Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?
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Thread: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

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    Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Hi guys,

    It's been a long time since I've been around this forum. Some days ago, I was in another forum (not about dogs thought), when a topic related to dogs came up. Then I've found some post that I couldn't help but comment about it. The person didn't like my tone when I commented on what she said, but I couldn't find a nicer way to disagree with her. She was saying that she had 2 terriers, which were well trained and taken care of, but she gave up and even considered PTS one of them, when they bit some children on the face unprovoked. She didn't tell much details, just that the dogs went to the children from under the table and bit them on their face (marked but didn't draw blood) even in her presence. She said that she didn't want to risk it.

    I had to comment on what she wrote, not exactly coz of her case, but rather coz her posts were promoting the idea that any dog that bit or snapped for the first time should be given up or even PTS.

    First, dogs has teeth. With better temperament (specially through selective breeding), they might have less chance to ever show aggression such as growling or snapping, but aggression is an instinctual response that can be shown for many reasons (territorial defense, fear, resource guarding, and so on) and a natural thing in dogs. Not to say that aggression is acceptable, but a person that gets a dog should keep in mind of such possibility and be prepared to know how to address it, and not abandon every single dog for any snapping/biting that comes to happen. If we don't want to risk it, we just don't get a dog.

    Also, I didn't comment much on her situation since she didn't say much about it, but I find it hard to believe that she was experienced enough and dealt with the situation the best way (I didn't say this there since it's not a dog forum). First, owners should be careful when they allow their dogs to interact with unfamiliar people, specially children in the first times. Maybe they are well behaved when they are with their owners, but they might get fearful or territorial when they see unfamiliar people. This can be dealt by socialization, or being more careful when meeting new people. But these dogs were around the children and they bit from under the table.
    Also, one might say it's unprovoked. I find this a frequent reason for dog bites and attacks from inexperienced people who usually misses the crucial signs.

    IMO, I wouldn't give up my dogs just for the first time small offense. Being my owner, it's my responsibility to understand my dogs and be able to predict their behaviors and reaction for a certain extend, and then keep other people safe. Also, it's my responsibility to acknowledge dogs' nature and instincts, and know how to educate them accordingly. This is not a full blown attack or extreme case, just a bite and it was their first time. Was it really a lost case? Should they really be given up for the sake of not risking anymore?

    There's always a risk when getting dogs. Socialization and habituation, as well as training minimizes risk. Getting a dog that has good temperament through selective breeding also helps. But if we want 0% risk, we might not want to have dogs at all.


    I'm sorry for all this rant, it's just kind of upsetting, seeing posts promoting that dogs should be given up for the slightest aggression they show right away...

    What are you guys' thoughts?? I don't know what to say to that person anymore, or for people who thinks that way...

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    Senior Member lil_fuzzy's Avatar
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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    I don't agree with "giving up" a dog who bites. Give it up to who? Rehome it? It would be very difficult to rehome a dog with a bite history. The only option if you no longer want the dog is PTS imo.

    I don't think I would have my dogs PTS if they bit a child, but I'm not going to judge people who do. I have the time and know-how to deal with a dog with issues, but not everyone does. And not everyone is willing to risk it. What if you have a dog who has issues with babies crawling on the floor, and you happen to have a baby? Obviously you can't risk your child, but should you then keep the dog outside or locked up at all times for several years until the kid is older? How is that fair on the dog? And people with babies usually have limited time and energy, so you can't just say they should re-train the dog or manage it and be able to spare the time while their baby is sleeping to spend with the dog etc.

    It's too simplistic to say it's wrong to PTS a dog who bites. And there's a difference between a dog biting for a very clear reason, like a toddler approaching the dog with a big, juicy bone, and there's biting for no apparent reason (at least to the untrained eye). It's easy to say it's wrong to PTS a dog who defended itself or guarded a bone and the owner was stupid and didn't supervise the kid. But when all the kid did was sit at the table and eat and the dog hung around and then suddenly bit the kid? Of course there could be more to it than that, but I would say any dog who does that has some serious issues.

