Aggression….the Unwelcome House Guest

Special Note:  This post contains some mild graphic photos and descriptions of a recent dog bite that I received.

I work with all kinds of dogs….various breeds, ages, temperaments, backgrounds, etc.  Some dogs are friendly and happy to see me, and others….not so much!  I’ve been training dogs since 1983, and working with aggressive dogs since 2008.  In all that time, I’ve only been bitten twice.  I use very safe measures when working with edgy, or aggressive dogs.  But this past week, I encountered a really dangerous dog, and that’s the subject of this post….to educate my readers about what made this situation more serious than other aggressive dogs I see.

Earlier in the week, I had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of a 70 pound dog’s teeth being sunk into my leg.  Zero fun.  Naturally, since it’s June,  and since the dog had no prior bite history, I was wearing shorts, so I had no protection at all between skin and teeth.

This was at the hospital, right after they had cleaned up the bite.

Prior to training any dog, I do an evaluation.  I’m asking behavioral questions and observing the dog in his home where he’s comfortable and relaxed.  This also helps me watch the interactions between dog and owner, and I can learn a lot through simple observation.

When I evaluate dogs who are aggressive  with humans, I insist that they be leashed so that I can safely move and not be attacked.  Typically, I want the dog back from the door and at a safe distance from me so that I can I observe the dog’s behavior and arousal levels from a safe distance as I come in and conduct the evaluation.

Note the stiff body language, forward ears, fixated stare…..all aggressive body language!

Some dog owners are very understanding and have no issue doing that.  Others make it clearly known that they think I’m being overly concerned, especially when their dog has no bite history.  Some dogs do well being leashed, and others not so much.  The owners of the “not so much” dogs generally aren’t very happy leashing their dogs because they know that their dogs are likely to produce even worse behavior, which I completely understand!  However, that leash and a careful owner are the only things keeping me safe, and whether or not an owner likes my methods, they do have a responsibility to keep me safe as a guest in their home.

The dog who bit me this week had no bite history.  He was a physically healthy two year old dog in very good condition.   He had been to his vet the previous week for a complete physical including a blood work up to determine if there was any medical reason for his behavior.  He was given a clean bill of health, meaning that the vet could determine no medical reason for the dog to be behaving in an aggressive manner.  That’s a great place to start with any type of aggression….a medical work up!

This dog is likely close to the size of the dog who bit me. Look at the size of that open mouth! Large dogs pack a BIG punch when they bite!  The surface area of my bite is roughly 3″ x 4″….a very large area of my outer calf!

Two weeks earlier, he had nipped the pants legs of two males who came into the home, but responded well to them through the duration of their visit in the home.  He had never shown aversive behavior toward women, so his owner felt very confident that he would be completely fine with me.  He had no problem leashing his dog and was very compliant about keeping me safe during the evaluation.

As I came into the house, I heard minimal barking, and observed a small mount of piloerection (fur standing up on his shoulders and or back and rump) from the dog. He did pull hard to sniff me, but didn’t lunge or growl in any way. Comparing him to other dogs that I’ve evaluated who are aggressive to strangers in the home, I felt as if he was very calm at the door to be perfectly honest.

His owner let him come over to sniff, which didn’t make me very comfortable, but the dog wasn’t sending any super strong danger signals, and because he had no bite history and was early in his aggressive behavior, I felt as if he would likely be fine.  However, I should not have allowed the dog to get near me, because the piloerection was only at the shoulders and the base of his tail, which can be an indicator of a dog who is unpredictable and aggressive, which this dog later proved to be!

He sniffed me over as all dogs do.  He was polite, no muzzle punches or hard pokes.  Very typical, gentle sniffing.  He even licked my legs and hand very sweetly.  He did some minor gentle biting on my fingers as many dogs will do, but again, it was really pretty polite given the dog.  Looking back, the hand nibbles may have been the dog sending me a signal that he was thinking about a bite, and he was trying to intimidate…or testing the waters but deciding to wait for a more opportune moment.

