Reasons Why Your Dog Bites: Fear

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One of the most misunderstood reasons why your dog bites is fear. A fear response in dogs is a combination of emotional, physical, and physiological responses designed to help protect your dog from harm. When fear is one of the reasons your dog bites, it can be because it is afraid of certain sounds, sights, smells, or touches. And though these sensory things may make sense to us as causing fear, it can often be the generalized fear that causes us to misunderstand why your dog bites.

Generalized Fear

Generalized fear comes from a fear response to a sight, sound, smell, or touch that we, as people can understand. However sometimes when those things occur, causing fear in a dog, there may be some other sight, sound, smell, or touch that happens at the same time that your dog then associates with that fear. This is why you may not be able to understand the reason why your dog bites, because the fear seems so irrational to you.

Responses to Fear

Conscious living things, like people and dogs, have built in responses to fear and also learned responses to fear. The action associated with a generalized fear is a learned response, and so is seeking human comfort, urination, pacing, running, and aggression. However, there are instinctual response in our dogs and us alike. The first instinct of a dog will tell them to take flight when facing a fear. Often dogs will bite out of fear because they may feel cornered, like they cannot get away.

Training Takes Time

If one of the reasons why your dog bites is fear, then you need to realize that training your dog not to bite will take time and commitment from you. Patience really is a virtue when training your dog not to bite, because their fear may be very ingrained. A dog functions at the level of a two to three year old, so reasoning is not natural to him or her. If it was, then your dog would probably not be biting out of fear. They would be able to reason their way through the fearful situation. Instead, desensitization and conditioning will need to occur to break the connection between the fear and the biting behavior.

Desensitization Training

Desensitization training to curb biting behavior is a little different for sounds, sights, and smells as it is when humans are the source of your dog's fear. This is why is it important to understand exactly what is causing the fear in your dog. Both trainings begin with teaching your dog to do a sit-stay at your side, but for sound you need to train your dog to sit-stay for 20 minutes, while for fear of people you need to train for a 10 minute sit-stay.

When one of the reasons your dog bites is fear of some thing, you need to have that particular thing readily available and have control over it. If it is a sound, you may need to get a recording of it and make sure that recording elicits the fear response. Your training sessions will need to be 40 to 50 minutes, 2 to 7 days per week.

You will begin by having your dog lay down and stay. Then produce the stimulus at a low interval so that it barely raises your dog's attention. Then gradually increase the stimulus, rewarding your dog each time they have no fear response. If your dog does show fear response, stop training and start up again later with the sound, sight, or smell at a lower intensity. Train in different places with different people, but anytime you change any factor in your training, make sure you go back to the lowest intensity.

When Your Dog Fears People

Training for fear of people is a little different. You need to first identify the type of people causing the fear response. When your dog bites out of a people-related fear, training is imperative for the protection of others and your dog.

Take your dog to a "safe" area where they are not likely to show fear. Then have the dog sit-stay next to you while you allow a person they know to approach. When the person is twelve feet from you, award your dog. Then have them wave their arms around. If your dog shows no fear reaction, reward him or her. Keep having the person do this as they gradually come in close enough to touch your dog. Then have them try the exercise with funny clothes and movements.

Finally, when your dog is performing well, take him or her to the more threatening location and begin the training. If at any time your dog shows a fear reaction, you need to take a 10 minute break by walking away and ignoring your dog, These trainings need to occur for 30 minutes, twice a day.

When one of the reasons your dog bites is out of fear, training can become very important. The training requires much patience, because we all know how hard it is to face our fears. With dogs it is no different. However, when fear is causing your dog to bite, training is needed so that you protect your dog and other people.



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