Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Dogs and humans have been evolving together for tens of thousands of years. They are our greatest animal friends and yet, even among friends, fights can break out. When a dog lashes out and bites his or her owner, it can be a traumatic experience. And not just physically traumatic – usually the bite itself isn’t life threatening, but the emotional stress of being bitten by your best friend and companion can be hard to recover from. So, what do you do in the unfortunate situation where your dog bites you?

As always, safety comes first. If you’ve read our post on how to read a dogs body language, learn to understand the signs. Stay calm and don’t overreact. Physical or verbal attacks back at the dog can make things exponentially worse; both for the immediate situation and your long-term relationship. If possible, the first thing you should do is calmly put the dog in another location and separate yourselves while you asses the damage. Depending on the severity (broken skin, bleeding, etc.) you may want to call the emergency room and see if you need to come in. You’ll also want to call your vet to double check that your dog is all caught up on his shots.

If this is an isolated incident by an otherwise sweet and caring dog, you may want to assess the situation once you’ve calmed down. What was the sequence of events that occurred and what was happening at the time? Perhaps there was another dog in the area that made your furry friend nervous? Startling dogs while they are eating or resting can also lead to outbursts. Could you have accidentally stepped on him or hurt him in some way? These are in no way excuses for a bite, but it may help you feel better about the situation.

Again, if this was a one-time thing, it’s likely that the two of you got your wires crossed in some way and the bite not be that bad regardless. However, if this is part of a pattern, you’ll want to take extra care. Some dogs are notorious bad tempered if you disturb them while they are resting. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure your dog has a private place to sleep and remove your bed and couch from the equation.

If this behavior you see in your dog often, you will want to have a serious conversation with a vet, and perhaps a trainer, about how to correct unacceptable behavior. You never want to try to correct seriously aggressive behavior all on your own.

On the other hand, a one-off nip can actually be a blessing in disguise. Assuming you aren’t seriously hurt, you may want to pay close attention to the reason your dog is acting out like this. It’s possible the little guy is hurt or sick in some way and you caused him some pain. Again, it’s not okay for them to bite you, but it can be a warning sign to look more closely into his health. Whatever the reason, most dogs feel pretty bad about biting their owners in the first place, so be sure to keep that in consideration as well.