Help! My dog bit my neighbor. Now what?

United States
April 11, 2010 1:19pm CST
I volunteer with a local animal rescue organization. I used to be a "foster mom" for dogs, but about 2 years ago I got this foster dog that sort of attached himself to me, and would NOT connect with anyone else. So... I adopted him. He has gotten much better. He quickly learned to love my mother and my father. He loves small children. And he learned to love my two roommates. But people in general, he just doesn't like them. *Until today, he had NEVER BITTEN ANYONE.* He would bark bark bark at strangers, but the second they stepped closer, he would run away. He is very very fast and would never get close enough to anyone to ever bite. Today, he was in the back yard, and the neighbor started to follow us in from the driveway, and he bit her leg. He put a hole in her pants and broke the skin, but it wasn't anything serious, just looks like it'll bruise. My dog, Theo, is totally up-to-date on all of his shots, and the neighbor, she's fine, says "dogs will be dogs". But I'm worried about Theo now. I don't want this kind of thing to happen again. Is he on a downward slope, getting meaner and meaner/braver and braver? Did she just catch him off guard because he didn't know she was right behind us and didn't have time to run away? Any suggestions/comments?
1 person likes this
9 responses
@urbandekay (18308)
12 Apr 10
This is not dominance but fear aggression, his initial unfriendliness, loving small children that pose no threat and running away are clear indicators of this. The neighbour invaded his territory and being scared he bit once. Work on building his confidence with strangers. all the best urban
1 person likes this
@jazzsue58 (2668)
11 Apr 10
When a dog does that, it means they've adopted the role of the pack leader - a bad sign. The leader has got to be you. That means ignoring the dog when it wants attention (sometimes); not feeding it scraps etc. Somehow, you've got to claw back "pack responsibility." It may be you've got a "one man dog." If you have a lot of people, all making a fuss of the dog, taking turns to feed it etc it may be confused. It's taken itself on as the leader of your little "pack" cos no-one else has. It's easily cured - you just need a bit of animal psychology. Someone must accept a leadership role in the household i.e. become "leader of the pack". That way, the only person allowed to bark and snap at the neighbours will be you!
@uath13 (8204)
• United States
11 Apr 10
Good answer, I was going to say the same thing. There needs to be some serious training here of both the dog & the owner.
1 person likes this
• United States
13 Apr 10
I don't need for you to copy + paste from Cesar Millan's script. He's great with dogs, but he's also an entertainer. His big bucks come from his reality television show and his popularity as a result of it. His strategies won't necessarily work for every dog, and if they didn't, they certainly wouldn't put it on television. My dog's just scared. I know he's scared because whenever someone shows up unexpectedly, he barks, runs and hides, and his anal sacs empty. So I know when he's scared. Because I can smell it.
@gabs8513 (48710)
• United Kingdom
12 Apr 10
Hi Jeb He is a rescue Dog and they take a long time to recover My Little Gissi is a rescue Dog he has bitten me 3 times because I made a wrong move but straight away he was sorry, it is something that happens It has taken me 4 years to get him to the loving happy little Fellow he is now Theo could have seen your Neighbour as a Threat or she could have moved wrong or like you say it startled him You need to let Theo know if Strangers are coming in you need to talk to him when they come in, telling him it is ok You also need to warn the People and explain to them it might be a good Idea to get him a Mussel and when you know Strangers are coming in put the Mussel on him, but still talk to him and explain that the Person is aloud in After some time he will realise but even if he doesn't you have the Mussel to fall back to when you have strangers coming in Good luck with him, try to understand him, it must have scared him to see someone walk in behind you that he knows does not live there
• United States
13 Apr 10
All of my friends know the drill. Call when you're almost here so I can put him in a room. Then once they're in and sitting down, I let him out. Don't stand up suddenly. etc etc. But I had already gone inside, and thought my mother would have the sense not to let a stranger in the yard when he's already riled up and excited. Thanks for your compassionate response. :o)
@speakeasy (4215)
• United States
11 Apr 10
Actually, there are several reason this could have happened. You said that before he always ran away from strangers. This meant he was afraid of them and he trusted you to protect yourself. The range of possibilities include: 1) He now thinks he has to protect you from perceived threats. 2) He is so afraid that he fears he will be followed if he retreats; so, he is trying to get in the first bite. 3) He feels so secure that he can misbehave without any punishment from you; so, he is "bullying" the "intruder". 4) He could have a tumor. You did not specify what breed or mix he is. Some breeds are susceptable to brain tumors and that will make them start to become agressive. If this is the case, his behavior will only get worse. To figure out what is going on, I would recommend taking him to a vet. They can give him a full check up and make sure nothing physical is going on and if this is a behavioral problem they can either help or refer you to an expert who can assist you.
• United States
13 Apr 10
Haha, well it's not number 4. The vet knows his issues. This time last year the vet actually prescribed him some anti-anxiety medication because in his natural state he was way too nervous to even possible train. The medicine was just a temporary thing to get him to a trainable state. While he was on it he started to do well. That's when he really started to like kids, he would come on the sofa even with a stranger on it, and I could walk him a couple of blocks without him tucking his tail under and dragging me back home. Now that he's off he still likes kids, and will still sit next to strangers, but no other improvements.
@JenInTN (27547)
• United States
6 Mar 11
He may just be becoming used to his new home and starting to be territorial. Dogs can become very territorial. You may have to really work with him. You may even have to consider putting him up if you are having company. He must have felt threatened in some way..was he abused before you got him? He may have even thought you were being threatened. I would really watch him for a while.
@jugsjugs (13038)
12 Apr 10
I know a person whos dog has bitten a person just like your dog,the dog was nervous and a jogger was jogging behind my friend except my friend did not know until the jogger was right behind them.I think perhaps the dog may have been protecting you as i know my dog is also a protector and she has nearly bitten some one running behind me,but instead she barked thankfully.Perhaps it may have also been trying to be the pack leader aswell,as this is what dogs do.
• United States
12 Apr 10
We had a dog that supposedly "bit" the neighbors kid several years back. We have a feeling that he actually scratched the kid when the kid jumped the fence. And we were required to show all of the paperwork showing the dog was up to date on his shots, then we had to restrain the dog for 2 weeks and the dog warden would stop by to make sure we were doing so. After the two week period we were free to let him run in the backyard again. But we were required to post signs on all sides of the yard that said Beware of Dog. So I would recommend getting ready to do all of that in case the dog warden shows up at your door. Also, Theo needs some serious training. He has trust issues as well as pack issues. Contact local training facilities to see what is available in your area. He will need some long hours and real support in order to change his ways.
• United States
12 Apr 10
You are very lucky if the neighbor doesn't sue you. It really changes everything now that he bit someone. As long as he only barked it was not any big deal, but now if he ever bites again and they sue a judge will not have mercy since he did bite someone else. You may have to really keep him locked up and I would also keep some "beware of dog" warning signs.
@hofferp (4737)
• United States
11 Apr 10
I've never had a dog who's bit someone, so I'm not sure what to tell you. Except, knowing that this has happened, I'd would certainly warn people that Theo may bite. At least that gives them a caution... Now, how to retrain the dog is something I'm not sure about...but it seems to me, some re-training is in order. Sorry I couldn't help.