2001-Thu Feb 23 11:42:37 MST 2017
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This is a question I hear on a
daily basis in my practice. When a dog bites its owner, there are often a gamut
of feelings: shock, disbelief, anger, hurt and sometimes guilt. Often, your first thought or fear is that your dog might have to be given up. However, this is not necessarily the
case. Working with your veterinarian or perhaps a veterinary behaviorist like
me, you will need to carefully assess the circumstances involved with the bite
incident in order to decide on the most appropriate course of action.
In the immediate aftermath of a bite, you need to ensure your own
safety. Stay calm and refrain from overreacting. Physical or verbal reprimands
can potentially make the situation worse because your dog may see it as an
escalation of aggressive behavior on your part. Try to place your dog in another
area of the house, such as a bathroom or the laundry room (assuming he cannot
get into garbage or cleaning products). Giving you and your canine space will
allow you both a chance to calm down. If you cannot physically place him in
another area of the house, walk away and place a physical barrier between
yourself and your pet, such as a door. Assess the injury your dog has caused and
call your physician to determine whether or not a trip to the emergency room or
his or her office is in order. Call your veterinarian to verify your canine is
current on his rabies vaccination and to start discussing the incident.
Once the immediate concerns are
addressed, some of the questions I typically ask owners involved in a bite
These questions help me
determine the prognosis for your dog and the potential for the recurrence of
future bites or aggressive incidents. For example, if your dog bit you because you
touched him while he was sleeping, the potential for future bite incidents might
be managed by not touching him again while he is sleeping or lying down. You should provide a specific location for your dog to sleep undisturbed, such
as a crate or bed placed in a quiet location. A dog that has already shown
aggressive tendencies when disturbed while lying down or sleeping should
not be allowed to sleep in bed with its owner because most people move in their
sleep and can inadvertently disturb their dog.
On the other hand, the
prognosis is poorer if your dog is easily triggered to behave aggressively and
redirects the aggression toward the nearest person, regardless of
whether or not that person triggered it. The prognosis is also guarded if your dog weighs more than 50 lbs or so (although smaller dogs can still pose a significant
threat), or if there are small children in the family and there is potential for your pet to direct the aggressive behavior toward a child.
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