As the highest rated dog trainers in Northern Virginia, we deal with a wide variety of people and dogs on a daily basis. We are known for our high-level of obedience training; however, one common issue we also deal with is aggression in dogs (towards people and other dogs).
When dealing with aggression, the owners are almost always in a frenzy, stressed, and find themselves and their dogs hiding away from people and society. One thing that we commonly hear in aggression cases (mainly with people) is, “There was no warning sign, he just jumped up and bit the guy.”
What they are saying is, “There were a lot of warning signs, but none “I” noticed.” Once we really start breaking down the incident (how, what, where), then we can generally easily formulate a “why.”
Say for instance, a scenario that we may hear is, “I had a friend come over, out of nowhere, he jumped up and bit him.”
*Note, I say “him” because my experience shows me that generally dog bites tend to happen more on men than women*
I almost never find a dog bite to be “that” cut and dry. All dogs have what we refer to as a “bite threshold;” meaning, under what circumstances does it take for me to react with a bite. If you think about it, many people have this same “fight or argue threshold.” You do, I do, and every one of your friends and family have this. Think about this for a minute to help you better understand what I mean.
Do you have a friend who gets upset far quicker than you? Do you have a friend or family member that the smallest thing can set them off and they are ready to fight or punch someone? Do you have a friend or family member who can take A LOT of abuse (physical or mental) and they still keep their composure and remain calm?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, you now see that EVERYONE has a different amount of “pressure” before they react in a certain situation, some it takes very little and some it takes an enormous amount. Also, you see that people react DIFFERENTLY once this threshold is met. Welcome to your “threshold.”
Now that you understand the point I am trying to make (if you did not initially), dogs have this same threshold for reacting and HOW they react, just like with people.
So, you see the chart I illustrated below? This is to give you an example of how a dog doesn’t normally “just bite” someone. Generally, when we actually break down the event, the dog’s background or temperament, and the sequence of events that led up the bite, we can see what actually occurred.
Again, to jump back to the initial call or email that, “I had a friend come over, out of nowhere, he jumped up a bit my friend.”
After discussing their dog with them, we are able to see what “actually happened.” So, here is an example conversation below:
“Well, Rex can sometimes be shy/sketchy around new people. He also has growled at us on rare occasion if we push him off the couch or try to take his ball. He has also growled at the vet when they clip his toenails or mess with his paws. However, Rex has never bit anyone! I cannot believe he would do this!”
Then, I begin to break down the series of events that took place which led up to the friend being bit.
“Rex was laying on the couch, had his ball between his paws, and was just laying their playing with this ball and Mark (stranger) walked in, sat down on couch beside of Rex, and started petting him. Then, he went to move Rex’s paw so he could throw the ball for him and that’s when Rex just bit him out of nowhere.”
Do you all see what just happened? It was a bunch of minor events that normally gets a reaction out of Rex; however, all of these events came together in one scenario in order to create “the perfect storm.”
He didn’t like when the stranger came in (gave him anxiety), then he sat down next to him on the couch (which owner acknowledged he can be territorial), then he moved his feet WHILE Rex had a ball (again, both things the owner knew Rex doesn’t like).
Again, this is a very generic scenario; however, this is generally what dog bites break down to. For the severity of the reaction and the bite, I would recommend reading my blog on “How Fixable Is Your Dog’s People Aggression?”
So, it is YOUR responsibility as a responsible pet owner to find out what (if any) your dogs triggers are, get them addressed, and ensure that they never come together to create “the perfect storm.”
If you need help, contact us at:
Off Leash K9 Training