There are 2 types of fear biters: the first type is the dog that is afraid of people and will bite when being touched or handled by a stranger. The second type is when the dog becomes frightened while being restrained. This same dog is normally a very friendly dog. Such a fear bite is a direct result of what I call lack of “good stress”.
A few examples of this type of fear bite are: a bite that occurs during a nail clipping or grooming, a bite while they are being examined by a veterinarian or when they become tangled in a leash or caught on a fence by their collar. These bites occur because the dog anticipates pain even when no pain may occur.
When dogs are raised in the wild, their mothers make sure they experience stress daily. The stress occurs quite naturally, for example, wild pups are stepped on by their mother, the mother leaves them for a while to hunt, and their mothers clean them roughly and will reprimand them with a bite and during all of these instances are non-responsive to their pups’ cries of distress.
As humans, we are taught how to deal with stress early also. We sleep alone in a crib without our Mother beside us, we are taught to wait, say please and thank you for our cookie, we are sent away from our Mom and Dad to go to pre-school and then school. We are reprimanded and left to ‘sit in a corner’ when we hit other children. We are taught how to deal with the consequences of committing ‘crimes’ against our schoolmates and siblings.
You may also want to equate “good stress” with self-control.
Then, why when we acquire a dog do we feel the need to eliminate all forms of stress? We don’t like a crate, so the dog sleeps in bed with us (never mind that the infant is alone in his crib). We feed the dog and give him treats as soon as he barks at us, we allow him to drag us through the neighborhood and jump all over our guests and family members.
A Stress Free Dog
When a young dog comes into class, I basically can tell if this dog has ever been told “no” and if the dog actually believed the “no”. It is usually barking and jumping at other dogs and people in the class. This dog looks like a hyper active pup and everyone usually gets a big laugh out of it. Then, when the owner finally has had enough and tries to settle him down, the dog will ‘mouth’ at the hand of the owner or the leash. Then, when corrected with the collar and leash, the dog will throw himself to the ground, and grab the leash or even better, stand on its hind legs and wrap his front paws around the leash. At this point, if the owner is weak and believes he shouldn’t have to restrain his dog on a walk or for jumping, the dog realizes he ‘won’!
You can also see this when going to the veterinarian and groomer. He doesn’t like to stay still for vaccinations, he is squirming when the groomer is cutting his nails; basically he is hyper and looking to jump off the groomer’s or veterinarian’s table; while still wagging his tail.
The Good News is that a formal education in the name of ‘dog school’ will teach this dog how to deal with the stress of not being able to jump and bark and act obnoxious when in public. Once the dog understands that he must follow the rules and there are consequences when he doesn’t; the obnoxious puppy goes away. Dog training is good stress. Teaching your dog commands and that his response to commands is not optional is good stress.
The dog is taught that you are ‘pack leader’ and that he must wait for your cue to respond to a situation. This will help so much when the dog is being restrained either for vaccinations or grooming. He is taught that being controlled is not a bad thing and when the restraint is all over, there is a cookie in his future. Dogs trained from a young age require fewer corrections and are more responsive to commands because they want to avoid corrections. And, even better, they learn how to handle a correction and that those corrections are not the end of the world or painful.
Not my dog
My Veterinarian said she always gets bit by Golden Retrievers. Shocking? Not really. Golden Retrievers are great dogs and easily trained. Most people owning them demand little of them in terms of reprimanding or training them because they rarely do anything wrong. But, once restrained, they become fearful that they ‘may’ get hurt and then they bite. And, then after the bite, and the dog is back on the ground in the office he or she goes back to the tail wagging happy go lucky golden.
Training that avoids all forms of correction, and only focuses on positive re-enforcement, is not going to teach your dog how to deal with stress. Even a Dam will put her teeth on a puppy, why wouldn’t you allow your puppy to have the good experience of a correction when acting up so he learns how to deal with small amounts of stress? Take your dog to training class, allow him to experience time away from you and time in a crate; your veterinarian and groomer will love you for it.