Does Your Dog Bite?

February 23rd, 2007 by Kathleen

Mine does. We have had Pepper for three years. He is the sweetest dog we have. He knows his place in our family and he revels in it. No matter if he is with my children, my husband or myself Pepper loves to be with his family. I know, I can hear you: “But, he bites!” Well, yes and no. Let me explain.

When we first brought Pepper home we lived out in the country. Our home was where most people would call “the sticks”. Because we lived so far out we didn’t receive many visitors. When someone came over Pepper would usually come to investigate and then run off to chase chickens. He saw no reason to stay if there were no goodies involved. Chickens were more fun. It was nothing personal. It was just the way it was.

After we decided to move into town Pepper wasn’t sure how to act. He went from 18 acres to a little back yard. But he learned to love his back yard after we learned that we had moved next door to The Demon Child as I not so affectionately referred to him. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have five children of my own. But this child had issues. He took great delight in poking Pepper in the eyes and pulling his hair. Pepper snapped at him, not out of aggression, but out of fear. He got to the point where he refused to walk through the front door. So he stayed in the back, away from The Demon Child. Problem solved.

A New Problem

One day my friend Elaine came to visit with her two daughters. My first priority upon answering the door was to grab Casey, the puppy. Casey hadn’t learned that nice dogs don’t jump and Elaine is not a dog person. As I held on to my wriggling puppy, Elaine’s daughter reached down to pet Pepper. And he bit her! I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. I was shaking. Why had he done that?

My friend assured me that it was alright. The skin hadn’t been broken. No harm done. Still, I was upset. Clearly some research was in order. I needed to understand why Pepper reacted the way he had. What makes a dog decide to bite?

Dog Bites are Common

In my research I learned that children are more than twice as likely as adults to get bitten by a dog. In the United States there are more than five million dog bite victims a year. And 77% of victims are bitten by a dog owned by a friend or relative. That is pretty scary. To lower these statistics it is important for dog owners to learn how to prevent dog bites.

Protecting His Territory

Dogs bite for several reasons. One is that he is protecting his territory. Many dogs have been bred for their ability to guard their families, livestock or property. The key is making sure your dog is properly socialized. From the day you bring him home he should begin to experience different people and situations. Once he learns that people are good, he will be able to distinguish which ones are not so good. No extra training required. It is not usually necessary to teach a dog to protect. That is his instinct. You must teach your dog to behave. That is your responsibility.

Guarding an Object

Another reason that a dog may bite is that he is guarding a toy or his food. Prevent this by teaching children to leave a dog alone when he is eating. If your dog is crate trained he has a safe place to go when he just wants to gnaw. Teach children that this is your dog’s “room” and they are to leave him alone when he is there. A dog may also bite if she has a new litter of puppies. Once again, teach children to leave them alone. Dogs are not toys. If there is still a problem with your dog guarding objects it is wise to call a professional dog trainer for help. Proper training can prevent most behavior problems before they occur.


If your dog thinks he is going to be hurt, his natural reaction may be to bite. This may go back to socialization. When you teach your dog that people are ok, he has no reason to fear them. This may also go back to training. Many people think when they hit or kick their dog that they are training him. In reality the only thing they are teaching their dog is to fear and despise their owner. Treat your dog with respect and he will respect you, too.


Pepper’s Diagnosis

I knew that Pepper had no problem with food aggression. But socialization could be an issue since he really wasn’t used to visitors. I began putting him on a leash when we had friends over. He was allowed to sniff but I had control. Eventually he learned that if I wasn’t worried he didn’t need to be either. He will greet visitors with happy barks and then go lay down.

Another issue I felt fit Pepper was fear. I knew that we had never abused him. But he had been abused. The Demon Child had left his mark on Pepper. Remember, he was afraid to go out the front door. He had started to associate the door with being hurt. I can only imagine what went through his head when someone came in the door. When Elaine’s daughter reached toward his head he probably had flashbacks of his eyes being poked. His reaction was to bite.

I’m happy to say that Pepper is still the sweetest dog in the world. Now that we understand him better, others can see how sweet he is too.

7 Responses to “Does Your Dog Bite?”

  1. Claire Says:

    So how did you handle your dog biting issue successfully?

  2. Kathleen Says:

    Well, as I mentioned, I started putting Pepper on his leash when we had visitors. This gave him the opportunity to check out the situation but allowed me to stay on control. I also instructed my visitors to ignor him when he approached them. That way he had no reason to feel threatened.

    Eventually Pepper started to feel comfortable with people coming into the house and he even goes out the front door now.

    He will still bark when he is approached by someone new. Keeping him on a leash in this type of situation (outside or inside) allows me to keeps everyone safe. Once he gets to know that a person is acceptable he is their buddy. He has even been known to snuggle on the couch with my friend Elaine.

  3. wendy Says:

    i have a jack russel who i love with all my heart his 1 yr. and today he got out of the yard when i tryed to pick him up he attacked me and bit me 5 times one of the bites is pretty severe i don’t understand why hes doing this this isn’t the first time hes attacked if hes asleep and someone touches him he also attacks i called my husband at work and he told me hes going to have him put to sleep this dog is like one of my children and i feel like im going to die if my husband does this can you please help thank you and god bless

  4. Kathleen Says:

    I’m so sorry that you are having a problem with your Jack Russel. The best thing that I can recommend for you is to consult:

    1. your vet to rule out any possible health issues that may cause your dog to act aggessively and

    2. a professional trainer. See if you can find a trainer who specializes is aggression problems because there are many who will tell you to just have your dog put down. This may still be necessary but first try to find the reason for the aggession and try to correct it with professional help.

    In the event that you have to do the thing you least want (putting him down), try to keep in mind that if he ever was to injure someone else, you would be legally libel. If your dog was to attack someone else, likely your city would remove your dog from your home and euthanize him. While this is hard to deal with, it is in the best interests of the public. You mentioned that one of the bites was severe–imagine if it had been a child.

    I hope this is some help to you, please let me know how things turn out. I’ll be thinking of you.

  5. Linda Lorey Says:

    I have a 4 year old bichon and he doesnt bite when people come into my home but when people are leaving! I just thought it was he way of saying dont go! but when I walk him and the kids down the block see him and the leave he snaps at them! not good in my eyes can you help with this?Linda Lorey

  6. Julie Says:

    My dog is a baby biter!!!!! My dog Amigo is a 4 year old wiener dog. He is very playful and loving after people let him check them out. He has never bit anyone, the worst he has ever done is bark. Recently, my fiance’s sister brought her 1 year old baby over to visit. Amigo has seen him before and didn’t really notice him. This time as my fiance’s mother was holding the baby, Amigo jumped up and bit the baby. The baby wasn’t making any noises or moving erratically; in addition Amigo had sniffed the baby when it was crawling around and didn’t seem to care.

    I am scared because we plan on having children one day, and I wouldn’t want to have to give up my faithful companion Amigo. I’m not sure how to socialize him without putting more babies at risk of being bitten. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  7. Qdown under Says:

    Watch Animal Planet they have lots of trainers. Most of the time they give the dogs a little bit of chicken to associate the thing they are biting as a good thing. Show them the object or person and before there is a reaction give them a piece of chicken. There is more to it than that… go watch and learn it is on Itunes too. (The lady in black is the one I like.) Stillwell. My pup is a food and toy horder.. were getting through it slowly. it takes time but it is worth it all you need is the skills to know what to do. Good luck.

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