Your Dog Bit Me!

Posted on Mar 22, 2016 in Aggression, Dog Training, Dominance, Leash Frustration, Pets, Training | 0 comments

Your dog has bitten a human and everyone is telling you to “euthanize your dog”.  First, take a breath and let’s assess the situation and understand why this bite occurred before making any decisions.  Consider the environment first and see what was happening.  Now, think about the dogs emotional state, shy with new people, startled by a sound or stimuli, sleeping, highly aroused, barking frantically, sitting nicely beside you, or guarding a resource?  

SNAP!

Snapping at this boy would be a normal response for this golden.

Most dog owners feel utterly shocked and embarrassed their dog would bite a person. They feel to relieve their guilt, they need to succumb to the pressure of family and friends and kill their dog.  I have taught many dogs with bite a history a soft mouth, yes, an older dog can learn and change.

Here are a few reasons dogs bite

  1. Guarding a resource that is worth fighting for.
  2. Being approached while confined by a lead.  
  3. When a stranger enters their home.
  4. While being body handled.
  5. Waking a fearful dog can result in a bite.
  6. Medical imbalance can cause dogs to over react.
  7. While trying to defend themselves from being attacked by another dog.
  8. If the growl does not get you to back off, a bite may just work.
  9. When a fearful dog is cornered.
  10. Some dogs actually learn that biting works.

Giving the dog a choice in the relationship.  We have all heard, “My dog is protective, ignore him.” If you are afraid then put him in a safe zone. If not, play a treat and retreat game,  to keep you safe and let a shy dog know of your intentions.    

Treat and Retreat Game

  1. With the dog on a 6 foot leash let the dog approach you, stand at an angle to the dog, stay soft in your joints and, blink often. 
  2. Toss a high value treat at his feet and then toss one behind him, repeat.
  3. If a dog chooses not to come near you or make contact, then you do not touch him.
  4. If he chooses to approach you, continue tossing treats or hand feed then toss a treat behind him.
  5. Hand feed him again then tossed one behind him, repeat.
  6. Turn to walk away, toss a treat and walk away from him, toss a treat and walk away, repeat. 
  7. If he is coming closer to you and has an open mouth and soft body, hand feed him, toss a treat away as you walk away.
  8. Ask the dog if he can sit or shake.
  9. If a dog can not do a behavior then do not touch them.
  10. If however he sits and or gives a paw, toss him a treat and repeat this pattern.
  11. Ask him to sit, give paw, hand feed and toss treat way behind him, repeat
  12. Ask him to sit, touch him under his chin, feed him and tossed him away.
  13. Continue this pattern of letting the dog approach you, sit, touch briefly and with the back of your hand, then toss him away. 
  14. Be aware of the dogs body language, any change will tell you you are moving too fast for his comfort.
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This dog is about to move away from the lady and her child.

Criteria changes here for each dog depending on how they feel about the environment and progression.  

Removing social pressure and letting the dog choose to be approached or touched is key for many shy dogs. Please respect your friend’s dog by giving him a choice in the relationship. Remember, not all dogs are social with people.

 
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Dog Bite Prevention

Posted on Dec 19, 2015 in Aggression, Certified Dog Trainer, Dog Training, Reactive, Rescue Dog, Safety, Training | 0 comments

This is Blog #3 of a 5 part series on how to prevent your dogs from biting a stranger using a positive approach.

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This Boston terrier is terrified as demonstrated by his wide eyes, ears drawn back, face turned away, lips pulled tight and closed mouth all show his fear.This is the third blog on how to help the dog who is barking and lunging at people using a positive approach.

Blog #1 How to Stop Aggressive Dog Barking at People

Read Blog #1  I discuss the importance of good management; preventing your dog from practicing the unwanted behavior of lunging at people.

Blog #2 Dog Aggression Towards Humans. 

Read Blog #2  I explain how to desensitize and counter condition; or change how your dog feels about people.

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.

