What would you have done about this biting dog?

Asking for opinons here, out of curiosity. Not advice - it’s not my call to make.

My husband has a Labrador Retriever. The dog is about 7 years old (old enough to have a gray muzzle). You may remember him.

Anyway, husband left for deer camp yesterday afternoon. Dutifully last night I fed the dog, and then let it out to whiz. When the dog came back inside he had a Spit Tiara. A big ropy strand of dog spit wrapped around his head. sigh.

I don’t know about you, but Dog Spit is not something I want to decorate my house with for the Holidays.

So, I tried to call the dog back outside to the patio, so I could get a dog towel and wipe this stuff off of his head before he smeared it everywhere. Well, evidently he knew something was up because he ducked into his crate. I went around to the crate and reached inside to get him by the collar and pull him out.

Then he bit me! Ouch! Made a little puncture wound in the backside of my hand (heel of the thumb area). After being pissed off for a minute I decided that I would just put the wire door on the crate, the spit would dry up overnight, and I could let him out in the morning. The door has a bracket on the inside in which his water bowl fits, so he wouldn’t be thirsty.

So I locate the wire door, and proceed to wrestle it into the crate opening, and I thought I had my fingers all on the outside but I guess I didn’t and HE BIT ME again! Sheesh!

At that point I called my son to help me and we pushed the crate against the wall and I went to bed.

What would you have done next? As I said, it’s husband’s call, so I don’t need advice, I’m just curious as to how others would have handled this. Thanks!

I would have let him know that when the head dog was away, I was next in line for pack leader and not him.

Well, has it happened before? Does the dog respect you or not? Maybe it was hurt, or sick?

What is an effective way to do this with a large dog? For example, I can roll a small dog over and place my hand on their chest, and speak sternly to them - that works. What works for a big dog? (I know, I said no advice, but I am going to file this away for future reference).

Never bitten me before. IIRC, he has attempted to bite Hubby very rarely - and only when they were in a dispute over the dog getting a bath.
I thought the dog respected me - has always been obedient for me.
Hurt or sick I don’t know - the dog had been in the house all day and had just come in from taking a whiz outside. He seemed fine, other than being adorned with a slobber halo.

I chalk the first bite up to fear - I think he was afraid I was going to do something to him, and he was in his “safety bubble” which is the crate. The second bite is the WTF? thing. My hands were not near him. He reached out to bite, that time.

Second time = Dead dog. Won’t have one that will move to me to bite. Cats are bad but I have limits for them too but different because of their instincts.


Both times you were in his safety bubble, and in dog logic he had every right to defend himself against you. The first time you reached in to “pull him out”- which is a HUGE no-no, especially if the dog has retreated into the crate on his own. The second time you were messing around with his “escape avenue” and I would lay money that you weren’t doing it calmly or quietly. You were agitated, he was scared and agitated, you clearly didn’t get the message the first time, so he bit you again.

The best way to have handled the situation would’ve been to allow the dog to go to his crate (he wasn’t going to get spit on anything in there), leave him there for a few minutes, and then call him out. He ran to the crate because something about your demeanor- tone of voice, body language, whatever- told him you were angry and he was the cause of it, so of course he went to the place where he would be safe. You pushed yourself onto him, and he responded the only way he knew how.

I’m getting the feeling that the dog bites when the people around him aren’t being attentive to his behavioral cues- if he has bitten your husband during bath disputes and it was anything like what you’re describing, it sounds to me like the people are the problem, not the dog. You can teach a dog to be obedient and do what you want them to do without being overbearing or “forcing” them, but you also have to be willing to back off during the (hopefully infrequent) times when the dog simply needs a few minutes to agree to your request.

The dog has probably already forgotten the incident, so you can’t punish him for it at this point. It’s a new day, so start over. Don’t let him into the house until you’ve checked for spit, pay attention to what he’s trying to tell you, and keep your hands out of “his” space.

