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My Dog Bites - What Can I Do?

Ok, so you’ve got a problem. Your dog is using those shiny, pointy teeth of his for something other than chewing his kibble.

What can you do about it?

Well, as a concerned dog owner you need to figure out the cause…what’s triggering this behavior…I mean, if my dog bites, I need to know the reason right?…and so do you...and you need to address that reason as well as the behavior itself…otherwise, you won’t change it.

First, let’s look at some of the usual reasons.

Fido may be nipping because he’s afraid of something. If you acquired an adult dog, maybe he was abused and now fears anything on two legs. Maybe he fears his new surroundings. In any case, you’re going to need to soothe those fears away.

At first use your voice; just talk to him quietly and calmly for a few minutes, several times a day, and from a non-threatening distance. Over time, work your way closer. Then, when he’s ready (not you), use your touch. Pet him gently while you’re talking. You’ll be making deposits into his “trust bank” and, when the balance is high enough, you’ll start to see a change.

Maybe your dog bites when he gets too excited. If you play rough with him for too long, you’ll likely over-stimulate him. Then he might lose his “doggy cool” and take a shot at you. Not good, and especially not good if your kids are the ones doing the stimulating.

So learn to stop sooner than later and give your buddy some time to “chill out” before you handle him again. My father, a pretty good amateur handler, used to tell me this over and over when I played rough with our dogs. Then finally, (tired of me not listening), he just let me learn the hard way. I still have a little scar on my right hand to remind me.

Lastly, maybe your dog is biting because he’s going through a challenging phase. He might be challenging you or your family members in order to earn a higher position in “the pack.” Remember, he thinks everyone in the house has a certain rank and his nature is to challenge that notion every so often. He wants to raise his own rank…he wants to be the “Top Dog.”

If this is the case, you need to put him in his place. He needs to know that everyone else (and I do mean everyone) in your family has a higher rank than him.

Start off by ignoring him…don’t let anyone give him any attention unless he earns it by obeying a simple command or two first. Later on (days not hours) you can give him more attention, but only when he’s not actively seeking it. In this way he’ll start to get the idea of who’s really in charge.

Another powerful technique to teach your dog his place in your “family pack” is to feed him last. Make sure the entire family has finished eating before you feed Fido. This might sound cruel, but it’s not. Out in the wild the “Top Dog” eats first and when he’s finished, the rest of the pack eats according to their rank. Your dog will have enough instinctual memory to understand this. And he’ll get a strong message.

Oh, and don’t let him beg or get excited before you feed him…make him sit or lie quietly for at least a few minutes before he gets his meal.

Now, let’s look at how to address the behavior itself.

You want to give your dog a “correction” and to do that you must catch him in the act. If he bites and you wait (even just several seconds) before making your correction, it will do you absolutely no good. Ten seconds later, your dog’s brain is already on to his next thing and he won’t make the connection between his bite and your correction.

And how do you make the correction you ask?

Well, first, resist the urge to punish him with a smack. He’ll get mixed signals from this and you might make things worse.

A better way is to challenge his biting behavior immediately with a loud, long “Nooooo.” Or my personal favorite; growl at him (and show some teeth when you do it!). Then chase him away, back to his bed or into a corner.

And then ignore him.

This will let him know that play-time just ended. Don’t give him any attention for awhile, and then, make him earn it by obeying a command or two.

This approach can have a very positive effect on a lot of biting behavior. But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same goes for your relationship with your pooch. You’ll need to use patience because you may need to repeat these techniques for days or even weeks before you see the results you want.

I hope this helps a bit and that “my dog bites” soon becomes “my dog used to bite”…thanks for reading.

About the Author

Michael Royce is an amateur dog trainer who has lived with, trained, (and been trained by) more than a dozen dogs in the last 25 years. He is a regular contributor to several websites.