What About That Dog That Has Bitten Just-About Everybody?

The TL;DR – If you’re dog won’t quit it, consider pulling teeth or letting the dog go. You can secure training but they won’t declare the dog entirely safe.

If you have a large breed dog that bites people and you can’t stop him from being dangerous, it’s a legal liability and it gets expensive. Here’s why: A dog like that can do a LOT of damage in a short time. And if a child is missing an eye, the whole “pain and suffering piece” will exhaust every account you have. Legitimately.
Also, attorneys have this thing I call “keep away” where the hold resolution out, just beyond reach, to keep the billable hours going. Neither attorney wants the gravy train to stop.
Resolving cases isn’t the name-of-the-game any more than “curing cancer” is on the list of things Big Pharma wants. TREATING Cancer, that’s more like the attorneys.
I know, I know, you would LIKE to think that YOUR attorney is not colluding to drag it out, but the fact is, they ARE and that’s really the name of the game. What, are they going to walk into the room and say “This can be milked for years and Thompson and I have worked together for a decade.”
Nope, they’ll lie like a thief. “I think we can get this put away pretty fast.”
But the legal profession has really “latched on” to the pet bites thing.

Don’t take MY word for it. Look at this shite. https://drjohnson.com/attorneys-increasingly-identify-dog-bite-as-a-lucrative-revenue-stream/

A small breed dog bites a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons, USUALLY. Often it’s fear. Often it’s “getting my way” because they are not Beta to anyone. They’ve been babied all their lives and the owner was caught completely unprepared for the first growl and snap – and the dog learned a crucial and effective “word” to stop anything it didn’t want to continue.

Owner attempts to trim the small dog’s nails: “Snap snap” –> Owner stops. Dog thinks: “Consequence to me, none”. Plan: Use “bite” to stop any behavior I don’t like. And it’s successful until / and ever AFTER the dog breaks the cycle of unwanted tail pulling by a three year old. Right in the face.

When my own “worst dog in the whole world”, a typical dachshund named “Penny” bit my child for the first time, I disciplined Penny and put her in a time out. That didn’t help and I should have expected that. I needed a professional trainer at that point. The whole issue needed finesse and immediacy.

Eventually Penny had bitten all my kids and then bit a lawyer’s kid, who was over for a birthday party. I was floored that the lawyer didn’t sue me into oblivion. The “wound” was at least a micrometer deep and several millimeters wide and had healed completely within hours. But the pain and suffering to the child lasted several minutes. Enough for a settlement I am sure, but no. I was lucky.

So I placed Penny with a guy who “knew dachshunds’ and crossed my fingers. He thought that he could bring Penny around. And he did. A few months later he brought Penny around to my office with a few scars on his hands and a few scars on his own dog. “I can’t” he said.

I said “Well I can’t place this dog.” and I’m going to find a more permanent solution. So he tried again and Penny opened him up like a tuna can a few more times.

Large breed dogs bite for similar reasons but they *also* have a defensive “thing” that small breed dogs are often lacking. They may bite if they think someone is messing with their pack, of which you and your child are important members.
Large breed dogs that are “Skittish” will bite sooner or later mainly because you can’t be there to intercede in every single human-encounter. You can delay the inevitable by putting them in a room when visitors come to your home, but that’s a waiting game. Eventually someone will reach out and put their hand above his head without his permission and get nailed.

Golden Retrievers do not need to give permission or be ‘prepared’ for someone to pet them in order to be safe. Why people still get German attack breeds I do not understand.

I said the above to let you know that certain breeds will torment you with their predictably-unpredictable and supremely ‘legally actionable’ behavior. And you can sit with it for the rest of your life if some kid goes through life with a patch or a glass eye because YOU wanted to “see if you could ‘fix’ your German Attack Breed or a disagreeable little dog.

