Think your dog would never bite someone? Think again. ANY dog will bite if pushed too far. Many people believe their dogs would never bite a person. Others know it could happen but hope that it doesn't. For others, it already has happened. Regardless of which category you fit in, you should be working to reduce the likelihood of it ever happening – or happening again if it already has.
Too many people wish they had done something sooner once a bite has occurred. If you wait until your dog bites someone to do something, you’ve waited too long. Now your dog already has a bite on his record – whether officially with the local government or simply knowing that it has happened.
The first thing you should be doing is learning to read your dog’s body language. This is why our first session of Basic Training Class is without dogs – so we can take some time to talk about the early warning signs that a bite could occur. Far too often, people say a bite happened “out of the blue” – but that is rarely the case. Most dogs will give warnings before they resort to biting. Unfortunately, people are either not reading the signs or ignoring them.
If you’ve ever pushed your dog further because he curled his lip or growled at you, then you’ve ignored the warning signs of a possible bite. These days, we are told to “be the alpha” and never let our dogs get away with growling or other such signs of “dominance.” But that’s wrong! We want to address those issues, but it’s not necessary to push a dog beyond his limits when he’s already told us he can’t take much more.
If your dog is growling, curling his lip or showing any other signs that he could potentially escalate to biting, back off! While we don’t want him to learn that growling always gets his way, there is no point in pushing him to bite you in order to prove a point. Instead, you should back away, keep everyone safe, and consult with a professional who focuses on positive reinforcement based training to help you work through the issue safely.
Anyone who tells you to “show the dog who’s boss” or “not let him get away with being dominant” is setting you up for a bite. Violence begets violence, so be very careful how you are responding. If you respond with violence, don’t be surprised or upset if your dog responds in kind. After all, he’s following your example. Make sure you are setting the example you want him to follow.