I just got back from a client the other night who was telling me about how her otherwise angel of a dog already bit two men in two separate instances. One was a contractor and the other a house guest. And although no skin was broken, they were understandably alarmed.
When I ‘debriefed’ them and we sat down and went over the circumstances leading up to the bite in detail, we came to the conclusion that there was a recurring pattern in the behavior of the bite victim before the ‘crime’ took place. We realised together that before each biting incident, the man turned his back to the dog. As soon as he did that, the dog bit the back of his leg or his backside.
My client was impressed at how easily I isolated the actions of the bite victim that triggered the dog’s bite. But what she did not know is that it this a known phenomenon that I have seen many a time before.
Yes, many dogs have a thing where they will bite people (usually men) as soon as they turn their back to walk away. Although it is a somewhat rare occurrence, it is unacceptable and must be dealt with and treated as any other dangerous form of canine aggression.
The reason some dogs will bite men when they turn away is due to a combination of tension and prey drive. Dogs that do this feel a thick tension (for whatever reason) when standing face-to-face with their (future) victim. The cause of the tension often comes from weak nerves which could mean a genetically mentally unstable dog with bad genetics or one that learned to fear men based on past experiences. Often dogs who were abused drown in a fog of tension whenever they come face to face with a strange man.
The reason these dogs wait until the man turns away before they strike is for several reasons. One is that the dog feels less threatened as soon as the man’s back is turned. This gives him the opportunity to bite with a little more impunity knowing that his victim’s back is turned. The other reason is because the fast movement involved with turning away, triggers the dog’s prey drive. In case you are not familiar with the phrase, ‘prey drive’ is the dog’s natural instinct to bite stuff that moves fast, just as they would if they were hunting in the wild. Any dog you see chasing something that moves fast whether it be a car, a bicycle or a cat is a classic example of the dog’s prey drive surfacing. The final reason is because when the man does walk away, it is often a quick movement which amplifies the prey drive and the dog’s desire to bite. And so the combination of tension plus quick movement, plus walking away triggers this aggressive reaction.
So what does one do to stop this unwanted aggressive behavior? Well, the best solution is to recreate the scenario whereby your dog is face-to-face with a strange man. But this time, the man should turn away slowly, almost as if he was in a slow motion instant replay like one would see when watching sports. This will expose the dog to the action that triggers the bite but because it is slowed down, it will decrease his desire to bite. (Remember, quick movement equals bite). And the more the dog is exposed to what caused him to bite without actually biting, it will by default decrease the biting. This technique however, should be done under the guise of a professional trainer or a really good friend who is willing to risk a bite and take one for the team.
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