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Dog Bite Prevention: Building Trust

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Drayton Michaels, CTC is the owner of Urban Dawgs Dog Training in Red Banks, NJ. He also holds a Certification in Dog Training and Behavior Counseling from the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers (known as “the Harvard for dog trainers”). 

How to prevent dog bites? The importance of building trust with your dog.

Dogs have an economy and in dogs economy, is food, social outlets, and some kind of access to something that they want. So, if I have food and ask my dog to do something and they do it and I pay them food, I am controlling that economy because food is money to dogs.So, if I have a lot in the bank with my dog and I don’t have any

So, if I have a lot in the bank with my dog and I don’t have any debits that really matter. Like okay, the dog gets timed out or I might remove the treat if the dog goes to take it, then I have a dog who’s going to trust. They are going to trust humans and they are going to trust me and I always begins with the main people. But what about somebody who has nothing in the bank and you have been jabbing your dog in the neck to get him to stop doing something and

But what about somebody who has nothing in the bank and you have been jabbing your dog in the neck to get him to stop doing something and they’re afraid of hands? And now somebody innocently reaches to pet, which looks like a jab to the dog and they bite them? That’s on the person who has been hitting the dog. That’s taking the debit out, that’s taking something from the trust account. So you always want to put more into the trust account then take out.


Understanding a dog’s economy:

Dogs learn through association: this happens and then this follows right after. I sit, I get a treat. The owner grabs a leash, I get to go on a walk. A person raises a hand, I get pet. Or: A person raises a hand, I get hit. It is very simple.

As dog owners, we feed our dog, we love our dog, we cuddle with them and we provide for them. So, a typical dog has a lot of “credits” with their humans. When their human hits them or is being mean to them, they might not bite if said “credits” outweigh the “debits”. However, each time you raise your hand to hit your dog or to correct your dog, your dog is learning the association of a raised hand to being hit.

The biggest issue is not you and your dog (although seriously why would you want to ruin your relationship with your dog by using fear based approaches?). The problem is when the dog meets people who are not their owner.

Let’s say that the dog owner has been doing the “tssk” with the neck pinch every time the dog did something “bad”. The dog learns not to do that behavior to avoid being punished. Now you have your two-year-old nephew at your house who loves dogs. He will run up to the dog and, as little kids do, probably reach to grab the dog in some way. Your nephew has no credits in the dog bank. Your dog does not trust this little human. And your dog is going to bite because that movement will make them think of when you do it and your dog does not like it.

Please, put more credits into the dog’s bank and avoid using methods that could be causing your dog to not trust people.