Why Good Dogs Bite — Part I: You Didn’t Understand What He Was Saying

“That’s Mine!”

Many dogs will exhibit aggressive behavior when another dog or person tries to take a valuable item away from them. The item may be a toy, food found on the ground, the owner’s sock or even just a tissue. The perceived value may beonlyin the dog’s eyes. When this occurs, I never have people confront their dogs. Instead, Iwork on gaining the dog’s trust. We work on teaching the dog that the owner has more valuable items, and, if he relinquishes the item he currently possess, he will get something of equal or greater value. Don’t assume the attitude that you, the owner, should be able to take any and all items away. Many dogs are worried when they are eating that someone will take away their food, whether it is their kibble or a tasty treat. For this reason, I don’t like interfering with a puppy or dog while he is eating. However, if you, the owner, cannot walk past your dog during a meal without the dog exhibiting aggressive behavior toward you, then we have an issue that needs to be addressed by speaking with your veterinarian. Until professional help can be obtained, the dog should be placed in another room or secured area where he will be undisturbed while enjoying his food or treats.

As you can see, various factors can contribute to a situation in which your dog can exhibit aggressive behavior. Remember that aggressive behavior is a distance-increasing behavior. The dog wants you to leave him alone or back away and have you stop exhibiting what he perceives as threatening postures or gestures toward him. Please pay attention to your dog’s body language. If your dog gives you warning prior to a bite, such as growling, lip-licking, avoiding eye contact, snarling, ears averted to the side or pulled all the way back, tail tucked or is moving away, give your dog space. Many of the situations that provoke aggressive behavior can be avoided or managed to help reduce the risk of bites before they ever occur.

Next: "Why Good Dogs Bite" Part II: You Just Got in the Way

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