George, my first Old English sheepdog bit four people. I loved that dog and dismissed the first stranger who stabbed his hand at my dog’s face as ‘stupid.’ On three other occasions my dog more than mouthed people, he broke skin with his teeth. I never saw it as my loving dog’s fault. Our local law gives a canine two bites. A biter’s lights are put out on three. When my vet advised me to euthanize my pet or face an expensive law suit, I was devastated. It was never my sweetie’s fault. Dogs bite. It’s up to people to avoid getting in their way.
Wrong. But I was right about it’s not being my animal’s fault. The responsibility rested with me.
I have since learned that a bite is a pathway to even more aggressive behavior. A dog that bites and tastes blood will bite again. He must be put down. The breeder of my next three dogs, Cathy Drummands, gave me some advice so I could avoid seeing those brown trusting eyes watch mine while his heart stopped pounding.
Cathy told me a dog has no way of knowing what is right or wrong unless he is conditioned. “Just watch your cute puppy as he gets into mischief and imagine how you will feel when he weighs 60 to 90 pounds and gets into the same trouble. You must stop the behavior before he outweighs your ability to control him. You must stop him while he is still a pup. Harder than whacking a cuddly puppy for doing something cute like chewing on the leg of a chair is being consistent with the discipline as he grows. Dogs want to please. It’s only fair they know the rules.”
Teaching rule one to a pup with a severe “no” will be etched into his memory forever. A slap from a newspaper or a sting from a hand at the time of the misconduct should follow the “no”. The next bite gets the same double whammy treatment, and the next, and the next until your pup understands biting is against house rules. Cathy told me if you let the pup get away with bad habits it will be difficult to train him in any kind of acceptable behavior later on.
George was my first and last Old English sheepdog to bite anyone.