Dog bites happen on a daily basis. With the number of dogs in the world, and the lack of knowledge out there in regards to body language and how dogs learn, it's just bound to happen. By sharing my bites and how they happened, I hope to prevent people from making some of the mistakes that I made.
I work on average with 150 private clients and another 300-400 dogs in group classes per year. With those numbers there is obviously risk of being bitten. My job isn't to go into peoples' homes and get their dogs to bite me. If I were doing that, I wouldn't be doing a very good job. Let's break down my bites:
1. Redirect to my side:
My first bite was simply wrong place at the wrong time. I was sitting down at a table doing something on my computer and a situation of resource guarding arose between the two dogs in the house. The one dog that was lying next to me was attacked by the other dog. She reached up and bit me in my side. (This all happened in less than 2 seconds.) This was at a friend's house. I wasn't working.
2. Bite to my hand:
To this point I still didn't have a bite while on the job. On this occasion my client asked me to check out the situation with their little dog that was guarding their bed. My client asked me to come take a look. (I was originally there to work with their new puppy.) Not knowing the severity of the problem, and not thinking to ask, I walked up to see what was going on.
Once upstairs the little dog was already on their bed and my client entered the bedroom while I hung back down the hallway about 15-20 feet away where I could observe. When my client entered the room the dog started growling and barking in a rather animated fashion. I asked my client to do what they would normally do to get him off. My client then told him to get off. (I was told it took roughly 20 attempts of telling him to get off before he would.) So my client does it and roughly on the 20th time he gets off the bed. Well, he didn't just get off the bed. He decided to charge at me and go straight for my hand. I didn't move my hand in time and I had 3 punctures in my finger. This was a hit and run. He had bitten me and ran back to where he came in a matter of seconds.
The moral of that story: Don't be naive and go into situations without a detailed history. Also, get a better history of other dogs in the home before going in. Also, there's no reason why anyone needs to act out what they usually do in a guarding situation. It's more important to get information about what's going on and to set up a training plan to implement instead of putting the dog back into the stressful situation just to get a visual.
3. Bite to my hand:
I arrived to my client's home and knocked on the door. The door is answered and I'm invited in. I step in, the dog charges me, bites my hand, and runs into its crate. The damage to my hand was a red mark on my knuckle.
The moral of this story: Make sure to know where the dog is upon your arrival. I now call the owner when I arrive to houses where I know the dogs have a history of issues with strangers. I got very lucky that the damage wasn't worse than it was.
4. Bite to my butt:
This one wasn't my fault at all. I was working with a dog at the daycare it went to and needed to bring her back to the area with all the dogs. The room that I brought her into had roughly 30 dogs in it. One of those dogs didn't like men. As I was in there I was removing her leash and a dog came up and bit my butt. The damage wasn't too bad as the pressure was centered on the seam of my pants.
5. Bite to my arm:
I was working with a dog and trying to get her to enjoy my presence by tossing her treats. Things were going well and we progressed from the crate, to on leash, to off leash. We were an hour in and she was sitting a few feet away from me anticipating treats. At some point a piece of cheese had fallen from my hand, down between my legs, and onto the floor. It was underneath me. She noticed this and slowly went for it. As she was under my legs, I touched the middle of her back with the tip of my finger very gently in a swiping/petting motion. The instant my finger touched her back, she popped out and went for the bite. I got my arm up in time as a blocker and that's what took the hit. The damage was a little red mark that looked like a scratch and was gone before I left the house. This all happened in the matter of 3 seconds while I was talking to my clients.
The moral of the story: Never stop watching the dog's body language. She was fine up until that point. But when she was under me, her back legs were braced out in typical "I'm ready to move very quickly" fashion. With her body language displayed in such a manner, and it wasn't wise to touch her back. She was already in a position where she was under me, and touching the top of her back really made her feel like she was being hovered over.
All these bites I received were earlier on in my training career. To put this all in perspective, I've probably worked with somewhere around 1,000 different dogs in the past 6 years.
As a dog trainer, it's important to never let your guard down. The moment you do is the moment you will get bitten.
Being bitten is a risk when working with so many dogs per year. While it's bound to happen from time to time, the goal is for it to never happen. You will really decrease the chances of being bitten if you respect the dog. It is an animal with very powerful jaws and if you're using intimidation and pain to train, you're just asking for it.