Hmmm…I posted a bit hastily maybe. I hadn’t considered that he might be big enough that you couldn’t physically dominate him or as the others have mentioned, that he might have been afraid of you already. I was thinking of my dog, a lab mix, who is all about the pack hierarchy, content to be #2 but always ready to remind the cat who’s #3.

Bullshit! If that dog respected her as an alpha, he would never have bit her at all, PERIOD. He would have submitted, not decided to fight. Labs are not “skittish” dogs. Unless he’s a particularly nervous dog, or has been abused in the past, this doesn’t hold water.

Bullshit again. As I said, unless he’s been abused in the past, there should be NOWHERE he can go to be “safe” from you. You’re the alpha. You make the rules. REGARDLESS of where he’s sitting. This isn’t about hitting or hurting the dog, or making him afraid of you, it’s about how things are going to go YOUR WAY whether he’s under the table, in his crate, on the lawn, or in public on a leash.

This being said, just APPROACHING the dog is also not enough to warrant that reaction. She wasn’t yelling and screaming and flailing. THAT is an understandable stimulus to frighten a dog. Just coming up to it with the intent of handling it ISN’T.

This doesn’t sound like the dog was in an agitated state. There are ways to tell. They’ll perk their ears and their eyes will get big and their tails will go between their legs, they’ll cower, they’ll growl. I don’t see the OP giving any of those signs- into the cage, then bite, no provocation. What, she has to be careful at any moment because he might suddenly bite? And then it’s HER fault? No way! No one is going to live with a dog like this, and no one should have to.

Agree with the first part. No punishment for this event. However, what you have to do, if you’re going to live with the dog, is make sure you’re the alpha and he obeys you. Does he obey commands of yours? Are you in control of his food? Does he respect your SO? If he’s bitten your SO before, as well, there’s a problem. Does he misbehave in other ways? Bark? Jump up? Strain on the leash? Beg? Not come when you call?

I saw you don’t want advice. Okay, well, the opinion I can offer is, he didn’t want to do what you said, so he ran to the crate. You tried to get him out, and he bit you. That’s a heavy amount of disrespect and misbehaving. He obviously doesn’t respect you as his superior, and that’s hard to remedy immediately. The best way to immediately handle a biting dog is to do what you did, leave him alone. For the long term, however, if you have to continue to deal with the dog, you would have to start a program of putting yourself in authority. If your SO consents, a good way of doing this is that the dog would receive everything from YOU, not your SO. YOU feed it. YOU give it water. YOU let it in or out. YOU walk it. And you always make it wait until YOU are ready. If you did it right, and didn’t cheat, and your husband didn’t cheat, the dog would soon learn that it better respect you or go without.

You can definitely dominate a large dog. I have a 80-90lb Golden and I have done it to her. Granted, I am a big gal but I have seen a female trainer who is much smaller than me do it to large dogs as well. She’s the one who taught me.

The deal is that as soon as something happens, if you react quick enough they’re pretty easy to get down to the ground. By then you’ve scared the shit out of them and shown your dominance so it doesn’t tend to end in owner-cide.

It seems to me that the dog isn’t trained quite right - which seems to be not your fault. My dog is Queen Princess of the World but if she ever snips at me she gets a hard whack on the nose (don’t feel bad about it) and my “OMG I AM ALPHA BITCH!” voice. If she snips at another dog, she gets held up by the scruff of her neck and the same voice right in her face. If I am able (say, in a place where neither of us will get hurt by falling), she gets dominated on the ground and held until she calms down.

Sounds like hubby doesn’t have these sorts of things in place for the dog. Or if he does, he didn’t show you how to do them, too. I’ve shown both my parents what to do with my dog if she snaps, because they take care of her a lot.

With dogs, you sort of have to let bygones be bygones at this point and forget about it for now, because Poochy doesn’t remember why you’re mad at him. If you don’t get it right at the exact moment of the infracture, there’s nothing else that can be done.

