Fear biting happens out of absolute panic, and is not the same as a dominate aggressive bite. A fear biter is not generally a fierce dog but rather an extremely scared dog.
This type of dog biting happens when a fearful or panicked dog has no other way to escape or express himself, and sadly usually caused by well meanings humans.
When a dog owner or other human see a clearly scared dog instead of backing off and giving him space they try to comfort him with the intention of letting the dog know there is nothing for him to be afraid of.
They get too close and this may push an already anxious dog over the top, and they use the only defense available.
Fear biting is usually proceeded by growling, if their warning is not heeded snapping or biting is their only other defense.
Submissive dogs who lack confidence or ones that have not been properly socialized become nervous and on edge when faced with unfamiliar situations or people.
Posture Warning Signs
- Tail tucked, if docked their back legs will crouch down and they will tuck their haunches
- Hunching in their lower back
- Ears will be flat against their head
- A slight crouch with bent elbows
- There may be excessive panting
- They may yawn to help reduce their tension
- In extreme cases they will avoid direct eye contact
Why Some Dogs Turn To Fear-biting?
All dogs go through what is called fear-imprint stages. The first one is when they are around eight weeks old, the second occurs at somewhere around fourteen weeks.
If a puppy is frightened by something during this time and the owner doesn't properly deal with his fear by teaching him not to be frightened of it, he could develop a life-long phobia.
An example would be a puppy whose been frightened by a repairman showing up suddenly at the door, and then isn't quickly calmed and reassured may develop a long-standing phobia of men who resemble that repairman. This may relate to men with beards, men wearing overalls, or men carrying toolboxes.
Is it Breed Specific?
Not all dogs are fearful or shy, some breeds are more prone to anxiety than others, such as Border Collies or Great Danes. Some of the toy breeds who are emotionally dependent on close human contact may develop phobias and excessive shyness and may begin biting.
An abused or abandoned dog could very likely develop fears and anxiety problems if they are not treated properly.
Shy Fearful Dogs
Dog shyness and fear biting are different although one may lead to the other. Some dogs will naturally show signs of shyness in unfamiliar situations or environments, this is not a sign he will become a biter.
With careful training and acclimatization fearful dog behavior can by improved, but occasionally despite your best efforts he may remain fearful his entire life and be prone to fear biting.
Your dog cannot be forced to overcome his fears, but with patience, consistency and persistence you may be able to help him. Rough treatment such as shouting and anger due to frustration usually make things worse.
For more information on problem behavior in dogs, check out Secrets to Dog Training. It’s a comprehensive training manual for dog-owners, and covers just about everything you could ever want to know about raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted dog: from canine psychology to dog whispering to preventing and handling problem behaviors to obedience training, Secrets to Dog Training has it all covered.
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