Last night, Rodrigo bit me. It was my fault. He was focused on a bowl of ice cream Johan was holding and I tried to sneak around him and he reacted and bit me in the face. It wasn’t hard and I’m not hurt, but did three things immediately…
- I backed away, but not too quickly, because I didn’t want to startle him again.
- I made eye contact with Johan and shook my head, because I didn’t want him to punish Rodrigo.
- I stood up and walked out of the room.
I have no idea if that was the right or wrong thing to do, but I had to remove myself from the situation to get a hold of myself, because I was having a human moment, when all I could think was “My baby bit me!” and then I just cried, but only for a moment. I pulled myself together and became pack leader again.
When I returned to the room, Rodrigo was so nervous and wouldn’t look me in the eye. It broke my heart, but at least he didn’t take my place as pack leader while I was pulling myself together. I hugged him and told him it was okay, he licked my face and then we all turned in for the night.
When Your Dog Bites You
What really disturbed me about getting bit by my dog is that I was able to quickly assess the situation. I understood what happened; my boyfriend did too. My heart breaks for dogs who were kicked out of the house, abused, or surrendered to the shelter, because of a similar situation. In fact, someone I know encouraged a friend to have her dog put down, because he was nipping at her. Why not call a dog trainer first?
I did a little Google research and found that there are 5 reasons dogs bite…
- Possessiveness – guarding property, toys, and food can be common with some dogs. Rodrigo has shown possessiveness with toys, which is why we taught him “leave it.” This simple command prevents him from stealing toys, bones and chews from Sydney and Blue.
- Fear – if a dog is afraid, he’s going to lash out to protect himself. This is a perfect reason why we should take care when approaching a dog we don’t know, because we’re unfamiliar with their history or their triggers. Rodrigo is afraid of loud noises and tends to come crawling in my lap when a loud boom happens.
- Pain – I’ve actually heard of this happening and I’ve been nipped at before. Sydney has done it when I clipped her nails (never use a guillotine style nail clipper on your dog) and Rodrigo did it to me when I found a bur lodged into his skin and was trying to get it out.
- Maternal – I’ve never experienced this, but I’ve heard of people being warned not to approach a dog when she’s with her litter, because she’s very protective. All of our dogs are altered so the other maternal instinct going on was Rodrigo looking to give birth to an ice cream baby.
- Prey Drive – Since I wasn’t moving quickly, I doubt that Rodrigo’s prey drive was triggered. This is usually what happens when cyclists and joggers go by, which is why our dogs are back on the leash. They wouldn’t hurt anyone, but their prey drive is strong and I wouldn’t want someone to be scared or hurt, because our dogs couldn’t help but give chase.
Looking back, it’s obvious that Rodrigo was resource guarding and nipped at me to keep me from getting the ice cream that he claimed as his own. He didn’t get any ice cream, but he did get a tub of forgiveness, understanding and love.
Dog Bite Warnings
Yes, there were warnings. Rodrigo bared his teeth to his sister. Looking back, I should have removed him from the room in that moment, but I didn’t see him doing it. I’ll pay closer attention next time.
Other warnings (that we didn’t experience) that dog parents should look for are ears back against the head, hackles (hair along the back, rear and/or spine) raised, excessive yawning, and intense eye contact.
How to Prevent Dog Bites
- Know your dog’s body language so that you can ward off aggression or stress before it gets that far.
- Train your dog commands like “leave it” so that they know that whatever their want isn’t for them.
- If your dog tends towards regular aggression, you might want to curb aggressive games like tug-of-war.
- Don’t put your dog in stressful situations – I will only walk the dogs on trails first thing in the morning so that we encounter fewer cyclists and joggers. I no longer take our dogs to the dog park.
- Socialize socialize socialize – and not just with other dogs; we need to socialize our pups with people too so that they understand what is expected of them and can learn not to fear people outside the family (postal carrier, veterinarian).
- Keep your dog close to the family; as the dogs have gotten older and more comfortable, we’ve had to stop allowing them outside in the main yard (unfenced) alone, because they’ll run to a neighbor’s house or along the Centennial Trail, and are at a risk of being in situations that may lead to aggression.
My chin hurts, but I’m over being bitten by my dog. I hope that it never happens again. And I hope someone who was just bitten reads this and instead of taking their dog to the shelter, takes a step back and learns more about dog behavior.
If you’re having a difficult time with your dog, reach out to a professional dog trainer for help.
Have you been bitten by your dog? What advice do you have for someone who was bitten and confused on the next steps?