How Your Dog’s Extreme Excitement Might Just Lead to a Serious Bite
Sounds weird doesn’t it? How could excitement lead to a bite, in an otherwise normal dog?
It is kind of odd, but I see this fairly frequently!
People are actually quite the same if you think about it… well except the biting part. Most people don’t bite each other, unless you are Mike Tyson. But over excitement and a state of overstimulation can cause people to fight too, even me!
I am very much a submissive person. I hate conflict and even in high school when other kids fought and the gang of peers would gather to watch the fight; I was the one turning around to leave. I don’t even like watching people fight.
So how then could I possibly turn into a fighter?
Put me in line for Bon Jovi seats (Oh My Gosh I love Bon Jovi) for 10 hours in the heat, add some way over stimulating excitement at the chance of being front row (seriously we were in line at 4 am in the morning) and then try to cut in line in front of me. Ahhh, yeah I had a “Ready to Go to Jail” moment.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actually punch anyone in the face or anywhere else… but I certainly wanted to. My common sense kicked in and I ended up seeking help from the security guard we had bonded with all day and he was happy to make the situation right. And YES, YES, YES front row was AWESOME!
Now Let’s Talk About Your Dog
Your dog doesn’t have nearly the ability to contemplate situations like I did (even if I had been out in the heat all day).
Dogs rely more on instincts and what is going on around them.
And, when they are over whelmed or over stimulated or over excited their bite threshold is considerably lower.
Have you ever had an excited dog nip at a child, or at someone who may run up and present their hand?
It may not be your dog’s fault, he may be a friendly dog it may simply be that he is just reacting and is not thinking clearly.
But it won’t matter if the police or animal control is called. No bite is acceptable, pretty much ever! So you Must recognize the signs and understand when your dog is not clearly thinking.
Let’s Talk About My Fury
Fury is the Long Haired Dutch Shepherd that stars in a lot (most) of my dog training videos. She is super friendly, and social and loves kids. All in all she is the perfect dog and even does demonstrations in public as a Service Dog teaching people about Service Dogs their rights and just what they can do for people.
But she is a different dog when she gets excited. Not just a little excited, but completely lost it over excited. Then her biting or nipping threshold is lower. So when she is in this state I would never let anyone pet her, because in her mind she is dock diving or running agility or playing/chasing other dogs. It just isn’t safe for anyone. BTW she has NEVER bitten anyone. But I realize this over stimulation and excitement fogs her normally clear thinking.
When we discovered Dock Diving a few months ago; she loved it so much so she could hardly keep herself under control while we were in line.
She barked, she spun, she jumped, she whined, she even screamed a few times because she wanted in the pool. And, when her mind is in the pool or chasing the dog that is jumping she might just bite or nip a hand flying over her head to pet her or even another dog.
Not that she would ever chose to bite, but when she isn’t thinking straight I don’t feel good about trusting her.
So I know as an owner when she and I am not in control and I limit her ability to socialize.
She is the very same way in agility class. If I allowed her to watch and focus on the other dogs, she would likely be very angry and possessive and her social threshold with the other dogs in the class would be significantly less (and she is already a bit of a “female dog” when it comes to dogs).
What Can You Do with a Dog Like This?
You have to learn to decompress and control them.
I make my girlie give me eye contact when she is in obedience or agility class. While all the other dogs run, she is not to pay attention to them and I expect her to stare at my pupils. She is very successful at this. For more on teaching your dog eye contact and focus click here.
However, the dock diving was a bit of a challenge. She had trouble giving me focus. So, I kept her in her crate with her crate covered so she couldn’t work herself up as much until it was our turn. Then she got to run and splash and go back to her crate. It was very affective. However next time we compete I hope to keep her control and focus on me.
Other things that work, usually, are basic obedience commands. I sometimes have my dog do push ups; Sit, Down, Sit, Down, Sit, Down etc. It helps to refocus their minds. Or you can have them do a number of things; Shake, Bang, Spin, etc.
And, never allow them to be petted when they are super excited. Not only is their bite threshold lower by allowing people to pet them you are rewarding them for being in this state of mind. I want a calm dog.
Also, getting worked up, angry, or yelling only makes this behavior worse. If you feel yourself getting agitated calm down, breathe slowly and back yourself out of the situation if you need to; and realize you need to do more obedience work at home. Controlling an excitable dog takes a lot of obedience and training, it is not something we can just expect. Remember your dog is not thinking straight so he has to be taught to control himself.
To Parents and Dog Owners
If your dog is out of his mind with excitement and you can’t get his focus on you don’t let anyone pet him and consider getting him out of that situation as soon as possible.
People often think their dog would never bite, but every dog has some condition under which he would whether it be pain, irritation, fear or over excitement. Never tell yourself “My Dog would NEVER” because if you do, you are opening yourself up for a crisis.
The reason my dogs have never bitten anyone, is because I am a diligent owner and if I am at all unsure I don’t allow people to socialize with my dogs. I also know their behaviors and signals and know that any dog is capable of biting under the right conditions.
But, training eye contact and focus is a great way to get control and learn about your dog! More on eye contact and focus click here.
And parents must read this and be aware that if the dog isn’t soliciting affection from kindly from your child, or it seems he is paying attention to someone or something else, or is terribly excited you are possibly setting your child up for a bite. At the very least the dog is much more apt to jump on and knock your child down and injure him. And most of us have been nipped and jumped on by super excited dogs at some point.
Only calm dogs who are behaving well and giving submissive, happy signals are the kind of dogs you want your kids to pet; and even then every interaction, especially with a dog you don’t know, is a risk.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.