Defensive Dog Handling

Female of a dog of breed a Rottweile.

I got a very disturbing reply to one of my articles today.

Let me explain, it wasn’t “really disturbing” but it is disturbing to me!

I see the horrors of the dog world.

Most people see pictures and videos of fluffy Golden Retriever and Lab puppies playing in a field of flowers, but as a dog trainer and one who specializes and works with aggressive dogs, I see the horrors.

I see the dogs that bite children in the face.

I once worked with another dog trainer whose nose had literally been ripped off of her face by a 15# terrier mix.  She endured several surgeries but will never look the same nor be able to cover the scars.

And, it is not a surprise that she has post-traumatic stress disorder and can no longer train or have much of anything to do with dogs anymore.

I see the stories of the dogs that kill people.

And, I hear the stories from my peers of dogs that have tried to kill them.

I also recently went to a Sue Sternberg seminar where she reiterated a lot of points that I think need to be shared.

We don’t make the top 25 most dangerous job list, but we certainly have to keep our wits about us.

The trainer who’s nose was ripped off, was leaning in to kiss the cute little dog.

I very, very, very rarely kiss a dog.

Actually I have gotten to the point that I don’t even pet many anymore.

This is Risky Behavior

This is Risky Behavior

I have learned through experience that it is better safe than sorry, and I am lucky that I have never incurred a bite that needed stitches!

And, I have spent time in a dog bite suit, which significantly increases my risk of a bad or deadly bite.

So What Was the Comment

It is going to seem very innocuous and even kind to you.

It came from a handy man who regularly enters the homes of people he doesn’t know and has encounters with dogs who may aggress or be fearful of him.

He mentioned that he sits on the ground and offers his hand to them as a means of diffusing the situation.

In fact, isn’t that what a lot of us were taught early in life?

If a dog acts aggressively or fearful, get down on their level (kneel, sit, or bend) and extend your hand as a means of friendship and a way to allow the dog to sniff?

Most people, and especially children have heard this, and it works in some instances.

But I see the horrors of the dog world.

My mind pictures this lovely, kind man, sitting on someone’s floor, when a dog becomes more scared or more aggressive.  And, when you are sitting on the floor, you are much more defenseless than when you are standing or even kneeling.

I what happens with the dogs who may be sniffing the outstretched hand, when a siren goes off and startles the dog even more, pushing him past his bite threshold for more on understanding bite threshold click here

You see one stress, (the knocking of the door) added to another stress (the addition of a person the dog doesn’t know or like) added to another stress the siren or (a noise or some other stress that can’t be avoided) dramatically increases the likelihood of a bite.

And, let’s all agree that a 200 pound mastiff is much more dangerous than a 3 pound Chihuahua but both can give a hospitalizing bite if given the opportunity.

And, perhaps he was talking more about the Chihuahua, but my mind pictures the nervous and protective Mastiff.

What Do You Do?

So what do you do, when you are constantly faced with dogs you don’t know?Do it again fur

Assume All Dogs Bite

Hardly anyone, seriously almost NO ONE will admit to having an aggressive or biting dog.

People who come to me for behavior consults often start out by saying he has only one problem, he poops in the house.  Oh yeah, and I can’t get near his food bowl because he growls and threatens to kill me.

Even when they come to me for biting they will rationalize that “their dog doesn’t bite or isn’t aggressive”.

So don’t ever assume someone you meet on the street or in their home will admit that their dog has an aggression issue.

Most Owners Don’t Notice

Also, it is critical to note, that most dog owners don’t notice or read dog behavior for a living.

They don’t realize fluffy is closer to his bite threshold.

Most dog owners and regular people have no idea what a bite threshold is or what it means.

It doesn’t matter how much their dog is barking, growling, or snarling they will tell you he really isn’t aggressive.  Because they aren’t used to listening to what their dogs is trying to tell them.

Be Defensive

My parents taught me to drive defensively.

Never take for granted what you “think” another driver should or might do.

Don’t assume that car will yield or even stop.

Assume that everyone is drunk or under the influence, and give yourself space.  This tip has helped to keep me from having car accidents.

The same is true with interaction with dogs.

Assume all dogs can and will bite you.

Know that your entrance into anyone’s house (of whom you don’t know) is a stressful event for the dog.

Even excitement (or a dog that seems excited to see you) can cause stress and excited dogs are also closer to their bite threshold as well for more on that click here.

Listen to The Dog124

If the dog is scared and trying to run away, don’t force yourself on him.

The closer you get, the more stress he feels.

Don’t hold your hand out, this looks aggressive and hesitant to a dog.  After all, we don’t do this to our own dogs, it only happens when the dog is scared and overly stressed which likely then increases the stress the next time he sees the same picture. Plus your hand is a very delicate piece of machinery that is not easily surgically fixed to the the prior state after a bad bite.  I NEVER want to be bitten in the hand.

I have had friends who have had fingers bitten off, and structural hand damage.  And, it is hard if not impossible to work without your hands.

Allow a scared dog to have space and allow him to get away from you.

If he is acting aggressively, again don’t present your hand and don’t take his space.

Ask his owners to put him on a leash or put him somewhere else where he can be more comfortable.

Don’t worry that the owner will take offense to your request or will think that you aren’t brave.  Instead think of it as the kind thing to do for the dog and the safest thing to do for yourself.

You don’t want to be bent over on the floor (working on something) and have the dog run up and attack you in the face.

Don’t Get Down on the Dog’s Level

Don’t get your face any closer to the dog than you have to.  I would much rather take a surprise bite to the leg or arm than to the face or belly.

If there is a dog that worries you, again ask for the owner to take charge, or shut yourself into the room if you must get on the ground.

If The Dog Rushes You

If a dog rushes at you, stand still and don’t give the dog eye contact.

Carefully avert your eyes while still trying to glimpse in that direction.

Pretend the dog is a bear and make yourself small and non-aggressive.

Don’t Make Quick Movements

Cover your belly area if you can, but don’t make quick movements.  Quick movements might incite a dog bite.

I have seen people disemboweled, so keeping your belly safe is important if you can.

