Can You Trust A Dog That Has Bitten?

Each and every year millions of people are bitten by a dog.  In fact, according to one source over 2 million children are bitten annually. 

(If you have a dog that is unpredictable one thing you can do is learn your dogs body language.  This can help prevent unwanted behavior.  Dog bites don't happen out of the blue.  It's important to understand the warning signs from your dogs body language.  Click here to learn the 22 behaviors your dog might be exhibiting to let you know they are uncomfortable in a situation which could lead to unwanted behavior, including a bite and the ONE things most dog owners mistake as a friendly sign but isn't always and not knowing this could be setting your dog up to fail)

This is a topic I, unfortunately, know all too well.  I've shared the story of my dog, Frisbee in a series of posts.  I will share the links below and I encourage you to read them all.  If you are dealing with a dog who bites, reading about my journey with Frisbee might offer some help.  

Some dog owners that feel they can never trust a dog after it has bitten while others feel the dog may be able to be rehabilitated.

What is the correct answer? 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a right answer because both groups are right. 

For me personally, I think it took a couple situations for me to realize this was a real problem with our dog.  Can he be rehabilitated?  I don't think so.  Can he do well with training?  Maybe and hopefully.

You see we've had two different trainers and a behavior specialist and while I learned a lot about his body language and was taught to teach him to sit and sit stay and down and down stay and leave it and recently worked on the recall command, none of that has changed the fact that we can never allow him around people.

But, we are hoping that might changed as just today, August 13th, we've taken a completely different route with Frisbee.  I will be sharing the decision we made and how its progressing for Frisbee in my upcoming posts so stay tuned.

So what should you do if your dog has bitten? 

Do you have it put to sleep?  

That is one option.  In fact, that's an option I was forced into considering for Frisbee, but I just couldn't do it.  It was a decision I did not take lightly and I knew that keeping him alive would require a lot of dedication from my entire family. 

As a responsible dog owner, you need to realize that a dog bite can create a huge liability situation for you.  Yes, lawsuits are very common when it comes to dog bites.  Of course your homeowner's insurance gets involved and most times they will simply settle with the person that has been bitten in order to save money involved with a trial. 

So your home owners insurance helped out but guess what?  Your chances are pretty high they will now cancel you.  Your mortgage company requires insurance to protect their interests which means you will have to go to a high-risk insurance company at probably 3 – 4 times what you were paying before.  They may also stipulate that you get rid of the dog.

And what if you don't own a home and don't have homeowners insurance?  That's a whole other potential problem.

Again, this is something I am far too familiar with.  One of our bite situations did lead to a lawsuit and a settlement with our homeowners' insurance.  I talk about this situation in the prior blog posts I mentioned earlier. In fairness, I don't blame the party who sued us.  I am guessing I probably would have done the same if a dog bit my child.

You see, the person who got bit was a 2-year little girl who I love dearly.  Most people are going to sue if their child gets bit by a dog.  Lucky for us our insurance paid the settlement and surprisingly we weren't canceled and our insurance didn't go up.  I feel sometimes like we may have slipped through the cracks and dodged a bullet on this one.

Back to the original question, can you trust a dog that has bitten?  

Some dog owners will just put their dog to sleep because they feel they can't trust their dog once it's bitten and other dog owners will hire a canine behavior specialist or trainer to try to solve the problem and rehabilitate the dog. 

I've heard it said that some dogs can be rehabilitated while others can not.  I'm not sure I believe a dog can ever be "rehabilitated".  It's an animal after all.  And I've also been told that every time a dog bites it is learning that this is a behavior he/she can rely on when needed and get away with it.  So the more bites, the more likely to bite again?  Maybe.

The real question might be how do we know which dogs can be "fixed" and which can not?  

You don’t until you start doing some serious obedience training as well as having a well-planned behavior modification program.

It's helpful if you know what triggered your dog to begin with or what continues to trigger your dog.  Is it fear aggression or resource guarding or protective or something else?  

Our guy has fear aggression.  He doesn't attack anyone to seriously hurt them but he has hurt people and as a result he must never be around people he does not know.  His circle of people he is comfortable with is very limited.  

We've learned to live with this and Frisbee has a great life.  We made the necessary adjustments that he needed so he could feel safe and comfortable. Not all dogs are meant to go to dog parks or be therapy dogs.  It is up to us as their humans to recognize this and to honor it.

So, can you trust a dog that has bitten?  

I think it all depends on your dog, your situation, why it bit and what you do to prevent it from happening again.  Each situation is different.  

I don't believe any dog should be given up on just because it has bitten.  In our situation with Frisbee after the first incident, we failed him.  We accidentally put him in situations he wasn't able to handle.  We made mistakes we didn't mean to make but we are human.  It was a learning process for us and we did our best.

One piece of advice I would offer is to handle your dog properly from the beginning to minimize that chances that you end up with a dog that bites.

Here is something to consider if you have a dog and before your dog bites. 

