When your dog bites you or your family members, you go through a range of emotions including hurt, anger, disbelief, shock, and guilt. Most likely, your first thought will be the fear that you will have to give up your dog, but that isn’t necessarily what will happen. It’s important to work with your vet as well as a veterinary behaviorist who are able to assess the circumstances surrounding the bite carefully to decide the best course of action.
Ensure Your Safety
Immediately after the bite, it’s important to ensure your safety by staying calm and not overreacting – and of course, seek medical attention if required. Verbal and physical reprimands have the potential of making the situation even worse since your dog can see an escalation of your behavior as it becomes more aggressive.
Instead, you should place your pet in another part of your house, like the laundry room or bathroom, and give him some space as you both calm down. If you are not able to physically put him in another part of your house, just walk away and put a physical barrier in between you and your pet like a door. At this point, you need to assess the injury your dog has given you and then call your doctor so you can determine if you need to go to the emergency room or the doctor’s office. You also need to call your vet to ensure that your dog has a current rabies vaccination as well as discuss the biting incident.
Assess the Situation
Once you have addressed the immediate concerns, you will need to address some other questions regarding the biting incident:
- How severe was the dog bite? Was it bad enough to break your skin? Was it multiple bites or just the one?
- Where on your body did he bite you?
- Where did the bite happen? Was it in your house, out in your yard, or while on a walk?
- Was there another dog, person, or animal involved?
- What exactly was happening at the time of the bite?
- Does your pup have an injury or medical illness that could cause a behavior change or pain?
- What was the sequence of events that led up to your dog biting you?
- How were you able to get away? Did you need to use a walk into another room or a barrier or did your dog back away? Was it necessary for another person to intervene?
The answers to these questions will help you determine your dog’s prognosis as well as the possibility of the recurrence of your dog biting as well as future aggressive incidents. Examples include your dog biting you as a result of you touching him when he is sleeping, so future bites can be managed by not touching him when he is lying down or sleeping. It’s important that you give a specific location where your dog can sleep undisturbed like a bed or crate that is located in a quiet spot. Dogs that have already shown an aggressive tendency when they are disturbed while they are sleeping or lying down shouldn’t be allowed to sleep in the same bed as their owner since most people will typically move as they sleep and will disturb their dog inadvertently.
If your dog is triggered easily into aggressive behavior and redirects that aggression towards the person nearest to them, his prognosis isn’t as good, regardless of whether the person has triggered it. If your dog is over 50 pounds, although smaller dogs can still pose a pretty significant threat, or if you have small children in your home, there is still the possibility that your dog can direct that aggression towards the child or children in your family.
Reasons That Your Dog Will Bite
If your dog is still in the puppy stage, then he may ‘bite’ you without actually breaking your skin. That is called mouthing and is actually really common. Puppies between six and seven months old are still teething and can ‘mouth’ things like your hand and feet. This is really exploring and playing, which can be cute at a younger stage, but as your dog gets older, the behavior can become a problem.
Another common reason for the accidental dog bite is prey drive. Consider whether you were playing games with your pup when the bite happened. If you were, then it’s pretty likely that he bit you accidentally when he got over-excited about the game you were playing. This can be a great time to adjust the game you were playing. Tug of war is generally not recommended by a dog behavior specialist while fetch is a recommended activity that reduces your risk of getting bitten while providing great exercise for your dog.
Maternal instinct is another great reason for getting an accidental bite. When you have a mother dog, you shouldn’t approach her pups without considering that you may get bitten when she tries to protect her pups. After she is comfortable with having you near her young pups, only then can you visit her, but do so with a careful and slow approach.
Considered a big contributor when it comes to dog bites, your dog may be experiencing a form of pain when he has bitten you. While a dog can be really at hiding his pain, it can still manifest in a way he wouldn’t otherwise act. It’s important to take your dog to the vet to see if he’s in pain if none of the other reasons on our list apply to the situation. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if any underlying medical conditions could have caused the bite.
Another reason your dog may bit is because of fear. When your dog bites you out of fear, it’s important that you engage in trust-building exercises to improve the bond you have with your dog. When you have a fearful dog, you are not the only one that is at risk of getting bitten. That means that anyone that happens to scare your dog could get bitten. Always exercise caution with a fearful dog when he is near other pets and people.
