I seem to have left a lot of things hanging in the last posts! Anyway, Nano did have the pups on the 16th, and I didn’t make the dinner party. 6 healthy and happy pups are already 2 weeks old. We did not make it to the fireworks in the boat, something went wrong with the steering in the afternoon of that day, so glad Dave took it out and broke down in Horseshoe Bay, rather than on the way home from the fireworks… We still haven’t gotten it fixed, so no boating this year.
I think I need to get focused more. I have five or six things to post about rolling around in my head, but there always seems to be something more interesting to do than write them down. My plan was a post a day. Not happening, obviously. Maybe I’ll try for one a week? Here’s one, anyway.
I was talking to a client/acquaintance the other day, and he said something along the lines of “I have dogs, so I expect to get bitten fairly regularly”. My comment was that I couldn’t remember the last time I was bitten, especially by one of my own dogs. Then the conversation moved on. Afterwards, I started thinking about it, and the more I thought, the more it bothered me.
I expect to be bitten by my dogs. Wait, what? No. I can’t get my head around that. Sure dogs bite. Of course they do, they can’t punch or kick, what’s left? But like punching and kicking, biting should be the very last resort of an animal that is stressed beyond reason. When there is no other option, the teeth come out. That’s fair. My Isa bit me- she had fallen and was in extreme pain, and I was stupid enough to try and grab her collar to stop her moving around. She strongly felt that moving around was the right thing, and in her agony she bit me to make me let go. After the second try on my part to stop her, and her second bite on my hand, I got the message and left her be. Neither of those bites broke the skin. That was more than fair. (And she was fine in the end, no internal damage, which was my major fear)
In the normal course of life, I would never expect any dog to bite me. I can MAKE any dog bite me, if I wish to put that dog in to a situation where they feel it is the only option. Some dogs can be MADE to bite quite easily. Fearful, previously abused or injured dogs can be made to bite another dog, or a human, with little trouble on the part of the bitee. A healthy dog, being treated with respect and consideration, not so much. Even Joe Average dog owner should have enough knowledge of their pet’s body language to be able to see when the dog is being pushed beyond it’s ability to cope. Most dogs do not bite as a first option. They try to get away, they posture, they growl, they snarl, they air-snap (bite at the air in the direction of the aggressor), then finally there is a bite. This is normal behaviour.
Now, a dog can be taught to bite without warning. Getting punished for growling will go a long way to making a dog go straight to biting as a solution. Constantly putting a dog in a situation where biting is the only option and allowing them to learn that biting works really well will create a dog that bites first and thinks later. Allowing a dog to routinely become so aroused that they are lashing out and biting at anything in reach also will create a situation where everyone is going to get bitten. It is also possible to startle a dog so badly they bite, but a well socialized dog probably won’t touch you- or will pull the bite so there is no damage as they realize they have made an error even as they are doing it.
Now, I work with dogs, and I have for many years. I have been bitten- when I was grooming, I was bitten several times. I have, as stated above, been bitten by my own dogs. I have once or twice been bitten by dogs I was training. I haven’t been bitten for years. I think that that is a result of my skill developing. I can honestly say that only once in my life have I been bitten and it wasn’t my fault. I was 6, and walking away from the dog’s house, he ran out and bit my leg- that dog knew with out a doubt that if he bit me I would leave. It worked. Someone taught that dog to bite unprovoked, as a way to control it’s environment.
Every time I have been bitten as an adult, it has been my fault. I grabbed a dog that was in extreme pain. I shoved my hand into a kennel containing a very stressed dog, and I wasn’t even looking at the dog (that error got me stitches). I was badly bruised by a re-directed bite when I did not control the environment properly while working with a dog-dog aggression case, and a strange dog ran right up to us. The dog I was working with bit me instead of the other dog. MY fault. I was actually glad he bit me instead of the other dog.
So, how do you have dogs and not get bitten? Easy. Train your dog. Use non-confrontational training methods. Socialize your dog. Make sure he will be comfortable in every situation he will normally be exposed to in life. Learn to read your dog’s language. Canines are not verbal, all the important ‘talk’ is done with their bodies. No human will ever be fluent in ‘dog’, but at least learn what stress, fear, anger and pain look like. If your dog has issues, deal with them. Get help if needed, but don’t pretend it’s normal for your dog to have problems. Foster a positive relationship with your dog, so he can trust you, and you can trust him. Understand that when you are a dog owner in a human dominated world, your biggest role is as your dog’s protector, supporting him in an alien and sometimes unforgiving world.