Distance Cues are body postures or signs your dog uses to tell strangers (and other dogs) they would like to have more space.  These behaviors begin with the puppy and are called “shy dogs” and can include skittish behaviors such as looking away, leaning away, cowering, hiding under furniture, paw lifted, quick lip licking, and enlarged eyes with the whites of the eyes showing.  

Go away is apparent by this dog leaning away from the hand, his paw is raised in a submissive gesture.

The need for distance is apparent by this dogs lowered head, entire body leaning away from the hand, and his paw is raised in a submissive gesture.

If you see your dog offer a distance cue then you need to help your dog by asking people to ignore your dog, back away or removing your dog from the encounter. Low level distances cues should never be punished, as this can result in a dog that is not allowed to express his fear, hence the dog may bite with no apparent warning.

 Forward stance with a show of aggression works also.

Forward stance with a show of aggression works.

Some dogs learn that these distance cues are ignored by humans, so they simply avoid humans to avoid conflict.  However, many dogs learn to use more aggressive cues and postures  such as head up with a forward stance, growling, lip curling, air snapping, lunging and barking just to mention a few.  

Sadly, I have had hundreds of clients tell me their dog used to be “shy with humans but is now lunging and snapping at them.” If a fearful/shy dog is not properly conditioned to see people as a source of good things, he may learn to use more forward body postures with a show of teeth, growling or air snapping.  When a dog learns that this posture works, of course they will use it as it makes them feel safe.  

Unfortunately, if a fast moving person or child moves into a shy or fearful dogs space, your dog may not have time to show a low level distance cue and may bite as they simply did not have time to think, and they just reacted out of fear.  Imagine when a bee flies at your face, many of you will swat it with your hand, right?  Are you being aggressive or defensive?  My experience is that most dogs bite in a defensive manner.

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This golden retriever mix has enlarged pupils, closed tight mouth, and stress signs around his eyes.

What can you do if your puppy is shy? Find a Puppy Socialization Class with a focus on bite inhibition, also known as a “soft mouth” behaviors.  Judy’s Puppy Socialization Class for the Family Pet  In addition, you can learn the Treat and Retreat Program designed by Suzanne Clothier which can be found in many Shy Dog Classes, Fear Aggression /Shy Dog Class.  In this class I discuss key topics:

  • Invasion of space and how social pressure effects your dog
  • How Reinforcers are used to increase confidence 
  • Safety while adding criteria in a slow progression 
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Note the closed mouth, still body and the tucked tail. This dog is NOT asking you to pet his belly.

Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed with your dogs growly behavior towards your friend, or even a family member, think about this criteria.

  1. Be sure you teach your dog a soft mouth.Teach a soft mouth
  2. Change how your dog feels about strangers using classical conditioning and desensitization
  3. Learn canine body language so you know when your dog is feeling stressed.

 

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Stop Puppy Biting, the Best Way!

Posted on Mar 13, 2015 in Child, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Safety, Socialization, Training | 0 comments

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Hand feeding is essential in developing a soft mouth.

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”. 

It is essential that your dog associates all hands with complete trust.  I say this because if your reprimand towards your puppy is too harsh, for example, holding the pups mouth closed with your hands, or sticking your fingers down its throat, or holding your dog down for biting too hard,  you can actually teach your puppy to bite others, just not you.  

Dog Star Daily has a wonderful article on Puppy Biting, please read below.  For the best way to teach your dog a soft mouth,  read more….

More On Bite Inhibition (Because It’s So Important)

 

 

 

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Social Play Behaviors in Puppies and Adult Dogs

Posted on Jan 18, 2015 in Aggression, Certified Dog Trainer, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Safety, Socialization, Training | 0 comments

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soft eye, open mouths and goofy body movements express clear play intentions.

Socializing puppies can be confusing. However, science tells us that puppies who are exposed to many different environments in a positive way, grow up to be social, relaxed adult dogs.  Puppies who grow up in an outside pen, and do not experience indoor environments until 8 or 9 weeks of age, will be more fearful and skittish as they mature in a home. While these puppies can often overcome their fears, it takes time and patience.

