Just over five years ago, I rescued a dog.
The dog was being very aggressive over possessions such as their toys.
I now know that it is called “resource guarding.”
There had been many confrontations and bites but she had yet to break the skin.
The family couldn’t cope with the dog any more because they feared that it was only a matter of time before blood was drawn.
It might surprise you to learn that the dog in question was a Golden Retriever, one of the softest breeds on the planet.
And that she was only four months old.
And that she was from one of my own litters- her mum was the sweetest dog imaginable.
To cut a long story short, the dog in question is doing fine and she is now a real sweetie.
It took a lot of hard work to develop the phenomenal relationship that we now have.
And I gained an awful lot from it.
But why do our dogs bite us and why, at times, are the bites so bad that they draw blood.
My dog bit me and drew blood. What should I do?
In the immediate aftermath of a bite, you need to ensure your safety.
Stay calm and try to not overreact.
Sudden physical or verbal actions can potentially make the situation worse because your dog may see it as aggression on your part.
Try to place your dog in another area of the house, such as a bathroom or the laundry room (assuming they cannot get into garbage or cleaning products).
Giving you and your canine space will allow you both a chance to calm down.
If you cannot physically place him in another area of the house, walk away and place a physical barrier between yourself and your pet, such as a door.
How should I deal with my dog immediately?
After you ensure your safety appears the question of what to do with your pup.
The best thing to do is try to assess the situation as calmly and as logically as possible.
Once the immediate concerns are addressed, some of the questions I typically ask owners involved in a bite incident include:
- How bad was the bite? Did it break the skin? Was it one bite or multiple bites?
- Where were you bitten?
- Where did it happen? In the house, out in the yard, on a walk, etc.?
- Was another dog, animal, or person involved?
- What was going on at the time?
- Does your dog have a medical illness or injury that can cause pain or behavior changes?
- What was the sequence of events leading up to the bite?
These questions help to determine the prognosis for your dog and the potential for the recurrence of future bites or aggressive incidents.
For example, if your dog bit you because you touched him while he was sleeping, the potential for future bite incidents might be managed by not touching him again while he is sleeping or lying down.
You should provide a specific location for your dog to sleep undisturbed, such as a crate or bed placed in a quiet location.
A dog that has already shown aggressive tendencies when disturbed while lying down or sleeping should not be allowed to sleep in bed with its owner because most people move in their sleep and can accidentally disturb their dog.
Why do dogs bite their owners?
There are many reasons why your dog could bite you. Begin your investigation by replaying the event in your head. Because our memories often fail us, you may want to write down the incident in as much detail as possible.
- What was happening in the environment at the time of the bite?
- What was your dog was doing at the time?
- Did they give you any warnings such as growling, freezing, or air snapping?
- Were they suddenly startled?
- Were they fighting with another dog?
- Did you touch them near her sore paw?
Also, think about your behavior. What were you doing right before the bite occurred?
How did you react?
And how did your dog respond to your reaction?
If you replay the situation, you might find details that will help you find the answer.
Do dogs bite their owners for different reasons than they might bite other people?
Usually, when a dog bites, there is a reason for it.
It’s rare that a dog will attack for no reason.
However, there is a distinct difference between a dog biting its owner and biting other people.
Strangers or unfamiliar people are going to make some dogs more on edge because they are, well, unfamiliar!
With unfamiliarity comes a lack of trust and so I would say that it is more likely that dogs would bite a stranger than they would their owner.
A dog should be very familiar with its owner and with that should come a high level of trust.
The trust should mean that the dog would have absolutely no reason to bite their owner because they are in a loving relationship.
To me, that leaves us with five reasons why a dog might bite their owner.
 The most obvious one and the most tragic one is that they are not in a loving relationship with one another.
It doesn’t bear thinking about but not all dog owners are kind, caring and loving.
Some are just plain cruel.
And in these abusive relationships, a dog will sometimes bite as a weapon of last resort.
They cannot take the cruelty any more.
 The second reason that a dog might bite an owner is because the dog is injured and in lots of pain and their owner has just touched the part of the body that is in a lot of pain .
 Next, a dog might bite their owner when they are very distressed and anxious.
When they are beside themselves with worry.
And at that moment the dog is simply out of their mind.
How could this happen?
For lots and lots of reasons but two which spring to mind are a dog that has recently been in a nasty fight with another dog or a dog who is going out of their mind with all the noise of a local firework display.
 Young puppies like to put anything in their mouth as they try and learn more about the world around them or perhaps they are teething and their mouth just really hurts.
Sometimes we are on the receiving end of their mouth as they might bite our hands or the backs of our legs as they jump up at us.
