Dog Bites


Dogs bite. It’s in their job description. In the dog’s world a bite is a guaranteed, effective form of communication. They bite each other but they also bite us. And while the physical injuries often heal quickly the mental injuries to children take longer to heal and can last a lifetime.

According to the British Medical Journal, young children are more likely to be bitten when dogs feel their food or other possessions such as toys are under threat. The Bristol University behaviourist John Bradshaw says there are three underlying traits behind dog bites, that he has labeled aggressivity, reactivity and immaturity. He rates male dogs higher than females in all three categories and considers females easier to train than males. We agree with him.

Are Some Dogs Born To Bite?

Some dogs are natural born biters but let us emphasise, some dogs. We’re not saying some breeds of dogs. A good example of that fact comes from research undertaken at Cambridge University into aggression in English Springer Spaniels. In their survey 1,053 English Springer Spaniel owners were interviewed. A history of owner-directed growling or more intense aggression was reported in 510 (48.4%) dogs. Two hundred seventy-seven (26.3%) of these dogs had bitten a human in the past and 65.2% of those bites were directed at familiar adults and children. But when researchers delved deeper they discovered more detail. Females were much less likely to bite than were males. More interesting, Springers from lines bred for work – for hunting – were much less likely to have a history of biting than those bred only for looks. Unwittingly, breeding for the show ring has somehow increased aggression in some lines of English Springers while in those lines still used for work their level of aggression is lower.

Dogs typically bite either because of fear, to defend their territory or to establish dominance over another dog or a person. Genetics certainly plays a role. Some highly reactive breeds such as Chihuahuas, Smoothhaired Dachshunds and small terriers are more inclined to bite than are scent hounds, setters or retrievers. Certain large breeds, including many of the ‘attack’ breeds were selectively bred for both tenacity during fighting and a high level of dominance aggression.

The risk of a dog biting is reduced – often very easily – by early socialising, efficient obedience training and neutering.

It’s impossible to ever eliminate dog bites but not difficult to reduce risk and reduce the incidence of this most common problem. With young dogs, start early to socialise dogs to people of all sizes, colours and appearances – people visiting your home and your garden (if you’re lucky enough to have one). Take the whole family and spend an hour a week for six to eight weeks at good puppy socialization classes. Our nurses can advise you on different classes. At puppy classes you’ll learn how to efficiently teach your dog basic

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