I was bitten by a large dog after I crossed a gate into the dog’s yard.
This happened quite awhile ago. It was a dog I’d been walking as a dog walker a few times per week over a three-month period.
By sharing my experience, I hope I will keep someone else safe.
I also want to discuss doorways, gates and other entryways in general, because these are obviously “high arousal” locations for a lot of dogs that can potentially bring out aggression in a dog that’s normally friendly.
Dog aggression in doorways
Dog bites are more likely to happen in doorways, based on my own experience, for a few reasons:
1. Obviously, the dog could be guarding “her” property and family.
2. Many dogs are more excited and generally riled up when someone arrives or exits.
3. People are generally more excited in doorways, which doesn’t help the dogs remain calm.
The first issue, guarding property, is pretty straightforward.
I think adults know to be cautious of a dog that is barking and growling and showing protective instincts. You wouldn’t walk through a gate with a big dog lunging and barking, I hope. You also wouldn’t want to walk through a gate where a dog is stiff, silent, leaning forward and staring. (Yikes!)
The second issue – dogs being more excited and “riled up” in entryways – is what I want to focus on, because it’s a little harder for people to remember. The third issue (people acting excited) is related.
Back to my story on how I was bitten
There are two dogs in the story, about 100 pounds each (not pictured).
The dogs were not showing protective instincts when I was on the outside of the gate, but these two dogs do tend to guard their yard from strangers.
I announced myself as usual and once I crossed through the gate, I made the mistake of talking to the dogs in a high-pitched, happy voice, which caused them to get excited and start jumping on me.
With most dogs, this kind of excitement is not a serious issue, but it’s still wise not to get any dog too excited.
On that particular day, my excited tone, plus the excitement of “Oh my gosh! The dog walker’s here!” led the dogs to begin nipping at me out of excitement.
Then, one dog began growling and trying to wrestle the other, and all the sudden their “play” turned to fighting. They began to bite aggressively at each other and then at me.
[quote_center]They began to bite aggressively at each other and then at me.[/quote_center]
It was scary, and of course the whole thing happened in about two seconds.
I knew if I quickly tried to retreat through the gate, they would’ve grabbed at my legs. (And in some serious cases, that might still be your best option.)
Instead, I used my most authoritative voice and said “HEY!” which got their attention for a split second.
Then I said, “Treats?” while doing their hand signal for sit.
Thankfully, these are pretty well-trained dogs (despite this incident) and treat motivated.
They instantly stopped and sat for “treats” that I didn’t even have. I reached into my pocket anyway and pretended to toss some treats away from me, which they happily ran to look for.
And then they’d forgotten about the whole thing and returned to their happy, friendly states.
I of course was shaken up; I knew the situation could’ve turned out much worse. I felt lucky I only had one small bite on my arm. The skin was broken, but I was fine.
What can we learn from all of this?
I recognized my mistakes in the above story, and I knew not to take the incident personally.
We all should know by now, any dog can bite. Dogs are dogs.
My own Lab mix Ace nipped my husband on the nose several years ago, breaking the skin.
This wasn’t in an entryway, but it was during play where we’d gotten our dog overly excited and “riled up.”
Anyone who knows Ace could never imagine him biting, but it happened.
Hopefully, these examples will help remind us that we need to keep safety in mind around all dogs, even dogs we know.
Here are my tips for interacting with dogs in entryways
These are just ideas. Please add more in the comments:
- Always greet a dog with calm energy unless you’re extremely familiar with the dog
- Use a calm voice
- Keep an upright but relaxed posture and keep your face away from the dog
- Ask the dog to sit, if possible
- Ignore dogs that are jumping and nipping at you; calmly move away if you can
- Keep yourself safe; don’t count on the dog’s owner
- Don’t approach a dog if you’re unsure; trust your instincts
Tips for dog owners:
- Keep gates locked if you leave your dog outside unattended
- Teach your dog appropriate manners at the door, and use a leash if needed
- Put your dog in another room when people arrive if your dog is too aroused by visitors
- If you hire a dog walker, stay home the first few times she arrives to walk your dog
- Encourage visitors to ignore your dog until she is calm
So, what do the rest of you think? Do you agree with me? Any ideas to add on how to prevent dog aggression in doorways?
Have you ever been bitten by a dog that was overly excited?
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