Dog Training/biting


hi..a couple of years ago, we found a stray dog, or i should say he found us. he is a cocker spaniel and most of the time pretty good. he has been abused by his previous owner. we suspected that and the vet comfirmed it. however, there are times he bites us or tries to bite for no reason. yesterday he was laying on his back, acting like he wanted me to rub his stomach, so i started to do that. next thing i knew his teeth were sinking into the palm of my hand, and there is a good amount of damage to it. my question  is..what would make any dog behave this way? he has been out of the abusive situation now for pushing three years, and he knows we dont treat him that way. thank you!!

It's hard to say why the dog is doing this, but a good bet would be that he is not happy about body handling.  There are ways to change this, but it does require some knowledge, and probably the help of a good positive trainer, or behaviorist, who can demonstrate some desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques for you.  Dogs always bite for a reason, but humans may not always know what it is.  Some of them have pain in their joints, others don't like to be touched in certain areas, some are suffering from occasional neurological issues, some have hypothyroidism which can lead to aggressive behavior.  The reason, however, is less important than what you do about it.  If a dog is upset when you do certain things, then the answer is to gradually change his mind about liking those things.  In other words, changing his emotional response.  If you are interested in this approach, there is a great video by Dr. Sophia Yin (YouTube) on changing a Jack Russell Terrier who doesn't like air blown on his face, and who responds aggressively.  After she works with him for a while, you can see the change in his demeanor.  If you are interested in finding a trainer, you can look on the Pet Professional Guild web site, and if you need a behaviorist, check the DACVB site.

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Anne Springer, B.A., Dip., CTDI, CLWI, CAPCT, VA


I'm happy to answer questions on behavior and training. I prefer a training philosophy much like your physician might adopt when treating patients - first, do no harm. Dogs are generally best trained using humane methods that make sense to them and put you in control, not necessarily by physical means, but by controlling the dog's access to resources, such as food, toys, access to the outdoors, etc. I want your dog to behave, but also to trust you and rely on you for guidance.


Professional trainer, owner of Paws for Praise, in Danvers, MA. We use positive training and behavior modification techniques, and are committed to having the dogs that come through our center be both as well trained and behaviorally healthy as we can help their humans make them.

International Positive Dog Training Association (Regional Director for Massachusetts) APDT Therapy Dogs, Inc. Truly Dog Friendly

Gloucester Times, Ipswich Chronicle,, and more

B.S., Cum Laude, Salem State College Diploma, Dog Obedience Training/Instruction (Apprenticed also) Graduate, New York School of Dog Grooming Pet CPR/First Aid Certified Certified Pet Care Technician AKC CGC Evaluator Therapy Dogs Inc. Tester/Observer

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Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society

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