You can also offer a better area if you think the dog is for sure coming in for a bite.

For example, I would much rather feed a dog my forearm than be bitten in the face, belly, or hand.  Remember that your hand is a very delicate piece of machinery that can’t be easily fixed if bitten or crushed.

Sweet, happy, squishy face!

Sweet, happy, squishy face!

Don’t yell, if you can help it.

Dogs are much less likely to deal with a human being aggressive in their own home.  So you might be able to scare the dog away in the street, but you will be much less successful in his own home where he feels most comfortable.

Calmly ask the owner to take charge but don’t scream or yell.

If the Dog Bites

If the dog bites you, do your best not to rip yourself away.

Puncture bites are bad, but ripping your body part out of the dog’s mouth creates a much bigger and deeper wound.

If you can, give the dog a moment and wait.

Most dogs bite and release if you remain calm and quiet.

If you fight, the dog will feel like he has to fight for his life and a much worse bite is liable to happen.

And, most will retreat after, however I always make it habit to look around and find an object that will allow me to protect or shield myself if need be and the dog comes back.

I would only fight if I felt like I needed to fight for my life.

Even If You Love Dogs

Even if you love dogs, not all dogs love all people.

When I know I will be facing a nervous or aggressive dog, I often carry a little bit of food (like string cheese) but I also realize that food can make some dogs more aggressive, so you must be careful.  The more food you carry, the more of a resource it is for the dog to possibly guard.

And, dogs can show serious life changing and life threatening aggression.

I have learned to only pet dogs that are soft and squishy (for more on what I mean by that click here) and those that actively show social, submissive signs and solicit my attention and affection.

And, I am very careful, how and where I pet them until I know them well.  I have to know a dog very well, before I allow myself to let my guard down.

After all, it is better to be safe; than to be in the hospital and be sorry.

Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

Your First Lesson’s FREE:

Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.

Comments

  1. joanne says:

    Enjoyed article as I am a mail carrier and encounter many dogs who don’t “bite” according to owners.

    [Reply]

  2. Wendy says:

    My collieX girl Summer, a rescue dog who had been abused and neglected was very distrustful of strangers and somewhat aggressive as a result. It has taken a long time, but when visitors arrived I would put her in my room until the adrenalin had worn off, and once the visitors were sitting quietly I would let her out. They were told, no eye contact, keep hands on the table out of reach and ignore her.
    What a difference this has made, she is still a bit distrustful of strange men, but is mostly happy and affectionate with friends and family. But it takes time and patience to get to this level, and above all staying calm.

    [Reply]

  3. Sharon says:

    I walk some pretty tough dogs that come into our shelter with very little history to go by and I totally agree about not trusting ANY dog until you have had some time to establish a relationship that does not involve fear on EITHER side. I refuse to walk some of the real challenges that come in and invariably, someone takes the risk and the dog ends up being euthanized because they bit a volunteer. I like to think I am pretty good at reading dog behavior but of course, we can all get fooled at some point. The only dog that latched onto my hand and almost bit through the skin was about 4 pounds. My guard was down completely.

    [Reply]

  4. Sam Ivy says:

    What a pertinent article this time of the month with it being Dog Bite Awareness week. Such a horrific tale of your fellow trainer who is not disfigured and understandably afraid. Thank you for all the advice.

    [Reply]

  5. Terrie Stephens says:

    As a professional dog trainer for 10 years your article is spot on. Should be required reading for all animal care workers, pet owners and family members and anyone who comes in contact with dogs. I would love to see some type of dog safety classes taught in the schools starting in grade schools. keep up the good work
    Terrie Stephens
    Certified Dog Trainer – CGC Evaluator

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Thank you 🙂 please share as often as you like

    [Reply]

  6. Michael Friedman says:

    Interesting commentaries

    [Reply]

  7. Marysia says:

    When I was training dogs in a group years ago, had a close call with a Rottweiler who attacked me when I stood behind him in a group class. Luckily, my Angels were with me and I could feel the energy around him change into a quiet “dead zone” energy just before he attacked so I was able to flip him to the ground and put my hand under his chin and hold him down. Something told me to not let him up after he was finally quiet after the first attack and sure enough he quickly tried to come after me again, so, I held him down until the second round of aggression spent itself and then let him up. He was done then and I returned him to his owners who were in the class and watching all this unfold with a smirk on their face. They wanted to see if the trainer could handle their “problem” dog. After the fact, they then admitted that he had started going after them, as well.
    Turns out they had given this dog zero rules or boundaries while he was growing from the cute puppy stage into the big Rottweiler and I almost paid the ultimate price for this ignorance.
    You are so right when you say most people will not admit their dog has an aggression issue. They are usually in deep denial since they feel helpless and inept around this issue.

    [Reply]

  8. Sandra says:

    I love your advice and do you think getting my German shepherd male de sexed will calm his aggressive behaviour he’s around 48 kilo and has had ago at my 24 yr old son twice now love your advice

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Yes, I recommend neuter! A dog with aggression issues also doesn’t need to be bred!

    [Reply]

  9. Deb says:

    I admit I’ve always had a fear of rotwielers and German Shepards. I walk my 45 lb labradoodle daily and we now have rot in our neighborhood. Also found out it was loose recently and when a neighbor yelled for it to get out of here, she stood her ground. Last weekend my husband was along for our walk and we got charged by a lab! Thank goodness he was with me to at least try to keep himself between the vicious dog and us. Thing is, I already knew their dog doesn’t like other dogs, so why oh why would they have her off leash?!! If I had been alone I shudder to think what could have happened. How should I handle that if it ever happens? (God forbid)

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Carry pepper spray. I hate the thought of pepper spraying a dog… but I hate the idea of one dog killing or wounding another worse

    [Reply]

  10. Nic D'archangel says:

    As a trainer myself, this article is a Wonderful read !! and so verrry True…
    when my SD & I do educational events, we advise the same RESPECT for an unknown dogs space..

