and ignoring any of her protests will help her learn that she doesn’t get what she wants by whining, crying, barking, nipping etc.

      After a few months if your room arrangement allows it and you feel she’s getting the hang of things you may be able to take another step. After the two of you are in bed and you want to invite her up, then someone reaches over and opens the crate door and invites her up on the bed. She doesn’t get up on the bed without the invite and if she does, she gets removed from the bed and put back on the floor or in the crate. Then you try again in a short while. You can add an additional step for obedience and “who’s the boss” reasons. Open the crate, allow dog out and make dog sit until invited up on the bed. Both you and boyfriend should be the boss, not just you and not just him. Consistency is a huge key in having a well behaved dog that knows who’s the boss.

      I hope this helps.


  50. Jenny says:

    A Tibetan Mastiff became a part of my family when it was two and half months old. He has been nice to everyone in the family for over two years. However, after I took my daughter out for her piano lesson on Sunday morning, I got a phone call from a police officer who told me that my dog ran outside, bit, and attacked my neighbor badly. Although the dog had been shut in a very large dog run inside a shed when my daughter and I left home at about 7:30 a.m., after my eleven year old son got up, he took the dog out and tied him to double leashes, which were tied to a basketball post. My son loves to fuss over the dog, but due to his lack of maturity, we do not permit him to take care of the dog. When my mother, who came to visit us on Friday night, told my son to tie the dog on the double leashes, my son did so. Somehow, the dog got off the double leashes. Right now, everyone around me has pressed me to agree to put the dog to sleep except for my children and my mother. My daughter usually takes care of dog if I am not available. She loves the dog very much. My mother feels guilty because if she did not ask my son to tie the dog outside, the dog would not have ran out and the accident would not have happened.

    I understand my children’s emotions, my neighbor’s frustration and fury and even my husband’s boss’ concern, but I do believe that it is my son’s fault for not tying the dog properly. However, facing all the pressure, I cannot figure out a way to save the dog’s life. Is there any chance to save his life though he bit the neighbor? I cannot get any details so I am not sure what had really happened. I took my son to apologize to my neighbor, but she was too frustrated to open the door. I cannot figure out how bad the situation is. My eleven year old son and seventy-two year old mother did not hear the dog bark before the police officer came to the door.

    Due to the size and breed of the dog, I felt that there is not much chance for me to save him. In addition, the police officer said that the dog If you have some experience regarding this issue, or if you could give me some help or instruction, anything will be highly appreciated by me. Thank you very much for your precious time and effort.

    Best wishes,


    • Mom says:

      Hi Jenny,

      A scary thing about dog ownership and is having something happen whereby my dog bites someone and I was not there to see what happened. This puts me and my dog’s fate at the mercy of everyone who was there and what they say happened which may not necessarily be what really happened.

      Let’s look at the contradictory info in your you’ve received. You already know you need to all the details in order to put this all together the way it really happened but when you wrote you had at that point not been able to get full information. This may have changed by now.

      A bite is one thing; an all-out attack is a whole ‘nother story. In our city dogs are not automatically ordered to be euthanized just because they bite someone. I don’t know what the laws are in your city; this is something you would need to research. You weren’t there when this happened and it sounds like your dog’s life is on the line. A priority for us would be to hire an attorney who specializes in dog bites.

      Twist #1: The officer told you that your dog ran outside, bit *and* attacked your neighbor badly. In my dog world there is a dog bite and then there’s an attack with the two being very different from one another. Having a dog this size come at you is a very scary thought and because of the dog’s size alone one bite could conceivably be very bad depending on what part of the body got bitten. This could be a case of your dog scaring the living daylights out of your neighbor badly (running/charging towards the neighbor) but your neighbor only having received one bite.

      We all know how incidents have a way of being blown way out of proportion to what really happened especially by the person it happened to. Don’t forget there are people out there who are sue-happy and will blow things up well beyond the truth. I’m not saying your neighbor is one of these people so please don’t get that idea. It’s just that the “what if’s” in this incident so far have been left hanging.

      Twist #2: Your son tied the dog outside with two leashes, yet the police officer says your dog “ran outside” indicating the dog was inside somewhere. You need to determine which really happened. Was the dog tied outside or was the dog confined and got out?

      See how the way the words are said can make a huge difference in what really happened? I’m not referring to nor questioning you; I’m questioning the information you’ve been given to make appoint of how misconceptions and different interpretations happen and why you need to get to the bottom of this to help save your dog.

      Not being given all the details is not fair and I don’t believe it’s legal to keep these things from you. It’s your dog; you have a right to this information including the right to copies of the statements given to the police by the victim and any witnesses. You have a right to copies of any photos of the bite injuries. These reports and documents should be public record no matter what local you live in. You may have to pay a few dollars for copies but it should not be denied to you.

      If you and your neighbor had a friendly relationship before this happened, I find it strange (suspicious?) that they won’t open the door to speak with you especially with you standing there with your son.

      Even with this information, not having witnessed what happened with your own eyes it’s impossible to know that what the documents say is the truth. For example, your neighbor may have intentionally provoked the dog but is that person going to admit that? I’m not calling your neighbor a liar, I’m just pointing out that if a person does something deliberately which results in a dog bite, they likely aren’t going to admit it. If they don’t understand how to be around dogs, they could have done something innocently and unknowingly that provoked the dog. Think of this as the “I didn’t do anything wrong.” thing because they don’t realize that their actions in fact unknowing provoked the incident.

      Most people don’t realize that in the majority of cases they bring on their own dog bites and it doesn’t have to be intentional or deliberate on their part. Trying to sort out the aftermath of a dog bite is often extremely difficult. A huge factor in this boils down to the difference between human and dog perceptions and the fact that dogs perceive things differently than people do. Unfortunately there are still way too many people that don’t understand there IS a difference and trying to prove this in court is extremely difficult sometimes. You’re going to be up against those that are sworn to protect the people and a dog that’s bitten someone is often considered a threat to safety even if the person who was bit is at fault.

      Example, the person that looks your dog directly in the face while walking past your dog. They think nothing of it other than they looked at a dog and are totally flabbergasted when the dog lunges and bites them. They claim to have not done anything wrong so the bite was unprovoked in their minds which mean the dog is then accused of biting without provocation and therefore must be vicious.

      Reality is that it wasn’t wrong but that some dogs take direct eye contact as a confrontation or threat and will react to protect themselves and/or their families. The human did nothing wrong and neither did the dog! They both behaved normally but because the dog can’t talk to explain why he bit;

      • Didn’t you see his eyes?
      • This guy was threatening me!
      • I had to protect myself!

      And so the dog automatically loses.

      Blaming your son isn’t going to help. He probably already blames himself more than you ever could anyway. I would not force my son to apologize until such time as I had all the facts and so far you don’t.

      • Was there evidence your dog snapped the leashes?
      • Was the collar broken or damaged?
      • Was the post broken or bent?
      • Is there any proof at all that the dog wasn’t let off the tether by an unknown person?

      Far out thoughts? Maybe, but then again maybe not. After you have all the facts you may learn that your son doesn’t owe anyone an apology. You assumed your neighbor wouldn’t answer the door out of frustration, I don’t assume that. I jump to maybe your neighbor is ashamed to face you because he/she knows he/she is at fault. If your son has tied the dog out repeatedly in the past without a problem why would he do it any differently the day this occurred?

      I would not bow to pressure to have my dog put down; I’d pull out all the stops, hire a good lawyer and fight it tooth and nail.

      We hope that everything turns out alright, that you neighbor wasn’t seriously injured and that nothing bad will happen to your dog. Please let us know the outcome.

  51. Heidi says:


    We adopted a 3 year old Pug x English Staffy a few months ago. The issue we have been having is that she jumps up on new people when excited and if they’re not giving her enough attention she has nipped. This has happened a couple of times. She also nipped my father in law when he was running around playing with my 2 kids. I think she’s getting over excited but we need to stop this nipping. I’ve made the ‘AHHH’ noise and put her outside when she’s done it but it’s still happening. What else could we do? Thanks.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Heidi,

      Just so that everyone understands, nipping in the manner your dog is behaving is not considered biting, at least in my dog book it’s not. This should need nothing more than re-directing her nipping behavior. Taking her outside is probably not an immediate enough redirect for her to “get it.” Dogs need *immediate* consequences (redirection) or it won’t do any good.

      If this were my dog, I would choose a behavior that I would prefer she do instead of what’s she’d doing. My choice would be to have her sit and wait for a greeting from the person she’s meeting. In other words when she displays her current behavior you teach her to sit instead. The person she’s greeting must ignore your dog’s misbehavior and as soon as your dog is sitting instead *then* you praise like crazy, give her a treat or two and your person may then love her up. She’s 3 years old meaning she’s been doing this for 3 years so don’t expect immediate results and remember you must be consistent in your redirection. Even one time that you fail to redirect her tells her that her misbehavior is acceptable.


  52. Carla says:

    Question: In the Fearful Humans portion, do you mean therapy dog or service dog? I have a feeling you really mean certified therapy dog.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Carla,

      I don’t think in this case there is any significant difference, both must be stable dogs so it really doesn’t matter as far as I’m concerned.


  53. Meredith says:

    This is a great article and I think everyone should read it. I am personally struggling right now with the possibility of euthanizing my dog due to a bite. He is a 2 yo German Shepherd/Aussie cross. He is very protective of use which only became an issue the last month or so. He bit our neighbor when she approached him while my teenager had him on leash in the yard. It broke the skin. I thought it was odd and was more careful with and finally began obedience training with him (I have trained many dogs and was working with him at home). He was great at obedience, no signs of aggression at all. However, the next day he charged my daughters friend, twice, in my house. This is a girl he knows very well, she babysits for me and has come into the house and walked him before. I know he thinks he is protecting us. My brother came over and he just lays on the floor and relaxes because he doesn’t need to protect us anymore. I’m not sure how to each him he doesn’t need to protect us so much, my landlady wants him gone. I am having trouble finding a rescue that will take him because he bit. I know he would be fine in a different situation than ours, which is stressful and he doesn’t get enough exercise. I’ve only had him since November. I am just heart broken because he is amazing with my 2 yo daughter and my niece and nephew. He just loves kids.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Meredith,

      I’m glad you like the article, I wish everyone would read it and others related to it as well both here and wherever this kind of information can be found.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s behavior, this is scary to say the least. Before I would be entertaining euthanasia I would be looking at medical causes. His behavior changed suddenly from what you’re telling me. This is not normal and certainly not normal protective behavior if he’s charging people he knows that have been in your house before. Not normal at all. I think something may be going on medically, hypothyroidism can cause sudden aggressive behavior. That’s the first thing I’d look into, sheps are prone to this and your dog is part shepherd. Aussies can act a bit wild and crazy, they’re very active dogs most of the time so you’ve got a mix that can be high strung.

      Most rescues can’t take him because of his bite history, unless they have the kind of insurance that will allow them to or they risk losing everything so you can’t blame them for that.

      I hope you find a safe solution for him, we wish you the best of luck and hope you’ll come back and let us know how things are going.


  54. CAt says:

    I always hear “there was absolutely no provocation,” or “the dog bit without being provoked!” I disagree, there is ALWAYS a provocation. It may not have been an acceptable reason but there was something that made the dog bite.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Cat,

      You are RIGHT ON! Thank you so much for your input, it’s fabulous!

      The provocation is not always something people view as provocation, but as you well know dogs perceive things differently than humans and people need to know and understand this. Then there would be more people who would understand what you’re saying. Thank you so much!

  55. Thank you for publishing this article.

    I rescued an anxious 2 1/2 year old golden retriever that could not be trained. She was food aggressive, dog aggressive, and not good around children. With the little ones, she would body-slam them and nip their hands while stealing food from their fingers. She nearly killed the previous owner’s poodle over what Rylee thought was a piece of kibble on the floor. Her attacks were aggressive!

    She was adopted three times before coming to me, because nobody could handle her. I’ve never met a more anxious dog. I was concerned about putting her in the car and riding for 2 1/2 hours together. I saw great potential for her to back in a corner and try to attack me.

    We took a few practice walks and a couple of car rides before I brought her home. We formed an instant connection, and the ride home was wonderful. In the past, she always vomited in the car. Our first rides were good, and now she loves car rides more than anything else. That transition was all about positive experiences.

    When friends brought their dogs over (with a stern warning on my part) Rylee would snarl with the side of her face that I could not see. Literally, she was two-faced to establish dominion without me seeing her. Or Rylee would sit at my feet under the kitchen table, and silently snarl at the visiting dog.

    With extensive training based entirely on my intuition, she has become a wonderful, happy, safe and loyal dog.