As we walked through the house, we left the foyer and proceeded through the living room and into the kitchen, the dog was ahead of me.  I always send the dog ahead, so that I know where he is.  To stay safe with aggressive dogs, I try to always know where the dog is at all times.  He stopped at one point and looked back at me with a hard stare as if to challenge my walking into his space. I stopped and froze, waiting for his owner to call his dog to come along, and waiting to see the dog’s response to that nudge on the leash.  He quickly and easily complied with his owner’s direction, which is very good.  Many dogs do not want to break a fixated stare, and the hard eye will continue.  The dog was very compliant, and his body language was calm and relaxed as he went into the kitchen.

Great example of a hard eye and fixated stare. When dogs do this, it’s almost as if they are looking right through you.

As I came into the kitchen, I set my briefcase on a chair in their breakfast nook and got out my evaluation binder and pencil.  The dog was calm and relaxed, watching me without a hard stare or any negative body language.  His owner was talking to him, and offered some quick pets and ear rubs to reassure his dog.  I focused on writing some quick notes about the dog’s behavior at the front door.

At the moment of the bite, I was standing at the table in their breakfast nook, writing notes, not moving, not talking, looking right at the table and quietly writing.  I may have slightly shifted my weight from one foot to the next in the direction of the dog and his owner.  That’s it.  If I moved at all, it was very subtle, and nothing that would have been threatening or have startled the dog in any way.  The bite came within thirty seconds after his owner had sat down and petted him.

I thought the owner had his dog right at his side and I was positioned far enough away that the dog couldn’t get to me.  As a result, I was focused on my writing and I was not looking at the dog or even in his general direction.  I had some sense of where he was from my peripheral vision, but I thought I was safer than I actually was.  Hard lesson learned in a painful way.

Next thing I knew, I felt a quick little lick, a fairly gentle muzzle bump against my left leg and then boom! He gave me a quick, hard, and very sneaky bite and released his grip. One or two seconds from start to finish.  There was no time to back away and prevent the bite, as it came immediately after the lick and nudge.  After the bite, as I quickly jumped back, I instinctively grabbed my briefcase to create a protective barrier between myself and the dog in case he came back for more.

I can’t tell you what the dog was doing right after the bite.  I didn’t see him to know what his body language or facial expressions were like! His owner didn’t even realize that he had bitten me!  When I jumped and said, “Woah!!  Darn!!”  The dog’s owner asked if he had nipped at me!  He was as surprised as I was when I said, “No, your dog just bit me, and I’m bleeding all over your floor!!  Instead of looking at the dog, I was honestly focused on the streams of blood running down my leg and starting to pool on the floor at my foot, and trying to figure out what supplies I would need to get that stopped!

There were rivers of blood running down my leg creating a pool of blood at my foot about 10″ in diameter. I went to the hospital wearing a garbage bag so that I didn’t bleed all over the owner’s car!
After the nursing staff had cleaned me up. That sock was white when I put it on earlier in the day. It was about 85% bloodsoaked and I squished when I walked!

This is a very important post for me to write, because this dog was absolutely a seriously dangerous dog and his owner never knew it!  Clearly, the owner had noticed a negative shift in his dog’s behavior and that’s why I was there to evaluate him, but this situation was honestly far more dangerous than many aggressive dogs that I evaluate.  Here’s why:

  • This dog bit while completely unprovoked.  I did nothing at all to create a venue that would have made the dog startle and react, or feel threatened in any way.
  • There was absolutely no warning at all, aside from a small nose bump.  He didn’t growl, posture, snarl, or give me any obvious indication that he was going to bite me.  He was Ninja-like….and sneaky!
  • He had already received me into his home, although it’s definitely debatable about how comfortable he was having me there.  With stranger aggression, most aggressive dogs will bite right at the door.  This dog greeted me fairly well at the door, but seemed to wait for a chance to offer a hard bite when he felt that it would be more opportune.
  • Dogs who are stealthy and sneaky pose a much higher bite risk because they are unpredictable.  When there are unknown triggers, it’s impossible to moderate the dog’s behavior, and an owner is left with a very dangerous dog who is honestly more liability than asset.

At at a recent vet visit with Rugby, one of the vet techs who often helps treat Rugby said something I really liked!  She said, “Rugby is an honest dog.  You always know where you stand with him, and he always tells you if you’re crossing a line with him.  He gives you time to back off.”  That really made me smile, because I completely agree!

