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Should I Get Rid of My Dog? What to Do If Your Dog Bites

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Dogs—while they are amazing, beautiful, wonderful creatures—are animals.

And, anytime you’re spending time with an animal, there’s the potential for something to go wrong.

Thankfully, over decades and decades of breeding and training, our pups have become so domesticated that they are mostly lovers, not fighters.

However, there are many factors such as…

  • Age
  • Training level
  • Anxiety
  • Past experiences
  • DNA
  • Health and well-being
  • Fears and triggers

…that might cause a dog to break character, lash out, and bite.

That leads us to the age-old question—what do you do if your dog bites you or someone else?

I’m going to answer that question. However, before I give my full opinion, it’s important that we talk about why dogs bite and dog safety.

Let’s jump in…

Why Do Dogs Bite People?

Dogs are supposed to be delightful family members. In fact, for years. most of them have been bred to exhibit family-friendly personality traits.

That being said, there are several factors that can contribute to a dog taking on unusually aggressive traits. Here’s an overview of a few of the main ones…

#1 Poor Socialization

Sadly, one of the biggest reasons dogs become aggressive is due to poor socialization.

While I know you would never abuse your dog, it’s possible that, if you’ve rescued a pup, he may have had a difficult past.

In fact, a lot of rescue animals have had a tough start to life…

  • Some have been beaten.
  • Many have gone hungry.
  • Some may have even been used as fighting or guard dogs.

However, many more have simply been neglected and have not been provided with the socialization they need with people.

I don’t say this to scare you away from adopting a rescue.

Most rescue pups are delightful animals who become wonderful family members. But, some dogs will need patience and time to build confidence.

That being said, it’s important to see if you can get info on a dog’s history to make sure he will be a good fit for your family.

These pups who need socialization need time and patience to familiarize themselves with all of the strange things that we understand…

Things such as umbrellas, big loud voices, funny looks hats, little kids who run around all day, and everything else that we take for granted!

Given that time to adjust, they can become the most loyal of dogs, just like any other.

#2 Old Age

The older people get, the less nonsense they seem to tolerate. The same can be true with dogs.

It’s possible that you’ve owned a dog for a really long time—a dog who has been tolerant of loud noises, busy households, and kids. Then, suddenly, your dog snaps without warning.

As dogs get older, some naturally tend to become grumpier.

If you want to build in tolerance so your dog remains a more chilled-out dog and less stressed, then check out my program The Dog Calming Code — which will do just that.

(Or, if you have a puppy you can start building a solid foundation now to prevent these issues from occurring in the first place with my Puppy Coach training program.)

And, if you already have an older, grumpy dog, it’s essential that you keep an eye on kids or strangers who spend time around your pup to make sure they don’t try to wind him up.

#3 Sickness

When dogs are sick or in pain, they often want to be left alone.

And, if they are bothered, they may resort to biting as an attempt to protect themselves.

If your friendly dog suddenly becomes aggressive, a trip to the vet might be in order.

#4 Poor Training

If a dog has never been trained NOT to bite as a puppy, there’s a good chance that he will continue to bite as an adult.

This is why investing in dog training is so important.

Finding a comprehensive training program that helps you put an end to any mouthing of you or your clothing at an early age is very important. My suggestion is that all mouthing should stop around 16 weeks of age.

If you currently have a puppy at home, I encourage you to get started with my Puppy Coach training program right away!

#5 Human Error

While all 4 reasons we’ve discussed so far are true reasons why dogs bite, the biggest reason has to be human error.

You see, most dogs have no desire to bite until they are provoked.

Sometimes dogs give us warning signs that they are annoyed. For example, if a little kid is pulling on a dog’s tail, a dog may snarl as a warning.

Other times, it’s not as easy to tell.

For example, a mama dog might be protecting puppies that you’re not aware of.

This is one of those tricky examples of a time when a dog might bite in regards to fear, rather than aggression.

Anytime you’re around a dog, it’s important to pay attention to body language.

