Sometimes dogs bite people. The main reason why a dog bites a person is because they want to create space between themself and that person. This is the “fight” part of fight, flight or freeze. The majority of the time when a dog bites it is an inhibited bite. This means the bite happens without full force. This generally results in a Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 bite according to the Dunbar scale. A Level 1 bite is actually a snap in the direction of the person. A Level 2 bite is making contact but causing no damage or very limited damage. A Level 3 bite is when contact is made and there are 1-4 shallow punctures. Whenever a pet parent contacts a trainer because their dog has bitten a person and it’s a Level 3 or under, it’s likely a very workable case and the dog has what we would consider to be a “safe mouth.” Generally speaking, if a dog were to bite a second time, it usually results in the same amount of damage as the prior time. This is why we call it a “safe mouth.” This means that there is much less risk when trying to help modify behavior.
If your dog bites the first thing you’ll want to do is put preventative measures in place to make sure that it’s very unlikely that it will happen again. Here are some examples: 1. If your dog is biting visitors, either stop having visitors over or have your dog confined in a safe and comfortable place. 2. If your dog is biting you when you’re too close to the food bowl, stay far enough away where your dog isn’t showing signs of guarding. 3. If your dog is biting when you’re touching them on part of their body, stop touching that part of their body. Proper prevention and management will be very effecting in reducing dog bites. In some cases, pet parents do this and nothing else and it works out fine. It’s common though that whatever is causing the bite actually needs to happen. (Nail trims, home visitors etc.) This is where behavior modification comes into play. When doing behavior modification, the goal is to start off at a step where your dog is comfortable. From there, the steps are broken down into bite sized chunks which are achievable and work towards the end goal. Dogs that are exhibiting Level 4 bites and up are good candidates to meet with a vet behaviorist. There is a lot of risk when working with dogs that have bitten and done Level 4 bites and up. It’s very possible to work on behavior modification, but the risk is still there that a bite could occur again. And as mentioned above, when a bite happens again, it often occurs with the same level of damage as prior bites.