Rugby is an edgy dog to be sure.  He absolutely is.  But he has pretty clear triggers, and for the most part, he will give a clear warning that he’s uncomfortable.  That’s an honest dog.  He clearly doesn’t want to bite, and he’s willing to wait to see if the humans understand his position and respond accordingly.  That’s fair.

Rugby will often “Resource guard.” Note the paw over his treasure, his lowered head and strong eye. If anyone continues to approach, the head will get lower, his eye harder, and he will growl an ugly growl. Never approach a dog who is guarding a treasure of any kind!!

The dog who bit me was sneaky.  Unpredictable.  He did a bait and switch with me, letting me think he was okay with me, when instead, he was simply waiting for a more opportune moment to strike.  Those are the dogs that I honestly don’t feel safe training at all, bite history or not.  I never feel safe with them.  And honestly, those are dogs that are not likely to work through their aggressive behavior to ever be trusted.  Ever.

So how are dangerous dogs like this created?  That’s always challenging to know.  It’s generally a lot of things all coming together like a perfect storm!

  • The first consideration is the genetic makeup of the dog.  Nurture will never trump  nature, and if there’s a history of  aggressive behavior in parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. there’s a good likelihood that there’s a wacky aggressive gene in the DNA.  That’s something that simply can’t be fixed, and unfortunately, with rescue dogs who are mixed breeds, an owner is taking a chance with any rescue where backgrounds and breeding is unknown.  This should really, really be a very critical decision when someone is choosing a dominant, aggressive breed who is large and has the potential to really do some damage with his bite.
  • Right along with the genetic makeup of the dog is the early development of the puppy.  Diet is critical to healthy brain development, which will also include the dog’s ability to reason and think well.  Puppies who are abandoned, or who have gone without food for an extended time, have a poor diet, etc., are at a higher risk for incorrect brain development, and that can have far reaching effects years after the puppy grows up.
  • The next consideration is the physical health of the dog.  Dogs who don’t feel well are likely to be aggressive.  Ear infections, sore teeth, injuries, etc., can cause a dog to become very  dangerous in their responses to humans because they are simply trying to protect themselves and their space.  Their aggression can be unpredictable if owners don’t know that they aren’t feeling well.  Generally once the medical reason is cleared up, these dogs can be retrained to respond in a kind way.  The exception could be for dogs who are chronically ill, especially as young puppies, where their opinions about life are formed.   Some dogs are more able to process and forgive and trust again, while others simply can’t make that leap.
  • Lack of socializing dogs is huge!  HUGE!!  Did I mention that socialization is huge?  Think people, places, and things, when you are socializing your dog.  You want your dog to see all kinds of people, dogs, places and things, both animate and inanimate.  Ideally this starts as soon as you bring a new puppy or dog home, and continues well into adulthood.  Socializing your puppy teaches him how the world works, and exposes him to potentially scary things so that he learns not to be afraid of them.
  • Lack of training is also HUGE!!  Big.  Enormous!!  I wish all dogs could receive basic training, but large dogs, especially dominant aggressive breeds should be professionally trained at least to an intermediate level.  Puppies are so enthusiastic about training, and generally compliant, happy students.  In adolescence, dogs often start to throw their weight around as they begin to wear their big dog pants!  That’s most often when I see aggressive behavior rear its ugly head. When those dogs have had strong prior training, adolescence is a speed bump or small hurdle to get over.  We train right through it, most generally, and in a very short time, that dog is right back on track.  When aggressive adolescent dogs have never had any prior, professional training, it’s much more difficult to train through the aggression, and the odds go way down in terms of a dog successfully working through the aggressive behavior. (This is based upon my own experience in working with dogs)
This dog is guarding a bone. Note the “C” shape to his snarl. He has a hard eye, and is making a big display with his teeth to tell an approaching human or animal to back off!!

Sadly, for the dog that bit me, his life ended that afternoon.  His owner agreed that his dog was simply too dangerous to the public, and shortly after the bite, he was euthanized by his vet.

While my heart just broke for the family, I applaud the owner for making the choice that he did.  His dog was indeed a very  dangerous dog, and I honestly do not believe that training would have modified his behavior to the point where he would ever have been safe to the public.  It took courage to make the decision that the owner did, and as the recipient  of his solo bite, I can tell you that I felt a huge sense of relief knowing that this dog would not be biting anyone else….especially a child!