    [Reply]

  11. Michele Bell says:

    Hi there,
    After reading your article I would like to get your advice. My 4 year old Labrador was trained from a puppy to let us handle her food while she was eating and touch her while she eats.
    All of a sudden she has started growling if we touch her when she is eating. What is the best way to handle this situation?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Any significant behavior change later in life makes me think that it might not be behavior and might be health related.

    I would stop using a bowl for a while and feed her from your hands.

    Then I would use a huge bowl and instead of reaching for the food touch her and drop steak or something better if she doesn’t growl etc.

    But be careful! We also have an aggression course that will help. email Dana at customer service to find out when it will begin again info@thedogtrainingsecret.com

    [Reply]

  12. Jaci says:

    I have a Mastiff-Shepherd mix that I got at four months but he must have been abused somewhere. He is very nervous around anyone else coming in. He is especially distrustful (aggressive) if they stick their hand out. I had a friend visit who stay for close to a week–he would let her throw treats to him and even put one on the toe of her shoe and eagerly get them. Even after all that, if she would hold the treat out to him in her had, he would panic. We are making progress with him by keeping in on a leash but in the same general area as the person. Once he relaxes, he goes and begs for love. I appreciate any comments so I can continue to learn.

    [Reply]

  13. Yvonne Hewins says:

    Wonderful to read an article that is informed by common sense and established knowledge. There are so many people out there who set themselves up as behaviourists having read a book or attended a course, with no experience whatsoever. Thank you!

    [Reply]

  14. She Haughey says:

    I would like the video on listening please. I do not have a website

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I don’t understand??

    [Reply]

  15. Peg says:

    I have 3 large dogs and 1 xtra large. They are loving critters and I’ve had them many years and I feel I know them well. They are all “people” dogs and well behaved. However, when we’re walking and someone asks to pet, I politely decline because I’m always aware that things can and will change in a split second for no reason, so to me better safe than sued.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Well said!

    [Reply]

  16. Nancy Hills says:

    I have access to a wonderful doggie daycare. I just take them there when strangers come to work on the house. Friends and family come for visits, my little ones stay in their areas now as they sleep all day. They are 16.5 and 17.5 yrs old. But, my 55 lb little flat coat girl goes in her “house” (crate). That way she’s with us and all are safe. We don’t have any young children in our family or friend circles. However, I am grateful for this article. I had never thought about bite thresholds and sitting on the floor. I was always told to hold your hand out and let the dogs sniff it.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    It is such a weird picture that dogs never see unless they are scared or nervous… I need to write a whole article on that to help people stop doing that 🙂

    [Reply]

  17. I WAS one of those that said my dog won’t bite. Will she nipped the air conditioning guy. Thank goodness he was wearing double clothing due to the weather. We lost her to acute myeloid leukemia and now have a 9 month old weimaraner that we have followed Chet’s recommendations and training with him. We have taught him to bow when ever he meets or sees a new person on walks or comes into the house. Food aggression was also an issue until we followed the training. Now we get a bowing wiggly dog that is now 70 pounds and still growing. This dog will be big and strong and the need to be able to control him for me a senior is high priority. The positive way of training has yielded faster results that the older punitive way. We have learned so much. He is going through some adolescent problems currently but continuity and consistency is the plan.

    [Reply]

  18. Caroline swinhoe says:

    My problem is my 3 year old Sprocker, he is over friendly and insists on jumping up into people’s faces, especially children, to ‘smell’ their mouth. Once he has ‘smelt’ them he leaves them alone. I always have a fear that he will one day bite someone’s face. He is, in every other respect, a well trained, obedient dog, I’ve tried everything to break this habit.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Why not teach him that he has to sit? This would keep the behavior from happening. Use a leash and don’t allow him access if he doesn’t sit or lay down. If you are diligent you can break the habit, but YOU have to break it, you can’t wait for him to do it on his own.

    [Reply]

  19. Cayla Lehmann says:

    I am a rescuer. I know about averting my eyes but often get down on the dog’s level. I thought standing was scaring them more and that getting down on their level, neutralized things. I will pass your info along to other rescuers.

    I also had a rescued Husky who had been abused. He was very loving and was never aggressive toward me or other women, but would go after a man in a second. My husband let my in-laws come into the house before I could put the dog in another room. My father-in-law immediately bent down to pet the dog and was rewarded with a bite on his chin and a visit to the E.R. for stitches.

    Another time I rescued a dog with a line of hot dog pieces that went into the car with me. We put a car mat next to the car and when the dog was on it, my husband quickly ran up lifted the dog into our car. Later, I thought, am I crazy? The dog could have ripped off my face or arm.

    [Reply]

  20. Carol C says:

    What a great article and so true. As a child I would approach any dog. As an adult, I never approach a dog that I do not know and I do not let strangers approach my dogs. When in public, I always keep my dogs on leach. I have people, even close friends, make comments about my “on leach” approach, but it is my business.
    Thanks so much!!

    [Reply]

  21. Very Very informative article

    Thank you,

    Claire

    [Reply]

  22. Jackie Fountaine says:

    I volunteer at a Humane Soc. and we go on many offsites w/ shelter dogs, carefully chosen. Our concern is owners w/ dogs on unlocked flex leashes who are chatting, not watching their dog. We watch ours very carefully. When families approach w/ children, walking or in strollers I watch my shelter dog very carefully for signs of softness or fear of the children. The signs are always there.
    When I approach other folks dogs, I watch their ears, eyes and body posture before offering one finger, only, to smell if they are soft, then rub under the chin, never coming over the head. All this learned thru our volunteer training.

    [Reply]

  23. Annette says:

    Passersby, many of them children, frequently ask to meet my friendly, outgoing, and very trusting GSD. I’ve encouraged these interactions as opportunities to dispel mindless fear of her breed. Unfortunately, I’ve always started by showing them what I had been taught was the best way to approach a strange dog — let the dog sniff your hand! I’ll never do that again, but neither do I want my dog to think that all strangers are to be avoided. Where does that leave us?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    A dog that wants to be petted will solicit affection.

    I tell my friendly dog, “go be friends” and she curls her body and rubs it on the person as a way of saying she wants to be touched.

