fur-give and fur-get
Published on Thursday, 10 November 2016
Getting bitten by Fido isn’t just a physical injury—it can often negatively impact the bond between owner and pet, as one might grow fearful of his dog. If a paw-rent was bitten while trying to pat or feed his dog, he might avoid doing it again for fear of being snapped at. Some owners may even start neglecting their dog because they do not want to get injured.
“It’s important to realise that when dogs bite humans, it’s usually either triggered by anxiety or an inherent aggressive nature,” explains Dr Brian Loon from Amber Vet. “They have no intent to betray or hurt their owners.”
“Dogs usually bite for a reason,” says Marie Choo, a dog behaviourist and trainer from The Dog Alchemist. “In fact, they typically give warning signs before the actual bite takes place. Some signals include frowning, snarling, growling, and ‘air snaps’.” Here are a few common reasons why dogs bite and how you can manage it:
1. Resource guarding
When dogs are in possession of something, they often assume that it belongs to them and may turn aggressive when it is taken away. Some run when they see you approaching, while others may turn to biting as a last resort to keep their item safe.
Solution: Teaching Fido to ‘drop it’ can help. Hold one end of a dog toy while waiting for your dog to take the other end. Continue holding onto the toy so he can’t run. Then, offer a treat while telling him to ‘drop it’. Feed him the treat once he puts the toy down and is no longer interested in it.
2. Pain due to underlying injuries
Dogs are relatively good at hiding pain until you accidentally touch a sore spot—causing them to react instinctively by biting.
Solution: If you suspect that your dog may be in pain, take him to a vet to get it checked.
3. Food agression
During mealtimes, some dogs may turn defensive and bite if you try to touch their food.
Solution: To curb this behaviour, start by using your hands to feed your dog, then slowly place the food in his bowl. The aim is to get him used to eating while your hands are near his face. Alternatively, drop some treats into the bowl while he’s eating so he associates people approaching his food bowl with rewards.
For more on common triggers of biting (like body handling, fear, dominance, annoyance, and redirection aggression), flip to Body and Soul (pg 60) of our Oct-Nov 2016 issue!