Understanding your dog’s needs When your dog is on a leash, you may see a change in your dog’s body shape or hear vocalization when approached by an unfamiliar person. The changes in your dog’s body shape tells you how she is feeling. These changes may be dramatic and occur quickly, showing a large change …
human directed aggression
As a dog trainer, I often work with dogs who have bitten people, yet I am able to hand feed and often begin body handling them without getting bitten myself. Since dog bite prevention is a critical focus of my reward-based dog training, I will share some simple techniques to reduce your chances of being bit by a dog.
Learn to read dog body language:
If the dog is facing you, look for signs he is calm and relaxed. These would include a loose body (free of tension), open mouth, relaxed ears, soft blinking eyes, relaxed neutral tail and ears. These are communications signs from the dog that he is feeling okay about you near him. This handsome boy is offering me friendly relaxed body language as he stands at an angle showing he is feeling comfortable about my presence.
In this Blog I will teach you how to prevent your dog from biting a person by helping you understand when your dog is feeling stressed and needs more space from an unfamiliar person. Dogs will offer requests for distance, called distance cues until they learn that their requests go ignored by the human. If they are still afraid, they will simply bite as their fear overrides their ability to think.
In my last blog, I mentioned that changing your dogs behavior begins with good management which prevents him from practicing the unwanted behavior.
I will now explain how to change your dog’s response when meeting a stranger, using the processes of counter-conditioning and desensitization. Counter-conditioning means changing the negative association the dog has formed about people, and replacing it with a positive, happy association using something the dog loves. Desensitization means exposing the dog to the “stimulus” (in this case, a person) at a distance, far enough away that it does not provoke a fear response from your dog, and gradually reducing the distance to the person until the dog is relaxed with the person nearby. Subsequent training can continue as your dog remains calm, and is able to accept treats or play with toys.
For shy or fearful dogs, having a human move into their space is very scary, and it takes away their personal choice. In the Treat and Retreat game, we reverse this situation. Instead of adding social pressure to the dogs, we remove that pressure. This adds to the dogs feeling of control while also giving the dog another opportunity to make a choice. Removal of social pressure should always be part of the Treat and Retreat game, as a way to check how the dog is doing and help keep them under threshold. If a dog goes over threshold, they learn that snapping works, period.
As a Professional Dog Trainer, it is my job to teach you how to teach your puppy or rescue dog to have a soft mouth. This goes for your puppy mouthing a human, child or another dog.
If you have adopted a rescue dog, can you be assured this dog knows not to bite?
I discuss a soft mouth in all my classes because it is so important and many of you have rescued a dog. If I approach your tethered dog holding a scarf, glove or toy, will your dog lunge and grab the item along with my hand? Have you tried yelling, “no!” Did yelling teach your dog an appropriate behavior? Instead of yelling, you can simply walk away the second the feet come off the floor. Approach the dog again, if his behavior is not appropriate, walk away, repeat until he sits or does not jump, then reward with play! Rewarding your dog for the appropriate behavior is much faster than telling the dog “no”.