Understanding what a dog is communicating with his tail, heckles, teeth, and body stance is a good way to prevent being bitten by accident.

#6 Overexcited

Dogs, like people, can easily become overexcited.

Maybe your dog gets over excited when he is chasing a ball, barking at the fence, or when food is about to be served.

Sometimes, when people get excited and when our adrenaline is pumping, we do or say things that we regret.

Dogs are no different!

So, the calmer your dog can remain, the less of a chance there is of your dog accidentally snapping!

If you are struggling with an overexcited dog, then again my program The Dog Calming Code is undoubtedly going to help.

#7 Protecting and Fear

The biggest reason of all that dogs bite is that they are protecting something or they are fearful of something.

Our world can be a strange place for dogs and much of what goes on they do NOT understand.

Is the UPS guy delivering flowers welcome or not? How can your dog know…

So, a lot of what will help your dog is showing him that you have got it all under control and are in fact in charge.

My Dog Bit Someone…Now What?

Now that we’ve covered the reasons that dogs bite, it’s time to answer the age-old question…what do I do now?

Before I begin, I want to make it clear that every dog and every situation that led up to a dog biting is different.

As a dog owner, it’s your job to determine the best course of action as to what needs to happen to keep yourself and your friends/family safe.

That being said, here are my thoughts…

“Inside every dog is a Good Dog”

First and foremost, I believe that almost all dogs—regardless of their history—have the potential to be good dogs. They may never be the most friendly and interactive dogs. However, they certainly can be trained not to be seriously aggressive to people without provocation.

And so, while biting is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly, there are things you can do to correct the behavior.

If your dog has bitten someone, your first step should be to hire a professional dog trainer or find some appropriate training.

An experienced dog handler may be able to help you uncover the reason behind why your dog became aggressive and can help you put training in place to ensure it never happens again.

Without training, the issue will not get better. So please take things seriously and get help sooner rather than later for the sake of both you and your dog.

At the same time, I would fully recommend you check out The Dog Calming Code because this is what I share with every single client that I work with and it’s been remarkably successful.

Always Err on the Side of Caution and Safety

No matter how great your dog is, biting should always be taken seriously.

After all, if your dog has bitten once, he has the potential to do it again.

While you’re getting the help you need in terms of training, there are a few safety precautions I advise you put in place to keep everyone safe—especially if you have kids or other people who come in and out of your home.

This is what I recommend…

  1. Use a humane muzzle: Muzzles are a great tool that can be used to keep people and other pets safe from a dog who bites. To see what humane muzzles I recommend, click here to check out my guide to muzzles.
  2. Use a short leash: When taking your dog for a walk or anywhere in public, ensure he is kept on a short leash so he can’t get too close to people. If in doubt simply turn and walk away.
  3. Use a crate: If you have people coming to your home to visit, crate your pup. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. There is no need to have your pup or dog running around just because there are friends over.

Be Prepared to Put Your Dog’s Needs before Your Own

After a dog bites someone, it’s possible that tough decisions may have to be made about your pup.

While I believe it’s important to try to keep training your dog in your own home, you may also feel the need to consider the following…

I personally am a huge fan of ‘No Kill Shelters’, shelters that are based on the belief that all dogs can be saved with the correct set up in place such as https://bestfriends.org/

  1. Rehoming your dog: I hate the idea of having to rehome dogs. However, there are some circumstances in which it might be necessary—and even beneficial—for your dog. For example, if your dog hates noise and you have 3 screaming kids under the age of 5, then it may not be the ideal match. If you must consider rehoming your dog, do your best to find a close friend or family member who can help instead of dumping your dog at a shelter. That way, you can always visit and lend a hand.
  2. Putting Your Dog Down: Before putting your dog down, I can’t encourage you enough to give my Dog Calming Code program a try. With a 60-day money-back guarantee, I really don’t mind if you check it out and then decide it was not for you if it doesn’t work out. That said, if your dog really has become aggressive due to illness or old age, biting might be a sign that he can no longer deal with the pain and stress of life anymore. Although this is very rare, I personally would only consider this to be the situation if a vet believes it to be the right thing to do due to a physical issue. While it’s never easy to say goodbye, we have the ability to give our dogs the gift of a peaceful passing.