It’s also important to consider if your pup had a toy when he bit you? If he did, then the bite could be an indication of possessive aggression. This type of aggression will happen when your pup believes that you are too close or perhaps attempting to take away his toy or something that he wants. While this type of bite is not an accident, it is an indication that your dog doesn’t want you near something specific, which can also become a serious issue if you do not correct it immediately.
Preventing a Dog Bite
Understanding your pup is important
Preventing a dog bite is crucial. Every year, there are 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog in the U.S. Most of these dog bites have happened as a result of adults and kids that are not completely aware of how they should interact with a dog. So, it’s important to remember that you need to understand your dog and socialize him so you can create trust between the two of you. You should also watch the signals your dog is giving you, which are also very important.
What does it mean when your dog avoids eye contact?
When your dog avoids eye contact or gives you the whale eye, it is a big indicator that your dog is getting ready to bite. If you get the whale eye from your dog, you will see a really large part of the whites of your pup’s eyes.
Rigid Tail Wagging
Typically, your dog wagging his tail is a good sign. It means that he is happy, but tail wagging can also be a sign that your pup is getting ready to bite you. It’s important to look at all of your dog’s body language to help determine if the tail wagging is really a sign of aggression. When your pup’s body is stiff and his hair is raised, in this case, tail wagging will not be a sign of happiness.
Showing Teeth and Growling
And, finally, when your dog growls or shows his teeth, you are getting a clear sign that he is getting ready to bite you. Do not punish him for growling, since this is an important sign from him allowing you to intervene. When you hear growling, it’s important that you find this is a solution by removing the trigger.
Training After the Bite
If you’re not sure what to do after your dog bites you, you may want to get the assistance of a canine behaviorist. A canine behaviorist should help you determine why your dog has bitten you as well as help you make a training plan. This plan will include behavior modification training that will help to prevent any future bites from your dog.
Every dog bit situation is different and can require a different type of action. Remember though that almost every dog can be worked with after a dog bite. There are simple ways to stop your dog from biting if he is doing it accidentally. You can yell ouch or use a noise that is high-pitched noise that will let him know his actions are not acceptable. With this method, you get really effective training, particularly if you are dealing with a mouthing behavior in puppies and dogs.
Desensitization or counter-conditioning training is helpful when it comes to territorial, fearful, and reactive dogs. This will involve the patient and steady practice of teaching your pup a positive association with his known triggers.
Precautions After Your Dog Bite
After your dog has bitten you, even when it wasn’t severe, it’s important to use common sense and take any necessary precautions. While you have a positive and loving relationship with your pup, it doesn’t mean that he will respond similarly to a stranger, other dogs, or a young child. Kids can particularly provide a territorial or fearful dog without realizing that they are doing it. When company comes over, crate your pup and never leave him unsupervised with a child under five. Plus, it’s important to keep working on training methods.
What do you do if your dog bites you?
The first thing you should do is stay calm. Then isolate your dog so that he can calm down and you can treat your wound. Next, treat and clean your wound making sure to see a doctor if your wound is large or deep. Most importantly, ensure that your dog has received his rabies shot by contact your vet. Once you have treated your wound and both you and your dog have calmed down, try to figure out what has triggered the bite so that you can determine the best type of training to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you or anyone else again.
Why would a dog bite its owner?
There are a variety of reasons why a dog can bite its owner. If he’s a puppy, then he might be “mouthing”, which is an exploratory form of playing. However, if your dog is older, he may bite you out of fear, pain, or possessiveness over a toy. Mothers may be protecting their young or an older dog may be overexcited about the game you were playing. It’s important to understand why your dog has bitten you and then correct his behavior or start training that is appropriate to the situation.
What to do if your dog bites you and breaks the skin?
You should first clean and treat your wound making sure to apply a medicated ointment or antibiotic cream to stop infection. If the wound is large or deep, see a doctor and make sure to check your dog’s rabies vaccinations.
Do dogs feel guilty after they bite?
While a dog can exhibit guilty behavior like avoiding eye contact, putting their head down or hiding, they are more likely responding to the scolding they have received. They may see your loud voice and scold as an act of dominance resulting in a guilty response. In this way, they can learn that biting is not something that you like or that they should do. So, in the future, they may exhibit a guilty look when they accidentally bite you because they know they will be getting a scolding