When I speak to clients about bite incidents, sometimes I hear them describe it as “My dog bit someone by accident.” Sometimes I hear, “I thought my dog bit someone by accident, but it happened again.”
Dogs rarely “miss” their intended target. It is more likely that the incident was redirected aggression.
“Redirected aggression is aggressive behavior that is directed toward an individual (a person or another animal) who did not trigger the initial aggressive response. It usually occurs when an animal is prevented or blocked from directing the threat or aggression to its primary target.” Suzanne Hetts
The danger in thinking a bite incident is an accident is that it is assumed that the event is random and will not happen again. Nothing could be further from the truth. In redirected aggression cases, it is very likely that the dog will repeat the behavior when a trigger is presented that the dog cannot access.
We are going to call the dog in the picture Angel. Angel is reactive and aggressive with some (not all) other dogs. While normally, I would be able to keep everyone safe using distance from the trigger and a leash, Angel redirects his aggression. In this case, his aggression was redirected to his owner’s thigh. And that was the reason why his owner, “Laura”, called me.
Angel and his owner are now working with me and we are using a muzzle to keep Laura safe. Angel has responded beautifully to the first steps on his training journey. I was also so proud of Laura. Being attacked by your own dog is a very emotional and frightening experience. She is really being brave and confident enough to work with Angel even after having such an emotional experience.