    And, I understand her triggers! I am amazed that people will bring their children and their dogs into my home, and not watch them or respect Rylee’s boundaries. I’ve gone to the bathroom, and come out to find a toddler hugging her hard around the neck. I warn people to manage their dogs and children while she is eating – particularly when the peanut butter bone is being filled. And yet they sit on my couch, buried in the phones, leaving me to manage Rylee, their dogs, and their children.

    I’m amazed that there hasn’t been an accident. Rylee is loyal and intuitive, and has several dog friends that she loves dearly. But the most important rules include watching her body language, showing her respect, and following the advice in your article. You did an excellent job of outlining the most basic and most effective guidelines for establishing a relationship with a dog.

    Rylee now has more friends than I do, and she is very popular on Facebook. She is sweet and loving and pretty and loyal. She is now 7 years old, and she can read my mind. Seriously.

    Thanks for your article. I was Rylee’s last hope. It was hard work, but in the end I have a wonderful companion that brings me great joy.


    • Mom says:

      Mary, you are an amazing dog lady! My hat’s off to you for what you have been able to accomplish with a dog who so desperately needed someone to understand her! I’m totally in awe of what you’ve been able to do for and with her and quite honored that you found my article helpful and so nice that you took the time to let me know. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Success stories like yours help me keep going with my work. I’m 9 blog posts behind as I write this and your comments absolutely made my day!

      Big hugs to you and Rylee (love the spelling by the way!)


      • Your work is important! Keep going, and never slow down. There is so little awareness of the basics of dog behavior. You are saving the lives of animals if humans – especially parents – pay attention to the basics.

        I have been taming difficult animals since I was 4 years old. It has always come naturally to me. The rewards are fantastic! I cannot tell you the number of times that people have been AMAZED when their crazy or fearful dogs approached me. And little dogs that are biters or fearful would jump right into my lap! All covered in your article – and it comes so naturally if people would just LISTEN. Dogs all have their stories to tell.

        I never say that I own Rylee. It is not possible to own a soul. I never say that I’m her mom. I didn’t give birth to her. She is my partner, and we love each other very much. Like any relationship, it can only be successful in an equal and respectful partnership.

        A little bit of effort from each of us has been rewarded a hundred fold. Rylee will hold smoked bacon in her mouth while I shoot 20 pictures for her web site. She knows the reward is near, and will do most anything I ask of her. She is my muse.

        You made me smile. Thank you so much for your kind reply.


    MY FATHER WAS IN PRISON FOR 17 YRS . CHILD ABUSE. I WAS AM AM MENTALLY ABUSED NOW HE YELLED, HIT ABUSED DOGGIE,KAYLA. SHE RETALIATED. THEY WANT TO PUT HER TO SLEEP NO, NO, NO,, WHAT NOW////////?????????? i’m dying of cancer, broken foot, cerrosis of the liver. help pls i am terrified

    • Mom says:

      Hello Stephanie,

      Both you and your dog need to get away from your Father is my opinion. If I were terminally ill I’d be finding a new *safe* home for my dog now rather than leaving it up to others. Your father should be on parole having just gotten out of prison. I would call his parole officer and tell them what happened, they can revoke his parole any time they darn well please which will get him out of the house. Your dog had every right to protect herself. I hope you find help, this is all I’m able to do for you. We wish you the best for everything.

  57. Diane says:

    Your right it is because he does NOT like face to face contact. and as he is turning 4 he is doing it a little more.. now I worry about my young son who is very good with him. but I do worry so im schooling my family more about this with him… he does NOT do it with me or my husband, so im traing the people more to know what to watch for. thank you all for your help…..

  58. Racheal says:

    I am looking for answers as we are concerned about our 16 week old puppy.
    We have always had dogs and have trained two Labradors previously and both were extremely well behaved loved and just perfect so it was inevitable that when our lab passed away that we would get a new one.

    My lab is not like any other dog I have managed before, her biting is becoming increasingly hard to control.
    Indoors we have managed to curb it slightly and now when she is over excited she will grab a toy to stop herself from biting.
    My dad gets the worst he cannot sit down without her jumping and lunging at him.
    My mum she is not so bad with but me it is on and off.

    I took her for a walk in the evening last night and she picked up some rubbish I told her to give which she growled she then completely turnt like I have never seen before. There is play biting and fearful biting and it looked like fear the whites of her eyes were showing she made a sound which I had never heard before and she was bearing all teeth not just the front ones, she bit my hand quite hard drew blood and continued to jump and bite at me including the backs of my legs she just would not calm down until I put her on a short leash and let her attack my handbag. Once she was on the short lead she completely changed back to her old character. I am confused as to why she went like this it was like Jackyll and Hyde and I am extremely upset. I do not want my dog to be fearful we are disciplined with her but teach commands and consider ourselves good with dogs. We have never had a god like this and really need advice,

    • Mom says:

      Hi Racheal,

      As always, first stop is the vet for a complete physical including thyroid testing. Most vets may balk at this test saying she’s too young to have hypothyroidism and they would be wrong.

      Next, look hard at what you’re feeding her. She may be allergic or sensitive to one or more ingredients in her food which can make some dogs hyper or she may be getting too much or not enough of something in her food.

      Remember that puppy teeth are very sharp and pretty much any contact with puppy teeth is painful. So, let’s just not forget that is all I’m saying.

      People can have dogs all their lives and always had well behaved dogs and felt they were doing everything right. Some will not open their eyes to new things or new ways to do things. I’m living proof positive that I made a whole lot of mistakes with my previous dogs and that being a lifelong dog owner does not mean that I was a good dog owner, trainer or dog-behavior-smart. It wasn’t until Riley came along that I went on my learning adventure into dogs and what an eye opener it’s turned out to be. I had to rethink just about everything dog-wise I’d been doing and believing all the previous years. It was a hard pill to swallow that I didn’t understand dogs for squat!

      It sounds like whatever you folks are doing you may be promoting her bad behavior rather than curbing or redirecting it. Example: she went nutsy on you and wouldn’t calm down until you let her attack your handbag. What you did here was to give her your handbag which is no different than giving her a reward for her unwanted behavior. If you’re going to be doing trades with her, don’t give her something that you don’t want her to chew on in the future. You basically told her “here, chew on my purse” so now she believes it’s ok to chew on your purse. Only trade for things that she is allowed to chew on but remember if you give her an old sock that’s ok for her to have, she’s going to think all socks are fair game. Tie a knot in the middle of the ok sock so she knows the difference.

      If your folks are making excited sounds such as screaming at her to get off the excitement in their voices will serve to increase her excitement. They need to use calm, stern words, nothing with excitement in their voices.

      Dad and Mom sitting down and allowing her access to their laps is giving her what she wants. Some things they can try is to ignore her, turn away from her OR stand up and move towards her without speaking to her in a “crowding” manner which backs her away from them and preferably into a corner or up against a wall so she gets the idea. If you have a habit of talking with your hands, cross your arms so you’re not doing this.

      Allowing her on laps now is cute and fun, but she’s also learning that getting up on your laps is an ok thing to do and when she weighs 50 pounds or more do you really want her climbing up on your lap? What you teach her now that is ok, is not something she’s magically going to realize in six months “oh I’m too big to get up on their laps now” and so then you have to teach her she’s not a lap dog which is only going to confuse her. It was ok before but now it’s not? And people wonder why their big dogs think they’re lap dogs? Because they showed them when they were puppies that they were!

      My guess is your pup is Jeckyll and Hyde because she’s confused. Re-evaluate what and how you’re teaching her every step of the way. Go back to the purse thing – you were telling her no but she took it as being rewarded. Corrections and redirections have to be immediate for a dog and especially a pup to understand what’s being said to them. It sounds like the purse incident took place over a matter of at least several minutes; you tried to calm her, didn’t work so you got a short leash and then gave her your purse. All of this took time and gave her mixed signals.

      A few things I’d do until this behavior is under control is:

      1. Not wear clothing around your pup that allows access to skin so that scratches and bites don’t hurt so much.

      2. Sounds like she maybe feels more secure on a short lead. I would go with that for a while and slowly work into longer leads as she gains confidence.

      3. Teach her to sit so she knows what sit is, then use that command when she’s jumping up on you or otherwise misbehaving. She doesn’t get what she wants until she sits. You can add holding your finger up in front of her face like you’re shaking your finger at a child meaning “no-no” but I would not shake my finger. Just hold it up in front of her face and sternly look her in the eye. Start with using the word “no” and once she understands it you can slowly wean her off words until she understands the gesture. You have to be careful with this, however because some dogs will take direct eye contact as a confrontation.

      4. Think in terms of redirecting your dog instead of disciplining your dog with the biggest key being everyone in your house must do the same thing for each of the behaviors you want to change. Being consistent is probably the highest priority to un-confuse your pup. Dogs don’t come pre-programmed knowing the basic commands, they must be taught.

      5. Join a good puppy obedience class with her and better if every family member can participate to learn the same techniques from the class so that you keep consistency going.

      Hope some of this is helpful and best of luck!

  59. kathy says:

    My dog was playing catch with a friend last nite. My friend sat down, and my dog jumped up and bit him in the lip.
    My dog seemed to be playing happily. What happened?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kathy,

      I wasn’t there and there isn’t a whole lot of information you’ve given but there is a difference between a bite and a playful nip. If your dog was excited and wanted to play more it could have been a nip to try to get your friend to continue playing. That’s one of the things dogs do with one another.


  60. kathy says:

    I should also say that my dog goes to work with me every day and is socialized with lots of different people . He also goes out with a sitter / trainer with other dogs several times a week for socialization. I’m nervous that he might do this again, only with one of my clients.

  61. Jessica W says:

    Hi, This article sounds like it might be very helpful. I have a chihuahua dachshund mix named Chica that’s 5 years old. This is a new problem that just started over the last 2 or 3 months. She does have separation anxiety that is being worked on with a trainer along with me, along with her barking, howling, etc when I leave the apartment. That’s not the recent issue though. I live in a high rise apartment complex and am in an electric wheelchair. Lately she has become suddenly aggressive towards men, even ones who are big dog lovers. Some she doesn’t trust and will run after barking like she’s gonna attack them and goes towards their feet. Other ones, she will go up to wagging her tail to greet them, smells their hand then goes after. She hasn’t actually bitten anyone yet, though she has come very close. She is always on the leash and I’m able to pull her back as soon as it starts. I pull her back quick, say NO!, and pull her back onto the footrest of my wheelchair where she sits between my feet. About 6 months ago I had a bad break up with a guy who was staying with me. e id used to rough house with her too much, which I had to break him of. Even now though, when she sees him, she runs up and greets him, happy to see him, no problem. She is fine with men she has known for a long time and trusts. Since the break up, and others before that, I myself have grown a distrust for most men, which she might sense. But as I said, this has started with her just in the last 2 or 3 months. And she’s even doing it with guys I myself know and trust. Even with the maintenance men in the building, one of whom is a really big dog lover who wants Chica very much to like him. When they are sitting she is mostly fine. If they are sitting and she goes up to them and they immediately pet her, they made a new friend. I think you are right about the eye contact and putting out their hand because if they are sitting (or especially if they’re standing or even squatting down), because if she does go up to them to greet them, and all they do is look at her or offer their hand to sniff, she turns into Demon Dog and suddenly turns from happy friendly puppy, into Doberman attack dog LOL. If they give her a treat, she’s fine.. until the treat is gone… This is really scaring me and upsetting me because I’m so afraid the building is going to tell me I have to keep her muzzled all the time OR WORSE, that I have to get rid of her. OR Even worse than that, somebody makes a dreaded phone call. PLEASE HELP!!

    I little history, I’ve had Chica since she was a puppy and got her from a breeder I still know to this day. No man that I’m aware of has done anything in the past to her or in the last 6 month since my ex left, but I can’t say for sure what all he did and do to her, but as I said before he left 6 months ago and this just started in the last 2 or 3 months. She goes to the groomers regularly and they just told me she has very healthy teeth, she is up to date on all her shots but is due for her distemper shot which I’m taking her for this month. She is litterbox trained since I can’t take her out in the wintertime, but I do take her out for a run (she runs along side or in front of my wheelchair on the leash) whenever I can.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jessica,

      The first thing you need to understand is that you have a small dog and small dogs are more likely to bite than big dogs. This is something many people don’t think about. Big dog bites are (in part) sensationalized in the news because their bites cause more damage than a small dog big. Secondly, yours is a mix of two of the top breeds most likely to bite. So at least part of your dog’s new behavior problems is likely genetic in nature.

      A few more links regarding Chihuahuas and Dachshund biting habits:

      Chihuahuas Bite Vets Most

      Sausage Dogs are the Most Aggressive Dogs

      I agree she’s sensing your unfortunate newfound distrust in men which is likely adding to the problem and is something you can work on.

      Dog owners everywhere no matter what the breed need to educate themselves in dog behavior and owners of breeds on the “most likely to bite list” have a responsibility to know their dog’s triggers, take additional precautions and to learn & practice management techniques.

