Biting – Can You Ever Trust Again?

Scared dog

First in a series

Folks like you and I are tethered to our pets by an emotional commitment to their well-being. If they have symptoms from any body part, including their brains, we want them to get well fast. The Internet offers prodigious quantities of quack remedies, especially for behavior disorders. Think twice about quick and dirty corrections.

People do dumb stuff. Mistakes are part of life but ‘first do no harm’ should apply to everybody. Stimpy was a 3 year old terrier mix I saw for his worsening aggression toward visitors. He wasn’t always that way. He had been only nervous when guests breezed through the door but when one well-intentioned pet lover rushed toward him with arms outstretched, singing his name, the poor guy ran under the bed and trembled like a leaf. Amy, Stimpy’s committed person, was advised to “socialize” her dog by exposing him to as many strangers as possible. She hauled him to pet supply and home improvement stores and invited shoppers to approach him for petting and treats. He tried to get smaller every time.

Then came the turning point. As a visitor stood and headed for the door Stimpy raced up behind him, nipping at his ankles. Well, that was unacceptable. Intent on putting an immediate end to this juvenile delinquent’s insolence, our friend, who “knows” dogs, grabbed Stimpy by the scruff, forced him to the floor, rolled him onto his back, and pinned him until he “submitted.”

OMG! I get it, sort of. We want our pets to reflect well on our character. The more this happened, the more embarrassing and frustrating it got for Amy. Stimpy’s dominance needed fixing right now, didn’t it? Well, that wasn’t the problem. And no, intimidation is not the answer.

Should we engage in pitched battles with man’s and woman’s best friends? Dogs are not our adversaries. They have no interest in winning a war for supremacy. We don’t need to take them down a few pegs and master their egos. We actually need to get a grip on our own.

Next week: Do you reason with an animal?


For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom ( Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Email pet behavior or physical questions to or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.