Anyone who makes a blanket statement “Yes” or “No” has no idea what they’re talking about. Because there are many factors to consider: what were the circumstances? Why did the dog bite? Did the dog give warning signs? How did the person behave – this has a huge influence!
So, let’s assess the situation. I’ll talk about Delta and Alita – two Malinois who sent me to the emergency room for two very different reasons. They were both my personal dogs. Actually thinking back, they were probably both around the same age when they did it too!
To weed or not to weed
Delta bit me all the time, it was never serious. And always while playing. And if she didn’t like what I was doing she gave me that look of “I want to bite you right now.” But she never followed through on the threat.
Somehow Delta ended up loving weeding the garden. I showed her how and then made a fuss of her when she got the weeds. So, I trained her to weed the garden. She even shook the dirt from the roots! Then one day I reached for a weed, and she went for it as well. She got my hand and off I went to A+E to get a tetanus shot.
In the end she became a MWD. Her and my GSD didn’t get along. And at the time I was in no state to manage the two dogs who wanted to kill each other. So I decided that she was probably young enough to make the military. She was a good dog and excelled at her job.
You see the thing that made Delta safe to live with was that she would not bite me. Unless, it was an accident or in play. Even if she had to go through uncomfortable stuff. Even if I rarked her up, the only bites I got is when she missed the toy (my fault).
Be careful what you wish for
I always thought a dog who’s handler hard (a dog who has no reservations about biting their owner) is a better dog. Until I actually got one. I thought I’d be good enough to handle one. As soon as you think you’re any good, there’s always a dog who’s willing to put you back in your place.
Alita taught me that lesson. I raised Alita as part of my B litter (Battle Angel by name, nature and career). From the time her personality came out it was clear that she was a difficult puppy. At the end I pulled her from availability because I could tell she was going to be dangerous. So I kept her.
Don’t get me wrong. I certainly didn’t do everything right. But one evening I was lying on the floor next to her watching a movie. When I went to wake her up to take her to bed, she nailed me. And another time she slit both my wrists. No matter what I did to overcome the biting, she was not quitting. And that’s when I decided that she was too much dog for me. And I sent her off to go for training to become a Military Working Dog. She was only 4 months old.
When should you worry
The reality is that dogs have killed their owners. And dogs will continue to kill their owners. As long as we ignore warning signals. As long as we fail to ensure that dogs have appropriate structures and rules in place. And no, having little dogs does not exclude you from this. In 2018 there was a headline: “Oklahoma Woman Killed in Attack by Pack of Dachshund Dogs”
A bite or aggression should never be taken lightly. It does not mean that your dog is beyond saving. However, the chances that your dog will be able to continue to live with you without you making serious changes to your behaviour… That is not going to happen. In fact, even if you did make those changes, you might struggle to let your dog know that your not for biting.
If you are worried about your dog’s behaviour, you need to get help quickly! And you need to get help from a trainer who specialises in helping owners with dangerous dogs! The sooner you get help, the better the chances that you can keep your dog. Once a dog learns to solve their problems with biting you’ll be playing a dangerous game.
Where to get help?
You will need to get in-person help from a dog trainer experienced with aggression. A good question to ask the trainer is: are you scared of being bitten by a dog? If the answer is yes, keep looking. If the answer is no, then keep asking questions. How many aggressive dogs have you helped?
Be aware that there are also people who are good at working with aggression. And there are also people who think they are good at working with aggression. But also, it depends on the lessons the dog has already learned. As well as how resistent the dog is to a new way of looking at things.