Socialization of your puppy before 20 weeks is critical and obedience training is also very important.  If you adopt an older dog I would still highly recommend professional training which not only helps you bond with your dog but also sets boundaries.

Stop and think for a minute.  

Very seldom do you see a well-trained dog that bites.  A well-trained dog who has also been socialized will not only be confident but will also understand that biting is not allowed.

Here are a few very basic tips to help avoid bites. 

Socialize your puppy,  train your dog and make sure your dog always gets the appropriate amount of exercise for its age and breed.  Also, know your dog's personality and likes and dislikes.  For instance, Frisbee hates being hugged around the neck and prefers his butt scratched over being pet on the head. Don't force your will on your dog.  Remember, just like humans, every dog is different and every dog will have its own levels of tolerance to different situations.  And make sure you rule out any health issues.  Your dog might be in pain that you are not aware of which could cause aggression.  

Also, a dog who is not fixed can be more prone to aggressive behavior so consult with your veterinarian about this.

And finally, the more quality time you can spend with your dog, the better.  That won't necessarily stop a dog from biting but remember why you got the dog in the first place.

I hope you got value from this post.  If you want to read about my journey with my guy, Frisbee, just type Frisbee in the search bar on the blog page.  

The images associated with this post are of Frisbee.  He is my handsome, man dog, friend as I call him and I love him like a son.

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Links to the blog posts sharing my journey with Frisbee:  (this is actually chapter 3)

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  • I have a very small dog named Biskit, he is a mixed breed (terrier-chihuahua-and-who-knows-what) and about 2-1/2 years old, male & not yet fixed. I’ve had him since he was 6-8 weeks old, and even had him registered as an emotional support dog, sans training. He has gone through some major emotional crap with me including the death of my partner and losing his play buddy at around the same time (a big ridgeback dog), when he was just less than 6 months old. He survived Parvo as a puppy as well, but overall I feel he has suffered some emotional issues. He is highly sensitive to hostility on ANY level (or even excitement can be mistaken for aggression), and unfortunately has become quite unpredictable, even though our life has become better and better. He has bitten others and even me, and is now to the point where if he does bite, he goes nuts & won’t hardly stop. It’s like he loses his mind and forgets everything he knows. I am getting ready to have him fixed, but what else can I do?!? Please help me if you can, he is the one who helped me cope through so much pain, I have to believe there is SOMETHING I can do to change it that doesn’t cost much money, because that is a problem for me, I have none. I have enough to feed him and keep him inside a nice, cozy house with a huge 2 acre property to run on & another dog to play with, toys, exercise, plenty of love & attention!! But beyond that, my hands are tied right now. It’s gotten so bad now that I have to keep him on a leash INSIDE the house, and can only allow him to run free when I take him out. Tonight he attacked me and bit me several times hard (punctures & tears), for getting eye junk out of the hair near his eyes. What can I do??

    Rochelle Harris
  • We adopted a Frenchie last January, he’s 2 years old, he’s lovely, in the whole very well behaved, loves other dogs, children, very loving, never destroyed anything. However, he does have rescource guarding issues. He likes his own space. He has bitten a couple of times when people without thinking have gone to reach for things near him. Today all was calm we were sitting on the bed with me, my daughter put her hand on the bed, in front of him but not right by him, he reached forward and bit her finger. She gave a high pitch “ow ow” He didn’t draw blood but he has done in the past. There was nothing for him to guard apart from myself. We love this boy so much but not sure what to do. I do discipline him, using stern voice,“No” and sending him to his bed. Just wondering if anyone could give advice please

  • This did help, however we can’t find someone to even work with him. So far, he’s bit right through my x’s thumb and broke his thumb in 3 places, almost broke my left hand, one had to have 11 stitches, etc. He’s such a sweetheart and then “poof” he’s trying to rip off someone’s hand, etc. Please, if u have ANY ideas for us to save our puppy. He’s 8 months old, 80lbs and we love him so much.

    Elaine M Horton
  • Don’t you just love it when they say “put it to sleep” > why not just say it like it is > KILL the dog if it bites you. Because that’s what it really is. Don’t try to sugarcoat it.

    My dog has bitten four people in our family, including me today. I now have to get shots, and I’m terrified. My mom and dad want to kill her. But in spite of this, I don’t want her to be taken away. Is life so cheap now that it’s so easy to kill things ~ like babies > how “nice” when they say “terminate” the pregnancy, right? it’s KILLING a BABY is what it is ~ if it’s so easy to kill humans what chance does my dog have.

    She couldn’t help it / she doesn’t know any better. She’s a dog. And I guess I was wrong to pet her on the head. Silly me. Will just have to be more careful. But to kill her just because? Wow. What an option. Glad I don’t live in the country where this was written.

  • We had a dog that suddenly became aggressive to us and then bit me long story short our vet gave us behavioral techniques explaining that at age two he was trying to be alpha dog and he had to learn he wasn’t it worked and he was a wonderful companion for fourteen years


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