K9 Corner, Jan. 17

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Reasons your dog’s personality may change


Reader complained that her dog has started biting for no apparent reason. If a dog suddenly changes personality, the doctor should check for any physical problem that could cause pain. Pain can cause irascible behavior.

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Biting or snapping is one behavior that should never be allowed in a family pet. If you study the sign-in sheets for pets brought to animal shelters, the ones turned in that have aggressive behavior checked are never adopted. The shelters have too many gentle house pets needing homes to encourage a prospect to consider a dog that has already had its first bite of human.

Therefore, it is imperative that behavior modification start as soon as the pup or dog shows its first sign of dominance – which can be as young as six weeks.

Louis L. Vine, D.V.M., in his book, “Your Neurotic Dog,” lists three types of biters. The first is the “fear biter.” If the dog in question happens to have a painful physical problem, its snaps can result from fear of additional pain. This can be a temporary condition which fades away once the physical problem is corrected.

Shy puppies can become fear biters. These need plenty of playtime and socialization with other pups and humans as early as possible to change this trait. Fear biters have triggers such as waving arms, screams, yells, or even stamping feet. Slowly these triggers must be neutralized so the dog no longer reacts to them.

The second type of biter Vine lists, he calls the “indiscriminant biter” or the “spoiled brat” of a puppy. These dogs will bite their owners because they have no respect for them. If the dog growls and the owner backs off, this type of dog will assume it is the pack leader. An obedience training class is a must for this animal AND its owner. The last type is the “protective biter.” Dogs who fit this category “feel the need to protect something or someone,” according to Vine.

However, Vine describes neurotic protective biters as those that “not only chase but attack almost anything that moves in front of them.” Vine states that all three types of biters can be stimulated by excessive roughness such as wrestling and by playing tug of war games with the animal. He also points out that children who push, poke or roughly roll a puppy around, are much more likely to be bitten as the pup grows. Rough play should be discouraged from the very beginning.

Some of the other reasons that may cause dogs to bite include: keeping a dog isolated from humans (confined in the backyard) which may cause the dog to snap at anyone, such as the veterinarian, when it needs professional care; and “people who are afraid of dogs sweat profusely when near them. The scent of the discharge makes the dog wary,” according to Vine, “it is wise to stay away from dogs you are afraid of.”