Don’t let this happen to your own dog!  Many, many times, aggression can be prevented.  Don’t wait!!  If your dog is exhibiting any questionable behavior, please consult a professional positive reinforcement dog trainer or behaviorist to get help immediately. Please remember that this dog went from nipping to a full bite in only two weeks time, so waiting may end up causing injury to a friend, family member, child, or another dog!  Once a dog is biting, there are very few options available, and bites often end up costing a dog his life!  Aggression does not go away by itself, so waiting will never make things better.  And just in case you aren’t quite sure….here’s another photo to remind you that aggression is not anything at all to play around with.  I’ve missed about a full week of work nursing this injury.  My physical injuries are healing up nicely, but my heart will never forget that this bite cost a dog his life.  I’ll have more than one kind of scar to carry through life as a result of this bite, and that’s not anything I wish for anyone else!

Two days after the original bite.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Fran Snide says

    Thank you so much for an extremely well written, informative post. As much as we might love our dogs, it benefits no one to love them blindly!

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much for that, Fran!! It was a hard post for me to write! I don't like posting anything graphic or trying to make anyone fearful! But as a dog trainer, I have a unique platform to help educate people, and when we know better, we do better! So many people would never have realized the danger in this dog, and the bite I got could have been far, far worse!! At the end of the day....dogs are dogs. They aren't babies....they are dogs! And dogs do what dogs do, which sometimes includes naughty behavior like biting! You are so right in saying that it benefits no one to love them blindly!! Thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment!! <3

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  2. Margaret Szlabonyi says

    Sally, my heart is breaking too for the loss of a dogs life. But you and the owner made all the right decisions. Sad, but unfortunately a lot of life is just that....sad. God Bless you, the owner and family. And may the dog Rest In Peace in Paradise now.

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much for that, Margaret! I've been so impressed by the number of folks who have really had compassion for the family who lost their dog! Typically, when a dog bites, folks are not very understanding. In this case, it's been truly heartwarming for me to read comments like yours. I know the owner made the right choice, and he knows he did as well. But their family has a hole in their hearts from the loss of their dogs, and that makes me feel so truly heartbroken for them. Thanks so much for your compassion and caring!! <3

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    • Sally says

      Hi Dot! Thanks so much for your sweet compassion! My leg is healing up nicely, but my heart may take some time to get there! Thanks for reading and sharing! I'm hoping that this may save some nasty bites and some dogs' lives!

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  3. Deb M says

    This is so well written I can picture it happening and I'm so sorry it happened to you. Our rescued mix, Ben, was a very large dog who suddenly exhibited this same unpredictable behavior at about 18 months old. It didn't happen often and we made excuses the first couple of times. At the fourth occurrence, with clearly no provocation, we knew we had a problem and had to take the same measures this owner took. It broke our hearts, but we could see something was very wrong with him. I guess dogs sometimes have a bad gene just like some humans do.

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    • Sally says

      Deb, thank you so much for reading and for your kind comment!! 18-24 mos is the window of time that I most often see aggression start....in adolescence! Your dog was following the timeline! You responded exactly like many of my owners do....they make excuses and think it's not a big deal because their dog didn't actually bite or break the skin! When there's no provocation....it's absolutely a nutty dog!! Dogs are NOT aggressive by nature, no matter what breed they are! If there's a reason that the dog is responding aggressively--most often from fear/anxiety....that's a whole different type of aggression, and it can sometimes be dealt with through training and improved. I can train lots of things, but I just can't fix crazy! I'm so so sorry that you had to lose a dog this way! It's heartbreaking, but I think you absolutely made the right call!! Big hugs!! <3

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  4. Diane Zybrands says

    Such a horrific experience. Thank you for sharing, what was a traumatic attack, and turning it into a learning situation for others. I'm sorry for your injuries, both physical and emotional. So sad. So very sad.