And boy, are those teeth sharp!
Incidents like these can easily result in a bite or nip that draws blood.
 Lastly, a dog might bite their owner as some kind of play fighting.
Now this isn’t a real bite, it is much more like a soft mouthing or play bite.
This is like puppy biting but these bites are from adult dogs.
And this is a small interaction that happens regularly between the owner and their dog.
How can I stop my dog from biting?
The best way to prevent your dog from biting you is to train them from a young age.
Puppies are much more susceptible to training and it would be a lot easier to start then.
There are many training methods for puppies such as bite inhibition or the “game over” method in which you teach the puppy that when they bite, it would hurt you.
However, when the dog is older it could be a bit more complicated. Of course, depending on the reason for the bite.
If your canine bit you because you stepped on them accidentally, then you will know that it’s not a behavioral issue and more of a “wrong place, wrong time” situation.
But if it turns out to be a frequent occurrence then you might have stumbled upon a bigger problem that sometimes requires help from professional dog trainers or at least a bit of effort on your side.
You need to teach your dog that their behavior is wrong which is a long and tedious process but then again any form of learning is.
What are some of the best ways to rebuild trust?
When your dog bites you, there is a vivid mixture of emotions going through you at that moment.
Shock, disappointment, heartbreak.
Suddenly, your beloved pet has betrayed you and now you feel threatened to be around them.
This broken trust is difficult to rebuild but not impossible.
Your dog may be as scared as you are after a bite so try not to be confrontational.
Let both you and your pet calm down before reapproaching them and start slowly. Baby steps will get you a long way.
Try to adjust yourself according to the situation and remember that your dog probably doesn’t hate you and doesn’t want to hurt you.
Calm down and see it as an isolated incident which is hopefully in contrast to the months and years of good times that you have had together.
Will they bite again?
Depends on the reason for the bite. If it happened accidentally or due to an extreme situation it’s not likely it will happen again unless there is another situation in which the dog is stressed enough to attack.
However, in some cases, dogs can get aggressive for no reason, and in that case, another bite is very likely.
Should I use a muzzle?
Muzzles are a helpful tool for safer training when it comes to fearful and aggressive dogs.
They are easy to use and make everyone feel calmer around a dog especially if it’s a big breed.
Muzzles can be great for going out in public or meeting other dogs but it’s probably not the best solution while your pet is laying on the couch.
Do I need a tetanus shot?
Vaccine considerations following a dog bite should include evaluation of the need for tetanus prophylaxis. Dog bites generally are not considered to be tetanus prone unless they are contaminated with soil. If tetanus prophylaxis is indicated, an appropriate tetanus-containing vaccine (Tdap, DTaP, DT) should be administered. However, to figure out whether or not you should get the vaccine, you should contact a doctor to run the appropriate tests.
Do I need a rabies shot?
According to the American Red Cross, a rabies vaccine should be the first thing to go through your mind when you get bitten by a dog. The Red Cross advises to consider the following facts after you get bitten:
- Did the dog look weird when it bit you? Was it partially paralyzed or did it have foam on its mouth? If it did, go ahead and contact emergency care to begin your vaccination.
- Can you get proof of rabies vaccination for the dog? If it’s your dog you would know if it was vaccinated. If it was someone else’s dog, ask for proof of vaccination.
Don’t panic. If you act on time, you will be fine.
Should the dog be put down?
This is a very difficult question for every dog owner. But to start, your dog should not be put down simply for biting someone once, without examining the context of the bite.
Euthanasia is a last resort and should only be considered for severe behavior problems. And even then, the topic remains quite controversial.
It is also a completely personal decision and one not to be taken lightly. There are certain cases where it is the humane decision. If a dog is so dangerous that they have to live in complete isolation, thereby ruining their quality of life, there may be a no better option.
What breeds of dog most commonly bite people?
According to a study from the Center For Disease Control (CDC)1, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, and 800,000 of those bites result in medical care. The U.S. population was approximately 328.2 million people in 2019. That means a dog bites 1 out of every 73 people. Here’s a list of the dog breeds known to bite the most:
- English Bulldog
- Pit Bull
- German Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd
- Lhasa Apso
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Cocker Spaniel
- Bull Terrier
You are not alone
Many dog owners come to a point in their lives when their dog bites them. It is an unpleasant experience, but it happens from time to time. Although it may be heartbreaking to feel the teeth of your beloved pup pierce through your skin, you should know that it’s not always the end of the world. It is a matter that should not be taken lightly but in most cases, there is a solution and a simple one at that. So if your dog bit you, assess the situation, take the needed measures for it to not happen again, and work on rebuilding the trust with your pup. You got this!