People Magazine reported that the son of Kim Zolciak-Biermann (star of the Real Housewives of Atlanta) was bitten by their family dog.
The bite required surgery and was so near to the child’s eye that if it had been 1-millimeter closer the child would have been blind. The family explains that they are sharing their story as a way to educate others. Unfortunately, dog bites are fairly common and most of them are preventable.
Why do dog’s bite?
Most often dogs bite because they are anxious or afraid. Because dogs cannot say “stop” they will bite if they feel like they are threatened. If the dog is in an unfamiliar environment and strangers invade the dog’s personal space, the dog may bite. If the dog is in pain or is uncomfortable and someone touches the painful area or tries to move the dog, he may bite. If a person is close to the dog when he is startled by a loud sound or big movement, he may bite due to being scared.
Most dog bites are not “out of the blue.”
Even though people will often think a bite was unpredictable the truth is that often the dog was screaming “stop” using body language. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand dog body language.
Before a bite, a dog may signal he or she is uncomfortable by growling or snarling. Before the growling and snarling, the dog most likely pinned his or her ears back, licked lips and got very stiff. These are all signs that the dog is uncomfortable with the situation he or she is in. As humans, we may try to move away, say stop or maybe push the person away that is invading our space. Unfortunately, dogs can’t do that, and most people don’t take the time to understand their dog’s body language.
Living with a dog is like living with a person from a different culture. Most dogs do not like to be hugged or have their head pat (just like most humans do not want to be hugged by a stranger or have their head pat). Humans are more likely to lash out or yell if they are scared, just like a dog is more likely to bite if he is afraid. If you have a dog as a pet or are around dogs on a regular basis, you owe it to yourself (and the dogs) to learn how to read their body language. Just learning and respecting a dog’s body language will help reduce the number of dog bites.
Dogs are not stuffed animals. Once you understand dog body language, you also must accept that they have feelings. They have preferences, fears and likes, just like humans. If you understand body language and respect them as living beings, the likeliness of a dog bite decreases even more.
Shannon has been a pet lover all her life and a dog trainer for over 20 years. She has spent her life observing, caring for and training animals of all kinds. She has worked in the Bird Department at Marine World Africa USA, and worked as an handler and trainer for an African Serval Cat at Safari West, a private zoo in Santa Rosa, California. She has participated in behavior studies including observations of bald eagles and addax antelope through the San Francisco Zoo and Safari West.
Her education includes a Biology Degree, specializing in Zoology from Sonoma State. She is a Registered Veterinary Technician, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (Knowledge Assessed), a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.
Shannon is currently serving as President for the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians.
Shannon’s dog training philosophy revolves around force free, positive reinforcement, however, her ultimate goal is for healthy happy relationship between pets and their people. Diet, exercise, environment and training all play a significant role in achieving this goal.
Shannon is currently the owner of Ventura Pet Wellness and Dog Training Center in Ventura, CA where she works with anxious and fearful dogs privately as well as teaching agility classes (Venturapetwellness.com). Shannon has also started a training website called Truly Force Free Animal Training (trulyforcefree.com).