One of the biggest things to worry about with dog ownership is the fear that your dog will bite someone. Dogs can bite for many reasons. This has been on my mind lately because one of my dog walking client’s dogs recently bit a runner while out on a walk with his mommy. The owner was bent over scooping poo while the runner ran past them. It startled the owner and the lab mix responded by lunging at the runner and broke the skin on his arm requiring stitches. It’s a nightmare for any owner. Any dog can bite given certain circumstances. What can you do?
About 20 years ago, it happened to me too. I had a dog that was a biter. He was a black lab mix named Brutus. He was a gift from a student at my husband's (at the time) school. He was brought home one week before I gave birth to my son as a surprise. My son and Brutus were babies together. I house trained him and walked him as much as I could. My daughter was two and my son was a newborn. I trained him the basics: sit, down, stay. He always pulled on leash and he would run out the front door whenever he got a chance. I can't tell you how many times I went after him with hot dogs in my hands trying to get him to come home. He ate crayons and anything else he could get into his mouth. He learned to leave most things in the house alone. He was a lab though so it took a while. Everything outside had teeth marks. He grew to be a wonderful dog with our family and anyone we invited into our home. He was very protective and reactive around strangers though. He hated rollerblades, bicycles and skateboards. At the time, I didn't know how to train him to be less reactive so we kept him away from these triggers. My ex-husband kept him after we divorced (my kids were 6 and 8 years old) and he ended up lunging at a kid on a skateboard. My ex didn't want to keep him after this. So, I offered to take him even though I worked too much and didn't have a yard for an active dog like Brutus. I kept him for a couple of years. I didn't have any trouble until I left him with a friend while away for the weekend with my kids. Back then, hotels didn't even allow dogs. I instructed the friend to not take him into public places and to stay away from strangers. My friend decided that he was fine to take to his apartment and the dog lunged at someone that came running around a corner and broke skin on the stranger's leg. My "friend" told me that he had given my information to the injured man even though he was caring for my dog at the time. I was terrified that I would be sued. I was completely overwhelmed at the time. I was working long hours, had two small kids, and my poor dog had suffered one change after another and now seemed dangerous. It is really not surprising that he had behavior problems. I spent very little actual time at home with him. I didn't know what to do at the time. This dog deserved better than what he got from us at the time. He was actually lucky. Not knowing what else to do, I took him to a rescue and he did not need to be euthanized. Many dogs that bite people end up euthanized. I have always felt guilty about not muscling through his issues and working with him to improve his behavior problems. I was blamed by many members of my family for not keeping him - including my kids. I chose to do what I thought was best for my family at the time. The decision was not made lightly. I was lucky that he didn't seriously hurt someone.
Let's take a look at what contributed to his issues: