When your dog bites

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Dogs bite. All dogs bite. There is no such thing as a dog who "would never bite". That would be like saying "this person would never punch". If cornered and threatened, any person will lash out. We're all capable of aggression and that's not a bad thing - it's an evolutionary skill and an important one.

When your dog is the aggressor, it can be very scary and upsetting. It's generally equally as traumatic to the people AND the dog. Do everything you can to stay calm. Getting worked up and punishing your dog simply adds fuel to the fire and increases the likelihood of another (worse) bite. 

  • First things first, separate the dog from the victim safely. 
    • use caution when doing this - recognise that your dog is likely very stressed and a redirected bite to you is a common occurrence
    • keep your dog away from the victim - do not let them interact again. Period. No apologies, no punishment/scolding, nothing. 
    • place your dog in another room, behind a gate, in a crate, as long as they are safe and away from the victim. 
    • do NOT allow anyone to pet your dog - they are likely still in an overly aroused state and at high risk to bite.
  • Immediately check the victim for damage.
    • administer first aid if you are qualified and if it is required.
    • not trained in Pet First Aid & CPR? Get trained!
  • Exchange information with the victim.
    • if the victim leaves and you are unable to get their info, there is little you can do, other than to pass on your contact info to anyone who knows them. This is a goodwill gesture and shows that you are taking responsibility for your dog's behaviour. 
    • take pictures of the damage if you are permitted by the victim - this is good to have on file for when you address the behaviour concern with your Veterinarian or Trainer. 
  • Go into immediate management mode with your dog; they are going to be in a heightened state for a few days. 
    • if your dog bit a visitor in your home, send them home and call it a day, or prevent all access (visual or otherwise) between them and the dog for the foreseeable future (3+ days at least).
    • if your dog bit a household member, prevent all access (visual or otherwise) between them and the dog for a few days and get in touch with your Trainer immediately for next steps to manage the household safely. 
    • if your dog bit a member of the public or someone in their home, take your dog home to decompress. Do not allow them any contact with other dogs or people en route.
  • The bite may be reported to Animal Control and/or Public Health (if a human was bitten)
    • gather your dog's veterinary paperwork; proof of a Rabies vaccine will be required.
    • Animal Control and/or Public Health will generally call or visit within 3 days to verify that your dog is not showing signs of Rabies and you will be required to keep your dog quarantined in your home for 10 days. This may mean no walks and no parks, no contact with the public. If you do not have a yard or grass patch for potty breaks and you must walk your dog, they may require that your dog wears a muzzle for the allowed short potty breaks. Muzzle-training is key here! 
    • note the case number and caseworker for follow up.
    • Follow the direction of Animal Control and/or Public Health.
    • The victim may choose to press charges in rare instances. Speak with your home insurance provider (ask questions under a "hypothetical" scenario rather than reporting the bite before you have have to open a claim as you may not need to). Home insurance often covers dog bites, but also often has a breed clause. Read the fine print and speak with a lawyer if you need more guidance. 
    • Note: Euthanasia for a dog bite is a very rare occurrence and not a likely outcome unless the result was severe or fatal. You may receive a warning, a fine, a muzzle order, and/or an order for training. That's more common. 
  • Decompress. Both of you!
    • Adrenaline and Cortisol are high. It'll take both of you some time to decompress after an incident.
    • Recognise your dog's trauma even if they seem "fine" on the outside, if your pulse is still high, multiply that a few times and that's how your dog feels. Dogs are often stoic as a self-preservation or coping mechanism so we need to assume they are feeling more than they are showing. 
    • Give your dog a safe space to sleep and recover. They will often choose a place that is isolated and away from the household hustle and bustle, whether that is a crate or a snug corner on a couch. If possible (and if your dog prefers it), set aside some time to spend with them, quietly. Snuggle up together if they like that sort of thing and recover together. Sleep is HUGE in recovery, so allowing your dog to sleep as much as they want is important. If they seem to be sleeping less as a result, speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible as they can help.
    • Consider calming aids (with or without an anti-anxiety medication from your veterinarian)
    • Classical music - www.myzenpet.com is psycho-acoustically designed to calm dogs!
    • Adaptil (synthetic calming pheromone available from your vet in a diffuser or spray form)
    • Thundershirt (a snug-fitting shirt that tends to help dogs relax - only if your dog enjoys this feeling!)
  • Cortisol (stress hormone) can stay high in your dog's system for a good 3+ days. In light of this, it's important to keep things low-key for a few days.
    • Avoid the dog park and daycare unless cleared by your Trainer and have passed the 10-day quarantine period
    • Change group walks to private walks for a few days to a week
    • Keep walks short and sweet if you live in a busy area; stick to quieter more isolated routes if possible
    • Play games that will mentally stimulate your dog (stuffed food toys, scavenger hunts, food puzzles, trick training, backyard foraging for meals, etc)
    • Recognise that your dog may have a shorter fuse, so limit exposure to triggers and potential triggers, like children. Even if your dog is generally great with kids, they might feel stressed and more likely to snap even if they never did before.
    • Monitor for signs of pain in the coming week - slow movement, guarding affected parts of their body, lowered activity level, growling, snarling, snapping when approached or touched, etc. Any sign of pain needs to be assessed and treated by your veterinarian immediately. 

If after one week, your dog still has not returned to their normal self and are showing signs of anxiety, get in touch with us - do not delay! We can help.


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