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    • Sally says

      Thank you so very much for reading the blog and for your kind comment, Diane. As a dog trainer, I have a unique platform to educate and inform my readers, and in the end, that's really what motivated me to write about this. We don't know what we don't know! Aggression is such a strange and deep disorder in dogs, and people often lump ALL aggression into the same melting pot. I simply don't think that's accurate or fair to our dogs. I'm all about living well and safely with our dogs, but crazy is crazy, and this dog was truly a dangerous threat to the public!! People just need to remember that when aggression is involved....there really are NO winners! It really becomes a very sad situation! :'(

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  5. Karen Laferney says

    Steve and I feel so sad about what happened!! Your unprovoked bite looks awful and painful. And unfortunately a dog had to be put down, though I agree that was the correct decision. I am sure the owner feels badly for both reasons. I hope you are taking it easy and healing.
    Your information is great to have. It helps people to protect themselves when around unfamiliar dogs. It also teaches what traits to be aware of in our own dogs. Thank you for writing this, as hard as I know it was to do. ❤️💕🐾

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    • Sally says

      Karen, thanks so much for reading and for your encouraging comment!! I really wanted to provide help and educate and inform so that this experience wouldn't happen to anyone else. Folks think that it's no big deal if their dog hasn't bitten yet, or hasn't broken the skin. They assume that the people did something to spook their dog. Dogs really can just be nuts and dangerous....just like humans can! The owner has been absolutely wonderful in every single way, and my heart just breaks for the loss of their dog. That's a scar my heart will always have.... :'(

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  6. Beverly chrastil says

    My 19 mth neutered Yorkie boy has suddenly become extremely aggressive with my other 2 dogs. He has an appt Tue for a full blood panel workup. Can this behavior be modified?? It's been 4 wks today that he snapped and lunged at our Elvis. Will a muzzle work. Or doggy Prozac. I've kept him tethered to me since the attack. And he's a very muscular Yorkie at 13 lbs. You mentioned family tree. Jacksons mom bites. She doesn't attack tho. Thanks for listening.

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much for reading and for writing, Beverly! Having 3 dogs presents a challenge, because that means either 2 girls or 2 boys, and sometimes that doesn't sit well in a pack, depending on the temperaments and human leadership provided. With three dogs you have a pack, so pack behavior is also a factor in what you're seeing. Yorkies are definitely tiny terriers, and they don't back down when they fight!! You are absolutely doing the right thing in keeping your aggressive dog on leash and leash in hand in your home! Fantastic! Good! That keeps everyone safe, and that's critical! In my experience, this can be a tough fix, because the dogs live together, so there's no break from seeing each other. Your first steps in leashing and vet appointment are perfect!! That couldn't be more smart or right to do! Rule out anything medical, and then you'll know for sure it's a behavioral issue! At that point, you really need professional help from a seasoned positive reinforcement trainer or behaviorist who has experience with aggression. I'm not a fan of medicating dogs through issues, and some of the doggie prozac type drugs trigger aggressive behaviors, so I wouldn't rush into that one. Sometimes with severe anxiety, I've seen a vet use a medication so that we could successfully train through the issue, and then we faded the medication away when the new behavior became habit. It's a tough call for me at this distance, but I would not suggest using meds as your first thought. A basket muzzle could be helpful if your trainer thinks that it's needed as part of the rehabilitation process. Let your trainer evaluate the situation and see what they think. Your aggressive dog may simply have a very strong personality and need to be an only dog in a home. Sometimes, that can be the safest and best solution to protect all of the dogs and humans involved. Without being in the room to observe and evaluate your dogs, this is really about the only help that I can offer from a distance! I sure hope that it's helpful to you, and I'm wishing you and your dogs all the best!! Big hugs! I'm so sorry that aggression has come to visit in your home!! 🙁

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  7. says

    Sally, thank you so much for this article. I'm so sorry you suffered that injury, but can't help but believe it could have been so much worse for someone less vigilant and less understanding of canine behavior - a child, perhaps, or an elderly person. So sad, too, for the family, but they absolutely did the right thing, and I applaud them for it while my heart breaks for their loss at the same time. So articulate and well-spoken, and so much important and useful information here for anyone who takes a dog into their home and their heart!