    And not everyone can afford to work with a behaviourist. So many different factors come into it and you can't just say "it's wrong" or "it's lazy" or "they don't care about their dog".

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Of course, there might be many reasons that might be legitimate, but shouldn't an owner be conscious of the possibility of a dog biting, and then know how to avoid it (training and socialization plus management) and how to deal with it if it ever happens? Giving up a dog just for the first small offense doesn't make sense.

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    Senior Member lil_fuzzy's Avatar
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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Biting kids in the face unprovoked isn't a small offense imo. Of course they may have been provoked and there could be more to the story that she didn't tell you, but if she thought it was unprovoked when in fact it wasn't, chances are she doesn't know how to deal with it. Either she didn't socialise or train the dogs properly, she didn't manage them properly around the kids or she didn't manage the kids properly around the dogs.

    My dogs have some issues too, but I can't imagine any scenario where they would bite a kid in the face. That would take some extreme provocation to get to that point. Any dog who would do that must have some problem I think. Of course the problem probably isn't the dog's fault, like lack of socialisation, but that doesn't mean it's not a serious issue.

    I think I would have some serious thinking to do about my dogs if they bit a kid unprovoked. Not saying I would PTS, but if it was my own kid I might consider it, for the safety of the kid. If it was someone else's kid, they might demand that the dog be PTS. If they didn't, chances are my dogs would be declared dangerous, which in my country/state means I would be paying hundreds of dollars per year to register the dog, and it would have to wear a muzzle and a dangerous dog collar in public. They would never again be allowed around kids, never again allowed on any training grounds, I would always be suspicious of them around people, and what if I wanted kids one day?

    I think the incident you described is pretty serious.

    Yes, everyone should research basic dog things before they get a dog, but unfortunately that doesn't always happen.

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    By small offense I meant it was a simple one time bite that did not draw blood. It could be a kid, or even an adult. I wasn't seeing it as the human's perspective, but rather the level of aggression. If we see it in a human point of view, then it is as you said, a serious offense. (maybe "offense" is the wrong word)

    I'm not sure if those kids where theirs, I get a hunch that the kids were not theirs but rather as guests, and the dogs were unfamiliar with them. If that's really true, then was it really necessary to give the dogs up? Although maybe the kids come around often.

    If it was my own kid, I would also have some serious thinking too. Yet it would never be so lightly as "they have to go or maybe even PTS for the smallest display of aggression even if it's just for the first time, for whatever reason". I'd think if I could really educate my dog out of it, I would supervise and avoid the possibility as much as I can while he gets educated (based on what I know about aggression and my own dog's temperament), and so on. Dogs might always come 2nd when it comes to safety, but they shouldn't be too easily disposable.

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    Senior Member wvasko's Avatar
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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Well truth be told it's a personal decision, if it truly is an unprovoked bite it's pretty tough when gambling with children.
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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Was just rereading the comments on the other forum, and while not sure what happened to one of the dogs, what happened to the other dog is that he lunged out from a table and bid a friend's child on the face, when the child was just walking across a room, while the owner was present.

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Its a gamble having a dog period. You never have control and you can never train for every situation. My thoughts it's what you do when something like this happens, truly determines the future of the dogs behavior. What is the full picture of learning from the event start to end. You freak out or beat into the dog over this and might as well hang it up for now having a dog that is fearful of humans putting their face into theirs. (Fear is the Mind Killer)

    trying to visualize a terrier coming out from under a table and bitting a child in the face while sitting at the table? Could be possible if the child leaned over in the chair into the dogs face from a high position. Dogs don't miss and when they do it saids a lot for the better of the dog. should be an eye opener for the owner that training in that area is needed. But if the owner is set in the negative of the behavior they are not capable of helping the dog, the dog is better in a different home then with that owner

