==> If you didn't follow the prior two weeks' advice you may not want to think about this week's advice either
Otherwise: What would you do if it happens to you?
How to Save the Relationship When Your Dog Bit You
Most importantly: A dog that bites is not the end of the world!
Why this Periodical is important: When our dog injured us, our future together depends on how we react. Therefore it is wise to at least think through how we would like to react.
- Two weeks ago we discussed Are German Shepherds dangerous? and ended with advice on: How Can We Prevent that Our GSD Harms Someone for No Good Reason?
- Last week we had the hit home sequel: What to do if our dog injured someone? - because we didn't or couldn't prevent it
- Now this week's Periodical is the hattrick: What if it is us who our dog injured?? - The dog owner or a family member!
This could be that our dog bit us (like the headline suggests), or it could be a non-bite injury.
Injured may not sound as 'attractive' as a headline with the word biting does - which is why the media always report on dog bites - but actually the majority (52%) of dog-inflicted injuries don't involve a dog bite at all!
(It was not reported whether this family member claimed compensation from the homeowner's insurance - and how much he got)
So, did you have a dog in the past that injured you, possibly even bit you? How did you react? At that moment, and long-term?
Or do you know of someone who was bitten by his/her own dog? What did (s)he do then?
In this Periodical:
- What Other People Do When their Dog Bites them
- Why Do Dogs Bite?
- Why Injury Severity matters
- Injuries other than Dog Bites
- Best Way to React When Our Dog Injured Us?
- Best Way to React When Our Dog Bit Us
- How to Save the Relationship when Our Dog Bit Us or a Family Member
What Other People Do When their Dog Bites them
Countless times I have heard statements like:
- "We had to put the dog down, she bit our daughter"
- or "My dog bit me already once, I am scared he might do it again, I decided to leave him with a shelter"
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
I very much hope that this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL reaches you in time: Before you or a friend or relative makes an unnecessary or wrong decision.
Like putting the dog down, giving the dog to a shelter, locking the dog away or leaving the dog mostly alone, exerting some form of force or intimidation, depriving the dog of food, drink, potty walks or socialization, or other inappropriate behavior.
Because none of that is necessary, let alone helpful, to save the relationship with the dog.
Before you ask: YES, it is
possible probable to save the relationship with your dog after (s)he bit you! Ah, what am I saying? It is certain to be able to save the relationship with your dog after (s)he bit you.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
We are going to need this soon, so here's the ultimate insight into why dogs bite (better than what that boy was going to deliver as his homework, I am telling ya )
Why Injury Severity matters
I would argue: We should be grateful if it's just a minor injury, because then it's the ideal warning sign that some behavior change of ourselves was about time. A minor injury offers a great opportunity to develop a new relationship with a dog, a much better bonding.
The problem is that most dog owners (and even many dog trainers) cannot reliably read a dog's communications. Domesticated dogs communicate their feelings in so many more subtle ways than humans, that only if we learned to really observe dogs consciously and diligently, we can read all signs before the bite.
Take for example the extreme case of Marjorie Knoller that I reported on last week - the former lawyer sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for murder after her two Presa Canario dogs mauled her neighbor to death.
I am sure that - had 'Madame Knoller' consciously observed her dogs - she would have noticed long before that incident that her dogs need either urgently a quality dog trainer, or a quality dog owner.
Indeed, as concerns dog bites I would argue that our long-term plans for our dog should depend on the severity of the injury, but our immediate reaction should not.
In the heat of the moment it is best to react in one standardized way only.
Long-term plans for our dog should be made when both our dog and we have calmed down (so not before the next day, possibly even much later).
Well, no. Because in most cases the dog actually didn't have a bad intent at all, the dog just instinctively reacted to the stimuli that we provided unconsciously.
For example in this case reported on the left, had the owners of that dog merely read a bit about dogs, or studied our Periodicals here, or - if they aren't into reading (as the background story suggests) - had they at least watched say Doggy Dan's excellent dog training video course which we always recommend for that very reason, then dead-sure their dog would still be alive, and the toddler girl well and happy with the family pet!
Too many dog owners are just ignorant to educating themselves (and their kids) how to treat a dog right (an animal after all!), and how to act in the presence of a dog - particularly when a child is present.
Take away those conflict-creating stimuli, or UNtrain the dog's instinctive reaction - and you have a dog-human relationship like new!
How can this be possible?
It is possible because:
When we take away the unconscious bad stimuli in the way we treat a dog (or consciously provide the right stimuli in case we have a traumatized dog), then the canine genetical heritage makes the dog focus only on the NOW.
From reading their books I know that almost all dog experts conclude from canines' focusing on the present that they cannot much remember the past. This conclusion however seems as short-sighted as the conclusion "My dog has bitten me, there is no future!".
