Friday, December 3, 2010

Why do dogs bite?

Before we discuss this, let us have a mutual understanding and respect for the fact that dogs are prey animals. That means dogs have an instinctual behavior called a prey drive which all carnivores have; and that is to pursue and capture prey. This animal is called a PREDATOR.

Herbivores on the other hand, have two natural instincts to survival, and that is to fight or flight. These animals are called PREY ANIMALS and elicit fight or flight responses in an attempt to escape from PREDATORS.

The sequence of behaviors of a prey drive are as follows:

The Search - The Stalk (Eye) - The chase - The Grab Bite - and The Kill.

Way back when, when dogs were bred to serve a purpose and were used for a particular job (companionship was not a job, it was the outcome of a well balanced, content and satisfied dog)... depending on the purpose of the dog, the predatory drive was strongly hardwired through breeding, or reduced through breeding creating different breeds for different jobs.

Historically, dogs were bred based on their characteristics and abilities for the nature of the job they would be used for. Now we breed for looks and hope that through the best training possible we will be able to "TRAIN" our dogs to perform such jobs.

Take for example a Golden Retriever. It's purpose was to retrieve game from afar and bring it to its handler. A Golden Retriever with a high prey drive, would not to be suitable for this for obvious reasons.

Take for example a Border Collie that is used to herd stock. It must have components of the prey drive in order to do its job, but it must inhibit bite and kill behaviors as it would otherwise put the stock in danger of the dog.

Take for example a Jack Russell who's purpose was bred for fox hunting. In order to perform their job, they need a very strong prey drive and must follow through with a bite and kill. These dogs can not display fear or lack confidence... they are tenacious, vocal, strong, agile, extremely determined and energetic.... they were bred for this purpose.

Certain aspects of these predatory behaviors are a amplified or reduced depending on the nature of the dog's job. The most viable tool a dog has is its mouth.

So what has this got to with a dog biting? Dog's bite because they are supposed to. Unfortunately, we see a lot more dogs using their mouths in aversive and uncontrollable ways than ever before because of two reasons:

1. Breeding.
2. No purpose in life.

Take a look around you and look at the dogs you have as pets and others you know. Dog's are rarely bred based on temperament, but mostly on looks. Furthermore, take a look at these dogs and describe their purpose in life.... what is the purpose of their existence.

Most companion dogs are expected to be great companions without ever having their own needs satisfied. They lack the opportunity to be raised with litter mates and mum, play, role play, work (an appropriate outlet for their prey drive) and scavenge.

We have not preserved the dignity of a dog and we continue to destroy these animals. In my opinion, I believe our society is creating a very conflicted and confused animal. I think over time dogs will go from being predatory animals to prey animals.... as more and more companion dogs display fight and flight behaviors as opposed to the predatory drive. These dogs, have no idea how to exist, could not fend for themselves or survive out as strays or in the wild, and all this is happening because pure breed dogs or mutts with a strong prey drive are acquired to be companion dogs and their natural instincts are beaten out of them.

This combined with over arousal, lack of control, frustration, and lack of bite inhibition, is why dog's bite.

Dog Responsibly.

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