Case Study: Biting Dog
James is a three-year-old terrier mix that has a problem with biting. In addition to biting the other dog in the home, an eight-year-old spaniel, James has also been known to bite and snap at his owners, Sam and Maxine. Both Sam and Maxine fear that James' biting behavior will cause problems and do not allow the dog around their grandchildren for fear of their safety. However, keeping James in a separate area of their home has only added to problems, as James has started to chew and bark out of frustration. Both Sam and Maxine feel it is time to break James of his biting habit as soon as possible.
Since this habit has been going on for a while and the dog is decidedly grown out of the puppy stage that usually has the most amount of biting and gumming, Sam and Maxine seek the help of a professional. Obtaining a referral from their veterinarian to an excellent veterinarian behaviorist, Sam and Maxine make an appointment to bring James and meet with this professional in his office. During the first meeting, James makes an attempt to bite Maxine when she pulls him out of his kennel and snaps at the behaviorist when he attempts to hold the dog.
The behaviorist feels the first step is to have a medical examination done on James, since a medical problem may be the cause of the biting. Especially since James snapped at Maxine and the professional they attempted to touch the small dog, this may be the case. Often, dogs that are in pain or discomfort use biting as a form of protection to stop the pain from occurring. However, after a full medical examination, James is found to have a full bill of health.
The next thought is the James is responding to a certain trigger. Since Maxine and Sam adopted James as a puppy, there is no history of abuse or mistreating. The behaviorist makes a visit to Maxine and Sam's home to see how James interacts with them and their older dog. The visit proves to be quite educational and the behaviorist determines that James is using biting to showcase his jealousy. Especially since he is kept in a different part of the home that the other dog and avoided when the grandchildren come to visit, James is increasingly jealous and uses biting to show his displeasure.
A training plan is implemented where James is instructed "no bite" and then sprayed with a water bottle. This spritz gets the dog's attention and the command enforces the training. Once James closes his mouth, he is exceedingly praised. Additionally, more steps are made to include James back into the home. Whenever the grandchildren visit, James is present, but securely muzzled until he became fully trained to stop biting. Once this training was complete, James could be commanded and immediately close his mouth in order to abort the biting attempt. However, whenever Maxine and Sam left the two dogs alone and unsupervised, James wore a muzzle to prevent any injuries to the older dog.
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