Working with people who then have to work with animals can be a tricky business. Even being a person who just works with animals can be a tricky business. When working with animals, we are working with a completely different species with its own way of thinking and operating and its own language. When working with pets and being surrounded by them all day you tend to forget that you are literally working with another species and it is in no way human. Unfortunately, that tends to make us forget when we want something that behaves either in a human way or in a robotic way. This is never clearer when I am working with people wanting a dog not to bite, nip, growl, or exhibit really any undesirable and sometimes scary behaviors.
I will be blatantly honest up front. I have never owned a dog that has bitten me before. As a dog trainer, I have not received bites that have broken skin before. I can only count 3 instances that may have counted as "bites", so being up front, I will list those out. Once was working as a vet tech on a tiny little chihuahua that was very difficult to restrain for the rabies shot it only came in for once a year. It had only one tooth left and it managed to break its head free and bit onto my arm. It didn't really hurt and didn't even leave a scratch, but teeth intentionally touching skin, whether it breaks or not, I count as a bite. The second time was from a heeler that jumped up to try to grab the credit card its owner handed me at the end of our session to pay for the lesson. Didn't break skin, but did leave two bruise marks on my arm and was more startling than anything since it was completely unexpected and the dog didn't have any overt signals before it happened and was completely normal directly afterward, leading me to believe it may not have been intentional and just the dog going after the card, but still going to add it to the list. And lastly, another heeler for a very serious behavior case. This one was after being there for two hours with me in another room and I needed to see after everything we discussed what the owner was talking about so when we brought the dog in, it immediately bit my shoes and was trying to tear them off. It didn't hurt and no skin was broken, shoes remained intact and no worse for wear, but it is worth adding to the list; this is the only bite I would consider to have real intention behind it and could have became dangerous very quickly. I am not listing these out as "battle-scars" or something to brag about. In fact, when I hear of other "trainers" bragging about how many bites they have gotten, all the scars from all the bites, all I can think is that they must not be very good at what they do if they are getting bit all the time. I am listing my instances out solely for the purpose of showing how little I actually have been "bit" and even then, I wouldn't consider any of those instances as serious because not one broke skin or resulted in any medical treatment. Some may not agree with me on what my standards of "serious" are, but to me, that is what would qualify as something extremely serious for me, as a trainer. I work with dogs in group classes, dogs off-leash in a doggy daycare environment, and in personal lessons with owners and dogs of varying behavior issues, including aggression and reactivity. For all the years I have been working with dogs of varying temperaments and behavior issues and the amount of dogs I have worked with, my overall percentage of "instances" is significantly low. I do not think this is by chance. And that is why I am writing this blog post. If we were to be 100% honest, all dogs bite, or have the propensity to bite.
I mentioned already, I have two dogs and neither of them have ever bitten before. I had someone stop and see me and my dog Tesla walking out in public and they asked to pet her. I said, "yes". Then they