Is it always a dogs fault when they bite??

munkosFebruary 20, 2007

Recently I've been thinking about a Shih Tzu we used to own when I was younger. We had to give him to a friend to take care of for a while, when we moved into a temporary living situation that did not allow pets. The plan was to get him back as soon as our other place was available to move into.

Well, Bailey was put down with out our knowledge. Why was he put down?? Because two kids who were walking their dog, decided to tease and aggravate Bailey through the fence, until he nipped. He didn't even break skin, but the little rats went home and told mommy, I guess. And she came back telling them to either do something with the dog, or she'd go to the city and they'd get fined. I guess for whatever reason, they decided putting him down without telling us, was their best option.

Bailey was still fairly young at this age. (Please don't say anything about being irresponsible by getting a puppy and then moving. For one, I was only 9 at the time, so there was nothing I could do about it at the time. And secondly what happened to cause the move, was pretty unforseen, and couldn't be helped at the time, and we'd already found another place that would allow us to take him, we just couldn't move in there for a few months)He was about 6-7 months old. He was still in the process of learning not to nip at people.

Now from what I know, these kids were 4 and 5. That for me is a problem right there. Im not quite sure who lets their 4 and 5 year old out alone to wander the streets. Particularly in a trailer park, because there are no sidewalks, only roadways. Secondly, if you do decide to let your young children roam around unsupervised, I would think you should teach them some fairly common sense rules. Like, don't stick your fingers through a fence with a dog on the other side. Right?? Also from my understanding, my dog and their dog were both getting riled up. Barking, growling at eachother, etc.

So, I guess my question is, if someone sticks their fingers through a fenced yard, particularly towards an already aggravated dog, should the owner and dog still be responsible, or should the person (or in my case, parents) take responsibility??

my opinion on it varies. If I've invited someone over and they're in my front yard, and I know they're there and I know my dogs in the back yard..and they go say hi to my dog through the fence, and get bit - it is MY fault. I was well aware of the situation and could have prevented it. However if someone I havent invited into my front yard, who I DONT know is there, is teasing my dogs...I don't think I'd feel bad, or responsible if they get bit. I can't be responsible for everyone on the street, or accomodate the stupidity of others by inconviniencing myself and my dogs by keeping them locked in the house, on the off chance someone might be dumb enough to bug them through the fence.

I do, feel bad for the kids though. Even though they weren't hurt, probably just scared more than anything. I feel bad because they're obviously insufficiently supervised, and lacking some very important lessons in their life.

I learned very very early to NEVER approach a strange dog without first asking the owner if it was okay to pet them. To this day I still wont pet a dog I see outside of a store, or in the petstore unless the owner is present and says its okay. I also learned to never tease an animal, or stick my fingers through a fence to pet an animal, probably from the day I started walking. I guess I just got lucky and have parents who felt it was extremely important for me to know this, being that almost every second house in my city, has a dog in the yard through out the day.

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I am amazed by how much parents are oblivious to what their children do. And not just to animals either.

And mostly the kids who have the worst problems with animals are the ones who don't own them. And don't know what to expect or react around an animal. It is good for kids to be raised with critters.

I have taught my children never to touch an animal that has food, never to pet a strange animal until you ask the owners, and never tease an animal and be gentle.

Although the food thing is moot with our dogs since we trained her since she was a pup that we could take her food away at any time. So she is not protective of her food.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 2:27PM
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Although there ARE dogs with cantankerous personalities (just as there are human beings), 9 times out of 10, it's NOT the dog's fault. It's as a result of misunderstanding the dog or how to handle or deal with the dog. A perfect example is a show my wife and I were watching the other day. Although I'm not a big one for this kind of thing, there was nothing else really on, so we watched this reality show about the "world's most extreme videos". One of the videos they showed was of a K-9 handler with a police shepard, and a newsman doing a segment about the dog. At one point, the newsman goes to lean into the dog, and wrap his arm around the dog's neck. In the video, you can see very clearly that the dog is threatened by this and sees it as an act of agression (or atleast I can see it clearly), and he jumps up and gives the guy a defensive bite in the face that required several stitches. My wife jumped right on top of this, telling me see?? THAT'S why I don't like German Shepards!! See the way he attacked that guy? My response was if he was really trying to attack him, the dog would have gone for the guy's throat, and it would've been all over except for the crying. He was defending himself. We watched it again, and I was able to show my wife what I was talking about. But as she illustrated, someone who doesn't know what to look for, wouldn't have known any better and would've just taken it as an agressive move by the dog.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 2:54PM
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Munkos, Yours is a very good example of why it's not always the dogs fault.

If a parent is letting their 4 and 5 year olds run around unsupervised then they don't have common sense to begin with, so how could they possibly teach it? (rolling my eyes)

    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 6:13PM
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In my opinion, it is RARELY the dog's fault for biting. Here are the reasons why

1) Aggravating, abusing, cornering, or otherwise leaving a dog no choice but to bite
2) Approaching a strange dog
3) Owner's fault for not training it not to bite (not in OPs case obviously, but many people don't properly train their dogs)
4) Owner's fault for not properly restraining a dog that is currently in training, or is a known biter
5) Handler's fault for not understanding and respecting a dog's body language and adjusting their approach accordingly

IMHO, it is partly the friend's fault in this case because Bailey "was in training for not biting" and had access to people. Even if the people were stupid kids with no business poking their hands through the fence, a known biter cannot have any access to people at all. Period. And that is the responsibility of the person in charge of the dog at the time.