Dogs do remember the past very well, they have an excellent memory (for example you notice that when you work with traumatized rescue dogs). But domesticated dogs are forgiving - very much unlike wild dogs, wolves and ... people.
The reason is that we haven't been breeding ourselves for the last 33,000 years with focus on eliminating the offspring that 'got back at us the next day', and only going forward with the offspring that has shown to be forgiving. Thus among humans, we didn't eliminate resentful feelings and behavior. With domesticated dogs, we did.
You may want to read the last paragraph again, it is a fundamental insight into dog psychology.
By the way, this is why it is relatively easy to turn around a traumatized dog to become a great dog again - while it is impossible to make a traumatized human being a great person again: Humans have a different memory filter.
Now on to grades of injury severity.
Teethmarks, no laceration.
Specifically for German Shepherd Dogs, this is the typical injury. You may or may not remember from our Periodical Are German Shepherds Dangerous that herding dogs like the GSD have three different kinds of 'bite'.
The first one, the guiding nip, isn't really a 'bite' at all, it is gentle and does not break the skin.
If anything, the guiding nip leaves teethmarks on the skin - namely when the victim (we or our child) didn't wear clothes on that part of the body. There will be no laceration (no wound), and thus no chance of infection either.
As far as I know, no other dog breeds than herding dogs practice the guiding nip.
Small laceration with minor bleeding. Possibly dog bite infection.
The second kind of bite of a German Shepherd Dog is the grab-and-drag, to pull a puppy or lamb (or child!) away from danger (as perceived by the GSD). This typically happens when the puppy, lamb, or person appears rather unable than unwilling to follow the dog's lead - like in an emergency situation.
In such situations where swift and strong action of the dog is required, a laceration can often not be prevented. If there is a wound with minor bleeding, a dog bite infection can easily be contracted - not so with a wound with strong bleeding, since the bleeding then prevents pathogens from entering the wound.
The grab-and-drag is not unique to herding dogs. For example, it is the common kind of bite for ferrets, and for retriever dogs (if the hunted prey is too large to be carried in the mouth), and the second-most common bite for canine puppies (after the pinch). In addition, the grab-and-drag is common among almost all dog breeds during playtime.
Finally, the grab-and-drag is fairly common for the Rottweiler and the Pitbull class of dogs (Pit bull terrier, Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and Bulldog) outside playtime, although these dog breeds much prefer the bite-and-shake - which is why the injuries of attacks of dogs of the pitbull class are often so devastating.
The third kind of bite of a German Shepherd Dog is the reactive bite. The reactive bite results in either a significant injury or in a major injury (see below).
Unless the victim (we or our child) wears thick clothes, a laceration cannot be prevented. If the wound doesn't bleed much, again we are at risk of a dog bite infection.
All dog breeds are capable of the reactive bite, and in the absence of proper dog training the reactive bite is very common indeed.
The reason can be understood easily: With towering humans all around (and the kind of behavior many humans show towards dogs), a dog cannot be anything but scared.
- Indeed, almost all reactive dog bites are out of fear! - So make your dog feel safe and comfortable.
- If not out of fear, the reactive bite is usually in defense of a pup, person, possession (stick, toy, even worn sock!), or territory (individual comfort zone, or Pack's territory) which the dog intends to guard. - So respect your dog's space, crate, resting places, food bowl, etc.
- The third cause of reactive bites is when a dog is in shock or startled (kids jump out from hiding, dog harshly awoken from deep sleep, stepped on tail, etc). - So be considerate, and tell your kids the same.
- Most rarely is the reactive bite out of pain. - If this seems frequent, take your dog to the vet. For the occasional pain there exists meanwhile good pain relief specifically for dogs (never give your dog human pain tablets).
The only reason why our domesticated dogs typically don't bite us, is that everyone somewhat 'trains' their dog (whether conscious or unconscious, good or bad training): Through feeding, dog walking, and attention - and, in most cases, affection and dog care too. We show them that we belong to them, and that they belong to us.
That's why dogs don't routinely bite us - and why they do bite strangers instead!
Note that the reactive bite usually comes only after much growling, barking, or other signals intended to avert a conflict (sole exception: shock bite).
When it does come, it is typically accompanied by a frontal leap for the wrist or face (unless the dog is protection-trained).
Particularly with a towering human being the opponent (imagine a dog's feeling just once), even a large-sized dog or mid-sized dog like the German Shepherd has very little intent to let things develop into a conflict.
All the less, if the dog knows from past experience that this towering human decides if the dog gets food and drink or not!
With small dog breeds and particularly toy dog breeds, the reactive bite almost always results in a significant injury (the injury severity regularly surprises those dog owners).
With medium-sized dogs and large-sized dogs, the reactive bite also typically results in a significant injury - except in cases like those below.
