The moment your beloved pet bites you for the first time, you’ll feel shocked and more than a little hurt.
It’s not just about the physical wound, but also about the psychological one. You thought you were best friends and now he’s turned on you and you’re bleeding. How could that be? Why? What do I do now?
First of all, you need to deal with your injury and then see what’s going on with your dog. There are various reasons why a dog might bite his owner. Most problems can be corrected, but you also need to consider the possibility you should look for another home for your dog. Or have him put down, although this is your last resort option.
My dog bit me and drew blood. What should I do?
You need to take care of the wound right away. Just slam the door on your dog and go wash the wound with warm water and a mild soap. Next you need to disinfect the wound. Even if it’s your dog, he can still carry plenty of pathogens in his mouth. If you have hydrogen peroxide or an iodine solution at hand, pour a bit over the wound. It won’t hurt much, or not as much as medicinal alcohol. Apply a clean cloth to stop the bleeding.
Once the bleeding has stopped, apply whatever antibiotic ointment you have around the house and dress the wound with a sterile bandage.
You should see a doctor the same day. If that is not possible, make sure to change the bandage every few hours and reapply an antiseptic ointment. Watch out for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling or pus.
Do I need a tetanus shot?
You should see a doctor as soon as possible after a dog bite. If your family physician cannot see you, consider going to the ER, especially if it’s a nasty wound. You’re at risk of developing tetanus if the dog’s mouth was contaminated with garden soil.
It will be up to the doctor to decide if you need a tetanus shot. As a general rule, a tetanus shot may be required if you haven’t had one in the past ten years.
Children get their tetanus shots in their infancy, so a kid under 10 or 11 will probably be protected.
Do I need a rabies shot?
That depends on whether you were bitten by your dog or some street mut. If your dog is up to date with his rabies shots, you probably won’t need a rabies shot.
Rabies cases are mostly found in feral animals, but it’s not impossible for a domestic dog to get infected.
If you were bitten by a street dog, your doctor will probably recommend a rabies shot, since you cannot know whether the dog had been vaccinated against rabies or when.
Rabies is a deadly disease and it causes a gruesome death, so it’s safer to get a shot.
How should I deal with my dog immediately?
First of all, remain calm. If it’s your dog’s first offense, you’ll need time to understand why he bit you.
Physical or even verbal reprimands may be counterproductive. The dog might take it that you’re being aggressive and the situation could escalate. The best thing you can do is to give your dog a time out. Crate him if possible or take him to a secluded room where he can meditate on what he just did. If you feel the dog won’t allow you to lock him into the laundry room, just leave him where he is and close the door behind you. Keep in mind that your dog might be just as confused as you are about the whole incident so don’t provoke him into doing something he actually doesn’t want to do, like biting you again.
Why do dogs bite their owners?
Once you’ve both calmed down it’s time to sit down and consider the reasons behind your dog’s sudden aggressive behavior.
For some dogs, biting is a way of asserting dominance. If your dog sees himself as the pack leader, he may have thought he had to bite you to keep you in line. Don’t begrudge him for that. With the right training, he probably wouldn’t have got this dangerous idea into his head.
Territorial biters only become aggressive when you get too near to their personal space. Maybe he thought you were going to take away his food bowl or his favorite toy and he just defended what’s rightfully his.
This type of bite is more common among dogs who have been abused in the past. If you got your dog from a shelter, don’t be surprised if the dog bites you out of fear. Even if you were not threatening in any way, maybe there was something in your voice or a gesture that triggered him and he went into self-defense mode. Dogs also tend to bite when they’re startled, especially if they are sleeping.
If your dog is not well, he might bite you if you unwittingly touch a sore spot. An elderly dog with a hip problem doesn’t understand why he’s hurting. If you touch him, he might conclude you’re to blame and this will prompt an aggressive reaction. It’s not just dogs that do that. Many people aren’t very pleasant to be around when they have a headache or feel unwell, except that we don’t have the instinct to bark.
