Prevent Dog Bites with Puppy Socialization | Sirius Dog Training

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Prevent Dog Bites with Puppy Socialization

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Almost all dog bites occur in the presence of one or more of these common bite triggers.

Puppyhood is the best time to teach your dog to feel calm and confident around all of these things.

When dogs bite people, it is usually because the dog is afraid. Dogs that get sufficient socialization during puppyhood will be much less likely to develop fearfulness problems and as a result, they will be much likely to bite someone when they grow older.

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If you have a puppy now, it is essential that you proactively socialize your pup so they feel calm and confident in the presence of the things that are most likely to scare them when they are older.

Your pup might not seem fearful of anything right now, but that is a developmental stage, and it will pass. When dogs reach adolescence, they often become more fearful and wary of anything unfamiliar. The more time your puppy spends around something while they are young, the less likely they are to become fearful of those things as they get older, and the easier it will be to rehabilitate them if they do start to develop a fear issue.

The things that are listed on this document are the most common sources of fear for pet dogs, and as a result, they are the most common bite triggers. Please, take the time to teach your pup that these things are nothing to be afraid of.


Some types of people are more likely to make dogs feel uncomfortable than other people. Obviously, there are  exceptions, but you should make a special effort to proactively socialize your dog to feel totally comfortable and at ease in the presence of these types of people:


From babies to teenagers, children are more likely to do strange and silly things that can make dogs excited and anxious. Kids are more likely to grab dogs without paying attention to the dog's body language. Also, children are more vulnerable, so adults are more likely to be anxious when a dog is around children, and that anxiety can contribute to a dog's anxiety.


There are always exceptions when it comes to any sort of gender-based distinction, but on average, men are more likely to be loud and aggressive, and they are more likely to shout at or physically punish a dog. Once a dog has been scared or hurt by one man, they are quick to generalize and can become fearful and anxious around all men.

Unfamiliar People & Things

Dogs are more likely to be afraid of individual people and types of people who they have not met before. The more new, unfamiliar strangers your dog meets and has positive experiences with, the less wary your dog will be around other new people. Similarly, dogs can get spooked when people are wearing or holding new or unfamiliar things, like costumes, helmets, tools, or instruments. This is particularly true of anything that moves or makes noise.


It should come as no surprise that dogs can feel defensive or threatened about being touched. However, there are times when your dog will have to be touched, held, or examined, perhaps as part of a medical procedure, or during grooming. Teach your dog to enjoy being handled and they won't feel anxious about being handled when the need arises.


By far, the most common bite trigger is when a person reaches for a dog's collar. Many dogs learn to dislike, or even fear people reaching for their collar, because this action has become associated with unpleasant things, like a loss of freedom, and end to a fun activity, or even an aversive punishment. That's why it is SO IMPORTANT that you proactively teach your dog to LOVE it when you take hold of their collar. Fortunately, this couldn't be easier to do. Simply take your dog by their collar and then give them a treat. Repeat this over and over again and they will learn to love it when you reach for their collar and they'll actively move towards you when they do, to make it easier for you to take hold of them!

Eye Contact / Staring

Some dogs find eye contact to be threatening, especially when they are close to a person. Teach your dog to "Watch Me" on cue and then reward them with treats when they do so.


Practice handling and looking inside their ears. Make sure you handle BOTH ears and give treats when you do.

Muzzle / Teeth

Practice looking inside their mouth and cleaning their teeth.  This is essential in case they ever have a dental problem and it's also a great way to help them maintain a gentle mouth. Make sure you give them treats after to help them form a positive association.


Some dogs are fine about having their front paws handled, but if you don't remember to handle their back paws they can become sensitive about the. Paw injuries are common and you have to trim your dog's nails so it's important that you teach your dog to enjoy having all four paws, and every last toe touched and handled.

Rear End

The area under the tail and between the legs is a sensitive area that may need medical attention some day, so it's important that your dog isn't anxious about being touched or examined there.  You don't need to touch or examine them extensively, but a gentle pat and a few treats will do a lot to help them feel comfortable if their veterinarian ever needs to examine them.

Hugging / Restraing

Most dogs will need to be restrained for a medical exam or procedure at some point in their life, either at the vet, or just at home so you can get a look at an injury or other issue. Of course, it's also nice to be able to cuddle your dog! The difference between a hug and restraint is often just a matter of perspective. Teach your dog to enjoy being held and hugged, and they won't mind when the vet tech needs to "hug" them at the clinic.


Dogs can be protective and defensive around the things or places that they like most. It's important that you proactively teach your dog to enjoy it when people come near them, even when they have something of value, or when they are in a favorite place.

Valued Objects

It's very common and natural for dogs to guard valued objects, especially food items like a bone, chew, or their food bowl. That's why it's essential to teach your dog to feel at ease with people approaching, and even taking away valued objects. With a little practice, you can teach your dog to actually ENJOY relinquishing valued objects, by giving them treats, and then returning the objects more often than not.

Special Places

Dogs can also be protective around their favorite places. Often, dogs have places they like to go to settle down and relax. Often, a dog might go to this sort of place when they are tired, or they want to be alone, which can certainly contribute to a dog feeling uncomfortable about someone approaching. It's good for your dog to have a place where they can settle down quietly when they want to, and you shouldn't bother them all the time, but it's important that your dog feels comfortable about people approaching when they are in there favorite places. Simply go up to them, give them a treat and a pat on the head and walk away.


Dogs can develop a persistent fear or phobia of any situation or stimulus. As dogs get older, they naturally get more fearful and wary of unfamiliar things, and all it takes is a single unpleasant experience for a dog to learn to be afraid of whatever stimulus they happen to associate with the unpleasant experience. If you know that something specific makes your dog feel uncomfortable, deal with it right away. Use treats and classical conditioning to help your dog feel comfortable around this thing.