By: Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, VSPDT, CBATI
Recently, I have had an increased number of calls about dog bites towards dog owners and household family members. I see this as a result of quarantine due to Covid-19. You might be wondering why the quarantine has something to do with the increased number in dog bites towards the dogs own family. Well, there are a number of reasons why this is:
- Prior to the quarantine, dog owners and families had their set routine (leaving for work, school, weekend activities etc.). The quarantine has kept everyone in, resulting in spending more time with our furry friends! Over petting, touching and even shoving your face in your dogs face more than usual may cause more stress, conflict and/or discomfort to your dog.
- Your dogs stress level might have increased as you and your family are home more. When everyone was leaving the house to go to work and school your dog had time alone to relax and decompress. Now this might not be the case as everyone is home.
- If your dog was always a resource guarder (protective or possessive of things), this behavior may have increased as a result of you and your family being home more. Again, your dog not having the alone time in the house may be causing some stress to your dog. Households with families walking around the house all day near their dogs valued items can be causing her to feel the need to protect her items more than usual. Furthermore, if your dog never displayed this behavior before, it is possible that your dog has started to as a result of the quarantine as described above.
- Families with young kids are around the dog more than usual. If the kids are over touching, grabbing or doing something to the dog that might be annoying, this could cause a bite. Furthermore, those low level resource guarders might feel the need to protect their items more, which kids typically would not understand or notice in the moment.
Here are some safety tips I recommend to consider on a regular basis, regardless of Covid-19:
- Learn and understand canine body language signals as this can help prevent incidents from occurring. Our dogs give off many communication signals when feeling uncomfortable. Here is a great article from dog trainer Victoria Stilwell. Click here.
- Avoid rough play if your dog doesn’t really like it. Typically a dog might try and avoid or move away, but this may not always be the case. Understanding canine body language is key!
- Do not leave your baby, toddler or young children alone with your dog, especially if you know your dog can become a little protective of things. Active adult supervision is important! For more tips on baby and toddler safety check out Family Paws Parent Education.
- Teaching your children how to safely interact with their dog is important. I recently had a family who was allowing their daughter to hit and kick the puppy, resulting in the puppy biting the daughter. Instead, teaching this child how to interact with the puppy through calm petting, training and helping with puppy tasks with the parent were valuable in this case.
- If your dog does not seem comfortable or unsure about your children, give your dog a safe zone without the children. This can help reduce stress and negative associations of the children. Children free safe zones may include an exercise pen, a crate in a room away from the kids, a physical barrier such as a baby gate in a quiet part of the house or bedroom.
- Do not put your dog in situations where she may be uncomfortable. You can use a safe zone for this as well. A safe zone may include a crate in another room, exercise pen, or a physical barrier such as a baby gate.
- When you give your dog a valued chew toy or stuff food puzzle, give it to them on their dog bed in the corner of the room away from everyone or better yet, maybe in another room all together! Let them enjoy their item without being bothered.
- Provide your dog with enough mental and physical enrichment. This means feeding your dog out of food puzzles, providing walks, off-leash time, play time and training.
- Speaking of training, make sure training is enjoyable and positive! Training dogs using force or fear tactics can cause a dog to bite if they feel stressed, uncomfortable or threatened. This can also cause major issues with the bond between dog and owner(s).
If your dog displays reactive or aggressive behavior, you can check out my blog post on management tips for aggressive dogs by clicking here. It is also important to note that you should hire a qualified behavior professional to help you and your dog. To learn more in-depth about Dog Bite Prevention, you can read a great article by behavior consultant Michele McLeod by clicking here.
To find a qualified professional check out these organizations:
International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer
Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, CBATI, VSPDT, TTWC, VSA-DT
Anthony De Marinis is the owner of De Marinis Dog Training & Behavior in Long Island, NY. He provides both private in-home and private online virtual training and behavior modification solutions using positive reinforcement-based methods. Anthony has 6 professional certifications which include: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Certified Graduate of distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, Certified Behavior Adjustment Trainer, Certified Victoria Stilwell Licensed Positively Dog Trainer, The Third Way Certified Trainer and is a Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer. Currently, Anthony has a young Australian Kelpie named Journey. They are learning about agility and nose work together. You can visit Anthony’s website and learn more about him and his services at: www.demarinisdogtraining.com