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Quote Originally Posted by sheep View Post
    Was just rereading the comments on the other forum, and while not sure what happened to one of the dogs, what happened to the other dog is that he lunged out from a table and bid a friend's child on the face, when the child was just walking across a room, while the owner was present.
    but you can't say what happens in some ones home.. When we were kids and go with my parents to their grown up friends house. My parents would drive and see that their friends had dogs. My dad would turn around and look at us and say, they have dogs DON'T get them in trouble, they are not your dogs and you don't know what they know. I loved the world when people saw dogs as mindless animals and not the fluffy cute family members. that is not a discredit to the dogs intelligence, but it made it easier for humans to be more mindful.

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Quote Originally Posted by PatriciafromCO View Post
    but you can't say what happens in some ones home.. When we were kids and go with my parents to their grown up friends house. My parents would drive and see that their friends had dogs. My dad would turn around and look at us and say, they have dogs DON'T get them in trouble, they are not your dogs and you don't know what they know. I loved the world when people saw dogs as mindless animals and not the fluffy cute family members. that is not a discredit to the dogs intelligence, but it made it easier for humans to be more mindful.
    Of course nowadays it's the kids who have become mindless animals.

    Oh my I'm probably gonna get in trouble now.
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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Would I rehome my dog/put him to sleep if he bit a kid in the face and didn't draw blood? No. Maybe I'd feel differently if it were MY kid and lived in the same home as the dog (although I'd still not PTS after one offence of level 3 or below), but in this situation, the kid was a guest. This was a first offense and the dog showed enough bite inhibition that it didn't draw blood even on the thin delicate skin of a child's face. If I were truly concerned, I'd bring an expert in to evaluate the dog. No matter what, when the child visited, the dog would be crated and the child told to leave the dog alone. I seriously doubt that this bite was unprovoked... there was probably some fear or resource guarding going on.

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Quote Originally Posted by PatriciafromCO View Post
    Its a gamble having a dog period. You never have control and you can never train for every situation. My thoughts it's what you do when something like this happens, truly determines the future of the dogs behavior. What is the full picture of learning from the event start to end. You freak out or beat into the dog over this and might as well hang it up for now having a dog that is fearful of humans putting their face into theirs. (Fear is the Mind Killer)
    Exactly... We as owners should be aware that there is always a risk, and know how to avoid or deal with possible situations. We might not all be experts, but at least the basics of management and training.

    Quote Originally Posted by PatriciafromCO View Post
    trying to visualize a terrier coming out from under a table and bitting a child in the face while sitting at the table? Could be possible if the child leaned over in the chair into the dogs face from a high position. Dogs don't miss and when they do it saids a lot for the better of the dog. should be an eye opener for the owner that training in that area is needed. But if the owner is set in the negative of the behavior they are not capable of helping the dog, the dog is better in a different home then with that owner
    After rereading the posts from the other person, the terrier was actually coming from under the table, and then bit the child that was passing through a room. I'm not sure of the details, but it could be that the dog that was not familiar with the kid was perceiving the kid as a threat and acting territorial. Maybe what the other person meant as unprovoked is that there were no prior perceivable signs that could show any hostility towards the child. The dog might have avoided the kid but not seemed insecure, and then lunged when he saw him passing by.

    Quote Originally Posted by PatriciafromCO View Post
    but you can't say what happens in some ones home.. When we were kids and go with my parents to their grown up friends house. My parents would drive and see that their friends had dogs. My dad would turn around and look at us and say, they have dogs DON'T get them in trouble, they are not your dogs and you don't know what they know. I loved the world when people saw dogs as mindless animals and not the fluffy cute family members. that is not a discredit to the dogs intelligence, but it made it easier for humans to be more mindful.
    When I was a kid too, my parents used to tell us how we should be careful when seeing dogs that we are not familiar with. Also, the adults that are owners would be careful about their dogs wondering around guests, specially children. And no one ever talked about considering of PTSing a dog for a bite. If a dog ever bit a child once, what they do would be management, by restricting the dog's freedom while guests are around. That was how things were back then, everyone basically acknowledged dogs as dogs, were forgiving about a bite or so, but were careful after anything happened and of course before (not letting too much freedom around guests until dog proved that he was safe enough, but even so, never around young children and even unsupervised).

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Quote Originally Posted by lil_fuzzy View Post
    And people with babies usually have limited time and energy, so you can't just say they should re-train the dog or manage it and be able to spare the time while their baby is sleeping to spend with the dog etc.
    Huh? Isn't that what should happen? Dog has an issue - issue needs to be worked on.

    To me, it's called owning a dog just like having a child. Both need to be taught and raised and if there's issues, they need to be dealt with.


    Quote Originally Posted by lil_fuzzy View Post
    It's too simplistic to say it's wrong to PTS a dog who bites. And there's a difference between a dog biting for a very clear reason, like a toddler approaching the dog with a big, juicy bone, and there's biting for no apparent reason (at least to the untrained eye).
    If I gave up Wally the instant he snapped at someone/something I wouldn't have him now. Of course, he was fearful and instead of saying "get this dog away from me", I worked with him - not being a professional of any kind, and now he's wonderful. I can't afford to work with a behaviorist, so I looked up "how to help fearful dogs" read links, learned counterconditioning (which isn't hard, seriously), and attacked the problem - and I work an average of 14 hrs a day.

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    Senior Member sassafras's Avatar
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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    It depends entirely on the context, I can't make a blanket "yes" or "no" answer to the question in the title as asked.

    I am always suspicious of "unprovoked" bites involving children, however. I think it's rare that a bite is truly unprovoked, more likely that the adults in the situation don't observe or recognize what the provocation was. And children are not always able to articulate exactly what happened, plus they aren't always truthful especially if they realized they did something wrong.

    Dogs who are nervous or fearful of children, or children who tease dogs, are a situation where a lot of dogs get the short end of the stick, IMO when it's something that I personally would address or even simply manage (especially for visiting children, there's no reason for them to be around my dog at all.)

    A colleague told me a story many years ago about a dog that was presented for euthanasia for biting a child in the family "unprovoked," which was very uncharacteristic behavior for this dog but the owner didn't want to take any chances. At the last minute, the technician holding the dog for the injection was petting it and noticed that she felt something weird in the dog's ear. There were something like three or four staples in the dog's ear. Which means that poor dog didn't bite until the fourth or fifth one. The dog went to a new home after that IIRC. When I was a child, one of our neighbors had this wonderful, easygoing black lab. The kind that just laid by their door all day and all of us kids would visit him and pet him and stuff. One day when he was getting fairly on in years, I leaned over him and hugged him really hard, and he snapped at me. Thank goodness his owner realized that was, in fact, "provoked" and instead of getting mad at either me or him just explained what had happened and that I shouldn't do that again. Two situations where the owner's perception of what is "provoked" AND reliance on a child's description of what happened that could have gone very badly for the dogs under a zero tolerance policy.

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Quote Originally Posted by wvasko View Post
    Of course nowadays it's the kids who have become mindless animals.

    Oh my I'm probably gonna get in trouble now.
    Please, I thoroughly agree with you.

    Look, a dog who truly does bite "unprovoked" should be put to sleep. But 999 times out of 1,000, dogs don't bite for no reason. The fact of the matter is, people expect their dog to be a stuffed animal and take anything the kids throw at it and also train their dog not to give warning. How many times have we, on this board, heard the following two statements:

    1. I can't teach my kids not to bother the dog.

    and

    2. I'm not going to have some dog growling at me!

    Congratulations, you just ensured your children will be bitten with no warning. Good for you.