      German Shepherds are on all “quick to bite lists” but since I learned to respect my dogs, to practice things like the proper way to meet a dog and understand more why dogs bite so that I don’t make the mistakes that people make that winds up in a bite, we’ve had no issues. Just knowing reasons why dogs bite isn’t enough, one must live the respect and management techniques every day.

      Because I’m confused by your comments “She’s fine with men she’s known for a long time and trusts.” Then you go on to say “She’s even doing it with guys I myself know and trust.” I’m going to pass on commenting and skip to some things I’d do.

      First and foremost as I tell everyone – a full vet exam as explained in other posts here should be done in case there’s something medical causing or contributing to her issues. I’ve no doubt your groomer sees a lot of dog teeth but she’s not a veterinarian so I’d not take a groomer’s comments as gold. Other potential contributing factors are what you’re feeding your dog, venturing into raw feeding and too many vaccinations.

      Then read my How to Meet a Dog article. Follow the technique(s) consistently Inconsistency confuses a dog.

      It sounds like you’re letting things get to the point where Chica is already reactive. You shouldn’t have to be pulling your dog back to you after she gets worked up. I don’t let it get to that point because I don’t want my dogs to bite anyone and in an excited state a bite is more likely to happen. It’s much easier to prevent the excitement than to have to deal with its aftermath.

      You suspect your dog is sensitive to and thus reactive to direct eye contact and hands reaching towards her. Respect your dog and stop this from happening. Some help for how to do this is in the previously mentioned meeting a dog article. You said she’s fine if people are sitting down and Chica goes to them. That’s the correct way and it doesn’t matter if it’s a stranger or a person Chica comes in contact with every day. Your dog is trying to tell you she doesn’t like it when someone approaches her (and maybe you as well). She needs to go to them which is what dogs need to do. To a dog, each meet & greet is a new experience so treat it as one.

      The easiest and safest solution to Chica’s reactivity after someone gives her a treat is to not allow others to give her treats, at least until you get her behavior under control, permanently if you can’t.

      Best of luck!

  62. Krystle says:

    Hi ,

    I have to GSD’s one Intact male 2 1/2 years old and the other Spayed female 1 1/2 years old. They both have gone through training and continue to train everyday. Barrett the male has his CGC but all that doesn’t matter because they have both started a nasty habit of biting (and I say biting because theyre drawing blood) the kids and the kids friends when they are playing around them. Xuber the female used to keep her ears back and approach the kids correctly but the longer she’s been around the male, now theyre both doing it. It worries me not only for our two children ages 12 and 10 who have both been active in the training of the shepherds, including going to their classes, but more so Im worried about all their friends the shepherds have been biting. We will lose our home owners insurance if we’re reported. This is a desperate issue. I will do whatever it takes. Please help me help them.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Krystle,

      You didn’t give me much information to go on so I’m having to wing it here.

      I suggest that you read this entire article starting at the very beginning and all posts/responses on this page. There are a number of posts that address the issues you’re having with your dog such as herding instincts/behavior which it sounds like your dogs may be participating in. Pay attention to my suggestions on what you’re feeding your dogs, health check-ups and potential medical conditions. Remember that kid skin is more sensitive than adult skin so drawing blood is going to happen easier on kids. There are also tips on how to handle helping your dogs to not behave this way when kids are running around.

      I don’t know why your male is still intact and I can’t say with 100% certainty if neutering a dog changes behavior, you’ll find beliefs on both sides of the coin if you research it but we do believe in neutering and spaying for obvious reasons even though your female is spayed there are plenty of other females in your area that aren’t I have no doubt. Our main reason for this is that the world doesn’t need any more puppies. There are so many dogs that need homes and not enough homes to go around. If this were my dog, I would say it’s worth a try, you’re not going to hurt your dog by neutering him especially due to his age, he’s an adult so you won’t wind up with the common growth & emotional issues neutering too soon causes. Unless you’re a reputable professional breeder (and it sounds like you’re not because your female is spayed) there is *no* reason good enough in our opinion to have an intact male.

      Until you figure things out and have solutions, for safety reasons there is no reason to allow your dogs around children and there’s no point in jeopardizing your homeowners insurance just so your dogs can play with the kids.

      Hope this helps!

  63. Cheryl says:

    I read your articles with high interest; you have some very good insight. However, my situation seems different, and I’m wondering if you have any thoughts.

    We’ve raised Bernie (a 6 year choc lab – pedigree, hunting line) since he was a puppy with 3 boys. The youngest boy is not 8. Bernie has never reacted negatively to any of the children.

    About 4 years ago Bernie bit my husband in the hand, my husband had previously provoked the dog by growling at it, which scared him and he would always run to me.

    About 2 years ago Bernie gained access to a room with a mother and baby guniea pig, and ate one of them that he could get to. After I tried to remove him from the situation to protect the little animals, and Bernie bit me on the hand. I was half asleep and very angry with the dog as I tried to pull him out of the room to protect the other guinea pigs. He did not break skin, and was fine as soon as he was away from the guniea pigs.

    About 2 months ago, a friend stayed with me and she tried to pull Bernie in the yard when he got out and he growled and snipped at her. This was a surprise, as there was no warning. Luckily she reacted quickly enough, and my young son went and was able to get the dog in the yard with no problem. Now, this friend is a total dog lover, and slept with, walked and cared for my dogs.

    Then this last weekend I was crawling around the floor on all four, like I do often when playing with my kids, and Bernie approached me, wagging his tail, then started licking me. He was wagging his tail as he licked me, but Bernie never licks me so I moved my head and started to lean away because I was uncomfortable.. but he growled and latched on to my face tightly ripping my skin (10 stiches, many other scratches and lacerations). I had to pull his jaw apart to get away, and then went into shock.

    You should know that I am the primary care taker for both our labs. I walk them, feed them, bathe them, and they always follow me around the house and lay at my feet. They even follow me to the rest room. Wherever I am the dogs are laying right next to me.

    So, this bite is a total surprise. Do you have any insight as to why this happened? Or do you have any suggestion where I might be able to give up my dog in a new home? I am terrified to have him around my children going forward. He is extremely well behaved, listens better than any dog I’ve ever known, and walks behind me or on my left side.

    Thank you for any thoughts or advice. My husband wants to keep him, and kennel him up outside as he says he is not a house dog. However, I’m afraid he will get even upset with this treatment as he’s always been around the family. I also will be the one to have to care for him, and quite honestly, I’m a bit afraid of him, especially not knowing what I did wrong. My husband says it’s my body language, but I don’t know what that means or how it was perceived, especially since the dog approached me.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Cheryl,

      Four years ago when Bernie bit your husband, it sounds like your husband had it coming. I don’t mean to sound crass, but this proves that growling at or provoking a dog in any way can result in a bite especially if the provocation or action causes a fear reaction in the dog. Fear is the #1 reason a dog bites. Enough said on this.

      The guinea pig – some dogs have very high prey drive and should not be allowed around small animals. There is no reason to be angry at a dog who has prey drive, it’s an instinct that he cannot change and neither can you. If my dog’s prey drive has been triggered, they are not going to listen to me come hell or high water. Prey drive makes a dog highly excited and so you getting your hand bit to try to keep him away was caused by his excitement. My guess is your hand got in the way. My suggestion is to completely prevent Bernie from getting near small animals such as behind closed doors or gates in between.

      Before I go any further, hopefully by now you’ve read this entire page and have seen something I continue to repeat and repeat and repeat … have you taken Bernie to the vet and gotten a complete physical including things like having his thyroid levels checked? Labs are on the list of dog breeds prone to hypothyroidism which can cause aggression. This is very important, there could be a medical reason for some of his behavior excluding things like prey drive and husband harassing/scaring him and the fact that Bernie is a dog and will behave like a dog. I just get a strong feeling that there is a medical condition at the bottom of Bernie’s problems.

      Moving along to when Bernie bit you when you were on the floor … sounds like you had very good instincts here … Bernie never licks you so you felt something was up. This part of your story right here is what triggered me to think that there may very well be something medical wrong with Bernie. This is odd behavior but on the other hand it’s not. When your instincts kicked in so did fear (and understandably so) and dogs can smell fear, some will react to it with a bite just as Bernie did. However, I still lean more towards something medical being at the bottom of this.

      Until you have him fully vetted and I do mean fully — the works, not just the all to common casual look-him-over exam. Your vet needs to get down and dirty with blood work, things that might be causing Bernie pain I would not allow the children around him. Unfortunately, keeping him from his family (which is his pack) will cause him anxiety and that’s not good either.

      Have a hard look at what you’re feeding him, allergies to dog food ingredients can cause some really bizarre behaviors and painful physical conditions as well. We are huge on a raw diet here which has absolutely been one of the best things we’ve done for our dogs.

      Locking him away in a kennel is not the answer and is only going to bring more stress and anxiety to Bernie. There are many many hunters who believe like your husband that hunting dogs are not house dogs. I can’t possibly agree with that but I also can’t change it. Dogs are pack animals no matter what breed they are and they literally need their pack, especially a dog that’s had a good size pack — your family and your other dog.

      I agree with your husband on your body language. You’re afraid of Bernie and considering what happened it’s natural for you to be afraid of him. Bernie knows you’re afraid of him, he can sense that. This is adding to what’s going on between you and Bernie and has become a vicious circle that needs to be broken. Please get him to the vet and especially get his thyroid levels checked and have your vet check for other medical/painful reasons that can cause aggression in a dog that has never been aggressive before.

  64. Karen says:

    We have adopted a two year old shih Tzu from a rescue place. It was said that he is aggressive which we just found out after we came home and saw it written in the papers that he bites.

    Well, my husband was the one who brought him home and introduced him to our other shelter dog (Lhasa apsa) we just got a month before. The hell broke loose, but we managed that the dogs got along after a few days.

    But Max, the shih Tzu bit sometimes just out of the blue when you patted him, or when driving in the car one dog sitting on my lab and he beside me biting like crazy .it felt and was like an attack. Yesterday he was sleeping beside me and I just put my hand out to pat him and he attached me again. My husband grabbed him and he wanted to bite him. He is very fearful and we thought that he might have been abused by a woman, because he is lashing out more to females than to men. And he has a big scare on his back. He knows that he did something wrong and tries to make it up and lick me. What can we do to stop this.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Karen,

      First I’d like to thank you for adopting this little dude! But more importantly I’d like to thank you for looking for answers rather than giving up on him!

      The rescue REALLY should have addressed his biting issues with you at great length. I find that to be very lax and irresponsible on their part for not doing so. Many rescues will not take in nor adopt out a dog with a bite or aggression history. They should have worked with him a lot before allowing him to be adopted out. Just telling you a dog is aggressive and noting this in the paperwork is not nearly enough. They not only should have discussed it with you but given you some help options for seeking out ways to help him. It sounds like you weren’t even there for the adoption which if that’s the case is really wrong. The rescue should require meeting with all family members including your other dog and doing a home visit as well. Without knowing all that transpired I can only comment on what you’ve told me so some of what I’m saying about the rescue may not be relevant.

      In my opinion I think you need to find all the dog’s triggers and then act on them accordingly. This blog post is absolutely a wealth of information on triggers to biting. I suggest reading all the information contained here and think hard about what situations fit your dog the best and then follow through with my suggestions on how to deal with his triggers. It does sound like fear is a big part of the little guy’s issues but no matter what, when you bring a new dog into a home it takes time for all of you to get to know one another. I mean months, not days or weeks and sometimes it’s many months. The dog has probably been through a lot and has no sense of security which all dogs need very much.

      Good luck to you! Let us know how it goes?

  65. Olivia says:

    I apologize if a similar question has already been asked/answered, but there were a lot of responses to read through and I’m desperate! I have a bullmastiff who is a little over a year old. He is a great dog–very snuggly, knows basic obedience, very, very sweet. However, he has a couple of behaviors that are not so great. Sometimes he will jump on our bed and sort of play bite. We’ve been working to correct this, but it has never been aggressive, and it happens infrequently so we haven’t worried too much about it. Last week, I noticed he was scratching his ears a lot and seemed sensitive about it when I tried to touch them. I took him to the vet and we learned he has yeast overgrowth in his ears. To treat this, we need to pour a generous amount of a liquid the vet gave us into his ear, rub it in for a minute, and then wipe his ears out with a tissue. Unfortunately, our dog was very anxious at the vet and snapped at the vet when he tried to get near him to look in his ears. It took four people and several attempts at muzzling him/bite attempts before we were able to get him to stop moving enough for the vet to show us how to use the liquid. The dog was very upset, and was very stressed out after that experience. The vet sent us home with the liquid and instructed us to do the same thing we had done together every other day for a month and once a week for the rest of his life. Again, my dog is very sweet, he lets me handle his paws, ears, face, I can kiss his snout, hug/squeeze him, and he tolerates all of it. The minute he sees the bottle of liquid, he immediately becomes stressed out, barks at me, and won’t let me near his ears. I tried muzzling him, putting treats in the muzzle, he got more stressed, and ran away from me. I eventually attempted to just force the muzzle on quickly (he needs his medication!) and he got really upset and aggressively bit my arm. I feel really stuck and have no idea how to manage this behavior. I understand that he’s scared, so what do I do? Help!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Olivia,

      Thanks for joining our dog bite discussion. I’m first going to touch on one of the things you wrote which you weren’t overly concerned about and that’s your dog jumping up on your bed for a play-bite session. This play time may seem totally innocent but I would put a stop to this immediately. Our dogs are not allowed to put teeth on skin for any reason. It’s too easy for something like play-biting to turn dangerous quickly. Allowing teeth on skin in play may not be translated by your dog correctly and he may therefore think teeth on skin is just flat out ok at any time.