If you’re struggling with a challenging dog, it’s important to know you’re not alone.

Dogs are amazing animals, but they require a lot of love, training, and patience to reach their full potential.

If you’re considering giving your dog away, I want to encourage you to put that thought on hold and, instead, download a FREE copy of my guide 5 Things You Can Do Today to Make Dog Ownership Easier.

Get your FREE guide here!

Follow through on the recommendations I provide in my guide, and I assure you things with your dog will get better.

Here’s to many safe, happy, and healthy years with your dog.

Cheers,

Doggy Dan Signature
~Doggy Dan 🙂

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

20 Responses

  1. It would never cross my mind to get rid of my dog. My priority would be to protect him from whatever the cause of such an incident was, through trading, equipment or treatment.

    1. Hi Laura,
      Many dog owners do feel the same way that you do! I guess the whole point about the Blog topic was to take into consideration all factors so that owners could come to the decision that best fit their situation. Best, Doggy Dan

  2. Great article, Doggy Dan! It is so hard to make decisions after one’s dog acts out aggressively, especially when one is not an expert in dog behavior. One being me! Haha! Unfortunately I did not read this article until later on, but found my own way down a good path of enlightenment and more control after my dog put me in a position of having to do so. If I had seen this article at the beginning, I could have had a much clearer plan sooner and less anxiety sooner! Our dog has turned into a real nice boy, but more importantly, I was able to turn into a more knowledgeable, responsible dog handler thanks to your website in addition to some other local resources. I had to learn to read him and accept his limitations and put safety first.

    1. Hi Stacey, I’m really glad you enjoyed my Blog! It’s something we know that many dog owners go through and understanding the realities around the situation can really take what is a very stressful time, and bring some clear thinking to the fore. I’m really glad you found a path that allowed your dog to relax and reach his full potential, and well done in taking on the responsibility of working him through his behaviour. Best, Doggy Dan!

  3. Dan I have a two year old that doesn’t like other dogs or ppl that she don’t know in her space if they do get in her space she charges an I have her at a behavioral therapy place an she has been there a month . But the lady said that she should be put down. She has anxiety I don’t want to killer is there anything more I can do. no she not fixed plz help
    .

    1. Hi Tiffany,
      A lot of dogs don’t like other strange dogs too close and in their personal space…they can find it unsettling and threatening. Remember that all dogs view other dogs as a potential threat to their safety, it’s just that some are way more sensitive about this than others. Given the right information they can learn to relax and trust their owner to keep them safe, so the most important aspect in changing her behavior is that you are also shown what to do. The issue with board and train places is that your relationship with your dog and how you behave is the biggest factor in overcoming her behaviour, and if you aren’t involved in the training process then the behaviours will likely just re-emerge when she returns home. Educating yourself and gaining the knowledge that will help your dog learn to trust you and relax around other dogs is vital. My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com shows you very clearly how to achieve this…maybe take a quick look and see what you think…its a $1USD trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  4. my dog bit me today while he was outside by the fence, he was digging around some leaves, he backed away and I then moved the leaves with my hand and he lunged at my hand and bit it, cant understand why he did this, please offer any suggestions

    1. Hi Mary,
      I hope you weren’t too badly injured! Without knowing a few more details around this particular scenario it’s really hard to identify what really motivated your dog’s behaviour. It may have been that there was something in the leaves he was concerned about and he was warning you to not touch anything, he may have felt possessive of whatever it was that he was digging for, or he may just have accidentally bitten your hand in an attempt to get to whatever it was he had been digging for. If he is not normally known for biting then I would say there was no ill intent meant by it, you may have just accidentally gotten in the way and he bit you by mistake. If you are concerned about his behaviour going forward, then it may be best to seek advice from a professional. Best, Doggy Dan

  5. My dog is only 1 year old and mouthing a lot , bit me few times when Im on the phon and has become annoying She is a havanese and so cute but the bit
    ing is discouraging and today she bit me hard on my finger it was black and blue and really hurt. The bite hurt my feelings as well I admit I spoil her like my own child and being bitten hard made me wonder if getting rid of her might become a choice and difficult to handle.

