Why Dogs Bite and How to Stop It

A common question I often hear from people is “How do I stop my dog from biting?” Before we look at how to stop a dog from biting- let’s look at why dogs bite.

Why Dogs Bite

Dogs bite for numerous reasons. A dog will bite if she feels threatened in some way. She may bite because she is afraid, in pain, ill, frustrated, not getting enough exercise or because she has learned to be aggressive to protect herself.

A female dog with puppies may bite if she feels that her pups are at risk. A dog that is startled by a child might bite.

A dog may bite if he feels he needs to protect his owner or family. An elderly dog may bite if she is in pain because of arthritis. A dog may bite to protect her bed as that is her place of rest.

Signs That a Dog May Bite

A dog will show you that he might bite by pulling his lips back to show his teeth, wrinkling his muzzle, growling, barking or whining. Other signs a dog may bite: tail tucked under his butt, hair raised on his back, excessive panting, stiff posture or trembling. Some dogs will crouch, lower their head, lean forward or stare.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Biting

To prevent biting you want to make sure that your dog is getting enough exercise and play time.  Giving her chewy toys to get rid of excess energy helps and will also clean her teeth.

In our house the favorite bones are the Benebone Wishbone Durable Dog Chew for aggressive chewers.   Our dogs of different breeds -big and small – like to give this a chew.  It comes in real flavors- bacon, chicken and peanut – allergy aware.  This  favorite chew comes in different sizes suitable for your dog.

Playing fetch or tug of war with a ball, frisbee or play rope can get rid of pent-up energy that can cause biting. For a top quality dog ball I suggest the Chuckit! Ultra Ball in the 2 pack.  The Chuckit! Ultra Ball has a good bounce and is very durable for aggressive chewers.  I have purchased them for our dogs in the past and they are the most durable at a reasonable cost.

Walks are important for exercise and socialization. A dog that gets enough exercise is a well-behaved dog. 

For dogs that are aggressive and possibly bite during the walk – I suggest the PetSafe Easy Walk Harness.   The PetSafe Easy Walk harness has a front-chest leash attachment that gives you control over your dog’s center of gravity which is his chest. With the front-chest leash attachment you have complete control to lead and control the direction you walk with your dog.  This harness made the world of difference while walking my Archer who is a big dog and used to lunge and bark at others.

The PetSafe Easy Walk Harness can be purchased from Amazon.  Amazon also offers the PetSafe Deluxe Easy Walk Harness with padded straps.

We know that a puppy will mouth objects to explore his surroundings. As puppies grow they learn from us and other dogs that their bites can hurt.

If you watch dogs play and wrestle – they teach each other what hurts. A hurt dog will yelp or nip to say “not fun anymore – you’re hurting me.”

Let’s use this same principle: You are playing with your dog and she bites your hand. Yelp loudly, stay still and quiet and let your hand go limp. Your dog will probably stop, look at you and possibly lick your hand. Let her sit with that a few moments. Repeat this a few times a day when necessary.

If a loud yelp doesn’t work – add a time out. For example – your dog bites your hand, yelp loudly and turn away from your dog for 30 seconds.

If this doesn’t work – try leaving the room. For example – you’re playing with your dog and he bites you. You yelp loudly, get up calmly and leave the room. Make sure your dog is not able to follow you. Leaving your dog for a minute or two in the room by himself is plenty of time.

Owner with hands on dog's head.

You are letting your dog know he has hurt you and you are giving him time by himself to process what has happened. You are also letting him know that you physically removed yourself from the situation because he hurt you.

Prevention is key too. Avoid situations that you know stresses your dog. If your dog feels stressed around crowds or other dogs- go to the dog park when it’s not so busy.

The above strategies can be used with a dog of any age.

 

Words of Caution

If your dog’s biting is out of control or dangerous you should contact a certified dog behaviorist or trainer. Do your research to make sure they are certified and reputable.

Always use caution around dogs that you don’t know. Never get close to an unfamiliar dog or a dog that appears to be fearful. Always ask before approaching a dog unknown to you.

Never wave your fingers or hands in front of a dog. Never tease a dog. This frustrates a dog and she will learn to be aggressive.

Give a dog space, never hover over a dog in threatening manner and never crowd a dog. Many humans enjoy hugs – a lot of dogs don’t.

Never bother a dog that is eating – this may lead to food aggression. Never startle a sleeping dog.

Never hit your dog – even a clip on the nose. This will make her afraid of you or can cause aggression. Any trust your dog has for you will be diminished if you hit her.

Teach children to respect a dog’s space and body. Never let a child tease or jump on a dog. Always supervise children around your dog.

A note about accidental bites. There have been times when I have been playing with my dogs or giving them a treat that I have been bitten accidentally. These are not vicious bites and not intentional. It happens.

Our Responsibilities as a Dog Owners

As dog owners it is our responsibility to protect our dogs from threats such as pain, injury and disease. It is our responsibility as dog owners to socialize and train our dogs. It is our responsibility to provide safe and loving homes for our dogs.

As dog owners it is our responsibility to ensure that our dogs get vaccinated, receive medical attention when needed and provide healthy meals for our dogs.

Bottom Line

Dog shaking a paw with little girl and Dad.

Dogs want to please us. They want to play, love and be with their families. Dogs are not born vicious.

Dogs that bite to hurt have been hurt themselves – usually by a human. Building trust with a dog takes time and patience but is well worth it.

Consistent, loving and firm is the way to go. Build a healthy bond with your dog that is developed with trust, respect and love – you will have a devoted friend for life.

If you have any questions or comments – please let me know in the comments below.

Thank you

Kathleen

“Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and none of them are wrong.” – Unknown

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