Rescue Journal

i just got off the phone with a lady with a biting pom.

Alison  ·  Dec. 30, 2006

the dog is too young for us (barely over a year old) and i feel quite badly because i am willing to bet that whatever happens next is not going to be good despite the advice i gave for seeking appropriate help and solutions.

biting dogs are such a huge issue for all of us. i find it one of the saddest issues of all. all dogs bite. it is a normal, natural behavior for them when they are angry, stressed, afraid, or over stimulated. the problem with biting dogs, is not that they bite in the first place, it is our complete lack of understanding that under certain circumstances all dogs will bite. how the dog bites is another thing all together. one lady told me her dog bit her child in the face and drew blood...this is a death sentence for any dog being surrendered to a public pound or shelter. in fact, the very happy, over excited dog leapt up to lick the childs face and clipped the child above the eye with her tooth because her mouth was open at the fateful moment of contact. viciousness? no, poor manners? yes. not exactly the best reason to kill the dog, teaching her to sit to say hello could have fixed the problem just as easily.

then there is the dog that grabs someones hand or arm in their mouth. maybe they leave a dent, but rarely do they puncture (unless said person freaks out and starts screaming and pulling their hand away, then the dog bites down harder to hang on, that is an automatic reaction not a vicious act) murphy does this to me all the time, many times a day. it is what i call the "I am so full" response. dogs that do this are so full of something, happiness, need, excitement, nervousness, anxiety, wanting to belong or play but not quite sure how, so they grab you because they just can't find another way to express themselves and everything is filling them up too full. so they use their mouth to release and express this. still not a good reason to die. a little bit of confidence building, alittle bit of guidence to help them to feel successful at meeting their needs in more appropriate ways and once again, the issue goes away.

then there is air snapping with no contact or nipping, front teeth, little damage, this is primarily a warning to stop doing whatever you are doing that they don't like...lot's of dogs do this during grooming, nail trims or vet exams. not great behavior but usually accepted because we can see the reason behind it. this would fit jack, cedric, muphy, copper, and norton too. jack and cedric are managable with stuffing their faces with timbits, copper and murphy need muzzles, norton needs a muzzle and a ton of drugs.

there is always a reason behind a bite, just because a human doesn't see it does not make the bite unprovoked. and all bites are not created equal. most are simple "F off's" very few are precursors to killing someone. most dogs bite out of pain or fear , because of hearing or visual deficencies, because of misunderstandings/miscommunications or simple heat of the moment anger. some have high prey drives and will take down a running or screaming target, a very, very few are mentally unstable and that is a different story all together.

i have euth'd dangerous dogs who could seriously injure a human or kill another animal, duke, emmit, bear and angel were not safe inside this world and i let them go. those dogs are rare...i have seen those 4 out of many hundreds. radar bit because he was just too old and in too much pain and felt just too vulnerable in the end and he protected himself in this place of strangers, the only way that he had left. i let him go too, he needed to be free.

until people understand that a bite is not just a bite, it is a message that is sent with plenty of warning and a great deal of meaning if we just open our eyes and is a clue to a puzzle to be unraveled before a decision can accurately by made, it is a symptom of a sick, or stressed, or angry or unhappy, or poorly behaved dog. it is also the symptom in many cases of a home that is making alot of mistakes. people like this lady will continue to put her dog, and others at risk because her pom made the mistake of actually behaving like a dog and telling her to buzz off when she was shaking the dog by her collar while angry. (try that once with me, and i might bite someone too.) and every time she punishes her dog in this way, it becomes easier and easier for that dog to bite back. she got away with it for a year but she is not getting away with it any longer. and sadly it is the dog that will probavbly in the end lose it's life, apparently it is ok for people to be rude and unkind and violent and sometimes stupid but a dog must always be sweet and gentle in return. it is the human double standard thing.

well some dogs make it out of these situations, mosquito mike found a great home when his family was going to nuke him for being a misunderstood and spoiled rotten jerk. thomas found a wonderful home where he would never be backed into a corner and forced by pain to bite again, cush's family love him and think he is a great little dog and he has never had to bite anyone since he was shown that people have great cookies and are fun to meet. potato ed got a second chance because his new home was prepared to give ed what he needed. who knows? phoebe may someday find a home too where she never feels the need to bite someone and if she doesn't, she can stay here where she doesn't feel the need to bite anyone either.

there are very few people or rescues that will take on any dog with a history of biting. sadly many of our wonderful saints have that inaccurate mark against them, they don't bite here because they don't need to. if norton needs his nails trimmed, he goes to the vet to be sedated, if andy needs his hair cut, we sedate and muzzle him and get it done. but i would never kill our cute little disney dog cuz the act of being held against his will and shaved terrifes him to the point of striking back. we will just keep him safe while we do it. i no longer stupidly stick my face close to murphy's when he is in the middle of a mental melt down and i try to prevent jazz from stealing stuff in the first place, but if she does manage to get some illicit treasure, it is hers til i can trick her into looking the other way.

i hope this lady gets some help for herself even more than for her dog. because if she doesn't, she will kill this one and get another and she will probably mess up the next one too.

lucky for murphy that when he was very stressed and upset upon arrival, and leapt up at my face and bit my nose drawing blood, i knew that it wasn't murphy who made the mistake, it was me. and i have not made that mistake with him again. lucky for jazz that when i insisted on taking her stolen bootie away from her, despite her very clear warnings, that i accepted the bite as payment for ignoring her and pushing her past where she clearly did not want to go. lucky for cush that i recognized his biting was not so much biting as an extreme nervous reaction to visitors entering his home and he did not have a clue how to politely say hello because no one in his entire 8 years of life had ever bothered to teach him that saying hello nicely was a rewarding thing to do.

sometimes i feel so sorry for dogs who live in a human world that cannot view another species except by human standards. if we could view them as themselves maybe we wouldn't mess them up in the first place. that is where i think respect begins and where there is respect, harmony and happiness usually follow.



kathy is sending it somewhere too. maybe it will generate some discussion and maybe some dog may benefit somewhere. murphy is a really nice dog, it rocked his socks off to lose his home and end up here. not fair to judge him on one act of extreme distress. but i know beyond a shadow of a doubt, if he had blood pouring out of anybody elses punctured nose in most other shelters, he would not have lived to see another day. and that would have been so unfair. we all have the occasional meltdowns, lol, i have been proverbally bitten quite badly by humans too!

Chris T

Carol - what an excellent and thought provoking post. Can I post a link to it on Brindleweb - there has been a lot of discussion there lately about biting dogs and I think people may find it interesting.