She's not wrong in this worry. When a relationship has deteriorated to this point - where a dog feels that it is okay to resort to that level of violence - it can be particularly difficult for a dog owner to put that to the back of their mind and move forward with the dog's rehabilitation. Even professional trainers who get bit may find it difficult to work well with a biting dog.
With that in mind, if you're trying to save your relationship with a dog who bites you, you need to consider two things first:
- Think about how this situation makes you feel - If you know me in real life, there's a good chance I've asked you this question: "How does that make you feel?" I do this so often because working with dogs, especially biting dogs, can be scary and frustrating. If you're not handling your own emotions, then you are certainly not controlling your dog's emotions. If you're going to make progress with a dog that is biting you or your family, then you're going to have to acknowledge your fears and worries and move forward with a clear head.
- Figure out why your dog is biting - The more clear-cut this is, the easier it will be to solve the problem. For example, if your dog only bites you around their food bowl, then we only have to deal with the food bowl. If your dog only bites you when you grab it's collar, then our path is clear as to what we need to solve. It's when you're not entirely sure about your dog's motives that the situation may be extra tricky.
Once you've asked yourself these questions, you need to find a solution. Here are your best options:
- Contact a professional - I know we live in a DIY world where you can find answers to solve anything on the internet - in the case of dog training you will find tons of conflicting answers for the same issues - but you need to get some fresh, experienced eyes on the situation to right the ship in these cases especially. Find a professional you trust, and then do what they tell you. If you don't agree with a trainer's methods, then use a different trainer. No training approach will work if you're not 100 percent bought in. This is one of the reasons why I try to put all the information on my website that I can - I want the people who work with me to be excited about working with me and other trainers should feel the same way.
- Redefine the dynamics of the relationship - If your dog is biting you, it's possible that your dog no longer trusts or respects you. In cases like this, we need to revisit the basics. Can you walk your dog in an organized fashion where you dictate the pace? Does your dog dictate your behavior to you? Does your dog move into your space whenever he wants to? Does he steal your food? Does he respond to basic commands? Revisiting basic obedience not only builds character, it builds the teamwork between you and your dog. If your whole family is struggling, then everyone needs to be involved in the re-training and rehabilitation of your dog.
- Change your lifestyle - It's highly likely that your dog is bored, frustrated, and purposeless. Sometimes we bring a dog into our life without recognizing the time and responsibility it takes to give your dog a happy existence and a purposeful life. If you're not walking your dog regularly, training it regularly or going out of your way to give him a duty (other than controlling you and your family), then it's time you re-examine what it means to be a dog owner.
- Consider rehoming the dog - Sadly, sometimes the best way to help your dog move forward is to place him in a new home. If you don't have the time, resources, or desire to invest in getting your dog to a better mental place, there's no shame in finding a new home for him with someone who is more willing to give your dog a fresh start. In the end, starting a new relationship from scratch is sometimes easier than fixing a broken one (especially if your heart isn't in it or your entire family isn't on the same page). Obviously at AWDT, we specialize in giving dog's the tools they need to succeed, but safety with your human pack always comes first!
Have you ever had a dog that bit you? What did you do to correct the problem?