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    • Sally says

      Wow! Your kind comment is a bit overwhelming to me!! I'm so very glad that you found the post educational and helpful! That's the exact reason that I wrote it! It was a very difficult post to write, but I really wanted to use the platform that I have as a dog trainer to educate and inform people, and especially dog owners! I absolutely know that the bite could have been so much worse!! I chalk that up to the dog's inexperience since it was his first bite! My first thoughts are always about the general public with an aggressive dog, and the owner and I both agreed that this dog was definitely too dangerous to safely keep in his home! You voiced my feelings exactly: I'm so proud of their courage and decision to euthanize, but I'm just absolutely so very sad for their loss of a much loved dog. No one wins when aggression is involved!!

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  8. Erin Whiteside says

    Thank you for sharing this story, Sally. I hope your post and experience will save someone in the future from being bit. I am curious what spurred the owners to reach out to you. You wrote that the dog nipped two male visitors. Was that it or was there something else? Our Hadley is so, so gentle with visitors and people, but now that we have a son, we are keeping an ever-watchful eye. He is mobile now, and loves Hadley more than anything; we do our best to make sure she is never in a bad situation and all is fine, but as you wrote...dogs are dogs and behave like dogs.

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much for your kind comments, Erin!! Congratulations on the addition of a son!! I'm delighted for you!! The owners became concerned when the dog nipped at the pants of two different men in one week. He had not been doing that sort of behavior before, and they were afraid that he might consider biting, if he was willing to nip at someone's pants. Their vet referred them to a behaviorist at UT, who wanted a medical work up to rule out anything physical. They had called me as a back up, and that's how we got started! DO keep a close watch between your son and Hadley!! She's really a very dear, dear dog, and will likely be fine around him, but NEVER, EVER leave the two of them unattended. Not ever. Not just to grab something from another room and come right back. Carefully watch Hadley's body language and jump right in when she looks uncomfortable at all!! Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!! <3

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  9. Jenna says

    I'm very sorry you were bitten and feel terrible for the owners. I respectfully disagree with some of your 'why' bullets based on reading your account of the situation. I believe the dog was warning you from the time you entered the house. His hackles were raised and then, additionally, he sensed your discomfort as he sniffed you. I interpret discomfort as nervousness. This puts you at a disadvantage, especially with an aggressive dog. He was biting your hands during this first encounter. Then he gave you a hard stare in the kitchen. You said he broke it off and was then calm, but you also said you were not looking at him before the bite. If he was staring at you again and you even slightly moved toward him, it seems to have been enough to provoke him even though you don't believe it was enough movement to provoke him. We can't necessarily know how another animal interprets things. You don't know if he gave you an additional warning right before the bite because you weren't looking at him. He may have. I don't think, based on your description, that the dog ever "received" you in his home. I think he was guarding his territory while you were in it. I agree that the dog was dangerous and that people are safer now that he had to be put down. I wish you a full physical and emotional recovery.

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, Jenna. You have brought up excellent points that have been well thought out. I will agree that I needed to have greater distance between myself and the dog right from the start, as it certainly is debatable about whether the dog really ever was comfortable having me in his home. As I mentioned in my post, after the fact, I could see additional aggressive hints from the door forward, that should have been bigger warning bells to me. You are likely absolutely correct about that one. I did have him in my periphery at all times, as I don't tend to make direct eye contact with aggressive dogs. I do think that the little nudge he gave me with his nose was the only warning prior to the bite, but the bite followed immediately after. I also agree that even a slight movement like shifting my weight could have triggered his response, but in all honesty, I know my movement was so very slight I doubt that anyone else in the room other than the dog noticed it. My feet never moved...I simply shifted my weight from all on my right leg to evenly weighted on both. I completely agree with you that the dog may very well have interpreted that slight movement as a threat, because I know that sometimes it doesn't take much to trigger a dog who is aggressive. You're so right in saying that we honestly don't know what he may have been thinking, and my interpretations could be wrong. Clearly....looking back on things, I would have done things differently, as I mentioned in my post. After the fact, I can see his behavior through a different lens, and recognize signs that were more aggressive than I had originally thought. I promise you that I was able to correctly pick up on a whole lot more of his behavior than an average dog owner, and that was the point of my post. People tend to think that aggressive dogs are snarling and lunging, and my post was written to help my readers understand how subtle aggression can be, and just how dangerous those quiet aggressive dogs are, NOT whether or not I correctly interpreted everything along the way! My average reader would never have thought that this dog was aggressive enough to bite. It was definitely a hard lesson well learned, and I appreciate your time in reading and posting such a thoughtful comment as well as offering me well wishes!