    1. Hi Deanna,
      The first thing I want to say is that if the biting seems overly aggressive or you feel scared/intimidated by your dog’s behaviour then having a professional assist you, in a one-on-one basis, would be really helpful. Identifying the cause of the behaviour is important in developing strategies to overcome it. I will say that in many cases where the mouthing/biting would not be considered to be motivated by aggression then other causes may be attention seeking or the desire to direct/control your behaviour.
      It’s important to look at the times and scenarios in which your dog does the behaviour…..if she does it consistently when you are on the phone then my gut feeling would be that she is trying to gain your attention, and so telling her off or responding verbally is not the best approach….it will only show her that the behaviour works for her and she will likely continue to do it. If she mouths you or bites you then I would recommend immediately placing her in another room on her own for 5-10 minutes, or if you feel unsafe then you leave the room she is in and prevent her from following you by closing the door on her. This will show her that this behaviour no longer gains your attention AND if she continues to do it then she will actually find herself on her own for a little while. You will most likely need to be really consistent with how you respond to her and she may start to test you a little as well. Try to remain calm and always stay safe! If you would like some further information about how you can solve this behaviour my website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com is also a great place to start…maybe take a quick look…its a $1USD trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  6. Hi I have a 2 1/2 boxer, we recently had to take him to my in laws because we were moving and weren’t able to keep him with us. I visited him consistently and I felt that situation caused him to become aggressive, he bit my bro in law but he tried to pet him even tho he was growling before he tried to touch him. He ended up biting me because he was upset for being left there and now it’s been about 6 months and he was outside with my daughter when she tried to pet him and he bit her. I don’t understand what to do and am at the point of maybe getting rid of him. I love him and just want to do what is right. What should I do?

    1. Hi Esmeralda,
      Changes to a dog’s routine and environment, especially moving them into a new home, can be a really unsettling experience for some dogs and it can leave them feeling anxious and overwhelmed. As a result of this their behaviour can change. Always remember that a growl is a warning to back off, and it’s one that should be listened to. One quick tip to help avoid your dog feeling the need to growl/bite…..always invite him to you first before giving him any affection or attention…avoid going to him to do so. This means he has a choice in whether or not he wants to interact, and that alone can make a BIG difference. Also, when you go to visit him try waiting a few minutes before saying ‘hi’ to him, especially if he’s excited or trying to get your attention.
      Having said all of the above, safety is paramount and so young children should always be supervised when they are around dogs…even those that are familiar to them.
      If you feel confused about your dog’s behaviour then seeking professional advice is a good idea, maybe even a trip to the Vet to ensure he is physically ok. My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com is another great option to inform yourself…maybe take a quick look…its a $1USD trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  7. My dog attacked my other dog, luckily I was right there and broke it up, but while I was getting the agresser to stop attacking he bit me.
    I know there is an underlying health issue with him, that his vet and I are trying to understand what’s going on, but haven’t been able to diagnose yet. So I know the issue is health/insecurity since he feels different, and were trying to pinpoint the health issue, but what do I do until we can figure out the health side?

