“Don’t be an a**hole to your dog if you don’t want him to bite you.” – Dog Behaviorist, Dr. Ian Dunbar
When your dog bites you it may hurt you physically but it definitely hurts you emotionally. You can feel betrayed and often times confused. Most dog owners never think that their dog will bite, but since it can happen, it does happen.
Dr. Ian Dunbar’s quotation serves as a direct reminder that in order to avoid nasty bites from our dogs, all we really have to do is not be a** holes to them. Of course, if your dog is overly aggressive it may take more than a little “non a** hole behavior” on your end to stop the biting, but in general most “out of nowhere bites” can be avoided.
Dogs do not just bite for no reason. There is always a reason animals behave like they do. I did a consultation with a recent client who said that for the first time in 12 years her little angel of a dog bit her without notice. I began to question the details of what happened before the bite. She said that she had just come home and wanted to give her dog, lets call him Bruno, a treat. She asked Bruno to sit and instead he just kept standing on all fours. She asked again, this time in a stronger tone, but Bruno started pacing back and forth. Finally, she asked him a third time and stuck her finger in his face and that’s when the bite occurred.
After further questioning we found two contributing factors that triggered the occurrence:
First, Bruno never has to be asked more than once to sit so it was very peculiar that he was requiring multiple commands. An animal who is continually not doing what he is asked can become frustrated the more you ask him to do it. It is also bad training practice. Maybe the animal is unsure of what he is supposed to do or maybe there is something else going on in the environment. The owner should have realized something was up when Bruno did not sit down on the first command.
Second, the owner thought her husband gave Bruno breakfast that morning but he had not. When she came home from work Bruno was obviously very hungry because he had not eaten all day. Hungry or “highly motivated” animals as some trainers will refer to them, can have a greater probability of aggressive behavior. They are so hungry they either become to eager to earn food as a reward or are unable to focus on anything else but getting food. There was probably a little bit of both going on with Bruno.
So what does this all mean? Know your dog and don’t be an a** hole! If your dog always, always, always sits on the first command and then one day doesn’t, realize something isn’t right and don’t continue to ask him when you aren’t getting the results you are wanting. Second, don’t get frustrated with your dog when you haven’t fed him! Communicate with all of your dog’s caretakers. Don’t ever assume that your dog should be able to do what you want him to do 100% of the time. Make sure to observe abnormal or different behavior from the norm. Not sitting on first command is a red flag that something is up if your dog ALWAYS sits on the first command. And proper communication would have allowed the owner to discover their oversight in forgetting to feed him breakfast.