Bites out of the blue?


Reserved crossbreed Freya


Yesterday I met beautiful two year old rescued Boxer/Staffie cross Patch who lives with delightful but more reserved crossbreed Freya.

I knew that I was there because Patch had bitten four people. It was just so hard to imagine him being a dog that bites. There were absolutely no vibes around him.

Adorable.[divider type=”white”]

Behaviour ‘health check’

I like to take all the background first before focusing on the perceived problem. Usually the problem (Patch bites) is a symptom of other things, not the cause.

The dogs live with a family of four, the youngest being seventeen. It was evident that certain members of the family give the dogs, especially Patch, non-stop attention.

They give him attention whenever he demands it and the give him attention when he’s not demanding it. Sometimes he may wish to be left alone. It’s all a bit high key. He jumps all over them and it’s encouraged.

This leads to a certain lack of manners and self-control which affects Patch’s reactivity of other dogs when out.

We picked apart each of the four occasions when Patch had bitten someone. We need to find out everything possible running up to the bites, during the bite, and what happened immediately afterwards.[divider type=”white”]

Bites out of the blue?

The strange thing is that the biting really does seem without warning, out of the blue. Twice he launched himself at someone’s stomach and the other two times it was as the person walked away from them. There was no growling. Nobody was looming over him or trying to touch him. They didn’t react angrily.

There were only a few common denominators: the victims were people he didn’t know and each person had been standing. Freya had been present and on the run-up Patch may have been a little more stressed than usual.

Apart from that I could see no obvious cause and nothing more in common between the incidents.

However, the next day in conversation with a colleague, it hit me! On each occasion Patch was being ignored![divider type=”white”]

Spoiled dog ignored

On three occasions the family members’ attention was on the other person and not on Patch. On the fourth, the person was walking away from him. I believe that just like a spoilt child that might kick someone if he doesn’t get his own way, Patch launches himself and bites.

I have asked the family to work on behaviours incompatible with launching and biting someone; they will put a few demands and constraints upon him.

In time they should be getting Patch to work for them by teaching him to do things they want, exercising his brain. They will use rewards so that good things are earned and not always free. He then should better be able to cope with the frustration of not being the centre of attention.

If by any chance I am wrong, our strategies are still appropriate. He will become a dog with better self-control, healthy mental stimulation and better manners…and no bites.[divider type=”white”]

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help.