    I was bitten in the face by the family dog. I totally deserved it, which my mother made sure to tell me. Repeatedly. Guess what I never did again? Put my face right next to a dog eating his dinner, that's what.
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    Senior Member wvasko's Avatar
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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    I can't teach my kids not to bother the dog.
    Yes indeed I guess in most cases they must think the dog is actually smarter than the kids (most cases true) because they don't want the dog to bother the kids. Hmmmm, a conundrum
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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Unprovoked attacks can be caused by neurological issues, which is rare. But in this case, maybe the fact that it was the dog that went to the child walking around that made the owner think it was unprovoked. But territorial aggression can be the reason behind.

    I wish that less people would go for the Disney fluffy thing too, it's important to realize that dogs are living beings. And of course, stop thinking that dogs should be in complete submission at the mercy of the kids or anyone else. It's unacceptable for a dog to bite, but it's not worth the risk, and then animals do deserve a bit of respect.

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Was just rereading the comments on the other forum, and while not sure what happened to one of the dogs, what happened to the other dog is that he lunged out from a table and bid a friend's child on the face, when the child was just walking across a room, while the owner was present.
    I would consider PTS for that. If it was my kid... then yes, probably the dog would be PTS or (hopefully) placed in another home without kids where the new owner was fully apprised of the situation and willing to retrain the issue. It sounds like the dog was guarding the 'den' under the table. I don't have the experience to handle an "aggressive" dog and keep children safe, way too risky. If it wasn't my kid though I would just triple safety measures with the dog and start retraining with a behaviourist (probably).

    A child's safety (mine or anyone else's) comes before the dog. Only when you can ensure the first should retraining the second be considered IMO.

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    I think every snap or bite needs to be evaluated individually. There are so many factors that need to be considered, that making a blanket statement just doesn't work.

    When I was young (11 or 12), I was on the receiving end of an "unprovoked" dog bite. After learning more about dogs, I can understand that the bite was in many ways very predictable. The dog was a GSD puppy (maybe 9-11 months) and probably not from the best of situations (SPCA or BYB). The family was a single mom with two pre-teen boys and I know that the dog didn't get nearly the physical or mental exercise he needed.

    One afternoon, he was tethered outside and "supervised" by two 13-year-old boys who were setting off firecrackers. When I sped past the yard on my roller skates, he likely was already agitated (scared? anxious?). I must have seemed like a giant toy to him rolling past, body swaying and arms flailing. I don't think I stood a chance. Some poor doctor had to go to the ER on Super Bowl Sunday to stitch up my arm.

    I do think that the dog either had an unstable temperament or quickly associated me with the scary firecrackers. Two days after the bite, I walked past his house on my way home from school and he attacked me again. That time, thanks to a heavy coat, there was no broken skin or stitches involved. After that incident, the family rehomed the dog.

    Quote Originally Posted by wvasko View Post
    Yes indeed I guess in most cases they must think the dog is actually smarter than the kids (most cases true) because they don't want the dog to bother the kids. Hmmmm, a conundrum
    We lived next to a family where the dog was infinitely smarter than anyone else in the house. The parents would allow their young child to roam the neighborhood unsupervised; it was the dog that kept the kid from wandering into the busy street.

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    Re: Should dogs be given up the first moment they bite/snap?

    Quote Originally Posted by aiw View Post
    I would consider PTS for that. If it was my kid... then yes, probably the dog would be PTS or (hopefully) placed in another home without kids where the new owner was fully apprised of the situation and willing to retrain the issue. It sounds like the dog was guarding the 'den' under the table. I don't have the experience to handle an "aggressive" dog and keep children safe, way too risky. If it wasn't my kid though I would just triple safety measures with the dog and start retraining with a behaviourist (probably).

    A child's safety (mine or anyone else's) comes before the dog. Only when you can ensure the first should retraining the second be considered IMO.
    Hmm but if PTS would be considered right after the first bite/snap on your own children no matter the circumstances, then wouldn't it be better to just not have dogs at all while you have young children at home? After all, there's no 100% safety when we bring a live being with teeth home, and PTS it for not being able to deal with it or is too afraid of risks doesn't really make it safe (there's always the possibility of the 1st bite).

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