You have friends over, and your normally laid back pup is tense as a board, watching your friends' every move. "Poor puppy, why are you so nervous?" a dog loving friend says and leans in to pet the anxious dog. You can see one second before it happens that something is very wrong. Then, your dog bites your friend. The bite isn't bad (it barely broke the skin) but your friend is shaken and the party is definitely not off to a good start. You urge your shaking dog into her crate. You feel so mad at her and so bad for her at the same time. Why does she feel so afraid that she feels she has to bite?
The most common reason that dogs bite people is out of fear. These dogs experience a terrible fear that results in a fight or flight reflex. If the dog feels she cannot escape, either because she is cornered or because she feels she needs to protect her family or home, she may turn to biting in order to remove the threat.
Teaching your dog not to fear bite depends on changing her perception of people and the relationship she has with them. It will require a good deal of patience on the part of both the human and canine participants. Most of all, teaching your dog not to fear bite depends on establishing a relationship with your dog in which your dog trusts you to teach her how to react to her environment.
The younger your dog is and the shorter the period of time the fear biting has been taking place, the easier it will be to change your dog’s behavior. It will also take much longer if you have not had your dog for long, and have not yet built a relationship with her. Dogs don’t want to fear bite, however, and hate being in a state of anxiety and fight or flight panic. Your dog will thank you deeply for teaching her a better way to respond, and the experience will create a deep bond between you.
You will need plenty of time, your dog’s favorite treats and toys, and plenty of patient, dog loving volunteers. It is important that you have tools to control your dog. If your dog is very unpredictable and has delivered dangerous bites before, it is advisable to use a muzzle throughout the training process.
Make sure that you have a secure harness for your dog, as reactive dogs often bolt unexpectedly and could injure themselves on a neck lead.