my dog bit me like this rottweiler biting a hand then corrective actions are needed

My Dog Bit Me – What Should I Do About It?

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If you’re faced with the question “my dog bit me, what should I do about it” then you probably already know that you need to take action, fast.

Luckily, a dog who bit you very rarely is a lost cause. There are a lot of reasons that dogs bite, and in many cases, it can be resolved quickly without another incident ever occurring. In other cases, extensive behavioural work alongside a professional is required.

This is the third article of three around dog aggression and biting. Read the first piece Why Do Dogs Bite and the second piece Dogs and Kids: Respecting Each Other’s Boundaries to get a better overview of why dogs bite, and how to keep everyone safe.

Why a dog bite might: the basics

So your dog bit you. The first step to tackling this problem before it gets even more out of hand? Understanding.

As mentioned above, the first article in this series is essential background reading for an in depth explanation of the possible reasons that your dog might lash out.

However, here are some possible reasons behind your dog biting you:

  • Fear
  • Pain
  • Aggression
  • Resource guarding or possessiveness
  • He/she was playing

Know that most dogs don’t bite unprovoked. The chances are your dog did give off warning signals, but you may not have noticed them. This isn’t to say that a dog’s biting is acceptable or condoned, just that it isn’t normally as “out of the blue” or sudden as many of us think.

Read up on dog body language to understand some warning signals a dog might give off before they bite. After you’ve got some background knowledge on dog body language, warning signs, and the reasons why dogs bite, spend some time exploring the question of “my dog bit me – why?”

The answer will, to some degree, alter your response to the situation.

My dog bit me – what should I do about it?

Your next steps will depend on the reason for biting.

Although no biting is ever acceptable, a dog who bit someone out of pain or a puppy who nipped too hard during playtime requires a different approach to a dog who bit out of aggression or fear, for instance.

Let’s look at some different types of situations.

a dog bite might be because of fear or aggression like this barking dog

My dog bit me because he was in pain

If you suspect your dog bit you because he was in pain, a trip to the vet should definitely be your first priority. Your dog might have an illness, infection, or injury you’re unaware of. In these cases, even the most docile dogs can snap.

Keep in mind you should let the vet know that your dog bit you. And you suspect it was related to pain or discomfort. They might request your dog is muzzled or similar so that they can evaluate your dog without risk of being bitten themselves.

In these cases, the biting is usually a symptom of something else. Just like how you might react uncharacteristically badly if someone stepped on your broken toe, for example. Once you can treat the root cause of the bite, it’s likely the problem will disappear.

My dog bit me during play time

Frequently, a dog biting during playtime is an accident.

Usually a dog will be so focused on the toy that they may bite or nip you accidentally. Sometimes they also haven’t learnt about bite inhibition, which means they don’t know how or when to control the force of their biting during play.

This is common in puppies, as well as in rescue dogs or other dogs who weren’t socialised well when they were young. The best response is to yelp loudly and withdraw your hand, and then stop playing and ignore your dog for a couple of minutes.

Some dogs don’t do well with games like tug or other aggressive play, as their prey drive is too strong. Especially in older or highly energetic dogs who might struggle to unlearn these behaviours, it’s often best to avoid games where your dog regularly gets so honed in on the game they forget their manners and bite during it.

In these instances, you might want to refocus to something like fetch or frisbee. Check out some ideas for puppy games and read up on the importance of playtime for dogs as well.

You might even consider working with a trainer on something like dog agility or other skills which can burn up some energy and keep your dog focused.

My dog bit me because of fear or mistrust

When scared, some dogs will cower or hide. Others become defensive, and may bite or snap if their boundaries are pushed too far. Understanding when your dog is scared and reacting appropriately is the only way to fix this.

The key is building trust with your dog over time – right from the moment you first meet it – as well as building their confidence. Expert help can achieve good results, especially if your dog has been mistreated by someone else in the past. A vet and/or behaviourist can help understand the cause of your dog’s trust issues, their triggers, and their personality.

In addition, an expert can get you and your dog to “speak the same language” and to slowly build a better relationship. How long this takes will depend entirely upon you and your dog, but gently breaking down barriers until your dog is a confident and trusting individual will be totally worth the effort.

I don't know why my dog bit me - enlist a professional to help you interpret dog body language like this growl

My dog bit me because of aggression or possessiveness

If your dog bit you when you were trying to take away a toy, food, or something else that they consider “valuable” then it’s likely possessiveness or resource guarding is the culprit. They might even bite if you’re too close to a person or animal they’re protective of, for instance.

Possessiveness or resource guarding can quite quickly escalate to aggressive behaviour if left unchecked.

Dogs who are possessive and/or aggressive have the potential to very quickly become dangerous to people and other animals, if they aren’t already. It’s vital you don’t try to handle this alone. Instead, work extensively with an expert to tackle this behaviour the right way.

The key themes revolve around obedience, positive reinforcement, and socialisation techniques. It’s crucial that they are correctly and carefully deployed in order to rehabilitate a dog with aggression or possessiveness issues.

I don’t know why my dog bit me

If you’re reading this and thinking “I really don’t know why my dog bit me” then once again, it’s best to call in an expert.

A dog behaviourist or trainer can help you understand your dog’s behaviour and the root cause of the biting problem. It may be that your dog only gives off subtle warning signs, that he only reacts in very specific situations, or that you’ve simply misunderstood one another.

Regardless, professional guidance can help prevent any bites from happening in future.

Limit their exposure until they’re not a risk

Another thing to keep in mind at all times is that if your dog might bite, you need to limit their interactions with other people and animals until the behaviour is sorted.

Don’t allow them access to public places with other people and dogs unless they are firmly secured on a lead – and you can hold them back if there’s trouble. And be sure to keep them in a safe, secured place if you have guests over. Also make sure your backyard/home is locked up tight so they can’t escape and cause havoc.

It can be very tricky to manage this initially. But as a dog owner, you are responsible for keeping your dog and other people and animals safe.

The worst thing you can do is turn a blind eye to the behaviour and hope it goes away. It’s not only irresponsible, but dangerous, and could end in euthanasia for your dog and serious injury or death to other people and animals.

this cat and dog celebrate a happy National Pet Day!

Pet insurance takes the bite out of medical care

If your dog is biting because they’re in pain or sick, a trip to the vet might be all that’s needed. Pet insurance can help lighten the load and limit your financial contributions to the bill.

It also includes third party liability cover. So if your dog damages someone else’s property, your policy will cover the cost as long as pup doesn’t have a history of violence. Compare our dog insurance plans here.

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