You cannot fault a puppy for biting you. Young dogs are very playful and it’s natural for them to test their teeth. That doesn’t mean that you should allow your puppy to bite. If the little one seems to enjoy biting, he’ll need plenty of obedience training
If your dog attacks a stranger, you should consider the possibility he was defending you and your house. This might cause you a lot of problems and you’ll have to be extra nice to the victim to make sure they don’t sue you. As for your dog, some retraining is in order.
How can I stop my dog from biting?
Training, training and more training. If it’s a puppy or a very young animal, teach him that biting is not OK. When he bites you, even if doesn’t draw blood make sure to give a loud yelp and manifest your displeasure. Don’t punish the dog. Violence begets only more violence. Simply ignore the dog for a few minutes. Leave the room if necessary. When you do come back, make sure to point to your hand with a sad face so he understands he just injured his best friend.
An adult dog will need a refreshment course in obedience training. Go over the basic do’s and don’t. If you think you cannot manage this on your own, consider taking your dog to a certified trainer.
What are some of the best ways to rebuild trust?
Don’t hold grudges. Once you’ve taken care of your wound, treat your dog as usual. Many dogs show signs of remorse. If your dog puts a paw on your hand, take that as an apology and accept it. This goes hand in hand with understanding what caused the incident. If it’s not a behavioral problem, and your dog has a valid reason to bite, the only way to rebuild trust is to encourage good behavior. If your dog manages to stay calm in a stressful situation, reward him with a pat on the head or even a small treat.
Will he bite again?
If you don’t take appropriate measures, it’s likely he will bite again. Let’s say your dog was in pain at the time of the incident. You can totally understand his reaction, but that doesn’t mean you should tolerate it.
If it was a dominance thing, this needs to be addressed right away. Back to training school with him and let him know you’re the pack leader no matter how big and strong he might be.
Should I use a muzzle?
Dogs shouldn’t have to wear a muzzle around the house. It’s not natural and it’s not pleasant. Also, it’s a sign that there’s something terribly wrong in your relationship. If you cannot trust your dog, what’s the point of keeping him?
You might consider the idea of using a muzzle on your dog if you have small children who cannot be trusted to let the dog be. That’s only a temporary solution however. You’ll need to train both your dog and your children to behave themselves. You cannot have a small child pull at the dog’s hair and expect the animal to put up with it. Many dogs show a lot of patience with small kids, but sometimes enough is enough.
Should the dog be put down?
This is not a decision to be taken lightly. In some parts of the world, you might have to put down a dog who is too aggressive and injures or kills someone. Those are extreme cases though.
You’ll have to see an animal behavior expert and see what they recommend. If they feel the dog has a serious mental issue, putting him down might be the safest option.
Before considering such a possibility, you should exhaust all the other options, like more training and hiring a professional to solve your dog’s behavioral issues. Another possibility would be to relocate your dog. Maybe he will behave better in another type of environment. However. You should always disclose to the potential new owner all the problems you’ve had with your dog.
What breeds of dog most commonly bite people?
Many people are under the impression that it’s large dogs that tend to bite more often, but that’s not necessarily true. The little Chihuahua is very high on the top biters’ list, although such a small dog is unlikely to cause any real damage.
Let’s have a look at the most prodigious biters.
- English Bulldog
- Pit Bull
- German Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd
- Lhasa Apso
- Terriers, especially Jack Russell Terriers
It must be said that in many cases, large dogs are trained to bite by irresponsible owners. Many people buying a bulldog or a Rottweiler do so just to have a fearsome bodyguard or to impress their friends, and it’s not fair to blame the dog for the education he received.
If a dog bites you and draws blood, your priority is dressing the wound and seeing a doctor. In some cases you may need a tetanus and/or a rabies shot. Once you’ve dealt with that part, you should try to understand what caused the aggressive reaction in your dog. Maybe he felt threatened or startled, maybe he was in pain. Or, just accept the fact that your dog didn’t get the training he needed. Try seeing a behavioral expert or hire a good trainer to teach your dog some manners.