Fear Biters are usually small dogs like this guy.

Fear Biters

In Behavior, Dog Aggression, Problem Solving by Robert CabralLeave a Comment

Fear Biters are most commonly smaller dogs, as was the case with the dog I met just the other day,

I was introduced to an adorable little dog that had the habit of biting visitors.  Upon first meeting this little firecracker, who is close to 13 years old, I observed a cute little guy that stood in a corner and shook.  His little legs were wobbly from shaking.  When he saw me, he ran over and immediately began biting at my shoes.  This is clearly a sign of fear biting and not the aggressive behavior I am used to dealing with in the ordinary sense.  However any type of biting is something that needs to be dealt with.  He was an small, older dog, so approaching him as you might a younger, stronger more powerful dog will not work.   He needed a clear approach that would make sense to him.  First off, his owner would have to take control and become a stronger leader.  With a few simple exercises we were able to accomplish this.

One of the clearest ways to deal with any bad behavior including aggression is by adding structure to the dog’s life.  Most dogs that act out in ways such as this have a breakdown in rank and structure.  Simply put, dogs like a basic pack structure, that is they like to know someone is clearly in charge.  They don’t see this as totalitarianism.  In fact when someone is not in charge they usually act out.  You’re doing your dog NO favors be letting him “be a dog” or “act as he wants to.”  He needs to know some rules, and following basic rules makes dogs happy and balances.

Next we had to address some underlying issues this little man had about the way he was approached.  He was very head-shy, which can be an indication that a dog was abused, I say indication, but not proof.  SO many people jump to this conclusion right away.  The other option is that the dog was never properly socialized so he doesn’t know what to expect.  In either case we deal with thie remedy quite the same.  Building confidence in a dog is always a good way to eliminate negative behaviors.

If a dog is biting, barking, growling or exhibiting any strange behavior it is important to evaluate the behavior before you try to solve the problem.  Much like a mechanic would test drive the car before he begins taking apart the engine, so should your dog be properly evaluated before trying to solve a problem.  Simply jumping in with a “standard training approach” can cause more damage to a dogs already temperamental behavior.
Often times counter conditioning a dog to biting is not a pretty sight.  Dogs will try to bite and the handler has to prevent the bite so it can look like a struggle.  I would say that this struggle should not involve a fight, such as the handler hitting or beating the dog, but he should protect himself.  Sometimes this looks like an exorcism, but the struggle wains as the counter conditioning goes through it’s phases.  This type of training should only be done by someone with experience dealing with biting dogs and someone who understands the behavior of these type of dogs.

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