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    • Sally says

      Thanks so much Jil!! I'm sorry it happened too, and I feel awful for the family who owned the dog! Thanks for your well wishes! I'm healing up nicely! 😊

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  10. Linda Eltringham says

    I read your article with much interest. I've trained dogs for many years but not in the area of aggression. What amazed me was the force of the bite. I looked at the size of the wounds made by the canine teeth. That wasn't a test bite by a big dog it was a deep, powerful bite. I'm sure if you didn't have the experience you do and you didn't move as fast as you did the result would have been much worse. Having being bitten more than once in my life I know how painful bites can be. I'm sure you were in considerable pain for which you have my sympathy. In my opinion unless it is by a trained guard dog who is guarding the property and he bites someone breaking in, no bite is justified.

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    • Sally says

      Hi Linda- Thanks so much for your observation about the bite! You caught exactly what I wanted my readers to understand!! This was a first bite from this dog, and it was a pretty nasty and forceful one! It definitely was NOT a test bite! I think he had done that two weeks earlier on the pants of the male guests in their home. I honestly do believe that I got away with minor damage given the size of the dog, and the fact that I wasn't provoking him in any way. I'm healing up nicely, and the pain improves every day. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!

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  11. Susan curtis says

    I have an observation about your experience. Right before the bite, the dog is considering a bite, the owner pats and reassures the dog for its "calm" behavior. But, the owner is actually reassuring the dogs desire to bite. Reassured, the dog bites.

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    • Sally says

      Hi Susan-Thanks so much for your observation. I think you have a valid point. I think it's going to be impossible for any of us to know what this dog was thinking, but I certainly can see the dog interpreting that attention from his owner as a confidence booster. I absolutely would NEVER blame the owner at all for doing anything which may have caused his dog to bite, and I don't think that's what you're saying either. Since dogs are a completely different species, there's plenty of room for miscommunication between us! None of us will really know what was going on inside the dog's mind and emotions, and that's part of what makes this situation so dangerous. Thanks for your insights!

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  12. Karen Watkins says

    This is well written. I'd like to add that some abused animals have learned to hide warning signs as it generated abuse in the past. Rescued animals often have an unknown history. I'm more inclined to attribute aggression to past abuse rather than genetics.

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    • Sally says

      Hi Karen- Thanks for your comment. Dog trainers call what you've described "Learned Helplessness." Any kind of rough training method, intimidation, or abuse can "teach" a dog that he simply has to give up because he can't win. It will go better for him to simply stop trying. Those methods do nothing to correct the root problem, and often that root problem simmers like a pressure cooker and eventually explodes. Rescued dogs do often have an unknown history, and I hope my readers will remember that when they are adopting a shelter/rescue dog. I do want to encourage you to absolutely consider genetics as part of the package, because selective breeding is exactly what has created the wonderful purebred dogs that we see every day. There really is no way to separate genetics from the dog, but how the genetics of the individual dog manifest into behavior will be different for all dogs.

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  13. Denise Baker says

    The most well written, comprehensive description of a dog biting incident I've ever read I only wished "you" were not the subject .

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    • Sally says

      Haha! Yes....well....I rather wish I had not been the target as well! But no experience is a bad one if we can take something good from it as we go forward. This incident allowed me to help my readers know what markers to look for as they greet new dogs. Hopefully, others can learn from my experience and save themselves the same "decorations" on their own legs! 🙂

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  14. Vicki says

    Sally, I learn so much from this blog! Thank you so much for helping to educate us. You helped me with Tucker when I thought there was not an answer, and for that I will always be greatful! Praying your leg and your heart heal.

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    • Sally says

      Hi Vicki! Thanks so much for reading and for your kind comment! I'm so very glad you were able to learn about aggression and especially what to pay special attention to with really dangerous dogs! I'm so so proud of how far you've come with Tucker! You two really have become quite a team, and that always makes me smile!! Thanks for the well wishes! Belly rubs to Tucker!! ❤️

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