Rescue Journal


Carol  ·  Mar. 8, 2009

dogs suddenly homeless with biting histories are doomed.

do you know who came in here because they were deemed actual or possible biters?

lexi...yes i said lexi...she lifted her lip when backed into a corner by her angry new week old family.

andy..andy bit shelter staff 5 tmes before he came here.

cleo...cleo acted like a dangerous dog but she was just acting.

copper..yes, copper is in fact a biter in the right circumstances

4lane, joey, les, and now jesse (jes came with a cage muzzle)

this does not include all of beloved past biting sophie, cush or duke who did almost kill me.

sophie ws one of my all time favorite old determined golden retriever...she was a sunshine dog happy, happy, happy as long as everything was good in her world. if however she felt unsafe or if she felt she was responsible she did the 2 years i had her, i never saw it because she never felt unsafe or responsible with me.

cush just got himself all upset when people entered the house.
duke was my biggest mistake...he is dead because i didn't know what i was dealing with back then. he might still be dead anyway but his death would have happened differently.
so i know there are all kinds of bite levels, behaviors, and triggers that determine a dogs actual biting risk. it is a well documented science of human aggression predictibility.

i am no expert...i am uneducated behaviorally.. mostly because i just can't read this shit...boring mostly and sometimes just wrong. but if experience counts for 24/7 with packs of 10-30 changing members of dogs for 15 more years, ought to count for something.

not for explanations, not for training or behavioral modification....but for understanding what biting really means.

and it does not mean human aggression.

biting means a dogs tendency to try to deal with difficult (for them) circumstances in all the wrong ways.

no one gave humans a handbook on all the correct solutions to lifes big problems. and holy moly we make some doozie mistakes while trying to figure things out. and we still make the same mistakes over and over because we can't or won't learn differently.

i have met WAY more actual human aggressive humans than i have met human aggressive dogs.

you push any human far enough and you can get them to tell you to "f" off. biting for most dogs is just the "f" off words too... different language, same can erase those words from their vocabulary without a bunch of behavioral gobblety goop.
true viciousness/dangerousness in dogs is extremely rare. it is actually more prevelant in the human race in my opinion. by species we are much more violent.
anyway...what sparked this post?...a biting BC in a kennel whose owner has died. i want to go and see that dog and see if he is really understood. maybe he is, maybe he isn't.... maybe he just has had poor communication skills and alot of pushing his hot botton stress and this can happen over years.
but i won't go see him...i can't help him even if i thought we could...that is how critical the lack of space is here right now...come what may, that dog is on his own.

i just feel bad today because we have jesse here. there is no way on earth that this dog is vicious or dangerous...he just has a biting history.

i wonder if this unknown dog is like jesse?

i hope he is not.


Diane C.

Riva Mae was labeled a biter when I adopted her from the pound. In the 14 years that she lived with me, not once did she bite. That dog had the best bite inhibition that i've ever encountered.


Carol, you probably know why a dog would bite in their former home, but not with you. If it is fear, you would know what not to do to cause a dog to act out of self-preservation. If it is an act of intent, the dog probably sense he may not get away with being a brat, when things don't go his way. And yes, knowing the "why" is absolutely helpful to preventing future bites:-), and or to the road of recovery. Often difficult when dealing with geriatrics. They are old, and often set in their ways.


I agree with Carol as one of my rescue boys was deemed a biter when he arrived at my home 4 years ago. Of course, I along with two other co-horts didn't beat him with sticks, deny him food, or keep him locked up in a tiny 4 by 4 kennel and hose him down with those fire man type hoses to wash feces and urine from his prison. I learned to read his body language, spoke softly to him and eventually he learned to trust again.
Sometimes it's taking away the triggers that prevented that behavior in the first place and slowly desensitizing them over time so they eventually learn new acceptable behaviors. The animals in Carols home sense her love and learn to trust again.


alex is absolutely right...the act is either fear or intent....but for me it is what leads them to either of those two options? why would they bite in a family home and not here?...well not a fair question cuz i already know the they do not make the wrong decisions because usually i have managed their environment so they are not backed into that reactive corner....i figure out what their trigger is and i manipulate that trigger in their life.
sometimes it is simple...a dog who bites because his collar is grabbed...does not wear a collar until he knows collars are ok to touch. a dog who bites guarding a food bowl...cannot guard 3 food bowls at the same time. a dog who bites when strangers enter the property, from day one learns that strangers enter this property every single day...we take their scary, or threatening things and either take it away or make it a normal daily expected occurence that happens here at saints.
the odd dog that i cannot manipulate...we manipulate the humans not touch andy, leave phoebe alone when she is in her bed.

above all for me at least, biting is an expected and reasonable response for a dog under some circumstances. dusty has a right to snap at me if i am sticking an insulin needle into her skin, copper has a right to bite me if i ignore his plentiful warnings to leave his stolen treasure alone, that dog is OCD about stuff he steals, angel has a right to bite me when she is terrified of me touching her, she will not have the right once she settles and knows i will never hurt her.

i still poke dusty, i still take coppers stolen bootie, i still touch angel when she is afraid...but i do it knowing that if i am not quick or smart enough, i might feel their teeth in my flesh and that is ok.

it is funny but once you take the big deal out of biting and accept it for what it quit putting the dog into the position of biting and the biting just disappears and it disappears because they are biting for a reason...they are forcefully communicating with you.
example..dusty...i feed her while i poke her, now she is too busy to bite me...copper i pin to the fence with a broom or noose him with a leash to move him away to retrieve whatever he has stolen, i took the choice of biting away from him...angel...i just touch her slowly and softly about the head but use a towel if i have to move her.

are these dogs safe? absolutely, as safe as any animal with teeth can be...we know what their triggers not flick them and they will not bite anybody but me (because i sometimes HAVE to flick their triggers but i am tricky when i do)


Really well, we survived the night without incident from her. Nelson is a whole other story. He went for a hike yesterday & must have eaten something that was not so good for his tummy, he had me up all night needing to go outside. I am in love, she is slow as a slug, actually on our walk I think we got passed by one...:) I had to trick her out the back door cause she won't go anywhere near the stairs. I think if tomorrow goes well while I am at work we can make this work. Again, fingers crossed that she doesn't destroy the house while we are gone.


Well, I sure wouldn't be in a hurry to tell Carol she was wrong about dog behavior. At least until I myself had lived with a pack of 10 to 30 dogs for 15 or more years. I wouldn't feel I had the credentials.


I think you're overthinking the biting. The reson for biting can be broken down into 2 simple categories.


Act of intent.