      Ear infections are something I’m quite familiar with as Nissa used to get ear and urinary infections 3-4 times a year until we switched her to a raw diet. She had one ear infection a few months ago but that was traced to her ears having gotten wet. If your dog continues to get ear infections he could be allergic to something in what you’re feeding him now so you may want to have a good hard look at what he’s eating and try a different dog food. Check out the Grade Your Dog Food list to get some ideas of some good foods or better yet, consider going raw.

      When Nissa was experiencing ear infections she only had to be on the liquid-squirt medication for X number of days (10-14???). There was never any long-term or permanent use. You might check with your vet, there is a medication for ear infections which our vet gave Nissa for her recent infection. I don’t know what it’s specific name is but it’s a mixture of Enroflaxin, Ketoconazole and Triamcinolone. Our vet tech squirted this into her ear with a syringe minus a needle and then rubbed her ear to work it in. I took her home with instructions to keep her ears dry for at least 14 days, no additional meds needed. By the next day she was feeling better. On the downside this medication is sticky greasy stuff and with her long coat it looked like the area in and around the outside of her ears was covered with the hair goop that Fonzie used on his hair but it was a very small price to pay for the results. She hated the liquid squirt stuff and I’m pretty sure one reason is that some of these liquid ear meds sting especially if they contain alcohol.

      You found out first hand that when a dog is cornered and/or scared he’s very likely to bite (even his beloved owner) and that forcing the muzzle won’t work. It just makes for a negative experience that your dog may never forget and always react badly to muzzling but with some work you may also be able to bring him around so you don’t have problems if the need to muzzle arises.

      So, what I’d do is get back on the phone with my vet to inquire on the gel ear medication that I mentioned. I also would want to know the reason for keeping him on the liquid medication permanently for an ear infection. I’m not a vet and maybe there’s more to your dog’s ear infection than I’ve ever had to deal with but it just doesn’t seem like a necessity to keep him on the liquid forever, which seems extreme to me – but again I’m not a vet.

      When you get his ear infection cleared up, then a few months on down the road you can go back and work on him slowly to accepting the muzzle using positive reinforcement techniques. I believe it’s a necessity for every dog owner but particularly large dog owners to get your dogs to the point of accepting a muzzle just in case there is ever an emergency or situation that would require him to wear it. You want to be able to slip it on and not worry about it or about anyone getting hurt to get it on him. Being that he’s had a negative experience with it, you’re likely going to have your work cut out for you to turn this around. A basket muzzle is the most recommended style and Baskerville makes a great basket muzzle. We have one that we used when we were introducing Gracie into the pack but that’s the only time we’ve needed a muzzle and that was as a precaution because Riley isn’t always good with other dogs, he’s picky about his dog friends. Turns out we didn’t need it but we used it at first as a precaution.

      If your vet is willing to go the gel route, you might talk to him about just this one time sedating your boy to get the job done or at the very least some calming tabs to relieve his stress pre-vet visit. There are at least two kinds of sedation I know of, one being to put the dog fully out asleep, the other is like a twilight sleep which is not as dangerous and he’ll come out of it much quicker. The twilight sleep might be enough and I hope you do not allow the vet to give your dog ACE to accomplish this.

      I hope I’ve been of some help to you and that you’ll let us know how it goes. Best of luck!

  66. Angelo says:

    very interesting article! thanks very much for posting this.

    I was hoping for some insight into my current situation. I was at the dog park with my dog and my wife. There was another dog there with his (somewhat elderly) owner. The dog had a paper coffee cup in his mouth and the owner was trying to take it away from him but the dog was too quick. So as his back was turned to me i grabbed onto him to stop him getting away and he turned and bit my arm. I UNDERSTAND 100% THAT THIS IS MY FAULT. I place 0 blame on the dog and i feel terrible. I didn’t want to go to the hospital, so i went home and cleaned the wound. But I woke up in the middle of the night and my hand was killing me. I had to go to the hospital for antibiotics because it was obvious that i had an infection (plus i needed stitches, but they refused to stitch it b/c the wound was now infected). Now, the hospital has called animal control services, who contacted me saying that I MUST report the dog. I really do not want to. I am 100% to blame. the dog and his owner are both fantastic and i feel stuck and this is really stressing me out! Please help!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Angelo,

      Wow, that’s pretty cool that you realize what happened and don’t blame the dog. I’m proud to meet you!

      Unfortunately in most if not all places, when a medical facility treats a dog bite, by law they must report it. Where I live, if a bite comes into our hospital they call the police department. It’s not up to them to pick and choose which ones they report or don’t report. No matter what you say or do, no matter what the circumstances surrounding the bite — they have to follow the law. I’m not real clear if they left it up to you or what’s going on with that, no matter what animal services already has at least a basic report on it so the entire process is already at least in first gear.

      On your end about all you can do in my opinion is to make sure the statement you make to the police and/or animal control includes what you’ve told us here. Talk to the dog’s owners and explain the situation as it was explained to you, that you didn’t want to do this but the hospital by law has to report it etc … if they are truly the good people you believe them to be they won’t hold this against you because they should realize it’s not your fault what the laws are. Hopefully, you live where the law doesn’t require automatic euthanasia or some other serious consequences to the dog.

      Chances are the dog will have to be quarantined for 10 days but that’s to check for rabies. It’s not fun for the dog or the owner but my guess is it will be required. We were allowed to keep Riley confined at home for the 10 days because we have a fenced yard and I could prove he was current on his rabies. I could not walk him for those 10 days either. He also had to be vet-checked I think it was 3 times during those 10 days. The vet had to document that there was no sign of rabies during that time. It was a long 10 days for Riley without walks but much better than some of the archaic deadly alternatives still in effect in some areas of our country.

      Best of luck, I hope you’ll drop by and let us know how this sitation resolves.

      • Angelo says:


        thank you very much for your reply. I followed your advice and spoke to the owner about what was going on. They said that they wanted to handle it through the proper channels and follow up with the town. I told the enforcement officer that I provoked the attack, so it is definitely not the dogs fault.She told me that it is still in my power to take action against the dog, but i said not a chance! In the end they just quarantined the dog for 10 days and now he is back at the park happy and healthy and I am relieved. it turns out the dog has all his vaccines and shots up to date and the owner took him to be vet checked and quarantined. All is good now. Thank you so much for the advice and keep up the great work!

        On a personal note; my arm is healing up nicely (although it is going to have a pretty decent scar). Ive finished up my antibiotics and am feeling almost 100% again.

        thanks again!

        • Mom says:

          Hi Angelo,

          This is some of the best news I’ve heard in a long time, I’m so happy it worked out well and thank you so much for letting us know. It’s encouraging to know that there are some understanding bite victims, dog owners and city officials. You are amazing yourself by understanding what really happened and not blaming the dog! Glad to hear all you’ll have is a not so pretty scar. You made my day, thank you!


  67. Claire says:

    Hi there. I adopted a 6 year old Harrier Hound from the dogs home last Sunday. He had been sent back three times since May due to destructive behaviour and separation anxiety. This I figured I could deal with as i do not work and can take him for lots of walkies though I invested in some toys for him to play with. He seemed to settle in with us ok (myself, my 22 year old son and my 8 year old son) although understandably slightly nervous. It was the following Wednesday night when Alfie the hound was asleep on the couch and my eldest son was sitting next to him, when Alfie attacked my son for getting up from the couch slightly disturbing him. He caused a puncture wound to his little finger, one to his back and a bruise to his leg. I was so shocked and upset so decided to take him back to the dogs home on the Friday morning. I miss him like crazy and feel so guilty wandering if I did the right thing. I’ve been scouring the internet for lots of advice and looking into local dog trainers as I soooo want him back. Would it be safe to have a dog that has already bitten? Would training help?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Claire,

      I’m so sorry to hear about this and hope your son is ok.

      It sounds like Alfie bit him three times with the third one not puncturing the skin which in my opinion is more significant than “a” bite. There is no surprise this dog has issues with what he’s been through. Being shuttled around from place to place like has been can cause significant stress and his separation anxiety doesn’t surprise me one bit. I doubt seriously he has any sense of security whatsoever and is under a lot of emotional distress.

      It sounds like one of the things that happened is that like most people you bright Alfie home and just let him make himself to home. I know that things like letting him up on the couch, or in the bed or anywhere the dog wants to go and loving up on him is the way humans feel they give this to dogs. You didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, this is common and we’ve been guilty of the same things ourselves. All dogs need to feel secure and safe and dogs with Alfie’s background need this even more. But they don’t get this from humans treating them this way they get it from things like consistency, knowing their place in the house pack, knowing what’s expected of them, not being left to their own devices and knowing who’s the boss (that not being the dog). Alfie likely got his destructive behavior pattern due to boredom and not having the feeling of security before. Nobody gave him what he needed so he learned to emotionally fend for himself.

      We don’t believe in the “once a biter always a biter” here and we do believe that there’s always a reason for a bite. It sounds like Alfie reacted to being startled and/or perhaps unknowingly when your son got up he squished Alfie’s tail or foot or some body part accidentally causing Alfie some pain. The progression of events may have nothing to do with your son specifically, but may have been triggered by a past painful or traumatic event that this incident replicated. Alfie may have unknown medical issues which contributed to the bite. I don’t believe Alfie bit just to bite, he bit in reaction to *something* but it is quite concerning to me that he bit more than once especially since you have a young son in your home. With the right help I believe Alfie can be just as safe as any other dog but remember that no matter what dog – there is *always* the potential any dog can/will bite. This is not me telling you to bring Alfie home! The key here would be finding Alfie the help he needs including giving him his emotional, medical, activity level and very important structural needs.

      Because of his baggage, Alfie sounds like a huge very-time consuming job to take on and the average person just isn’t up to that. This isn’t a training issue in my opinion, it’s a behavior issue tied in with Alfie’s emotional stress. Someone who’s a strong confident figure who’s really in-tune with dog behavior with the ability to “think like a dog” I believe can help Alfie, I have no doubt of that but *finding* that special person is likely not a simple task. The more I get into dogs the more I believe that one must have the ability to think like a dog in order to best understand them and to deal well with problems that come up. It’s taken me years to get to the point I’m at and I don’t for one minute believe that I “know it all” but I do feel I’m much better at “the dog thing” than I was nine years ago.

      I’m not going to tell you to bring Alfie home nor am I going to tell you not to. Can it work? Yes. Will it work? I don’t know but a lot would depend on you and your family. If you do bring Alfie back to your home, I would suggest that without fail you put some safeguards into place (especially for your 8 year old) and set your mind to learning with the mindset that you will not stop educating yourself and your family. Be ready for and truly accept this will probably take a considerable amount of time, effort and perhaps significant cost. Consistency with all family members is hugely important for every dog but more so for dogs with issues and negative, painful histories. It may help you to read and practice NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free). Check out the resources link on the Bound Angels website.

      Also remember that as much as you love Alfie and want him back, sometimes the dogs we fall in love with are not the dogs that belong in our home because they need more than we can give them. I think you need to take a good hard objective look at both sides of the big picture before making your decision and don’t simply let emotions drive you. Good luck, and I would love to know how it goes.

  68. Sommer says:


    I found your site through a google search. July 3rd of 2014 we rescued a 14 month old handsome, wonderful German Shepherd named Chaplin. My husband grew up with German Shepherds and has loved the breed ever since. I on the other hand grew up in a pet free home and had never owned an dog until Chaplin.

    We have a 12 month old beautiful, smart, adventurous daughter Eleanor. My husband works and I work from home. I am basically a stay at home Mom. We regurally walk Chap morning and night. At the very minimum once a day. We take him to the dog park off leash & take him to the school yard by our house to run around. We live in a dog friendly area. We have a large spacious back yard that Chaplin can run around in however he prefers to be inside with us.

    I was a bit apprehensive to get such a large seemingly “scary breed” but put full trust in my husband knowing he would never put his daughter in harms way. I love Chaplin and know he is a good dog.

