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:
https://peppy-paws.com/blogs/news/my-experience-with-dog-aggression-chapter-4 (this is actually chapter 3)
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