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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28932
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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What do I do with my mixed little dog that bites me

Customer Question

What do I do with my mixed little dog that bites me for no reason. He just bit me for the 5th time in the three years I have had him. He usually is very well behaved and lovable. Please tell me if there is any hope for him as i care about him very much.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. To answer you directly, yes, there's always hope but I need you to carefully read the following and then return to our conversation with additional information and question or concerns if you wish.
I have advanced training in canine and feline behavior and answer many of the behavior questions on this site. Let me preface my discussion by saying that you mustn't listen to anyone who purports to have specific answers concerning aggressive behavior when offered in a long-distance manner such as this conversation. The following will describe why this is so and hopefully give you a good overview of what you're dealing with.
Aggression is the most common behavioral problem for which dogs are referred to specialty counseling centers. It's also the most dangerous problem for family members to deal with, because they, visitors, or other pets may be at risk. Until owners receive appropriate counseling and understand the risks, they should be cautioned to provide safe management of the pets and to avoid situations that are likely to trigger aggressive encounters. The best way to ensure an accurate diagnosis is to combine a physical examination and appropriate diagnostic tests with a complete behavioral history, and view the dog during a typical aggressive display either directly or by video observation. Since direct observation or video taping is not always practical or safe, the behavioral consultant may need to rely entirely on the behavioral history to make the diagnosis. There are a number of criteria that are used for differentiating one type of aggression from another, including the aggressor's traits and behavior, characteristics of the target (you), and the conditions during which the aggression occurs. In formulating a treatment plan, consideration must be given to the type of aggression, the pet's temperament, and the mental and physical competence of individuals in the pet's environment. It's important to note that a pet may have a single type of aggression or there may be a number of forms of aggression in the same pet. In addition, each aggressive display may have components of more than one type of aggression, such as dominance and defensive, territorial and fear, or chase predation and defensive aggressions. There may also be learned and conditioned components in each display.
One of the most crucial aspects of working up a case of canine aggression is assessing the risk of injury that the dog poses to those in its environment. In order to accomplish this, a very complete history must be taken from all family members and others involved with the pet. Factors relating to the risk of injury the pet poses, and whether the owners can control the opportunity for interaction with target people or animals will determine if the pet should stay in the home, be rehomed, or euthanized. For instance, a large, strong dog that bites children unpredictably without inhibition in a busy home with many small children and poor supervision by adults who can't comprehend the danger of dog aggression, will pose an extremely high risk of serious injury.
What the forgoing implies is that unless my owner is highly motivated, extremely cautious, willing to spend the considerable time involved in reconditioning these dogs and solicit the assistance of a specialist veterinary behaviorist (please see, removal of the aggressive dog from the home or temporary sequestration of the dog should be considered. This is not a behavior to address unaided. Thank you for your understanding. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

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