    1. Hi Rachel,
      When dogs are unwell they can start to feel really vulnerable, not to mention less tolerant, and they can over-react to situations they never normally worried about. Lashing out at your other dog is likely his way of trying to retain his position in the family/pack, but it may also be that your other dog is putting a little pressure on your unwell dog, which happens more often than you think! The good news is that you can help your dog feel more settled and allow him to relax again…..even while you are still getting to the bottom of his medical issues. My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com shows you very clearly how to achieve this…maybe take a quick look…its a $1USD trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  8. This is the first time my dog has bitten someone. And the person will probably need stitches, I’m just in shock that my dog did that. My dog mets people, I walk him to parks, always have him on a leash. When he see other dogs he whines and get excited, but other than that nothing much. So I really don’t know what to do.

    1. Hi Mirsa, I always like to remind dog owners that their dog’s view strangers as potential threats. Of course we know that strangers mean no harm but our dogs don’t necessarily feel that way. If that stranger then invades the personal space of a dog then it can leave them feeling very unsettled and anxious, in some cases nipping to try to defend themselves. Think about how we may react if a stranger came right into our personal space. If a stranger would like to meet your dog try allowing a little space and time for your dog to get used to their presence to start with. If your dog is calm then ask the stranger to invite your dog to them, rather than approach your dog to give him a pat….this allows our dogs a choice and protects their personal space. If you analyse what occurred, as startling as it was, you might be able to identify why your dog behaved the way they did. Best, Doggy Dan

  9. Good evening,

    I have a 2.5 year old old English Shepard. Last year he got sick and it ended up being that when he was neutered (before we got him) they left a testicle. He has a surgery and has it removed but since then it seems he has gotten more and more aggressive (bitten a few people). I’m wondering if his health issue could be the cause or of there are some other things. He is great 95% of the time. Most of the bites were when he was being petted and he gets really aggressive when he is put in his crate for bedtime and meals. Any thoughts on what we can do to fix this?

    1. Hi Timothy….any significant incident has the ability to change a dog’s behaviour, particularly if it was a little traumatic or unsettling for the dog involved. The good news is that you can change your dog’s behaviour towards strangers by understanding how he feels about them in the first place. Most dogs see strangers as potential dangers and when those dangers invade their personal space, or get too close, the dogs can feel really unsettled. For dogs that fit into this category I always recommend allowing them a little time to get comfortable with a strangers presence and if they do seem calm and relaxed you can ask the stranger to invite your dog to go to them for a pat rather than have them approach your dog. This allows your dog a choice, if he is comfortable with them then he will approach them when invited, but if he chooses not to then he should be allowed that right. If he approaches the stranger without being invited then they should avoid interacting with him as this is not a sign he is ok with their presence, he is more likely ‘risk assessing’. We cover this issue on my membership website….…maybe take a quick look…its a $1USD trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  10. Hi Dan
    We have a 4 year old tri Cross (jack,corgi and chiwawa) recently he has bitten my daughters friend. He has also bitten her other friend around 6 months ago. We have had him approximately 10 months and are really concerned now.He fits into our family perfectly apart from he does not like my daughter playin with her friends. Can you help as we don’t know what to do for the best.
    Chris

    1. Hi Chris…believe it or not this is actually a common issue. Whilst not all dogs bite/nip many will get excited when strangers or guests are in the house. Some dogs can be really susceptible to the energy levels of children and when play is loud and exciting then a dog’s behaviour can escalate….often they aren’t aware that the children are simply playing and they will try to micro-manage the interaction, which is why adult supervision is so important. Having your dog on-leash when visitors arrive will allow you to make sure he is genuinely calm around visitors before he is allowed a little more freedom. Also asking your visitors to delay greeting him until he is calm, and then inviting him to them to say ‘hi’ rather than approach him to do so, is a great way to ensure he is comfortable with their presence. If you can see he is getting a bit excited or agitated by your visitor then calmly put him back on-leash to calm down again, or you can place him in another room. Calm and consistent actions from you will allow him to understand that he needs to use more self-control….getting angry at him and shouting is not a great way for him to learn. My membership website My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com has a lot more information that will help you understand what is going on and how to calm things down…maybe take a quick look…its a $1USD trial for 3 days…All the Best, Doggy Dan

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