    If she doesn’t do that, I don’t allow her to be petted. It has to be on her terms and she has to be soft and squishy faced.

    Same thing for dogs that I want to pet, if they come over to me and wag and smile then I initiate petting.

    People usually only hold out a hand to a dog that is standing, not wagging or not wanting interaction or a dog that is showing fearful signs.

    This past weekend I watch a man drag his Lab over to a 2 year old child to be petted. The dog wanted nothing to do with it, she was scared. The parents held the child’s hand out, the dog raced backwards. The owner held the dog and forced it to be petted.

    I am guessing that negative encounter will bleed over to the next time that dog sees a child holding out a hand and at some point the dog will likely bite.

    A normal dog that wants to be petted would have been wagging and perhaps bouncy but eagerly wanted to be petted.

    [Reply]

  24. cori says:

    Always learn something from your websites, thank you.

    [Reply]

  25. Bill Storm says:

    Excellent article, and yes, should be required reading. The greatest danger to my 90 pound greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s welfare are the kindly, thoughtless people who insist on reaching out to pet her or who allow their children to approach without introduction. Some people think all dogs must come from cartoons and can be played with as desired. I can’t do family reunions anymore because one moron refuses to control his children, and who accuses me of having an “out-of-control” dog because his kids can’t pound on her butt without getting a negative reaction.

    [Reply]

  26. Mike Hoschett says:

    I agree with many of your comments, thoughts and information but not all of it. I ran a county humane society and was a former vet tech working with animals in their most stressful environments. Yes, I agree one must be careful and assume that any dog can bite and in fact I was bitten several times in my youth. My concern though is that how a dog interprets you will also affect it’s behavior, approaching all dogs with fear and prejudice will automatically put that dog on alert. I truly believe there are people that are much more in tune to animals than the average person and that many of the people working with animals should not be. Animals read human behavior, expressions, mannerisms ect. and people should do the same with animals. Even many of the trainers and so-called animal behaviorists I have met over the years do not have a clue how to read an animal. Why would anyone lean in to kiss a dog that is not their own? If you are afraid to express human affection to an animal then your certainly should not work with them meaning a pet should be fine. I once had a kid bite my arm so hard he drew blood but I do not fault all children in the world. Yes, people need to be aware that dogs can cause great harm but fearing all dogs just does not make sense and will only encourage there aggressive behavior.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I think you severely misread what I am saying.

    I am also not “afraid” to drive.

    I am respectful, and mindful that anything with teeth that is not verbal can bite.

    I am simply saying be defensive, and wait for the dog to show signs of friendliness. I have kissed and will kiss many a friendly dog that is not my own, it is my business and what I do. I just don’t do it all the time and don’t assume all dogs want it.

    I get into a bite suit, I handle dogs most people would never touch; I am certainly not scared or fearful. Nor do I want other people to be.

    I want them to read the dog and not push it, and not put themselves into a situation where they could quickly and permanently incur a serious bite.

    My respect and often aloofness has kept me from being badly bitten.

    You could be terrified of your neighbors Golden Retriever who loves everyone, and that is not going to make him aggressive.

    [Reply]

  27. Liz Severino says:

    Perfect timing for this article, thank you. My frenetic and petulant teen-age grandson has moved back into my area. My dog is very reactive towards him and he towards the dog. It’s a powder keg of two wary and untrusting temperaments. From your article I’m feeling it’s best to keep the fuse, the spark, and the powder keg far, far away from each other until (if/when) both personalities settle. And if/when they do, take it very slow with my dog tied to a leash around my waist so I can do dog management effectively. The teenager management is going to take a lot longer.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I feel the same way about some teenagers hahaha 😉 good luck!

    [Reply]

  28. Gonza Fm Uganda. says:

    This was a very good piece of information not only for dog lovers but as well all potential victims which is every one.I love huge and aggressive dogs.From my little experience the ears, tailsand far at the dogs back are another indicator of danger.Unfortenately most people can not read these danger signs more often than not am scared for them as they try to come closer to admire ahuge and lovely dog not kowing the beast in them.Good lesson and thanks.

    [Reply]

  29. Robin Stark says:

    Something nobody’s mentioned yet: To a dog who’s never been around babies or small toddlers, the DOG does not know or understand that this “thing” is a child. Babies don’t smell like a human, act like a human and are too small to be a human–to them. This is most likely why so many incidents with small children happen. Also, infants crying can/does set off prey drive in an otherwise wonderful dog who’s never shown such tendencies.

    When I brought home my infant son some 47+ years ago, I was stunned when my first Keeshond was horrified by this new “thing,” not to mention quite obviously jealous. He loved kids … the neighborhood kids would come to our house and ask if “Kodi” could come out to play! I have a pretty funny photo of me in my robe, holding infant Jeffrey and Kodi sitting next to us with my hand clutching his ruff hair and him leaning about 30-degrees east of the “thing.” It was all over when Jeff was about 3 months old and I found Kodi sleeping under Jeff’s crib … be SURE to assume the worst BUT don’t be so stupid as to suddenly eject your first furry child from the family circle. That would make things worse.

    On the other hand, I took what was to become my first Keeshond champion who was a “rescue dog” as he’d been “abused” with virtually little to none human interaction … put into a square (DOGS HATE SQUARE ENCLOSURES) dog pen with a dog house. Keeshonden are very people oriented and this 7-month-old pup was overtly friendly to any and all … to the point of ridiculousness. In an effort to socialize “Otis,” I took my two boys shopping in a shopping mall. Pets used to be allowed in all the stores if they were on leash. I was doing the always annoying search for proper men’s pants sizes. Kodi was in a sit-stay and I was sitting on Otis’ leash busily bent over looking for 32″ x 36″ pants. I suddenly heard a blood-curdling scream and a woman screeching that “a wolf is eating my baby.” Crap … Otis had vanished and was on the other side of the pants shelving. I rushed around the corner and found the mother so distraught that she was visibly shaking. I also saw Otis with his front feet in a baby stroller and two little hands sticking out on either side of Otis … he was ravaging the kid with licks from chin to head. Mom may well be institionalized by now but I’ll bet the kid grew up to run a dog-boarding kennel like I have. Uh, yup … we beat-feet it out of there as fast as we could go with me telling Mom, “Honest, he’s not a wolf and he was only washing your baby’s face. I’m sorry but your baby loved it and will be fine … really!” My station wagon’s tires left rubber all over the Sears’ parking lot.

    xx
    RS

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I have said this many times, not in this article. But you are right… dogs don’t know children are small humans.

