helping to prevent dog bites


It is very important to understand that a dog’s mouth is its primary tool for discovery, play, and communication. You can compare the way a dog uses its mouth, with the way humans use their hands. If your dog doesn’t understand that teeth don’t belong on humans at any time, this can become a big problem for you later on. Be vigilant while your dog is young to teach it that chew toys are appropriate, and human hands and clothing are not. Do not encourage rough play that allows a dog’s teeth to come into contact with you, especially if your dog exhibits any type of dominant behavior.

Your dog truly needs to understand that it is at the bottom of the pack in your home. The person that controls the resources will hold the position of top dog. Resources include food, toys, exercise, and attention. Basically your dog should have to work for anything he requires or desires. He will be a lot happier this way. You are not doing Fido any favors by free feeding him and leaving his toys all over the floor.

There is no reason or benefit to being angry, forceful, or physical with your dog.

“A dog owner (who is in no way respected by his dog as his master due to inconsistency and over-permissiveness) who tries to become “top dog” by imitating canine ways of physical domination, by fear conditioning, and punishment-by-force correction will only be able to temporarily dominate his dog as long as the dog feels weaker. However, the dog will immediately express dominant behavior toward smaller and weaker beings, such as children, and enforce his position with his teeth. Such a dog will not respect humans, but only fear them, as long as they are physically stronger. It is a well-known fact that respect cannot be punished into any living being, not even into a dog.” – CW Meisterfeld.

If you have convinced your dog that you are Alpha in a gentle way by controlling the resources this should be sufficient. Please seek professional help if it is not. Obedience classes and ongoing obedience training that is integrated into your daily lifestyle are also excellent ways of achieving the status of top dog. Your dog will learn that pleasing you is fun if you work on a reward system instead of a punishment system. That’s why we call them man’s best friend!

Sometimes it seems like we are still in the “dark ages” of dog ownership in Nova Scotia, but there are more and more dog-friendly professionals on the scene every year. Bob Ottenbrite, of the Lietash Society has been spreading the word for about 30 years now. Feel free to contact me if you are looking for more dog-friendly professionals and resources in Nova Scotia.

Also, please be sure to teach your children how to greet dogs in a safe manner. You may not know it, but our four-footed friends interpret eye contact as a challenge, or an assertion of dominance. Petting strange dogs is not recommended. Ask the owner’s permission, and if there is no owner present it’s probably safer to not approach the dog at all. If you insist on petting a strange dog keep your hands low, and let the dog approach you. Check with the SPCA for more information on bite prevention, as it is part of their education program.

A dog can bring a lot of joy into your household, but please remember that they are not human. They enjoy being a part of your pack, but are a lot happier when they don’t have all the responsibility of running the pack. They are intelligent, hardworking animals that are a lot happier when they have a purpose, even if that’s fetching a ball for you in the back yard.

– Angela Granchelli