One or more large lacerations with major bleeding. Ligament ruptures likely. Crashed bones possible. Often some form of permanent disfigurement of the victim.
There are at least two groups of cases that typically result in a major injury.
Specific forms of bite - which can be either proactive or reactive:
- Dogs that have a tendency to bite on movement, because these dogs typically bite multiple times for as long as they see movement.
- Dogs that bite-and-shake, because these dogs typically tear off chunks of flesh, ligaments, and even bones of the victim.
All cases of proactive bite:
- Some dog breeds (primarily of the pitbull class of dogs, as well as Doberman, Rottweiler, and Presa Canario) are known to also bite proactively - meaning without much or any effort to avert a conflict.
- While after a reactive bite dogs flee ("bite and flight"), dogs that practice a proactive bite stay with the victim to inflict more harm ("make sure it's dead").
- This is true for all proactive bite causes (Preydrive, Aggression, Attack).
The original GSD does not know any of these kinds of bite. You read that right:
- No bite on movement (herding dogs want their 'herd' to move, they guide them to get 'back in line')
- No bite-and-shake (it's against the protective nature of herding dogs)
- No prey drive (misunderstood by so many: GSDs are not predators, they are a herding breed, they guard!)
- No aggression (herding breeds are exceptionally tranquil dogs: they are bred to stay calm in the most stressful situations, like guarding 100 sheep!)
- No attack (herding dogs do not have the genetic predisposition to attack, only to defend, to guard)
I write 'the original GSD' because I cannot possibly vouch for all German Shepherds and all mixes bred by all breeders in the world, and kept by all owners in the world - 99% of whom are not even profiting from our Periodicals here.
- Over the 30-year period analysed for the entire North-American continent, none of the victims of GSD attacks had any serious bite injury! Repeat: none in 30 years - which is remarkable really.
- "Hurting someone is almost never the dog’s intent … None of the German Shepherd attacks have involved predatory behavior".
- All GSD victims were due to either of these two reasons:
- Children misread the dog's instinctive intention - guiding nip or grab-and-drag - and pulled away in panic, or
- In case of mauling, maiming or death, the reactive bite was almost always clearly subject to a form of duress/abuse (plus remember, in all these cases other dogs were involved too).
So, I dare say that the chance for us - who have GSDs - that we may one day suffer a major bite injury from our own dog ... is nil. Next to impossible.
This doesn't mean that we can't suffer a major bite injury from another person's dog, or a significant injury from our own dog - which is why a future MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL will feature bite inhibition, and another Periodical will feature dog bite treatment.
The only situation where I would agree that a dog should be put down is when the dog mauled or maimed a human being without provocation (like say, without an attack on us or on the dog itself). Surely, these words can mean different things to different people, and it's not necessary to define them here.
Conversely, if a dog merely responded with a single reactive bite (for the first time or already several times), then no problem, this situation can be handled safely for the future.
The key points to understand are:
- All cases of mauling, maiming, or death (by any dog breed) were caused by the proactive bite - the dog stayed with the victim and caused further harm until it was pulled away (or until the victim did no longer move).
- Although some individual cases may have started out with a single reactive bite of the dog, a single reactive bite-and-flight of a dog has never resulted in a mauled, maimed, or killed victim (whether child or adult).
- The GSD does not bite proactively.
Injuries other than Dog Bites
Leash Pulling Injuries
During leash walk, our dog can easily pull so much that even Hollywood heroes cannot restrain the dog! Thus we may fall and injure ourselves. Or strain a muscle, the neck or shoulders. Like Ben Affleck!
In the back of my mind though I remember there once was something really good about Leash Training... Oh yes, wasn't there a MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL on that topic as well? Indeed, Adult Dog Leash Training and Puppy Leash Training.
Please tell Ben about it when you see him next.
During greeting, our dog can easily push so hard that we may fall over and injure ourselves!
Or we get our dog's paw in our eye when (s)he jumps up at us. Or (s)he breaks us a rib. Or whatever!
During playtime, we may get injured as well! Say when we play with our dog with the new Chuckit Kick Fetch Ball and we kick it so hard that David Beckham would be as envious as he is vain.
Or during tug-and-war, our GSD pulls so hard that we lose balance and land head-on, face-down on the ground, breaking our nose!
I'm only wondering who won this time...?
We all know that most accidents happen in the household!
Say, we may be standing on a ladder trying to pop paint on the ceiling, and ... guess what happens next? - Wait, I am just copying this from the last national insurance report... - "Dog throws owner from ladder and gets $8,000 reward" (no, not the dog, the owner, for the injuries!)
You get the message: There are hundreds of reasons and ways we could get injured when we have a dog! - Though admittedly, also when we don't have a dog.
So, what's the...
Best Way to React When Our Dog Injured Us?
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
==> Next edition: Surprise! (after the break that I mentioned) <==