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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been looking for a dog and found one that I'd like to adopt however I have a concern and would like to seek for advices.

The dog I found is 1 year old Havanese, he looks just like an old dog I had over 30 years ago that we loved very much. The shelter indicated that this dog "bites and needs a lot of patience and training to overcome this"

My wife and I work mostly from home so we have a lot of time to work with him. Havanese breed is quite a small dog and we have no other pet, our kids are 18+ so we're not too concerned with the dog hurting other animals or children.

However I'm wondering if this dog can be trained to stop biting? I also don't mind taking him to obedience school if it's possible to stop him from biting. Someone told me that a dog that bites will bite again regardless, not sure if that's true. It's been very difficult to find one that matches our preference that's why I hesitate to let go of this opportunity.

Please advice. Thanks.
 

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That is a really tough call with limited information.

I am assuming the shelter means bites agains humans versus other dogs? Those are very different circumstances

At 1 year old, you could potentially be seeing a dog that just never learned bite inhibition and grabs and nips over eagerly. Like, does the dog bite at a hand holding a treat or redirect onto a person if playing too wildly at tug? This is often, but not always, trainable.

It could be fear based in which maybe a mix of time, training and medication could help but maybe never 100% cure

It could be genetic aggression in which case no training or time will help, only management for life

Does the dog have an actual "bite record" meaning a documented bite with injury against a human? In many locations, there are two strike rules that can force euthanasia for a second injury causing bite or force special containment measures like muzzles and 6 foot fences with autolocking gates. It may seem extreme for a small breed dog but even a small dog can severely injure someone if he bites the wrong spot or its a child or frail person.
An injury bite record may also be required to be disclosed to your homeowners insurance and they may raise premiums or drop coverage.

If no actual injury has occurred AND you are willing to actively manage the dog's access to strangers, guests and potential grandchildren for the next 15 years AND engage with a certified animal behaviorist (which is NOT the same as "obedience school"), then look into the details more and meet the dog.
 

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The dog definitely can be trained but you would have to put a lot of work into it. Before making the decision I would advise you to do tons of research on the topic to see if its something you would commit to. You would need to understand why the dog is biting (most of the time its out of fear) and learn how to approach the problem in the right way. If the problem is fear then you would have to work with counter conditioning and if the problem is lack of socialization you would have to slowly introduce new things to your dog.
 
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Sorry @Shell didn't see that you posted
 

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The dog definitely can be trained but you would have to put a lot of work into it. Before making the decision I would advise you to do tons of research on the topic to see if its something you would commit to. You would need to understand why the dog is biting (most of the time its out of fear) and learn how to approach the problem in the right way. If the problem is fear then you would have to work with counter conditioning and if the problem is lack of socialization you would have to slowly introduce new things to your dog.
Good mention of counter conditioning.

I don't have a lot of experience with small breed dogs, but I think one common cause of (fear based) biting is getting picked up without having been acclimated to it and trained to accept it.

While I disagree that it can "definitely" be trained, I am fully in agreement that finding out the background and the actual bite incident circumstances is massively important.

Were there kids in the prior household? Was the dog obtained from a puppy mill after 6 months of being kenneled?
Etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I've sent a message to the shelter asking for more information about the "bites". I was asking if there's any history of bite incidences? who/what did he bite? how severe were the bites? why was he surrendered (from biting owner I suspected)? etc. but I haven't got a response back yet.
 

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I've sent a message to the shelter asking for more information about the "bites". I was asking if there's any history of bite incidences? who/what did he bite? how severe were the bites? why was he surrendered (from biting owner I suspected)? etc. but I haven't got a response back yet.
You said on another site that you were going to keep looking. Four hours before you posted here.

Never mind. You are, of course, free to seek out opinions from different sources.

I took on a chihuahua with a bite history. The little girl who's dog she was let it slip, along with the fact that at some point, the dog's leg had been broken. She's also bitten me once.

To me, being bitten by my dog gave me a ton of valuable information - namely, her bite inhibition and what causes it.
Bite inhibition - excellent. More noise than teeth.
Cause: A mix of fear and pain :(. In my case, it was essential post operative handling that led to the bite (mammary tumour removal and then spay, and I was doing everything in my power to keep her away from those stitches - she's too small for an Elizabethan collar and kept wriggling out of baby grows :rolleyes: ). In the six months since then, she's never come close to biting me.

A dog with a bite history may need less provocation than one with no bite history, but in my experience (Honey's the 2nd dog I've had with bite history), they, dare I say it? Can be safer than a dog without;
If they have good to excellent bite inhibition, and
If the situation behind the bite is understood, acknowledged, and steps are taken to ensure the dog never gets that stressed again, and
If the owner has the kind of household (adult only) to minimise risk, and
If the owner knows the signs to look out for and
If the owner can keep the dog away from kids who think it's Ok to run up to the dog, especially from behind.

So get as much information as you can as to the cause of the bite and what injuries, if any, were inflicted. Look up the Canine ladder of aggression, because if it's fear based (and not simply over eagerness to grab that treat or toy), there's a ton of steps the dog has learned not to bother with before going for the bite.

I'm living proof that it can work. But I've also seen it go wrong. My dad's dog bit him, three times on the hand, each time enough to draw blood. The third time, the dog went back to the shelter.
 

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Just because a dog has bitten doesnt mean it will bite again for sure BUT if they bite and that action gets the result they require eg you try to take something from them, they bite, you let got of the item, they keep item = biting was a successful tactic. They will employ this tactic again for sure, its an easy way to get what you want and that includes food , toys, a blanket, not being picked, up not having your collar on, not being bathed etc etc...

Can a dog who has bitten be re-trained or taught not to bite?
That depends on the dog, the trainer, the reason for the bite ie was it for resource or fear or in retailiation to abuse?

Understand just because you had a dog before and loved it does not mean that this dog is going to love you.
This dog is a whle other story and you are starting from 0. And 30 year old dog knowledge is like giving Alexander G .Bell a smartphone and expecting him to know how to work it... Things have changed so much since then its history.

Its great that you say you have time and are willing to put in the work but to be honest unless you know more and find out the reasons for the bite I would also say keep looking and leave this little one to someone more up to date and experienced in dealing with problems.
 

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I've sent a message to the shelter asking for more information about the "bites". I was asking if there's any history of bite incidences? who/what did he bite? how severe were the bites? why was he surrendered (from biting owner I suspected)? etc. but I haven't got a response back yet.
Good idea see if you can get better information.

Although its good to bear in mind that some people lie when surrendering a dog either to make it sound worse but in many cases to make it sound better and just get rid asap.
 
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