However, you and hubby need to practice this sort of thing with the dog. I specifically asked my trainer what to do in this situation, after Dolly first snapped at me over a bone. She had me practice giving her a bone, asking for it back, talking sternly … and if she snapped at me, a boot to the nose. Broke my heart to do it but Dolly learned pretty quick. Now, we practice giving and taking a lot and she never EVER bites me. Gets mad, yes, but I am still the owner of the bone. Sounds like something you and hubby could work with together with the dog.

Sounds like you’re not too fond of the dog, and you don’t have any relationship - loving or otherwise. I can understand not liking a dog if that’s your thing. And you’re a fine person to look after him while hubby is away. But it’s not fair to you or the dog for you not have at least a dominant relationship with him. If he doesn’t know that you’re in charge of him too, not just Daddy, then stuff like this is going to keep happening.

Good luck!

I wouldn’t keep such a dog. I grew up with just such a dog, and do not have a dog because of it. Our family “pet” bit 5 people NOT in the family, and each time, my mother talked the victim’s families into not pressing charges. The damned dog was a menace and bit us as much as it bit others. None of my mother’s dogs have been well trained, properly disciplined dogs, but that’s a rant for another day…

I’m sorry this dog bit you (x2), perhaps you should tell your husband. I don’t buy any of that “but you were in his territory” stuff–unless the dog is seriously ill or in pain, he should not have lashed out and bitten you like that. I hope he doesn’t do that again.

That’s the thing, I’m not versed in dog logic. And yes, I was talking to him when he came in like your mom used to, when you tracked mud in the house. But, I’ve scolded him before and not been bitten.

Historically the dog has been compliant, with most everyone, even children. It does seem, though, that over time he has become less and less so. I even wondered if it was age - he started doing things which he had never been guilty of (scavenging food off of a plate on the coffee table, for example).

As far as feeding, Hubby is in charge of feeding the dogs, but I have done it many times, especially when he’s away from home.

Zipper, what you say is right - we have “no relationship”. Maybe that’s part of the thing - my being detached from him, emotionally.

I am going to respectfully disagree with you without calling “bullshit,”[sup]*[/sup] especially on your second point. Dogs should always be “safe” in their crate- it’s one of the major points of crate training, one that distinguishes it from a punishment. Imagine if you never had a place to “get away” from those around you- no place where you could rely on to retreat to when you were tired/not feeling well/scared, and no way to effectively communicate your feelings to those people. What a horrible way to live. There are many commands to teach a dog that will override any problem you could come up with if you are looking to degrade the crate as an effective “cave”- teaching “drop it” if you’re concerned the dog will steal something and take it into its crate, never to be seen again; “come now” if you want the dog to be at your side immediately No Matter What’s Going On, etc. But I stand by my belief that the crate is the dog’s sacred space, and it should be looked upon as such.

Not all dogs show the signs you’ve outlined above before biting/becoming aggressive, and we don’t know if the dog was giving off behavioral cues prior to the incident. The OP admitted she was “scolding” him- we don’t know what that’s been followed by in his history (perhaps Scolding is followed by Discipline or a Nose Bop in their house), nor do we know how the dog was positioned inside the crate before the OP reached in (perhaps he was indeed cowering with his tail between his legs).

I never said she “needs to be careful at any moment.” I do think, however, that if she chooses to not have a significant relationship/connection with this dog, who at the minimum probably weighs in at 80 pounds, she should become familiar with his behavior so she can prevent this from happening in the future. Indeed, I think all dog owners should take the time to become familiar with basic dog communication, but I realize that’s an impossible dream.

Being the alpha is not about respect as you and I define it. Being the alpha is about recognizing how to be dominant without being a bully. Good alphas watch the behaviors of the members of its pack, and adjust accordingly. Bad alphas get bitten when they push another pack member too far.
NinetyWt, I’m interested in what you said about the dog becoming less compliant. Seven is still young, but for a big dog is approaching early seniority- it’s possible that his eyesight is beginning to go (especially in low light), or his hearing. That would certainly explain his behavior. Has he had a recent vet check?