    [Reply]

  30. victoria says:

    Visiting friends with great assurances that the dig they had had for six years was loving…petting in kitchen for probably 10 minutes wagging tail and all, face to face…out of the blue the dog goes for my face…near miss that would have been disasterous. Never faced a dog again and never got down to someone else’s dog’s level

    [Reply]

  31. victoria says:

    My own dog is another story….little poozan or however you spell it. My mom (95) had him since a puppy. Mom is gone and he is mine now. He can be aggressive and moody. Harri ALWAYS is put away when strangers are here and I don’t allow other dogs near him. He is fearful so he gets the little dog syndrome thing working for him too. The vet and I work closely to monitor his behaviors. Teaching g him more and more and more tricks helped the most. When he is grumpy I can snap him out of it with a command to sit, or want a cookie or something that involves me being the lead dog. I also never raise my voice to a demand level. Disappointment or happy voices alter his behavior far more efficiently. I truly believe this little dog would attack to his death if dealt with aggressively. As the vet says, he is one conflicted little felliw, but respecting his space and attending carefully to what seems to make him tick has allowed him to live to see another day as they say, and hopefully a very full and happy life. Loved the article and comments. Want to add that people who do not respect my request that they keep their dog away make me nots. Because he is small he wears a harness when I walk him and when faced with approaching dogs, lift him right off the ground and turn my back with him a move away. Harri may display fright, but if he gets scared enough I am sure his little switch would flip and it would be attack and fight to the death.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/honest-rude-andor-fib-dog-safe/

    [Reply]

  32. Linda Patton says:

    Loved reading this very informative article. Hope you can offer some helpful advice
    about my concern expressed below.

    I’ve begun taking my 3 yr old
    rescued cockatoo to a socialization class for
    small dogs. To my surprise
    he is a jumper. Any suggestions to correct or eliminate this behavior?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    there is a search bar at the top of the page, search “jumping” and it will bring up several articles for you to read.

    [Reply]

  33. Rhona Haley says:

    We have a Morkie. Our dog is very aggressive when walking until someone talks to him or pets him. We recently went to visit our grandchildren. He seems to get spooked by kids. He got very aggressive and snarled our grandaughter into a corner. We isolated him for the rest of the day in a porch with a glass door so he could see us interacting with the children. The little girl he snarled at would go up to him while he was behind the glass and he would wag his tail after many hours. She has two younger brothers. When they got near he would get upset and bark. Any ideas how to stop this behavior.

    [Reply]

  34. Venetia Stanley says:

    I agree so much with this article. My husband has been a paramedic for 27 years and he lives with a blood disorder that causes him to be prone to blood clots, because of the numerous times he has been in ICU in the hospital for the clots, the swelling in his legs, the medicines that he takes, he has become a full blown diabetic. All of this was the result of a family saying “oh he want bite” as he was trying to get the gurney out of the ambulance. The bite left 5 blood clots in the back of his leg. It was just a mutt, but the saliva in the dogs mouth destroyed the portion of my husband’s brain that determines if his blood is to thick or thin. This is just a short version of everything that he has been through over the past 27 years. Please note this family was just trying to help someone who had crawled to their house after an accident. Remember any dog will bite with the right circumstances. So always be safe!!

    [Reply]

  35. Mary Kay says:

    Very good article. I have a 9 month old puppy that has occasional aggression, during times in what seems to me, when she is insecure. She goes after my daughter’s dog when they are first put together, to the point that her 50 pound dog tried to tightrope walk across the top of the sofa to avoid the floor where our pup was :(, especially regarding any toy or ball, etc., but our pup warms up to her and is fine after awhile and pretty much gets over it. She also will growl and bare her teeth if, for instance, she is sitting somewhere and someone tries to scoot her over. This particular behavior has gotten better as she’s gotten older, but still persists somewhat. She has never actually bit my husband or I, just growled and bared her teeth. She also has a very loving, sweet personality most all of the time and loves to be cuddled and held, loves to greet and meet new people after the usual alert, ie, barking when they pull up in the drive. I don’t know if, when reunited on occasion with our daughter’s dog, should I isolate our pup, put all toys away for awhile, and gradually re-introduce them? Should I strive to eliminate the growling and teeth baring and how do I do that?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Yes, baring teeth and growling is never acceptable, especially toward you. It is also a warning of an impending bite. If you don’t heed what she is trying to say, you are likely to be bitten.

    I would contact a veterinary behaviorist. This is especially bad for a puppy to show this kind of aggressiveness.

    I would also recommend you check out our aggression course. email Dana at customer service info@thedogtrainingsecret.com to be notified when it starts again.

    [Reply]

  36. Sharon says:

    I just attended a Sue Sternberg seminar as well. I found her fascinating and extremely knowledgeable. I found her advice about both the sociability testing and resource guarding testing quite interesting and helpful to predict bite-ability and/or aggressiveness.

    I think your article was perfect and do agree everyone really needs to know this. I am one of those not very smart people who love to get kisses from a dog, which I should know better because my 13# fluffy boy bit my husband when he bent over to kiss him. Normally, it isn’t an issue, but my boy was sound asleep and my husband startled him, and bam, he got it in the nose. Fortunately, the bite was minor, however, it took us all by surprise. Even though we know this dog will charge and bite strange people and dogs, he never bit us on the face before. Notice I said on the face, we have been bit by him from displaced frustration when we have stopped him from attacking the stranger who just passed us, but he has never bit us intentionally otherwise. He isn’t even a resource guarder. I can take his food, toys, favorite bone, etc away without any provocation at all. Without strange dogs and strange people, this boy is extremely lovable and social. Just don’t poison the waters with the unknown so to speak otherwise all hell breaks loose. So as a responsible dog owner, I need to be sure to micro manage all situations that can cause my boy to become out of control.

