What are the causes of puppies biting people?

A puppy that bites a person can be a quite worrying thing. Aggression in dogs that is directed towards people isn't that common. Most dogs accept their position in a family and are quite happy to be subordinate to all family members.

Aggression problems arise in three ways, and in all but one case the puppy owner may be the prime contributor to the problem.

A puppy may occasionally growl at a human, and the cause is usually frustration, anxiety, or attention seeking. It's a dog's way of communicating its feelings. Nipping during play when a game gets out of hand; teased and cornered by the kids, or the accidental bite when your trying to remove a ball from her mouth is understandable and normal.

It's when this behaviour goes on to another level, called spatial aggression, such as in guarding, refusing to be groomed, medicated, and sometimes even touched.

A dog may bare its teeth, utter a low, deep growl, stare intensely, stand tall with an erect tail and hackles raised. Any one of these are signs of aggression, these act as warnings; a dog actually biting people is the final act.

Unless the dog is psychotic, and nearly always that is because the dog came from a puppy farm, the cause is the dog's belief that she is the dominant force in the household. In effect: the pack leader, and you are her subordinates.

Your dog is a pack animal, and leadership is an essential part of that structure. A dog is at ease, and contented when it knows it's place in the pack. Your puppy would have looked to you at first to provide that leadership, if it wasn't forthcoming, then she would have taken up that mantle.

Unwittingly then, an ineffectual owner that has neglected to train the puppy correctly, has allowed the dog to believe that she's in charge. And aggression is one of the mechanisms used by dogs to enforce their dominance. This sometimes results in a dog biting the owner.

Maltese terrier puppy-Your responsibility so train her not to bite.

So how do you correct the problem of puppy's biting people?

Number one is you have to establish who is in charge- You -and that means a re-education program.
  1. Go back to the teaching a puppy to sit page and start with the five basic dog-training lessons.
  2. Dominant dogs take over the high place in their domain. The chairs and the bed. That must end. Use the "off" command in a suitably strong tone of voice, and point to the floor. It's likely that your dog will refuse, so you need to put on his collar and lead, and give a firm tug as you issue the command. The same applies to doorways and halls. You go first not the dog.
  3. You have to stop giving in to your dog's demands. All attention seeking should be ignored. You only give the dog attention when he has earned the right to attention.
  4. Attention consists of calm, measured stroking with the dog in the submissive positon of sitting, or preferably in the down position.
  5. When you feed your dog, make him sit, and you deliberately eat something in front of him before you feed him. The alpha dog in a pack always eats first; you're that dog now.
  6. Grooming a dog is an important aspect of socialising your puppy, which establishes who is numero uno in the house. If you've neglected this you need to re-start it.
  7. The longer you have allowed this problem to ride- the more difficult it will be to correct. If you're frightened of your dog, and he will sense that, place a muzzle on him or a head collar. This is the ultimate puppy biting deterrent.
  8. If you're not progressing you probably are going to need the help of a professional, and your vet should be the first port of call for advise.

The other form of aggressive behaviour in dogs is a form of psychosis. In some breeds it's called rage syndrome. The dog is sweet as pie one minute and a vicious, biting fiend the next. There is no warning, the attack happens in seconds, and the dog goes back to its usual sweet nature straight after the attack.

These dogs are often the end products of puppy farms, and the kindest thing that can be done is to have the dog put to sleep.

The third category of puppy's biting people is fear biting.

In a couple of breeds this is an all too common genetic problem. But in the majority of dogs it's a problem of the puppy not being properly socialised. Socialising your dog is discussed on the puppy-training page.

Dogs with this problem are showing aggression not because of fear as in being cornered by a group of excitable kids, but through a neurotic type of behaviour. There fear can encompass many things, thunderstorms, fireworks, cars, bikes, etc.

In most cases they lacked proper socialisation as young pups, and they now lack confidence. They exhibit the classic behaviours associated with this, including shyness: typically cowering behind the owner, fear of strangers and other dogs, as well as noises, or sudden movements.

Overprotective owners, and dogs that have passed through animal shelters or through the hands of several owners are often fear-biters. These are not bad dogs, just screwed up. They growl when there seems to be no reason, and they will bite people- again when you think that there's no reason.

This problem is complex and consequently not easy to resolve. Kindness, patience and understanding are the key. You need to go back to basics and re-train your dog. You will need to introduce other dogs, situations, and people to the dog in a slow and judicious way.

If you don't think that you are capable- you should consult a professional. One that uses techniques based on kindness, otherwise you may cause the dog more harm than good.

This page has dealt with puppy's biting people, but how do dogs get on with other pets?.

Panting dog, but not after biting!

Find out all about dogs and other pets.
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