[sub]* Which, incidentally, I found quite rude- feel free to disagree with me/my training methods, but don’t expect me to suddenly sit up and change my mind because you yell a curse word at me.[/sub]

Unfortunately, he has never been to the vet. Not my dog, not my responsibility, again. I myself have two little yard dogs (totally outside dogs) which go to the vet yearly (minimum) for checkups/shots and Frontline packets. I have never understood why he hasn’t taken the dog to the vet. I think he only had his puppy shots, and that was right before Hubby got him. He does seem to have trouble with his nose lately - lots of sneezing and snorting. Perhaps he’s lost some smell ability? That would certainly be unsettling.

RE: The lack of vet care - like a lot of things, one can gently remind spouse, or set a good example, but it’s been my experience that nagging only causes friction in the relationship, and should be saved for extreme crises. I really wish he took care of his dog differently, but I can’t change it.

Thanks to everyone for replies. I believe I will talk to the vet about it too.

Oh - another thing I thought of, which may or may not have anything to do with this. This fall, on one of those blindingly bright days, I went outside to water potted flowers. When I came in, I was walking through the house before my eyes readjusted to the low light level. Our floor is black stained concrete, and the dog is dark brown. He lies in the passageway and doesn’t get up when people approach. I didn’t see him and tripped over him forcefully - fell in the process - and, although I apologized to him, I wondered if he thought that I kicked him on purpose. He kind of acted like it.

bobkitty, spot on. And props for your gentle response to what seems to me like a rude post.

Just because a dog recognizes another dog (or human) as alpha does **not **mean that it will submit in every instance. I would never stick my hand inside a crate to drag out a dog that I was not 100% sure of. And maybe not then. Depends on why he went into the crate, among other things. A dog who is fearful, and who has retreated to his “den,” may well fire a warning shot at anyone or anything that intrudes. And my guess is that a “little puncture wound,” while certainly distressing and painful, was exactly that, a warning shot. A dog who bites aggressively can cut to the bone in a heartbeat.

I don’t think dogs consider “intent” the way humans do. And I feel certain that, unless you tripped over him often, he has completely forgotten it.

Wait a minute.

You have a dog who goes outside, bites family members enough to draw blood on several occasions, and has never had a rabies shot?

You NEED to change that, spousal friction or no!


I think this happened because of a lack of relationship, too. It sounds like you and the dog are virtual strangers - you have no standing in his pack, except maybe below him. That would not be acceptable to me. When my husband and I moved in together, we both brought an adult female cat with us. His cat wasn’t trained to stay off furniture like mine was (one of my house rules is no cats where we eat or make food). It didn’t take me very long to make it extremely clear to his cat that there is only one alpha female in this house, and it is always me. I don’t think you’ve made it very clear to your husband’s dog who the alpha female in the house is. I’d fix that, if I were you.

Really? The dog *bit *you. I think you deserve a say in what kind of animals are in your home, especially when they are willing to bite you. None of my dogs have ever tried to bite me, and if they did they would only do it once, I assure you.

Frankly, this whole situation sounds fucked up to me. If a dog we owned bit anyone in my home, much less me or my husband, he’d be out the door. This concept of “his” dog, which you have no say in despite it often being your responsibility, just sounds wrong to me.

sometimes, occasionally, a dog will bite your face off http://www.flickr.com/photos/lesliek615/1048038209/

lobstermobster, I believe I’ve heard of that, yes.

Renee, I trust my husband to make a good decision - otherwise I would be sharing my thoughts/feelings with him, I assure you. One of the problems with this type of thread is that it’s difficult to adequately explain the various relationship nuances and history of things without writing a dissertation. My apologies for leaving a lot of that out of this discussion. :slight_smile:

Good points all, re: the alpha female bit. Excellent point about the rabies, Sailboat - now that I think about it, just because he’s only out for 10 minutes at a time doesn’t mean he couldn’t be bitten and infected in that short while.