He Growls at Me but He’d Never Bite Me!
I don’t know how many times I have heard this, or something similar.
He snarls at me but he doesn’t meant it.
He nips at me, but he’s not being aggressive.
He bites me, but it’s not hard.
He won’t let me or my family take his bone; but he is the sweetest dog on earth and would never bite anyone.
It is really confusing and difficult for us dog trainers.
People like living in denial. Not the Nile, that is a river in Africa 😉
People realize there is a problem, otherwise I suppose they would just live like this (I suppose actually many do) but they don’t, can’t, never will admit their dog has an aggression problem.
The thing is, that no dog; okay very few, rare cases of dogs are aggressive ALL the time.
And, these dogs are sometimes easier to deal with; you know you are dealing with an aggressive dog.
But unless there is some kind of misfire, or medical condition, or aggression training aggressiveness comes and goes.
That doesn’t mean it is not predictable, it can be predictable, but 90 percent of the time (or so) the dog is perfectly happy and loving.
The other 10% is when the owner goes to touch his bone, or gets too close to his chair, or tries to kick him out of the bed, or touches him while he is eating, or corrects him verbally or with a leash.
So the owner learns to live in an abusive relationship and tries to avoid those triggers.
It is just like an abusive relationship.
No one wants to admit they are being beat up or abused physically, verbally, emotionally or mentally.
The abuser said he was sorry and he would never do it again, right?
And, the person loves the abuser.
And, the abuser isn’t abusive 100% of the time; it is only when he drinks, or does drugs, or gets mad or when he doesn’t get dinner on time.
Abusive relationships are often rationalized.
Don’t Get Me Wrong
I have stayed in relationships both with dogs and with people far past the point of comfort always hoping it would get better.
So I understand the mentality.
I Also Know That You Won’t Change Your Behavior and Help Your Dog Change His Until You Admit There is a Problem!
That is the first step.
It doesn’t help me to help you if you won’t admit there is a problem.
And, let’s face it; feeling like a hostage in your own home is uncomfortable even if you love the hostage taker.
The good news is that dogs are dogs and they aren’t abusive people.
So you don’t have to sit down and have a really uncomfortable conversation with them and you don’t need to pack your things and leave in the middle of the night or call the cops.
You just need to make a commitment to change both or your behaviors.
And, if you do it right the dog won’t even recognize much of a change or buck the system.
For those of you with seriously aggressive dogs (you sleep with one eye open, or your dog has already bit you or someone else and drawn blood, or you are in serious fear) you need to seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist to come out to the house and witness the behavior and make sure it is safe for all of you.
The last thing I would want to do is give “generic” advice that could make your particular dog worse.
Remember dogs are as different as we people are, and sometimes they need different approaches.
But Denial Is Making Your Relationship Worse
Every time your dog is successful at scaring you away from his bone, his bowl, his toy, his bed or keeping you from brushing him or trimming his nails… his confidence rises and he is closer to his bite threshold.
You see dogs warn other dogs several times, and if their warning is not heeded to their desired level or if the dog keeps nagging them… they BITE enough to get the message across.
Some dogs might draw blood, some might barely touch skin, and some will send you to the hospital for stiches.
And if that warning is not heeded or you make the mistake of touching say him while he is sleeping again you are likely to take an even more aggressive attack.
I always remember the story of a disabled person who was mauled and killed in her own bed by her own dog. I am guessing the dog had snapped and warned before, but finally ended up killing her.
I am also guessing that even though she probably knew there was a problem… she too would not have liked calling her precious dog aggressive. Because, I bet most of the time the dog was affectionate, loving and a good pet otherwise.
If she had always felt like she was going to be mauled to death she probably wouldn’t have let the dog live in the house, much less sleep in her bed.
This is Pretty Dramatic…
Most of your abusive, aggressive, controlling dogs probably aren’t going to kill you in your sleep.
And, some of you may live the rest of your dog’s life without incurring a terrible bite or a need for stitches.
BUT… some will!
And, I can’t see into the future.
My crystal ball is broken; so I can’t tell you if you are one of the lucky ones, or if you or your family or children will be in the hospital getting stitched up.
So, I err on the side of caution.
When I hear, “Oh, he growls at me; but he doesn’t mean it” ; it stands the hair on the back of my neck straight up, and I feel like it is my duty to try and help you understand you MAY be one of the unlucky few.
I’d rather be proven wrong; than ignore the problem or give the kind of advice that gets you mauled.
So, who has a dog that falls under these parameters and you would like to change your lifestyles and teach your dog a better behavior??
Although there are so many circumstances here, and this isn’t a how to article (because the subject is so wide) I can write an article to help those of you who live with a dog like this. But be prepared to make some changes!
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.