What to Do If Your Dog Bites Another Dog

Dog Bites Another Dog
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Bites are almost always a last resort and typically occur only after prior communication cues, like snarling, go unheeded.

Q. How do you move ahead after one dog bites another dog? Are there strategies for handling and training a dog who can be aggressive toward other dogs?

A. There is no single strategy that works for every dog who bites another dog. Instead, bite incidents are best addressed on an individual basis with the help of a professional — your veterinarian may be able to help, or he may refer you to a veterinary behaviorist or work in conjunction with a positive reinforcement trainer. These professionals can assess the specific dog’s history and the circumstances around the aggressive incident and determine why the bite occurred and how to (hopefully) prevent it from happening again. 

Before we discuss moving forward after a bite, however, it’s important to understand why a dog would bite another dog and how to recognize a dog who is liable to bite.

Dog-Friendly Dogs

Canine sociability is influenced by various factors, including genetics, early learning and ongoing experience around other dogs. This means that a canine may still be a great family dog, even if he isn’t particularly dog friendly.

A puppy’s ideal socialization window extends from 6 to 14 weeks of age. It is imperative that a dog have various play and social interactions with other canines during this window, in order to learn to read and react to other dogs’ body language and to use his own body language to communicate. Dogs who have had limited socialization in puppyhood may be less likely to perceive other dogs as “friends” and more likely to react defensively to them. These early interactions also help teach a dog to use his mouth gently and to use a soft mouth rather than a hard bite should he ever act aggressively. 

Limited experience with other dogs during the socialization period or access to only certain types of dogs can make a canine more selective about the types of dogs he is comfortable around. In addition, a negative experience with an aggressive or bullying dog can teach a canine that dogs — or certain types of dogs — are unsafe. This can lead to fear-based aggression.

Why Dogs Bite

There are various reasons one dog may bite another dog, but most bites occur when the biter feels threatened. In this case, the bite is a defensive behavior designed to increase distance and lessen the threat posed by the other dog. Bites are almost always a last resort and typically occur only after prior communication cues go unheeded. 

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