In a Snap

1

January 9, 2013 by Julia West

Over the years, I’ve heard people say things like a dog should never growl or never bite. I blame these misguided statements on the Disney-fication of dogs.  I have even heard the extreme version which says a dog’s teeth should never make contact with you. People expect dogs to be Lassie – or at least Marley – the lovable, loyal companion who would never dream of acting aggressive towards their beloved master.  In reality, growling and biting are part of the dog’s vocabulary and allow them to tell us valuable information. Granted, the information is more akin to four-letter words than a love poem, but information nonetheless.

Dash bit on me on Saturday because I was caught up in my own goals and ignoring all his warnings. He’s touchy about his ears and he sometimes gets some build up that makes them uncomfortable. I had spotted some gunk and decided to dispatch it with a quick tissue wipe.  Dash gave me lots of “oh, please, don’t” body language, but I ignored it because he never enjoys ear cleanings. Then he turned his head and let out a little growl. When I didn’t back off, gave me a swift bite. I didn’t enjoy it but I didn’t scold him because he wasn’t being a mean nasty beast – he was a dog who could love me while also needing me to KNOCK IT OFF!

He also didn’t do any damage. I had a small angry red line from where his canine made contact and my hand was sore for a couple of minutes. If you are going to allow your dogs their full vocabulary, you also need to teach them not to let a string of expletives fly when a simple “up yours” will get the message across. Dash and Delta have both been taught the power of their mouths and how much pressure they can apply before the humans do some cursing of their own. I actually encourage them to mouth my hands by playing a “smacking” game (something the Boxers I’ve known all seem to enjoy) and even sticking my hand straight back in their mouths while they are excited and playing hard.  They’ve learned to use their mouths appropriately, training I especially appreciate when Delta’s puppy exuberance gets the better of her and she launches at me…

Air Delta @4mos

 

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One thought on “In a Snap

  1. bealsie2 says:

    I'm currently working with a dog at the Cortland shelter who is very mouthy. About a year old, about 80 pounds – most likely something like a lab/mastiff cross. I think there's a nice dog in there under the totally untrained adolescent crap in a huge body. He has no clue that he should not be putting teeth on for no real reason. But – thank god!! – he has fantastic bite inhibition. Last Saturday my arm was soaked from wrist to elbow, but not a scratch on me. One of the other (large male) volunteers has been discussing this with him and last night he didn't put his teeth on once and even allowed us to touch him in praise, which wasn't happening before. Think Dash when I first met him, except larger and yellow.

    Like

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