IMPORTANT:  Science also tells us that puppies who have numerous repetitions of positive associations with friendly dogs, will be able to cope with that one aggressive attack if it ever occurs.  In other words, she will be able to rebound from this one scary incident and still be social towards other dogs.  However, the pup who has not had many positive associations with other dogs and receives an ear tear or neck puncture at your family reunion, may become fearful and even begin growling when she sees a dog nearby.

Puppies under 5 months benefit from socializing with other young pups to improve canine social skills.  These skills are learned in controlled Puppy Classes which incorporate short play sessions with emotional control breaks throughout.  Overwhelming a puppy in a daycare center, or a large playgroup with several adult dogs or even one rough dog can be detrimental to the pups social development.  

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Both dogs have clear intentions! Let’s play!

Social Play Behaviors clearly express the puppy’s intentions, such as the play bow, exaggerated and repetitive movements, soft wiggly bodies, lateral or side to side movements, and relaxed wagging tails with open mouths.  Balanced play is when both dogs take turns being on top, incorporate a pause in the play, then continue playing or lie side by side and mouth each others head and neck or the same toy.  Mouthing with a release before the other pup cries is social mouthing, as is mounting which can be a sign of play intentions.  

Chasing behavior in both puppies and adult play groups should be monitored and interrupted often, as over-excitement can create stress in the dog being chased.  Pack chasing should only be allowed for a minute or two, then should be interrupted to reduce conflict.  There is a term called Predatory drift which occurs when the fleeing dog triggers an overly aroused dog to become an aggressive chaser — often resulting in an attack.  This Predatory drift can also occur when a fearful dog uses a high yelping pitch sound. This sound can trigger some dogs to drift into prey mode and violently attack — often with an intense grab and shake behavior.

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obvious tucked tail, ears back and weight leaning back.

So, how do you keep your dog using good social skills?  Be present during play sessions to ensure your dog is enjoying the play and not just being pushed around or bullied. If you see obvious signs of stress or fear, then call your pup away and end the play session.  Interrupt the play if you see either dog displaying stress signals such as:  tucked tail, stiff body postures, when one dog is always on top, closed mouth with whale eyes, ears back, lowering of body and head, constantly rolling on his back and pilo erection or constant scratching.  Picking your dogs playmates is as important as picking your children’s playmates. So be a good dog owner and keep your dog using good play skills so he does not become fearful or dog aggressive.

 

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5 Body Postures: A Dog is Asking For Space

Posted on Nov 26, 2014 in Aggression, Certified Dog Trainer, Dog Training, Dominance, Leash Frustration, Leash Training, Pets, Rescue Dog, Safety, Training | 0 comments

 If humans better understood dogs body language then we would have less dogs resorting to a bite when they feel stressed or threatened.  We see several cues that this scared boy does not want to be touched.  Signals that are asking for distance are often very subtle.

Level 1 distance Cues:
1. Dogs body is leaning away from the approaching hand.
2. Dogs paw is raised in a submissive manner.
3. Head is moving away asking for increased distance.
4. Eyes are avoiding the stranger
5. Mouth is closed, rather than open and relaxed.

Dogs often ask for distance in the only way they know how, but if the scary hand keeps coming, your dog may resort to a level 2 distance cue like a Growl, lip curl or show of teeth with a rigid body.  I HOPE your dog growls rather than bites. Hence, do not punish the growl as it is an effective distance cue.  When the dog is punished for growling, but is still afraid of that hand coming as it predicts pain, he may bite to protect himself.  
 
Have you heard of someone who was bitten by a dog in the face while they were attempting to pet him or rub his belly?  It is probable the dog used some distance cues before he resorted to a bite. Unfortunately, it is likely the human did not understand the signals and continued forward until the dog felt so threatened he did not have time to use a more moderate level one or level two response.

Dogs that are fearful or have been threatened by a previous human will be on guard and defensive.  Canine behaviors asking for distance are far better than an attack with a bite, so please do not punish them. Rather, simply remove the approaching stimuli. Can you teach a dog a level 1 distance cue like a look away? Absolutely, but it takes time and patience — and it is well worth the effort!

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