And I said all THAT to tell you that when you put the issue in the pot and boil off ALL the bullshit, here is what I would recommend:

  • Spend the enormous amounts of money to try-again (and fail) to make your dog 100% safe around kids and pretty much anyone who triggers your dog. With a veterinary Animal Behaviorist. Yes, these people can combine ACTUAL research and training with their experience and have the BEST chance at success. At the end of all that training you can ask them: So my dog is now safe NOT to bite anyone. And they will say “No. The dog may still bite, but has been shown better ways to react and it’s unlikely now.”
  • Drop the dog off with a respect-earner-dog-trainer who will; by training, attrition, or simple-Alpha-dominance establish with the dog that he’s not the center of the universe and there ARE consequences to his actions. Sometimes, that’s a sound beating. I really, really hate to say that, but we’re being VERY honest here. You’re thinking about putting a dog to sleep for eternity and if giving the dog to someone who subdues it – – saves it – – then I have to feel partially okay with that. But a little bit of “abuse” doesn’t work with all the dogs. Even THOSE guys will admit that some dogs are just too neurodivergent and will never be okay. It’s a minority of those type trainers that even *will* resort to “abuse” to fix a dog. IN the right cases, it works. I’ve seen it work. (I’ve never seen that actual “training” and I’ll be glad to never see it. But I’ve seen some amazing pets delivered from “unkeepable” status by it.)

I had a dog that was a liability to my Mom, mainly he would jump-up. (He wasn’t mean) and when I said “Place” he knew that I was about to begin a training session, and he’d vacate to a nondisclosed location. Made himself entirely and irretrievably scarce. That was fine. And a LOT better than having to say “Go lay down” a hundred times. That dog HATED training. This could work for your dog to make him “leave” if you have folks / delivery people / contractors at your house for a minute.

  • Yank Their Teeth. I don’t like this idea but it works. A guy came in with his dog and some bandages.He was pretty much tearful. He really loved that dog. And he wasn’t going to put her to sleep. And in truth I knew her to be a damn good dog. I don’t really know why she would (every once in a while) open someone up. But she’d bite him good.
    He asked if someone could pull the front teeth and I was like, “Welp. Okay” and set him up with the Veterinary Dentist.

She lost all her front “bite-meaningful” teeth and she would rarely snap and it didn’t damage him. And she lived her life out. I guess that gifted her another 8-9 years. So I think it was worth it.

You might take the higher ground and argue “That guy could have tried harder with training” and “She was better off dead than losing her fangs” and I’d tell you that armchair quarterbacking that deal would be useless. It worked out really well. Maybe to the above, but he just couldn’t afford more stitches. No matter how rare the episodes were. Also, she was half Springer Spaniel and that might factor if you know what I’m referring to. Who knows.

  • Putting a dog down for being unsafe is not outside MY list of “okay reasons” to let a dog go. I will side with a child’s face 100% of the time even if the kid deserves it. A lost eye, half-a-nose or cleft in the lip (let alone having the entire face ripped off) changes the kid’s life forever.

I don’t mean a dog bite a kid ONCE and is otherwise a great dog and the kid fell on the dog while it was sleeping….THAT dog could be placed with someone who has no toddlers.

I’m talking about the dog that has bitten bunches of people already. The dog that doesn’t have to be provoked to bite.
The dog that doesn’t respond to training.
The dog that is skittish and you can already tell in advance “He’s not safe with strangers”.

Relevant Links

Dog Training For A Little Bit Difficult Dogs in Marietta GA

If You Want to Domesticate an Attack Breed, Consider This About German Shepherds, Dobermans and Rottweilers.

Client Communication: Big Scaredycat German Shepherd First Visit To Vet

Sometimes Stopping a Dog From Mauling a Child is A Good Thing Even if It Reduces the Dog’s Self-Esteem.

Author: Dr. Erik Johnson
Dr. Erik Johnson is the author of several texts on companion animal and fish health. Johnson Veterinary Services has been operating in Marietta, GA since 1996. Dr Johnson graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Dr Johnson has lived in Marietta Georgia since 1976.