    Somehow dog owners need to learn that their sweet ones can bite. And bite anyone, even them. Doesn’t matter how sweet and loving fido can be. And for those of us who know that, we need to somehow teach the rest of the public that yes all dogs can and will bite. And to keep a safe respectable distance away from a strange dog. The public needs to learn a dog’s body language, for many show the warning signs before the attack. People need to learn to be respect those signs. How else is fido going to tell you he is going to bite? He can’t really say, “I’m going to bite you now”. As you said dog is a dog, yet, a person is a person. Both can be provoked by an unknown source and explode. Usually a person doesn’t do bodily damage, unless under severe fear, or severe illness. Most dog bites are a result of similar issues.

    Obviously we should not be so fearful of dogs that we can have them in our lives, in our homes, with our families. We need to respect them, and love them, and learn about them, as they learn about us.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I love Sue. She gets a bad rap, but if people just watch and listen to her they too, would get it 🙂

    We just want dogs AND people to be safe!

    [Reply]

  37. Ann says:

    Thank you very much! I’m so glad I read this today. I have been walking my Pom in the same park for years off leash. She stays close and always comes when called However, after reading this, I now realize that my dog is sometimes frightened of a child or another dog. Hello! I am one who always says, “she won’t bite, she’s harmless…:” Yikes! So, thank you, I now SEE and I understand. what could possibly happen…one never knows…best to play it safe for everyone’s sake. I am very grateful for this knowledge now…before anything happens!

    [Reply]

  38. Ann Morgan says:

    What an excellent article, I have learned so much from reading this and from all the great comments from your readers. It all makes so much sense.

    Thank You !

    Ann

    [Reply]

  39. Mary Mayhead says:

    I also am a dog trainer and have two rescued GSD’s and am fostering a Staffy x from the refuge I volunteer at. I am an education officer with the refuge and along with the AVA (Australian veterinary association) visit schools and educate children on safe behavior around dogs. It is for a gold coin donation and usually we have four different presenters attending, for example , a vet, a dog trainer, a council ranger and a wild life carer. There is usually a group of about 100 children whom rotate between the various stations. Feedback indicates that for every child that attends these sessions that an extra 10 people will have this information passed on to them. Maybe with your council and veterinary association you may be able to implement something similar.

    [Reply]

  40. The landowner has given fair warning that I may have to get rid of my seven-month old pit-bull. He is pretty destructive; the main problem: digging “deep” holes on the property. The ground here is pretty hard. Can’t use a rake, hoe or shovel on it as I can’t achieve penetration. Repair work is going to require power tools. Why does a dog dig holes?? In the summer it’s a cool place to lay himself. This time of year, Spring, I don’t know. What could he be looking for?? How can I stop him from doing this, short of causing him PAIN, which I know from experience, is a BAD idea. Does sprinkling BLACK PEPPER on the ground deter this behavior? Any advice is welcomed. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Dogs dig because they are bored. Look up more articles on digging by typing it into the search bar at the top.

    [Reply]

  41. margaret glancey says:

    OMG! Maysia you are soooo lucky. I own/raise Rotties for 20+and I would never attempt that. Nor would I recommend n owner to. Yes rules/boundaries AND socialization at an early age are important, Please be careful. I had a few bad apples that I know would bite if given the chance, please be careful!

    [Reply]

  42. stephanie says:

    I have a 1 year old yellow lab who is loving and full of energy. I am a single middle aged lady who lives alone (except my lab, Marley and two 5 year old cats). Marle is wonderful with kids and women, but she is terrified of men and barks at them and runs away if she can. The only men she likes are my father and brother, who she has been around a lot. I truly believe she would bite. She is also aggressive around other dogs. I am at a loss for what to do because I have socialized her by taking her on trips with me and we walk every day. She has neverbeen mistreated by a man. I have had her since she was 8weeks old. Do you have any advise?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Take our fear course, email Dana at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com for more info and access to the training videos

    [Reply]

  43. conetta pellone says:

    My dog when she sees people she gets so excitedhw can I calm her down.ssgeis a.Shihpoo. 16 monts old.

    [Reply]

  44. Doris Mello says:

    I learn something new every day practically about your method of training.
    It is all so sensible-all great advice. Thank you, Chet.

    [Reply]

  45. Rayn says:

    My girl Tamsin is an almost 2 year old GSD and she is more slender and small compared to what other GSDs look like but she comes from a rescue who just knew she was from 2 states over and was found stray in the streets. Who knows what she has encountered in the first year of life we didnt know her, but if we had to guess we feel she has had some level of abuse per her attitude in many circumstances. She has a hard time with sounds such as our microwave or fireworks from outside(not from kids on the street but when the city does shows) but she doesnt care about other sounds such as nearby trains or TV shows with microwaves going off which is odd. We have yet to witness her biting us or anyone else but I can see that potential in her however anytime we have someone come over even if she has met them multiple times and likes them, she raises all hackles and growls at them. I immediately try to talk calm with her to let her hear support while backing off her so she knows she has space and telling everyone to go slow-mo to their seats while ignoring her and keeping their essential parts to themselves including hands. It takes her 5-10 mins to calm down each time. I know having people ignore her while being calm and guarded is good but am I right in trying to reach out to her with my voice to calm her down? Are there any other methods I should know about to help her? I hate to see her so scared or upset and hope she will eventually learn to stay calm and happy instead of having this reaction all the time.

    Thanks for the article!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Put her on a leash, work on her obedience and give her something else to do.

    It is remarkably calming for a dog to be on a leash and told to do a down stay at your feet when people visit. This takes the option of bad behavior away from them completely.

    [Reply]

  46. Wayne says:

    Please all remember to respect the dog don’t fear them. Keep in mind this is the canine’s home. Most dogs will be protective of their humans and or territory. Example if your going to be working under the sink. That could be where the dogs treats might be stored or where his friend the cat plays hide and seek. Who knows what might trigger our furry friends. May just be safer to ask owner to place their canine friend in a safe secure place until your job is complete.

