Biting is far more common than we would like. In fact, millions of people are bitten every year and many of these bites require medical attention. So why is your dog biting? Many owners don’t have and understanding of why their dog is biting, and the answers aren’t always simple. In this article, we will help you narrow down what may be causing your dog to bite and some possible solutions.
What Causes Dogs to Bite?
One of the main causes of biting is possession. Your dog may be protecting his property such as his toys, bed, food or even the owner. Although possessive behavior isn’t limited to any one breed, it’s seen more often in larger dogs or herding breeds. Fear is another common reason for biting. If your dog isn’t used to strangers or strange situations, he may lash out. This is one of the reasons that vets get nipped so often. Dogs can also bite if they are startled, like when the mail carrier is putting the mail in the box. Pain is yet another reason for biting as it can cause aggression in even the happiest and mellowest dogs that have never bitten. Maternal instincts in pregnant or nursing dogs can cause them to be overprotective as well. Whatever the reason is for your dog’s biting, it’s best to correct it as early as possible.
How to Fix the Problem
The best way to correct biting problems, either in the puppy stage or in adult dogs, is to train them to obey specific commands. For example, teaching the commands ‘leave’ or ‘drop’ when they become possessive of a favorite toy goes a long way to correcting biting issues. If it’s food he’s possessive about, condition him to ‘wait’ before each meal. Alternatively, teach your dog to ‘lay down’ and ‘wait’ while you put the bowl down and pick it back up again. Adding in some treats may provide some reassurance that you’re not trying to take his food.
Fear based biting can be a more difficult problem to solve. Early socialization is an effective mechanism in eliminating fear. When you go to the vet, try to make it a fun experience by first stopping at the park for some play. Use treats as a reward after shots, or even regular vet visits. Even the mail carrier can help you in desensitizing your dog to fear. Drop some treats in the mailbox and ask the mail carrier to leave a couple for the dog.
There’s not much you can do to control maternal instincts, so be sure to let children know not to approach the mother when she’s caring for the puppies. It’s usually best to give the mother a nice separate space to care for her young that’s away from noise and other potential triggers.
Preventing biting in the first place is a much better solution than trying to correct it later on. Start training as soon as you get your new puppy home. Be sure to teach all the basic commands like ‘sit’, ‘heel’, ‘down’, ‘wait’, ‘leave’ and ‘come’. When he reaches adulthood, don’t stop training and having playtime. You want to keep the bond strong between the two of you so you can establish trust and predict behavior. Stick to fun games, but not aggressive ones like tug of war. Train your dog to the point he can walk beside you on a leash without distraction as this will help ensure he won’t try to go after strangers.