Now if Bailey was not a "known biter" then the friend is somewhat off the hook, as long as provisions are made immediately to not let that type of thing happen again. Unfortunately they chose to kill the dog instead of make other reasonable accomodations while training. Perhaps these friends were not in a position to properly care for and train Bailey. Which is a very unfortunate situation for your family.

The parents of the children in this case also share some of the responsibility because kids ages 4 and 5, as you mentioned, have no business poking their hands through a fence. 4 and 5 year olds can be made to understand how to ask someone if it is OK to pet a dog, how to approach a dog (ONLY with an adult in control of the dog), and not to do things that will make a dog angry. Hopefully since the parents of the children were not capable of imparting this knowledge to them, at least perhaps the kids "learned the hard way" that aggavating dogs can hurt.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 7:02PM
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Munkos -- That was a very unfortunate situation -- I'm sorry you lost your dog that way.

When I first read the subject line, I thought you were asking if it was always legally the dog (or dog owner's fault.)

I wonder about that. If the biten is not on the owner's property when the bite occurs, *is* it legally the dog/owner's fault?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 11:50PM
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Years ago we had an Australian shepherd mix. A grown nephew that came over alot teased that puppy and jumped at her all the time. We kept telling him to quit it but he kept on. One day when she was grown she bit him. We did'nt say a word to dog or man. He never bothered her again and she never even threatened anyone again.

That was a definate case of someone asking for it.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 12:26AM
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scenario #1
Stranger trespasses on you marked property, dispite no trespassing signs. Your dog chases him across the yard, the guy falls over some bushes into the nieghbors yard & breaks his leg.
Who do you think had to pay the most?

scenario #2
Guy breaks into a farmers barn for gas can. On way out, gets bitten very badly, in genitals' by farmers dog.
Police were called and man was arrested for theft, breaking & entering. He was transported to hospital for surgery.
Who do you think had to pay the most?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 12:55AM
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Although... I have known some crazy in the head dogs that would snap totally without warning. 2 were cocker spaniels, 1 was a chow-golden retriever mix. 1 a springer spaniel. The cocker spaniels were just totally in-bred dogs and the vet that examined one and said he sees that a lot in cocker spaniels.

AND we all have heard the pit bull stories of dogs attacking without warning. Although we all know those types of dogs are likely owned by abusing owners that want them to be aggressive. Not so funny when the dogs get out though.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 11:42AM
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Meghane, I somewhat agree, yet I somewhat disagree, too.

Bailey was a known nipper, when overly excited and playing. Bailey had never once aggressively bitten anyone, and he was around children all the time. He was learning not to nip, you know...the puppy nips. They mouth things, clothes, finger tips, etc etc. but never bite down. He never actually BIT. This time, from my understanding, this was a straight up bite.

Though I agree with you on the 'friend' (I use that term lightly now when referring to him, he killed my dog without telling us, after all) being somewhat responsible. If I ever heard my dogs growling and barking outside, I would go check, not leave it long enough for something bad to happen, but he obviously let it go long enough for him to bite.

The thing that gets me is that no one other than the children witnessed the bite. Who's to say their dog didn't bite them, and they blamed it on mine?? That's something I would have done when I were little and my pet bit me, and I had the chance to blame it on something else. I wouldn't want my pet to get in trouble, or have to go away. I think they completely took the wrong steps after the fact, considering there was absolutely no solid evidence he did bite. He probably did, but I really don't think being euthanized was the best option.

And anya, despite what I would like to believe, I bet the owners were held responsible in both cases.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 12:45PM
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anya,probably the owners were made to pay and i see no justice in that at all.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 1:23AM
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In short: NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!

I feel that it is a rare situation in which a completely unprovoked dog bites, especially with children.

And speaking of people not keeping track of their kids... I like to think I live in a nice neighborhood, but sometimes I just don't know. The other night, Capone and I were keeping my boyfriend company while he did some maintenance on his truck. The garage was not closed, since the bed was sticking out a bit. In wanders a 3-4yr old boy. ALONE. Walks right up to my dog and yanks an ear.


...that was right before I flipped out. I just got lucky that Capone doesn't seem to mind children. I chided the child for walking into a stranger's home, told him that we were good people, but that is rude and very, very UNsafe. Then I walked him home. This kid lived at the end of the block!! We got him home, and Mom was all ho-hum about it with me, shut the door, then jumped on the kid's case. I was FLABBERGASTED. Thank God that kid wandered to our house and not someone with nasty intentions. I just don't know what those people were thinking....

Sorry - but anyway, about the dog biting issue: again, NO, NO, NO.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 9:55PM
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To answer your question, I think it is often not the dog at fault, and your dog is a perfect example where he wasn't.

I suspect if your "friends" had had an ounce of courage, the case wouldn't have gone anywhere since no one but small children witnessed it, there was apparently no injury, and the dog was in a private, fenced yard. Most likely the woman blew off her steam and went away satisfied, but your friends freaked.

I would say they were the ones most in the wrong here as they should have at least given your family the opportunity to know about it and decide what to do. They were also wrong to leave a defenseless puppy unattended in a trailer park yard where there were probably people on all sides who could hurt him, steal him, etc.

Also in the wrong, were the parents of the kids for leaving them unattended and not teaching them the dangers of approaching strange dogs. Even though kids don't always listen, I think if the parents had attempted to teach them that the kids would have been hesitant to go home and complain that they didn't listen and have now been bitten and the parents wouldn't have been so quick to blame your friends.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 3:59PM
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