    [Reply]

  47. I signed up for a course on aggressive dogs and paid the fee. It was supposed to start in April, but I never heard anything from you. What is going on?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would check your spam email, as it did start. And email Dana info@thedogtrainingsecret.com. I am guessing your link or email went somewhere, but the videos are still available.

    [Reply]

  48. Bill says:

    As usual, and I guess that you are really no different, the Rottie gets the bad rap as indicated by your lead pitcture..

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Not really, I have owned Rotties. Just needed a snarling picture and have used other breeds a number of times.

    [Reply]

  49. marri says:

    Have you heard of people who wear a yellow (meaning caution) ribbon on their leash? The yellow ribbon means don’t pet, don’t ask. I like it!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I have. I prefer the leashes that say DON’T PET or collars because they are easier to read.

    However again most people won’t admit their dog bites, and this article is referring in great deal to people going into the home of a dog they don’t know.

    [Reply]

  50. Sandra Pak says:

    I think you are scaring people unnecessarily, particularly those who have had dogs or have met them in some capacity. People who have no concept about dogs and don’t know them should follow your advice exactly. I have never let a stranger/workman in my house without being there. I am always there and tell the person to just stand quietly until my dog has sniffed them for a minute or two. Then she has been happy to solicit their petting. It wasn’t always this way. I had adopted her from a shelter when she was seven, and she was very leary about people. But she was soon very happy to meet someone new. However, I still follow this procedure.

    [Reply]

  51. Addlynn says:

    Hi, I thought this was a really good article, like most people, I bend down and offer a hand if I’m allowed to pet a strange dog. I have a 2 year old GSD and she is very sweet and loves people. When I am walking her, and if someone wants to pet her, I’ll say yes, but before they do I crouch beside my dog and hold her ‘chin’ area, with my fingers over her mouth, which keeps her mouth firmly closed. She has never bitten or nipped at a stranger, but again, better safe then sorry.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would never hold a snout shut, this adds conflict to the situation. If the dog isn’t comfortable, don’t allow people to pet. If you are trying to keep the dog still (and the dog is not possessive), I put a small treat like string cheese in my hand and let the dog nibble as it is being petted. This simply teaches good maners when you have a dog that might jump, etc.

    [Reply]

  52. Dail says:

    What an excellent article on aggressive dogs. I am a Certified Dog Trainer, but am not certified to train aggressive dogs. There were several/many points that you brought up that were very helpful. Thank you!

    [Reply]

  53. Margaret Caffrey says:

    The first thing I look for in an approaching dog, is that the tongue is hanging but without panting; he puts his ears back and wags his tail at the same time. I let him/her come to me and sniff. Just because the dog wants to investigate you does not mean that he/she necessarily wants you to pet. Keep calm and stay relaxed- arms folded/bent means that one is tense, without realising this. Keep them down. I will not put my hand down suddenly and pat the head, but slowly if the signs are right and rub under the chin……. M.

    [Reply]

  54. Wendy says:

    I enjoyed reading this article, i’ve always been taught not to trust any strange dog. I have two, and one is a blue cattle cross boarder collie, she always growls at larger dogs then herself, which is a problem when other dogs come to investigate, when I have asked the owners to call there dogs or put them on a lead I have been abused. I do believe parents should teach their children not to approach strangers dogs ever, or try to pet or kiss dogs. Dogs are animals not humans, I love my dogs but I feel sorry for any burglar if i’m not at home. Hope they can run fast.

    [Reply]

  55. Mary says:

    Thank you for this article! When I was a kid, I watched as my younger brother ( 3 years old at the time ) got bit in the face by my uncle’s Dalmatian. He was doing nothing wrong from what I saw – only petting the dog’s head. And we were never warned that the dog was aggressive. This was a very scary situation, and 15 years later my brother is still somewhat skeptical of befriending dogs. It’s especially important to teach children how to respond to dogs. I would say don’t even let a kid near one that you don’t know very well.

    [Reply]

  56. Asma says:

    I got my GSD when she was only eight weeks old . She was a lovely puppy and is now an eighteen month old beautiful bitch. She is quite nice to my house employees but lately she changes her behaviour with them,whenever I sit outside in my lawn. She would not even give access to my cook or driver for them to bring me tea or a drink. She does not bite but restrains them by holding their ankle in her mouth and leaves them alone once they retreat. She starts guarding me this way as long as I sit outside my house. She does not do this when I am standing or am indoors. Any suggestions how I can change this behaviour ?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    That is a bite. Teeth on skin is a bite, and a liability. It sounds as though you have money to protect, too, so I would get in contact with a veterinary behaviorist as soon as possible before this turns into a very serious bite and a very scary situation for all of you. You can find a veterinary behaviorist at any veterinary college and there are some that have private practice.

    [Reply]

  57. Asma says:

    Thank you I find your articles on dogs most useful. The basic message is that the best way to love your dog is to recognise that its a beast and however gentle it may appear it can have beastly moments which may cost you your beloved dog. So better be safe than sorry. Take responsibility for your dog and be very careful of other people’s dogs. Very timely article for British people where hospital admissions for dog bites has risen to the highest level ever and the vast chunk of victims are children.

    [Reply]

  58. Pat Massey says:

    I found these articles to be extremely helpful & useful. Anyone with dog or even a cat should read all of these. Dogs are a lot like people they either like you or they don’t. All of these articles are excellent reading.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Thank you!!!

    [Reply]

  59. Eloise Sikora says:

    I enjoyed reading your articles on biting dogs. I always went up to dogs and petted them. The only dog that bit me was my little daughter’s Springer Spaniel. i had given him a bath and was trimming a few little knots around his testicles with short rounded scissors when he moved. Well, he came after me so I curled up quickly and the only thing he bit was the tie on my 2-piece swim suit. I returned him to the kennel, but I was “on his list” the entire day. He never liked training sessions either. Had 6 Saints at the time. They were so easy to train. My first and last (#9) were house dogs. the last one would get in bed with me and slm his body spoon fashion against me, or if I was facing across the bed, he’ld step over me and put his head and leg across my body!!
    My last dog was a Bichon who lived to be just short of 16 years.