    As a first time parent and dog owner I have made mistakes. Today was one such mistake. You are going to gasp when I admit this but I let my daughter feed our dog and she often will touch his mouth almost has a fascination with his mouth. There has been times when she has taken chew toys away from him and has given him toys as well. Today he was on the ground playing with his toys she was right there next to him. I left them alone to go to the restroom and ran out when I heard my daughter screaming. He had nipped her thumb and she was bleeding. It was very scary for me as a mother. I firmly told Chaplin “no” then rushed to treat my daughters hand. She ended up needing no stitches and she is fine. I take full responsibility for this. I know this was my fault and that this was an accident. That being said, I know something needs to change in our household. We have talked about a baby gate for the hall. That would separate the two but still allow Chaplin & Eleanor to be close to us. Also we entertained the idea of crate training. My daughter is to young to understand to give the dog space.

    I know it was my fault. This incident has me left with mixed emotions. We are not going to do anything harsh but would greatly appreciate any advice or guiadiance. We do not plan on getting rid of our dog. Please help. I want wants best for our entire family. I don’t want any regrets. I am so distraught over this. Thank You in advance for your reply.

    Just a side note we have had him in a basic manners obedience class and he did well. He is easily distracted. We intend to further educate him. I feel like there is not many friends or family I can talk to because they don’t have pets or children with pets and feel like German Shepherds are already a discriminated breed.

    God Bless-

    • Mom says:

      Hi Sommer,

      I give you a lot of credit for taking on being a GSD mom coming from a no-dog background. It’s clear to me that you love your entire family including Chaplin very much. I’m very impressed to know that you “get it” enough that you didn’t jump to “The dog’s gotta go!” after he nipped your baby. I’d also like to thank you for rescuing Chaplin, I love that!

      You are correct, I was not happy to read that you let your baby touch your dog’s mouth and take his toys away from him. I can also tell you that since there was that time-frame between the nip and you telling Chaplin “no” he associated what he was doing at the moment you told him no as being what he was being told no for. So, for example if he was laying on the floor doing nothing at that “no” moment he understood you to tell him he wasn’t supposed to be laying on the floor doing nothing. Correcting a dog has to happen when the dog is doing what you don’t want him to do or within like 1-2 seconds. After that they understand the correction as being corrected for what they are doing right then at that moment.

      I am happy to hear that there was minor damage and your little button is fine and that you understand the responsibility is yours. It’s always nice to hear when a human understands this part of the dog bite issue which doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

      Your daughter is too young to understand without being taught — but she’s not too young to be taught. At one year of age children are learning to comprehend the word “no.” This is a wonderful age to begin teaching a child how to behave around and respect dogs. If you don’t start now and if she hasn’t already, she’s going unknowingly to be doing a lot more things every day that could trigger a bite. Pulling a dog’s ears or laying on them for example. Because you could not see what happened when he nipped her, you don’t know what she did to provoke the nip. Did she take the toy? Did she pull his ear? Did she poke his eye? Nobody knows and without being taught a baby doesn’t know what’s acceptable and what’s not. If you find that Chaplin seems to be possessive of his toys then please look into how to best handle and redirect resource guarding which unchecked, can become worse and even dangerous.

      You’ve probably seen photos plastered on Facebook of babies laying all over a dog, pulling a dog’s ear, touching their eyes etc … and the dog taking it without reacting. The parent taking the pic or video think it’s soooo cool and cute and want to share share share — these people have no clue the danger they may be putting their child in. They think they have the neatest most patient understanding dog and the cutest baby in the world. Well, maybe they do but those of us who can plainly see the stress signals the dog is so obviously displaying and know the horror that can happen in the blink of an eye shudder and get very angry at parents who allow and even encourage their children to disrespect dogs like this because it’s so cute they want to keep the camera rolling. These same parents are going to be the first ones to get rid of, hit, beat, reprimand or in some other way abuse the dog if it so much as growls at the child even though they’re allowing their child to literally entice the dog to bite! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Any dog that so much as growls at my child is a dead dog!” while letting the child do everything it wants to to the dog! If a child is too young to be taught how to behave around a dog, keep the child away from the dog until they learn and learn it well.

      You’re allowing her to take toys away from your dog, which is not good. You can teach Chaplin to “give” a toy to you and you give it back, then once he’s learned this you can teach him to give the toy to your child and teach your child to give it back. I suggest that whenever possible when Chaplin gives the toy that same person should be the one to give it back so he learns that it’s ok to give it because that person will give it back to him. If you let your daughter take take take but you give it back each time he learns only that a child takes his toys away. Not good.

      GSD’s can be very gentle and the absolute best dog with children but they are also well known for being very quick to bite. Some dogs are just true naturals with little ones while others are not and need some help learning. Your dog doesn’t sound like a natural or this nip probably would not have happened but that’s not 100% either. There is no 100% guarantee against a dog bite.

      In my opinion if you begin teaching your child now how to give space to and respect a dog, you won’t have to confuse her learning later when she’s say 2 that what she was doing all this time is no longer acceptable and that now she’s got to do things differently. This not only confuses the child but puts stress on you to reverse things. It’s harder to unlearn and relearn than it is to learn the right way in the first place is my thought.

      A gate would be a very good idea and for safety’s sake, the dog’s comfort and the child learning to give space — a crate and positive crate training is mandatory in my mind. When purchasing a gate, I personally would make it a very high gate and not one with bars where the dog can get his nose and teeth through. Some GSD’s are quite adept at jumping and you don’t need your daughter being able to put her little hands through, on or over the top of the gate. Your child can be taught that when the dog’s in the crate that is his space and she is not to go anywhere near it. You can put a gate up several feet from the crate to help your daughter learn the boundaries are at least several feet away. You could tell her that Chaplin needs a nap and that since she doesn’t like to be woke up from a nap neither does Chaplin. Chaplin goes ni-night, finger up — shhhhhh — and daughter goes to watch tv or play or whatever leaving Chapin to his space. Make sure when you crate train that you never use the crate as a punishment. Whenever possible that crate door should be left open to help the dog learn this is his safety zone and that he can access it whenever he needs to get away. If you see your dog in his crate to me that means he needs some alone time. Make sure he gets what he needs.

      If you have to leave the room, take baby with you even if it’s to the bathroom. Close the door so Chaplin can’t wander in when you’re in a compromising position where it would be uhhhh-hmmm “inconvenient” shall we say to move quickly to interrupt a potential pending danger.

      You’re right, German Shepherds are a discriminated breed and many people fear them just because they’re GSD’s. I totally understand not being able to talk to family and friends about these things. I have a t-shirt that says “Crazy German Shepherd Lady” and some who know me take it quite literally and think I’m a nut case. I assure you I’m not, I love the shirt and wear it because I love pretty much anything GSD but will admit I might be a little nuts for having three of them, LOL! The people that think I’m a nut case? They aren’t pet people for the most part or they’re more “it’s just a dog” people so they don’t get it.

      Chances are if your friends and family knew what happened they’d be pressuring you to get rid of the dog and some are not nice about it. People who don’t do pets and/or don’t have children really don’t get it nor do they want to. They wouldn’t understand it even if you looked them in the eye dead serious and took the blame. You could tell them up, down and inside out why the dog does not have to go just because he nipped your baby — but they’re not going to agree with you unless they, too, really understand and that’s pretty rare. It will be the dog’s fault in their eyes. You don’t need your child being talking age and tell your less-than-understanding friends or family members that Chaplin bit her. She’s too young now to utter words and I seriously doubt she’s going to remember the nip by the time she can, but if you continue believing she’s too young to understand and not teach her now how to behave around and respect dogs, this kind of thing could happen again when she is old enough to talk and young children don’t understand the consequences of what comes out of their little mouths. More importantly, she could also wind up with an injury much more serious than a nip on the finger.

      If you’re going to allow the little one to feed/treat your dog, please make sure she’s doing this with the treat/food in the palm of an open hand. She needs to learn to be calm when she does and very important, Chaplin must be calm and sitting quietly before he gets his treat/food. This probably won’t be easy for one so young but if you are consistent with showing her how and teaching Chaplin to take food/treats easy I don’t see a huge problem with it as long as it’s supervised. Daughter should not pull her hand back and/or then stick it in his face again either, a dog can take this as teasing and might just snap at it to get the treat and hurt her by accident. I would not allow this until you yourself can give the treat/food to Chaplin consistently in the same manner so he knows how this works. He may learn a little more patience with your daughter this way. I would not let daughter approach him with the treat, he should come to her and sit calmly before receiving any goodies.

      I urge you to give your daughter some credit for being able to learn simple basics now and please begin teaching her. She’s smart, remember? She can do it with your help! Good luck!

  69. Krystal says:

    Hello! I recently decided to help my friend out by taking her dog in for a year. Yes a year. Now this dog is a rescue dog and she only owned him for two months. I have a lot of experience with dogs of all breeds and normally I can handle virtually anything. I fostered dogs for a little over a year for a rescue. When I first met Sammy (Corgi/lab mix) he was shy/fearful of me she assured me he wouldn’t bite well I didn’t want to take the chance. My friend’s mother was supposed to take care of Sammy well after a week that all changed. He is severely afraid of men and anyone who is new. My friends mother and father took Sammy to the park the mans leg brushed up against Sammy he reacted so violently he pulled his collar off and bolted. He growled at an 87 year old man (the grandpa) while he was sitting at the table. My friend (name is Sam) asked if I could help as she was leaving for Egypt in less than a month. I said yes and I would work with Sammy as best I could in the year that I have him. So I have a four year old daughter who is exceptional with animals I have worked with her since a baby that animals are to be treated kindly and gently. Now she is used to some large dogs who love to play and aren’t afraid to wrestle, but we explained (husband and I) that Sammy is different. My g/f sam said Sammy was great with kids and other dogs. Now I realized she didn’t have him long enough to really know that. We have had him now for three months and so far he has attacked two dogs ( a husky and boxer) they were a little too in his face though I will admit that and hates my husband still. Actually the only person person he likes and allows near him is me. He is afraid of everything I tried keeping a steady routine of going to my mothers and introducing him to her dog which he actually doesn’t mind they just ignore each other. He still won’t let my mother near him. I don’t know what to do about this because I have never actually had a dog this afraid before. He refuses to learn anything he may “like” me but he doesn’t trust me. I tried to teach him sit and normally that’s the easiest command to teach a dog. He ignores me most of the time he barely eats unless he can steal my cat’s food. The only thing I have accomplished with him is staying down. He would come from behind and jump all over me. I have a newborn on the way in two weeks actually and I honestly don’t know if I can handle this. I am afraid he will bite my baby because of the baby crying or something silly. Sammy is not a family dog at all he really should have been in a home with no children. I feel like I have failed my friend but this was not a responsible decision for her to adopt a dog two months before a deployment. We thought his fear of people would get better but it’s not getting better at all we have people over and he stays in his kennel or hides under the table if anyone talks to him his ears go back tail tucked and freezes. We tell everyone to ignore and allow him to come out at his own pace but that never happens. I have been very patient with him and never pushy at all he has never been in a situation where someone tries to pet him with me not there. Any suggestions would be great as I am at my wits end.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Krystal,

      First I’d like to thank you for fostering and teaching your daughter how to behave around dogs, thumbs up to you on both counts!

      I totally agree that if your friend knew she was going to be deployed she was absolutely irresponsible to adopt a dog at this point in time. This was not only irresponsible but beyond being unfair to the dog. Unfortunately for too many dogs, your friend isn’t alone. I’ve seen similar situations several times with people in the service and wish they would just get their selfish heads screwed on straight and wait to adopt until they return and know for sure they’re not going anywhere or at least (please!) have their own live-in family for the dog when they do have to leave, that way the dog doesn’t have to go elsewhere when it already just did. Most if not all dogs up for adoption are already under tremendous stress. To adopt them and barely have a chance to get to know them before they have to leave them with someone else just adds to the dog’s stress. They feel abandoned and confused all over again and probably haven’t even begun to feel any stability in it’s adoptive home before it’s moved somewhere else.

      Also in total agreement that two months’ time is not nearly long enough to get to know *any* dog enough to assure anyone he won’t bite. You seem to already know there is *never* a 100% guarantee any dog won’t bite so in my mind *anyone* telling someone their dog won’t bite (no matter how well they know the dog) is in the wrong. To top it off, this dog sounds way beyond being simply fearful, he sounds terrified which pretty much automatically makes him a bite candidate. If I were in your shoes I’d be mighty ticked off at my friend to say the very least.

      Some of the major things this dog needs are stability, boundaries and to be with someone who has the time and environment to help him work through his fears successfully. Under most circumstances I would give suggestions for working with a fearful dog but in good conscious I can’t do that in this case. We need to get totally real and honest here. You are a young mother with a 4 year old and a brand new baby. It’s just a fact that you simply just do not have the time or energy to devote to this dog’s needs. This dog is emotionally stressed to the max, he’s going to need significant time to get comfortable with anyone. My feeling is that as much as you want to help both the dog and your friend, due to your own circumstances you can’t give this dog what he needs at this time in your life and you *must* think of your children’s safety first and foremost. Even though your 4 year old does well around dogs, she’s still just 4 years old. It’s not fair to expect your 4 year old child to have to deal with this dog like a pro in order for you to keep the dog.

      A new baby is quite likely to really stress this dog out and I too, would be very concerned about the children’s safety. You don’t want to have to make this dog live in a crate for a year either.

      I don’t feel you failed your friend. Seems to me your friend was missing some respect for you and your friendship by even asking you to take this little dude on considering the fact you have a little one and baby on the way. I just can’t believe that she didn’t see even in the little bit of time that she had him before she left that this dog has issues and my thought is she should have considered your children. She needed someone in a hurry because of her own bad decision and you stepped up because you’re a dog lover and a rescuer. That’s what people like us do and unfortunately we don’t always think things through either when a desperate situation is in our face.

      Telling people to ignore and let him come on his own is good, but it sounds like you’re expecting quicker results than this dog is capable of producing. He didn’t get like this overnight; you can’t expect him to go the other direction in a matter of weeks. Helping a dog to move past these kinds of issues takes considerable time and a stress-free, low key environment. A house with small children is not such a place.

      So, ‘nuff said about the current situation. My suggestion is that you contact your friend and let her know what’s going on and that for the good of the dog and safety of your family you need to make a change in the living arrangements. I don’t say this will be easy but this is how I would handle the situation. If she can’t understand this then I have to wonder how good a friend she is.

      You can then contact one or more of the organizations that offer foster homes for service people who are on deployment. Be brutally honest about the dog’s issues, not only for the sake of the person who may take him on but for the good of the dog. He doesn’t need to be moved around anymore than he’s already been and if they’re not aware of his issues, that’s what’s going to happen. These people may be able to help you.

      If they can’t, contact some rescues. Because it’s a mix you may not have a lot of luck with breed specific rescues but they are the ones who can point you to other rescues who do take on mixed breeds. Again, always be honest. There is a HUGE network in rescue with feelers all over the nation. They are all pretty much always in need of foster homes because no matter how large the network, there are still never enough foster homes. Make it clear you’re not surrendering the dog, but asking for help with foster care. A rescue may just have (or can help you find) the perfect foster home for him with someone who has the experience to deal with his fear and stress and who doesn’t have munchkins living in the home.

      I think you’re right; this dog would do better in a home without children. He needs a calm, stress-free environment with someone who can give him lots of time to work through his issues for the best possible results in helping him. This poor little guy runs around tied in knots and looking for the safest corner he can run to. This is no way for him to live, I don’t foresee him being able to de-stress in a home with little ones and in fact my guess would be it’s only going to make him more stressed and more fearful. If something isn’t done to help him very soon I feel the potential for him to bite is strong.

      I hope this has been of some help to you and that you find a good solution for the dog and your family.

  70. Lorna says:

    Hi, I’m hoping you may be able to help with some advice.

    I have an 9 year old border collie who we have owned since he was a puppy. He’s always been a bit nippy, usually if he’s trying to herd us. Over the years he’s snapped at my partner a few times and drawn blood on a couple of occasions, normally I’ve been able to identify a trigger; he was startled, etc. In the last couple of weeks he’s bitten my partner 3 times and he is at the hospital as I type having a nasty bite treated, that happened this morning. He’s also begun to bark every time we talk to each other from different sides of the room, or if my partner calls upstairs to me. He has sometimes been aggressive to my older collie who has recently gone blind with diabetes. He has never bitten me, or anyone else. I’m sure its a pack/alpha thing but my partner is now at the “it’s me or the dog” stage. He’s also quite fearful around my dog now and I think this is adding to the problem. My dog is absolutely fine with my cats, he’s never shown aggression towards them, he is not protective of food or toys either. He has only ever bitten my partner when I have been there too. Protecting maybe? Have you any tips or advice that can help me to sort out this situation? I’m desperate to work all of this out.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Lorna,

      Sorry, I have to disagree with you. I don’t think the pack alpha thing is what’s going on here. Your pack was established a long time ago and after all these years without the introduction of a new pack member you have a significant behavior change on one of the members.

      Your dog is 9 years old now, have you had him to the vet, the eye doc and/or the hearing specialists? What I’m visualizing from what you’re telling me is that he may be having unchecked sight and/or other health issues. Other than being herding-nippy changing to biting, your dog is now acting differently than he has for all these years including being afraid around a dog it sounds like he’s known all his life.

      In my mind there’s a health issue causing this change in him. It might be sight, hearing, something painful, something else or any/all of the above. He could have something going on that caused sudden changes to his sight and/or hearing abilities and/or is painful for him.

      For example, if he’s hearing voices “bounce” when you’re talking to your partner from across the room he may be frightened or maybe he’s experiencing pain if you’re talking loudly to one another. In order to talk across the room or call upstairs it’s likely your voices are louder than normal conversation and an ear condition may be making the voices or volume distorted or painful.

      I feel like a broken record but I’m going to say it again to everyone, when a dog displays changes in normal behavior please get him to the vet for a full exam and a full exam means a complete exam including blood work for uncommon things as well as common, an *extra good* look in the eyes and ears, more than a perfunctory touchy-feely tummy rub and a quick stethoscope check of the heart.

      I hope your partner is ok, that he will indulge a good veterinary visit before he makes good on his ultimatum and that your dog will be ok.

  71. Nicole says:

    Thank you for this article. We are in the process of adopting a pom mix from the local shelter. We are a 6-member family, with four kids 2-9. I would not have considered a pom but this guy was playful and non-aggressive when we saw him at the shelter. He went up to all my children and engaged them, and let my husband and I hold him. My kids are VERY well behaved with him, my 2 year old is reserved. It has been less than a week and overall, he is very well behaved and is picking up on training quickly. However, we have some concern. He bit my 2 year after she tried climbing into my husband’s lap (no warning given). My daughter had made it a point to go around the dog and to the side. After your article, I think it may have been a prey driven bite (her leg “appeared”). Initially, the dog did do warning growls to the kids as we’ve gotten to know one another but after a few days, he seems ok with them. He did show “aggression” in two other instances but wondered if this could be trained out of him. The first is when my 5 year old went to hug grandparents. The dog went after the grandparent. The second was a little girl (not ours) running up to him outside. This one I definitely understand is not the dog’s fault and I could stop it. However the girl did twirl back into the dog’s face (after already warning her) so quickly that he bit at her and tugged her skirt. So the concern is whether this will be a forever-behavior that we are always stressed about in our own home or with training and precautions, he can become a member of our family. I am really torn. We tried to adopt a puppy a few years ago who was very dominant/aggressive (the previous owner said she was “sweet, but took too much time”) and this new dog is nothing like that. I would keep him in a heartbeat if my child’s safety wasn’t a concern. (Since the bite, we have been on guard 110% and he has acted very well around her.)

    Thank you for any response and the time it takes. It’s wonderful that you continue to respond to questions.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Nicole,

      The answer to your question is yes, it’s possible to work with a dog and turn things around but that’s not a guarantee. Heck, if Michael Vick’s fighting pitbulls can become service dogs (several of them achieved this!) this means there’s hope for many dogs. But in order for the Vick dogs to do this they had very skilled behaviorists and trainers and it took a long time for them to achieve this.

      In case you’re not aware, small dogs are more likely to bite than big dogs. Granted they normally can’t do as much damage when they do but they are more likely to bite. You have small children and you’re not a dog behaviorist. If I were you, I would not bring this dog into my home. To work this kind of thing out of a dog is not an overnight process and can take a very long time. It’s a risk and a gamble not only with your children but for the dog. In the meantime your children are involved so my thought is why risk it? Find a dog that does well with children, one that’s more medium to larger size. I don’t mean giant either. Research breeds and breed bite records. You can’t judge every dog on this kind of information but you can certainly get a good all around education from it.

      It’s my personal opinion that meeting a dog at a shelter pending adoption is a wonderful thing, however one meeting does not a family dog make. If you were to adopt a child, the child’s going to be on his or her best behavior if they want to be adopted by you right? Then you take the child (dog) home and once they feel comfortable their true colors may come out and what was pink, warm and fuzzy may turn red and ugly or you may have just adopted the best dog ever. There is no way to tell ahead of time. Example: That guy you met and chatted with on the corner waiting for the bus, he was just the nicest guy, right? You couldn’t tell he was a wife beater could you? Same principal — you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

      I don’t think it was prey drive it sounds more like the dog was startled. Your daughter wasn’t running, she was walking correct? Prey drive normally involves some kind of chase activity.

      It also sounds like no one listened to the dog who was obviously sending out warning signs by growling. You got lucky, most dogs just bite they don’t warn first. This dog didn’t want to bite, but someone kept pushing his buttons until he realized nobody was going to heed his warnings and leave him alone. He finally got fed up and had the last words which were ” You people just didn’t get it that I was trying to be nice and let you know I didn’t like what was going on. You pushed the last button, rubbed the last raw nerve I’m able to tolerate so NOW leave me alone!”

      There are some dogs (no matter the breed) who just simply don’t do well with small children. People can take them in and work with them but seriously, why would you want to take the chance? Why would you want to put yourself in a position with small children of having to spend a lot of time working with a dog who has known issues? You’re only adding more stress to the stress of being a Mom to little ones which the dog is going to sense and it’s going to be a very long haul which in the end may or may not be successful. Then if the dog bites, you’ve put the dog in the position where your city might require the dog be put down because it bit. This to me would be totally the adult’s fault in your household. You knew ahead of time this dog was uncomfortable yet you took him in anyway and now look what happened?

      This is not fair to the dog (or your family) and neither is putting the dog in a home where he’s stressed to begin with. Dogs with issues need people who are skilled in dealing with the issues. The situation you described is like taking on a dare … I dare you to fix this dog … and if you can’t who’s going to suffer? Think about it. Do you want to live “on guard” the rest of the dog’s life wondering if the dog’s going to bite today? I can tell you from personal experience it’s a very trying, stressful lifestyle. I’m very grateful that you want to adopt and there are many dogs in shelters who need homes who are more suited to living with small children than this dog who sounds like he’d be a whole lot more comfortable in an all adult household.

      I hope that helps and best of luck to you, your family and the dog!

  72. Kate Mauri says:

    Hello there,

    I have just come across your site after searching for some advice and was so happy to see that someone actually responds to individuals questions! There are too many times where I am looking at websites or blog posts and no-one responds so thank you immensely for your time, effort and patience in giving advice. I have a neutered Border Jack – i.e. Collie x Jack Russell named Tai, who got attacked yesterday by a dog that came on to my parent in laws section uninvited. He has just come out of surgery this morning. A whole host of things went wrong. My partner and I pride ourselves on being good dog owners, we use clicker training, positive reinforcement and when meeting new dogs we follow the protocol of “is your dog okay to play/meet” etc require both dogs to sit/stay and then leashes are removed or we just walk the other way if its not meant to be. In this instance, we were at my parent in laws small holiday home where my dog had been scent marking most of the day. A friend of mine unexpectedly called in and her husband has 3 pig dogs – I live in New Zealand, and some farm dogs are bred to hunt pigs. We were going to introduce our dogs for the first time on the beach i.e. “a neutral zone”. However, as I was leaving the doorway of the house (or doorway of the adopted den) with my dog on lead, I saw her husband cycling past on the road with 2 of his dogs off lead and thought – where is the third dog, and as I turned it was right behind me coming in low at my dog which lunged on his lead, and then boom that was it. Am feeling that I didn’t do my job and protect my pack member, so my main concern is A) how do I move past this as I don’t want to transfer my emotions to my dog and B) how should I behave towards him whilst my dog is recuperating as he seems to be very nervous now and C) what can I do post-attack to help him – how do I build his confidence and trust up when socialising with dogs again as well as my own (trust and confidence). He is a fantastic dog, great with children, happy go lucky, and I just dont want my energy to make his psychological recovery worse for him as I do not want him to develop defense aggressive behaviours.

    I would dearly love your input,

    King regards,


    • Mom says:

      Note to readers: I responded to Katie privately with some questions that I need answers to before I respond to her post. I have not heard from her so I will not give any feedback on her post unless I hear back with answers. Sorry!

  73. Nicole says:

    Thank you for your reply. We did end up returning him, pretty much for the reasons you listed.

  74. Vivian says:

    I have a one year old Greyhound/Wolfhound and perhaps Great Dane, he was rescued at 6 weeks, which I’m aware is way too young, but the mother was also taken away far too early, he has been to puppy classes, he has had one on one training with a behaviorist, for the most part now he is pretty good, I won’t bore you with how we got here, it was not easy, we almost surrendered him to the SPCA, but then I thought, he didn’t pick us, we picked him, so I wasn’t willing to give up.

    So here we are, when we are playing, for no reason he grabs my arm and clamps down, doesn’t draw blood anymore but it bloody hurts, if he did this to anyone else he would be deemed dangerous. He’s a big boy so when jumps to greet which I know is not good he will knock you over. I have tried everything that I know to stop these behaviors but any advice would be greatly appreciated. He’s a very big one year old puppy, so I need help. Thank you for your time, by the way his name is Parker.


    • Mom says:

      Hello Vivian,

      As our website states we don’t respond to personal emails asking for assistance. We are about trying to help dogs and their owners and educating people. I had to choose where to publish your inquiry because you inquired about more than one topic. I decided to put it on our dog bite blog page, although I don’t really believe your dog is biting in the true sense of a dog bite so please don’t take it as such.

      I was very happy to read that you take your pet responsibilities seriously. I love that you understood that Parker didn’t pick you, you picked him and that you decided to step up to the plate and try to make a good home for Parker rather than surrender him.

      About your pup’s jumping behavior, I addressed in an August 2012 article regarding dogs jumping when greeting people which you may wish to read. Here is another one you may wish to read that may apply, it talks about dogs lunging at people and greeting guests politely.

      You titled your email to me “dog still bites” but from what you’ve explained this is not what I would consider “biting” behavior as such. At one year old Parker still has a lot of puppy in him and as you communicated, unfortunately he missed good dog to dog socialization interaction at a critical age.

      It sounds like Parker may see your arm as a toy and due to his age I wouldn’t rule out teething as part of the mix. If Parker were mine I would research ways to redirect this negative behavior to positive behavior. You might start with looking up redirection techniques. Victoria Stillwell’s article The Value of Redirection should give you some good information, some starting points and ideas. I do have one more article on our website that may be helpful to you which discusses what (lovingly!) I call Jaws Syndrome.

      Hope this helps!

  75. Krystal says:

    I am sorry this is so late it has been so busy! I just wanted to let you know that Sammy is staying with a friend of mine from our rescue and he is doing leaps and bounds better! She has accomplished so much with him that he actually allows the husband to interact/pet him! You were right with the no children and she has none just two other small dogs and they all get along. Thank you for the advise we still get to visit him as he is only a short distance away, Take care and hope the New Year brings you all much happiness!

    • Mom says:

      Krystal that is amazing news!!! I’m so happy for all of you and especially for Sammy having a home he’s comfortable in! Yeee haaaa!

  76. kate says:

    We adopted a 2ish yo mix (shar pei and something else…possibly rottie) in July. Last night, he bit me, my fiancé was returning home from the store and had his hands full. He hit the door to let me know he was home and the dog lost it. I grabbed his collar to pull him back. That’s when I got bit. My philosophy is that this was my fault, as he was escalated and pulling him made him upset. My only other concerns are that he has snapped at me once before, after he jumped into our bed and I tried to move him.

    Does one bite mean he will always have a problem? I have had dogs all my life and have never had this happen. We do want to have children in the next few years and this worries me. I love my sweet boy (seriously–he’s snoring on the couch right now). He does not usually get aggressive. His hackles go up a lot when he is overstimulated and excited. We are working with a trainer and I am hopeful we will make some progress so this may never happen again.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kate,

      To answer your question first, Riley’s Place does not believe that “once a biter always a biter” which if you’d read my original article is one of the reasons I wrote it and why I respond to people. Too many dogs are put down because of this old-school belief.

      Your dog does seem to be quick to bite, if he’s truly got Rottie in him this would make sense because Rottie’s are protection bred dogs but on the other hand Rottie’s properly raised and socialized can be fabulous family pets. I’m not at all familiar with the breed characteristics of a Sharpei so I’ll have to let that part go.

      It also seems that he’s high strung and/or a nervous dog from what you’ve told me. He gets excited and ramps up to the max with very little encouragement. Being quick to bite can also come from not having had enough socialization as a puppy and/or continued lack of socialization.

      You are correct (in my opinion) that the bite was your fault, trying to grab a dog in that state of mind is likely going to get a person bit. Your fiance hitting the door likely startled your pup which is what you already know was the initial trigger and of course neither of these actions were intentional to cause stress to your dog. The fact that he snapped at you previously for attempting to move him is not what I like to hear especially considering the fact you’re looking to add babies/children to your family. Since this is in the future though, you do have time to work with your boy and hopefully he’ll settle down some as he gets older and settles in more to your family.

      I know it seems like July was a long time ago but some dogs do take a long time to truly feel comfortable especially those that have been re-homed. Since your dog was 2’ish when you got him, I can only assume he had at least one previous home and maybe even multiple homes which is going to add to the time he needs to settle in and feel secure that he’s not going anywhere anymore.

      Sounds like you are on top of things noting that he does get overstimulated and excited easily. Some of the things I’d do would be of course the full medical exam including thyroid levels and I would also look hard at what you’re feeding him. If he’s got an allergy to something in his food or for some other reason his current diet doesn’t agree with what his body needs, this can make/add/contribute to his excitable nature.

      I hope your trainer can help you but remember that training is different than behavior. Another thing to keep in mind is that a dog that gets over-excited quickly and seems to be nervous or anxious is not the best combination for a home with children unless you’re able to give him some more time and help your boy to relax. I almost never like to see a dog rehomed because it just adds to their lack of security and makes more lack-of-trust issues for them. Our goal is always to work out the issues whenever possible but I’m sure you already know that there are dogs good for homes with little ones, dogs that are best in homes with older kids only and dogs that are best in an adult-only home.

      Wishing you all the best, let us know how it goes!

  77. Nicole says:


    My name is Nicole and my boyfriend and I adopted a 6 year old poodle-terroir mix from a rescue in October. He has been a great addition to our family. He is loving, likes to play and go for walks.

    We noticed a couple weeks in that he seemed to be a little protective of me when my boyfriend wasn’t home. He has growled at some of my family who have approached me while I sleep. We corrected the behavior when it happened and made sure to limit his time on the bed. As well as worked on properly introducing him to people on his leash. He seems more confident on the leash.

    These incidents were in November of 2014, and we had been incident free since then. Until yesterday. I had two maintenance workers come to fix a couple things in our apartment. When they first came I kept him in the bedroom with me and kept him calm. They had to leave and get more parts so I let Remi (the dog) back out in the apartment. He seemed relaxed. When the maintenance people returned I let Remi smell them and he let them pet him. He seemed calm and the maintenance people were comfortable with him being out. I was returning with him to the bedroom when a maintenance worker walked by me and Remi grabbed his paint leg. I immediately grabbed Remi and took him in the bedroom. I came back to the guy who seemed shocked but shook it off like not a big deal. He had a little wound but nothing major.

    I felt so bad. I apologized several times and asked if I could do anything. Right after it happened I realized that I had set our dog up for failure. I should have left him in the bedroom. When the men left I broke down and cried. My boyfriend and I have both lived with dogs but have never had one on our own before and I felt like a failure.

    When my boyfriend came home we called the shelter we got Remi from and got their advice. we took him to the vet but the vet said it was behavioral and told me it was because Remi does not see me as the pack leader. He recommended a couple of trainers that we are waiting to hear back from.

    I found this odd but it may be true. My boyfriend works shifts offshore so I am home alone with the dog for weeks at a time. He listens to me (sits, stays, comes) and I am the only one who constantly makes him behave. I wonder if it is because he knows the male of the family is gone and he feels he needs to fill the role.

    I am not sure what it is but we are seeking out help. I am not at the stage where I find myself afraid to have friends over when I’m by myself. I didn’t think he as capable of this. I was very confident with him before yesterday and now I am doing the worst thing I can do- worrying and replaying yesterday over and over again in my head. I know my energy is relaying to Remi which is not good.

    Do you have any advice on how to effectively move on from this? I’m beating myself up and finding it to be exhausting and not helpful. Googling dog aggression and protectiveness is stressing me out since he doesn’t show complete signs either.

    Thanks in advance and your article has helped a lot.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Nicole,

      If you took Remi to the vet and he blew you off *without* examining him *completely* including a thyroid test, I’d be looking for a new vet. I’d be out the door so fast it would make his head spin. Any vet who draws a line between medical and behavioral issues doesn’t have a clue in my book and has no business in the veterinary field. That is really old school medicine. Medical issues *do* cause behavioral issues and if your vet doesn’t know this he needs to learn it.

      A dog doesn’t have to show “complete” signs of anything to have something be out of whack. That’s like getting a nasty cut on your hand and sticking a bandaid on something that probably needs stitches but waiting until it gets fully infected to do something about it. It sounds to me like Remi may be displaying resource guarding behavior. That’s where I’d start with him if he were my dog (after clearing him of any potential medical issues that is).

      I do a lot of beating myself up as well, and like you know it’s not going to help but that doesn’t mean I can just flip a switch and turn it off. I’ve found that making myself move in a constructive direction will help me get past it at least to the point that I can help my dog because part of what I do is jump into researching the issue and then putting what I find to work.

      Because of things that have happened in the past, we do not allow our dogs out when contractors/workers come to the house. You already figured this out, so for starters make it a rule that Remi can’t visit with them. It’s just not worth the risk. They’re there, they do their thing and then they’re gone probably never to be seen again so it’s not like Remi has to make friends with them because they’re going to come back and visit. Even on a long-haul job contractors are busy doing what they’re doing they don’t need to be thinking about how to behave around a dog.

      Until you get a handle on Remi’s behavior and turn it around I suggest you also come up with a safety-first plan and attitude no matter who’s coming to the house. Friends have been known to turn on friends if they get bitten by their friend’s dog which is just something to keep in mind.

      I believe that one of the reasons Riley took on his self-designated guard dog role is not only because it’s part of his shepherd genetics but also because at the time we adopted him I didn’t know about socialization and it was just him and me about 95% of the time.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  78. Alex says:

    What a great, well-written article! We are currently struggling over here. We have had our 10 year old peke a poo since he was a few weeks old. He came from a reputable, “breeder” (he is a mixed breed), very sweet woman who always had her nieces and nephews in the home. He has been a wonderful little dog in many ways. However, we did notice that following a major move about 8 years ago, he became more anxious and displayed protectiveness and a general sense of “not knowing his place in the pack” (thought he had to protect me from my husband, not letting us kiss, etc…). Over the past few years, we have had 2 kids (6 and 2), and we have found that our dog has become more “fear aggressive”. He has bit my husband, father-in-law, and one little girl who was crawling around his bowl pretending to be a dog. All minor (level 2-3) bites. He has also “nipped” or “warning bit” various other people, most notably when they are at our home and get up to leave. We have seen a vet behaviorist and made some changes (no more sitting on the couch, in our bed, crating when we have company, etc..)
    Last weekend, my 6 year old gave him a treat and then bent down and hugged him while he ate. He bit her face, leaving about 4 puncture marks but little to no blood (level 3 again?). We have taught our children how to behave around the dog. She said that she knew it was wrong, but did it anyways. I can’t really fault her as she is 6 and this is what 6 year old’s do!
    My husband has just about had it with the barking, the nipping, etc.. and has said that if he ever bit our children that he would be gone. Now he did and my husband wants us to find a new home for him. I am beside myself with grief, guilt, confusion, sadness…. I would rather get him a muzzle and a good trainer, but also don’t know if I’m jeopardizing my children’s safety. I have no idea what is the right/best thing to do in this situation and I don’t feel that my husband is on the same page at all! Please help, what would you do? Thank you in advance for any advice that you can give!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Alex,

      I can’t say I blame your husband, he’s only protecting his babies. I give him HUGE credit for NOT being the kind of person who just takes the dog out into the woods and a) dumps the dog or b) shoots the dog. He’s wanting to rehome your pup and that’s a big man in my book.

      You’re right, kids are kids and will do things that they know they shouldn’t. I have a feeling your little one learned a good lesson, unfortunately a painful one. I’m quite happy there was not serious injury.

      Small dogs are more likely to bite than bigger dogs and quite often are considerably less tolerant of children. I go more with the size of the dog than the breed when it comes to stories like yours and although my own children grew up with Yorkies and no incidents, having learned what I know now I’m not crazy about small dogs in homes with little children. When people ask for my input when they want to get a dog and they’re talking small dogs I am very honest with my feelings about this. When it comes to dogs and kids I much prefer and trust more (but never 100%) at least a 35-40 pound dog and up with children. Not to say little dogs can’t work and do, but for me it’s a “better safe than sorry” situation.

      It sounds like your little guy for some reason was somewhat traumatized or at the very least not happy about your move and add to that he’s 10 years old now. If you’ve read at least some of the other posts here, you should have seen that at 10 he’s likely to have health and/or sight issues contributing largely to his current state of mind. Get him to the vet is one thing I’d do, have his sight checked as well.

      I really really really hate to think of rehoming a dog that’s lived in the same home for 10 years. That alone is a huge emotional trauma to a dog but he can’t live his life in a muzzle either. There’s probably a lot of stress and nervousness going on in your home when your dog is interacting with your children and the dog can sense this which is only adding to his stress and it’s a vicious circle that isn’t going to stop unless a comfortable solution for everyone and the dog is found.

      You’ve tried really hard to help him but seems there’s something going on preventing success. Wondering if maybe there’s a Gramma or Grampa or other adult only home who would love a little pooch to cuddle with? One that knows your pup would be the best and going to a home that he knows the people already would somewhat lesson the trauma of moving which you already know doesn’t sit to well with him. I would not however, expect it to be easy just less hard on the dog. If your pup is good with other dogs, an added benefit would be a home with a furry friend which might help him to adjust a little better. Someone furry to interact with might help keep his mind off his loss.

      I do hope you find a workable solution no matter which way you go. But before you do anything – the vet and the eye doc would be my first stops. Don’t forget possible food allergies which can lead to things like what are going on at your house.

  79. J says:

    I have a one year old dog who is pretty big, about 85 lbs. I was standing on the corner with him on his leash waiting for my kids to get off the bus (I was at least 25 yards away from the kids getting off the bus). A bunch of kids get off and one boy starts running straight towards me. I turn to start to move away from the child but didn’t turn fast enough and my dog lunged and bit the boy on his hand quite hard causing a deep puncture wound. I am extremely upset. My dog has gotten excited before when my kids run but he has never biten them. My trainer assures me he is a good, friendly dog and he only did this because he thought he was protecting me, but I am still so upset about how hard he bit the child.any advice?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jen,

      I absolutely and totally agree with your trainer. What needs to happen is that children need to be taught proper behavior around all dogs not just yours. Your dog did what he was supposed to do – protect. A child’s hand is small and the skin more tender than an adult thus the injury is going to seem worse. That was a warning bite in my opinion. If your dog really wanted to hurt that child believe me it would have been a whole lot worse! Please don’t be upset with your dog for doing his job and doing it well.

  80. Stephanie says:

    As I write this, my boy Bentley is being quarantined at the shelter for attacking my mom. My husband and I are devastated and I don’t know what to do with myself. He’s the child I never had. I love him so much, and he’s very special to me. I saved his life many times, and we have a bond like none other. I have three dogs. He came to me last. I have A Pug/chihuahua mix who is 9, and I’ve had her since 8 weeks old, a shepherd mix who is 7 (we found her on the road around 9 weeks old, and a pit mix. Bentley is my pit. We found him when he was 6 months old, severely emaciated, infested with whip worms and contracted parvo several weeks later from the shelter. He survived all of it. I have no idea what happened to him the first six months of his life, but he was extremely timid, and it took me half a day to get him to come inside with food when he showed up on my porch one Sunday afternoon. At first my husband said we couldn’t keep him since we had two already, but I left him at the shelter two days and had to go get him. That’s when he contracted parvo, but he pulled through. He’s always had food aggression, but has improved over the years, since he eventually learned he would get two meals a day, but I was always cautious when I fed him with the others, since he would jump on them if they looked at his food. To me, it’s common sense not to put your hand in their food or bother them while they are eating, but he’ll let me…only me and my husband. For the first 6 months to a year I had to work with him so that he would not attack my other dogs when they approached me. He was very protective of me, and did not trust men at all. I can’t tell you how many fights I’ve broke up between him and my female shepherd mix. It’s been several years since I’ve had to but it took them a while to be good together. It took him several years to not back away from my husband, and I had to work with my husband even more in how to react to him before that even improved. Now he doesn’t hesitate at all to come right to my husband, he trusts him 100%, but no other male. Loud noises have always made him anxious, any kind of loud vehicle, makes him go nuts, and when he ran through the electric fence chasing the trash man, we placed a chained link fence for them. That’s been 3 years ago. Any time we have company, I had to put both big dogs up, because my other dog (female) was very territorial and it was like they fed off of one another. I don’t trust them around anyone they don’t know which is not very many people. Mostly I don’t trust humans to understand their behavior and react accordingly. I have sheltered them. Everyone is terrified of them. My female shepherd mix has bitten before, but rightly so, when my father in law pulled up in a vehicle foreign to her and she warned him several times lunging and growling not to get out but he did without acknowledging her and she broke the skin on his shin. This was about 4 years ago. When a vehicle drove up they immediately would fight one another (more mouth than anything for several seconds and would stop) never drew blood from one another as if they were competing with who would protect. Bentley would bite tires if he could get to a moving vehicle. After about three years, the two larger dogs grew quite fond of one another, would both submit to the other at times, and were pretty much inseperable. Bentley would mimick anything my female would do and you never saw one without the other. Where she goes, he goes outside. Where she lays, he would lay. The only people they were familiar with was my mom and my husband’s parents. Which that’s my fault and my ignorance. Until I saw behavior problems in both I then educated myself on the importance of socialization, and by then I didn’t trust them with anyone and feared they would hurt someone if I tried. So when we went on vacation one of the two would look after them, my mom, or my husband’s mom. What I’m about to tell you I blame myself for. For not being educated on dog behavior and not socializing them early. Not being the responsible dog owner they deserved. I’ve done them a horrible injustice, when I thought I was doing my very best by loving them, taking care of them, preventing heartworms, fleas and ticks, and making sure they were fed well but I failed all of them by not giving them a well balanced life by educating myself so they could be trained well. Bentley is 6 now. We have recently sold our house and moved into a rental, while our house is being built. It’s been a little over a month. It’s my mom’s house we moved into since she lives in another town. This past week we went camping and my mom came to stay with them while we were gone. Now my mom is not a dog lover, but my female large dog loves her and we’ve never had any incidents all the other times she has watched over them. But my mom is ignorant to dog behavior and she has always been scared of Bentley because he’s a pit, had one white eye, and he can look scary to some. Letting her watch over them was one of my biggest mistakes in all of this. She came home, said she fed them, apart, on opposite sides of the deck, while my little one was inside eating, and she said Bentley was finished eating, and she reached for the water bowl (which she said was not close to him) and he attacked her upper thigh, which then set my female off, responding to Bentley like she would to protect him or now seeing my mom as a threat because he did. My female them attacked the other leg, leaving two very large gashes that had to have stitches. From there she said Bentley attacked her other leg and they pulled her to the ground. She said Bentley went for her neck, and she blocked him with her arm, where he bit her, and the only way she said she got them both to let go was there was a metal mop laying on the deck beside her and she beat them off of her. She called me once inside the back door petrified and I was 45 minutes from her. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying but I knew something went wrong called my grandmother down the street from where she was and she went and got her and took her to the ER to be stitched up. I’ve never been so scared in my life. So many emotions running through my head. My mom is hurt, I don’t know how bad, my dogs are now going to be taken away. All the while knowing they didn’t attack her for no reason. It’s a nightmare. She’ll be out of work for at least a week, because of where the wounds are and she’s convinced Bentley would’ve killed her if she hadn’t of gotten away. I’m in a very difficult spot. I know for a fact my female would not have attacked her as well if Bentley had not of. She was responding to him. He’s a part of her pack and she did what she had to do. Bentley also attacked for a reason. It’s hard to explain that to my mom though. I mean she had a near death experience because of my dog. But it’s because of several reasons. He was in an environment he was not used to. The only other place he’s ever been is our old house. He was already stressed from the other dog at the neighbors house, being able to see it through the fence but not being able to get to it. He was very dog aggressive. She reached for a bowl he associated with something he needed, and he responded. In his mind he did what he though he had to do. On top of the fact that he probably senses her fear of him, which makes him anxious, and like you said a fearful dog is dangerous. I feel like I have no choice but to put him down, and it’s tearing me apart. How can I take the chance of him doing it again, but it might be much worse next time, knowing the issues he has. I feel pressure from my family, and I know he has many issues, and that it would be a miracle to find anyone willing to work with him and give him what he needs. He will always be a liability. And I blame myself, for not giving him the professional training he needed early on, letting her watch over them knowing she is clueless about dogs, although I’ve tried to teach her things to watch for. My mom agrees my female was reacting to him biting her and only has told the officials it was Bentley who bit her. My husband and I are going to work hard with her and get training and help with her to try and control her better and understand how to help her with her aggressive behavior towards strangers. I can’t put her down, knowing what I do about her, and if I admit it, not training Bentley has made her worse. My Ben, to me he’s the most loving dog…we don’t know what else to do but to put him down. I don’t know what else I can do at this point. Next Thursday will be the end of the quarantine and we are trying to make the right decision. I want to wake up from the nightmare, but it’s not happening.I want to do what’s best for everyone, but I’m not 100% sure what that is at this point.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      I’m so sorry this happened. It sounds like it was an absolute nightmare. I think you have it all pegged what happened and why so I’m not even going to comment on the behaviors, you have it down to a tee in my opinion. I totally agree with you why they attacked your Mom and I hate the word attack. Really hate it, unfortunately it does sound like what happened.

      You are like me, not dog behavior educated enough in the beginning. I knew nothing about socializing dogs and all the other things you mentioned and still blame myself for things that happened before I became more knowledgeable and that includes health issues, too. I’d love to say “don’t blame yourself you did your best” but I doubt that’s going to take away the guilt – it doesn’t for me when someone says the same thing. I think part of this is because we know that the dogs pay for our mistakes and that seems so very wrong.

      Sometimes people can work their butts off to help a dog which sounds exactly like what you did. You gave it your all but there was still mistrust of others in Bentley, he did what dogs do instinctively and of course he sensed your Mom’s fear of him.

      I really hate to say this because I am one that believes if you raise a dog well it doesn’t matter the breed. But I cannot get away from the cold hard fact that whenever you hear of dog(s) attacking people all too often it’s a pit. The only conclusion I’ve been able to come to is that because of all the dog fighting and in-breeding that some of them just snap sometimes, their genetics or something has been damaged. They can be the very best dog in the world and then one day something in their brains just goes willy-wonky and they attack. It’s kind of like the health nut who does everything right, walks a lot, jogs, eats all the right foods, takes the best care in the world of themselves and one day out of the blue they drop dead of a heart attack. I just think in some cases there is nothing anyone can do, there truly is no warning.

      I don’t know what your decision was, you’re welcome to share if you like. I hope whatever it was that you and your family are ok and that your Mom healed well. My heart goes out to you, I would be a basket case myself as well.

  81. Randy says:

    This article is very helpful and will hopefully help us with our Mastiff/Labrador mix, Bruno. When I am home Bruno is a completely different dog as compared to stories I hear from my wife and kids when I am not here. Bruno can get very excitable when people come to the door and at 115lbs that is a lot of excitement. When people enter he will walk over to greet them but when I’ve been here there has not been a ‘bite’ incident. While I am at work my wife has said on a few occasions when our kids’ friends stop by as they enter the house he will walk over nip their hand and walk away. He doesn’t rush over and after that he’s acts fine with them in the house. He has growled at others when they go to pet his face but has no problem with them petting his back. While I am here he is a lot more docile and I have never witnessed one of these bite incidents. Any thoughts on what may be causing this or how we can help prevent it?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Randy,

      I agree 115 pounds is a LOT of excitement! Which is the very first thing I’m going to address. You have a very large dog who you know is excitable at the door. Why are you letting him near the door until the visitors enter and you all make your greetings and the people excitement has calmed down? When someone comes to the door you put Bruno in a crate, another room or better yet on the other side of a gate. I like when the dog is able to see the people greeting to help them get used to that common people behavior.

      After probably 5 minutes or so of people going about their business Bruno will have had a chance to calm down. When he’s totally calm you can allow him to mingle but have the visitors ignore him or at the very least do not greet him excitedly because that will just ramp him up again. It doesn’t matter if these are kids or adults, the calm behavior should be promoted the same for either age group.

      Allowing an excited dog to greet people at the door is a bite waiting to happen so it’s your job to avoid it by taking precautions and teaching Bruno a better way to greet guests.

  82. Landen says:

    Hey my dog has nipped children and drawn blood and has nipped tall people too. She has also attacked a dog that my grandparents had and drew blood(when I mean attack i mean full on attack we had to strangle her to get her off). Do we need to give her to the human society or can we keep. Please help us.

    • Mom says:

      Hello Landen,

      It is not our place to tell you if you should keep your dog or not, there is no way I would make this decision for anyone. I suggest you read all the articles, blog posts and all the questions, answers and input related to your dogs specific issues and then make your own decision which is going to be based significantly on how much you love your dog and are willing (or not) to help your her.

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