Tonawanda News

Features

November 4, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Handling pets that bite

Tonawanda News — QUESTION: We know a couple with a 7-year-old Akita. The dog is as calm and gentle as a dog could be.

The dog was tied up in the back yard and given a bone to chew on. A nearly 2-year-old child not being watched carefully came up directly to the dog and was bitten on the head by the dog. The child is fine. Some who know about this want the dog put down. The dog is still very calm and gentle. The dog had been checked for rabies and was negative. These people say that once a dog has bitten that he will continue this.

Of course, the owners don’t want to put the dog down. What is your advice? — H., Niagara Falls

ANSWER: When reading letters it is always difficult to understand the situation fully. I must train myself to cut out information that I don’t think is pertinent and read only the antecedents, behaviors and consequences to help influence more positive behaviors in the future. After reading your letter H., I quickly dismissed the breed of the dog. 

Breeds of dogs are not nearly as important as being able to read your dog’s body language and knowing their history of experience, socialization and training. For further advice I asked my friend Miranda Workman, a canine behavior specialist — among many other things — and owner of Purrfect Paws Animal Behavior Center. 

We would say that the owners need to be more thoughtful about management. 

“Giving a dog a valuable resource — which they will most likely guard — in a situation where the dog cannot move away (tethered) is setting the dog up to be forced to make a bad choice,” Workman said.

She said if the dog has been fine in all other situations with children then they need to make sure that they never provide a valuable resource, like a bone, when children are present. Also they need to work on resource-guarding behaviors with the dog (i.e. teach it to trade) and need to supervise children more often.

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