    [Reply]

  60. Dorothy Smith says:

    But how do I correct the behavior??? I have two dogs adopted from the shelter. Both are loving, quiet dogs as long as only my husband and I are home. Both go ballistic when someone comes in. After a while, they can accept the person, but the first outburst is upsetting to everyone, even people they know. Both are elderly, 12-15 yr old.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You have to work on training. Teach the dogs quiet. Put the dogs on leash and teach them to go to their bed instead of greeting people.

    Teaching them what to do is more important than what not to do, because there are so many options with what not to do but so few with what you really want.

    [Reply]

  61. Andrea says:

    I thought current behavior with a threatening bear was to make yourself bigger,make noise and fight back if attacked or stalked.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    no

    [Reply]

  62. Judi Kudelka says:

    My 8 month old puppy barks and whines when he wants attention even after we just played. It is not aggressive behavior. I cannot continuously play with him. What do I do?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Exhausted puppies don’t bark, so that tells me that he is not tired. Remember dogs are athletes and you may think you are providing some play… but my guess is he needs more with training.

    Also you can look up articles in the search bar for bark and quiet.

    [Reply]

  63. Ginjah Knuth says:

    I love your articles and have learned so much about dogs and about me….I have a very intelligent dog – still a puppy, not quite a year old. It is a lab german Shepard mix and has been quite a challenge since she came to live with us at 7 weeks old. She’s a biter – very mouthy – and on walks in the woods (we live in the woods) she would bite my feet and I would stop and make a high pitched sound (supposedly the way a litter mate would do if being hurt) and she would stop for a second – I would click to enforce the good behavior of her stopping the biting…and then it would happen all over again. I went through 3 pairs of boots this winter from her biting and ripping them – sometimes I would have to hand onto a tree from the force of her biting and pulling at my foot. I learned to get her out of this situation as soon as possible, but when you’re in the woods, you have to get home…often I was dragging her home because she wouldn’t let go of my boot….yes and there was blood and ripped pants as well. She doesn’t do that very much anymore – now she jump up and tangles her leash and pulls and it takes a lot of strength on my part to hold on to the leash. I know about the injuries that can happen to her neck/throat, so I use a halter so she doesn’t get hurt. Also I’ve tried the device that pulls the chin down so she won’t keep pulling, but she lies on the ground and eventually gets it off her – so that doesn’t work either. She’s getting better and her walks with me – but she is so hyper outside – all the scents and the critters – we come across deer often and she wants to chase them and I have to hold her back (not easy) and find a tree to wrap the leash around to help me hold her back. She gets so wild outside. Having said all that, she is a very different dog inside – that’s where we do our training and she is so smart and does so well and I spend lots of time with her – she sits and stays on command….comes when I call her – I click and give her a treat. We play ball – she loves to fetch the ball (again, inside) and I say “get the ball” and click when she gets it – then I say “bring it” and she brings it to me it to me so I click then I say “leave it” and she drops it, I click and give her a treat….we do this over and over again – she loves to play – she loves to have my undivided attention – and I love this dog and I know she is the perfect dog for training because she wants to do these things….outside is a different matter – it’s so hard to be outside with her —she has to be on a leash because it’s not only deer and raccoons and turkeys and rabbits and squirrels she chases – it’s also people who might be walking down the dirt road. Once our neighbor (and thank god we are good friends) was checking her mailbox – and my dog loves her and was so excited to see her, she ran and I could hardly hold her back – (I have one of those leashes that expands) and the dog ran around and around my friend to where her legs (my friend’s legs) had the leash wrapped around her legs several times and fell over….I was able to unwrap the leash – but OMG if that was a child or anyone else, that could have been terrible. I know it’s up to me to train her and I try and I want to and I care about this dog and I know she has what it takes to be a wonderful dog – even a service type of dog – but I am struggling. I am 66 years young – I say that because I am in very good shape from being a yoga teacher for over 40 years – I am strong and flexible – but this dog is much stronger – she already weighs 76 pounds. So, i keep reading your articles and doing the best I can – right now I’m working on sustaining eye contact – and when people come over I put her on the leash, inside the house – and bring her to a different room because she gets so excited and jumps on everyone. When she calms down I bring her out again, but if she starts jumping up on our guests again, it’s back into the other room. So I want to end this on a positive note – when I leave her at home to go to work, she never destroys anything – she doesn’t have separation anxiety…I trust her….. She was crate trained and never ever messes in the house. She is a good, smart dog, and I need to meet the challenge of training her ell. Wish you could come here to see what I mean. OK – and thank you….Ginjah

    [Reply]

  64. Polly Schmidt says:

    Thank you, I will share this article.

    [Reply]

  65. WHEN I TRY TO TAKE SOMETHING AWAY FROM HIM LAST HE HAD MY PILLOW AND WOULD NOT GIVE IT TO ME HE WENT UP ON ME. SHOWING HIS TEETH AND COMEING AFFER ME I DONT HOW TO STOP THAT,IF YOU KNOW WHAT PLEASE LET ME KNOW THANK YOU.

    [Reply]

  66. Carol Neff says:

    I wasent passing off business cars to a local foster program. One of the volunteers asked if I wold be willing to train her dog-aggressive dog. I said I would. Training has not begun yet. I read this article and realized the approach I was going to use, would not have been good, as it was a hands-on training. Thank you for writing this, I now know that would have been a grave mistake. I am still fairly new to the business, and already know that 1 mistake could have cut my career very short.

    [Reply]

  67. Caroline says:

    Your article is great. I have a rescued dog from Cyprus who has started biting my husband. She is scared of him. She barks at him every time she sees him apart from when he is eating. Then she will sit at his feet and wait for scraps. At night she won’t let him in the bed and bites his legs, arms, hands. She furiously barks at him. As soon as he is lying down she snuggles with him and lets him pet her. Please can you give me any advice with stopping the barking.
    Many thanks

    [Reply]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *