Cesar Millan became a sensation when his show, Dog Whisperer, debuted in 2004, and even the man’s harshest critics would have to admit to his natural talent when it comes to training canines. Still, Millan doesn’t know everything, and this is especially true when it comes to dog bites. After all, if Millan knew everything about dog bites, then, in all likelihood, he would have been able to avoid being bitten himself.
What Millan Got Right About Dog Bites
Millan attributes dog bites to five main factors, and he’s not altogether wrong. According to Millan, dogs are prone to biting when:
- Their territory is challenged: Dogs are territorial by nature, and perceived challenges to that territory may cause them to bite. For dogs, said territory may be toys, food, their spot on the sofa, or even humans.
- They’re afraid: Just like people, dogs can get aggressive when they’re scared. This is usually directed at strangers, such as mail carriers, who get too close for the dogs’ comfort. This can also happen when someone familiar startles them, especially if they’re sleeping.
- They’re in pain: Nobody likes to be messed with when they’re in pain, and dogs are no different. People should avoid touching sore spots or rashes on their dogs to minimize the chance of this happening.
- Their maternal instincts are disrespected: This is true for most living things; it’s never a good idea to come between a new mother and her children
- Their “prey drive” kicks in: Most dog owners have noticed that when something runs, their dogs can’t help but give chase. Bicyclists who encounter a loose dog should stop, posture up, and avoid eye contact, which the dog may perceive as a challenge. Most of the time, the dog will give a few sniffs, get bored and find something else to do.
What Millan Missed
The above factors are definitely true, but they’re certainly not the only things that can cause a dog to bite. Millan missed several key factors that cause dogs to become aggressive. Dogs are more prone to aggression and biting when:
- They’re uncomfortable: Discomfort gives anyone a short fuse, and dogs are no exception. This is especially true in hot weather. In fact, dog bites increase substantially in the summer months, according to the New York Post.
- They sense nervousness from others: Dogs have keen sense of awareness when it comes to tension; they can feel it. It’s never a good idea to try to pet a dog that makes you nervous. They pick up on that apprehension and often mistake it for ill intent. If you’re not completely comfortable petting a dog, then just don’t.
- People get on eye level with them: This one is pure instinct. Lowering yourself to eye level and looking a dog in the eye is usually perceived as a direct threat, which is why children are among those most often bitten.
What Millan Gets Wrong
Millan has drawn harsh criticism from some people when it comes to his tactics. Most of this criticism stems from his “dominance” approach, in which he often condones jabbing them in the ribs or using choke collars. Cruelty tends to breed cruelty, and, usually, a few stern words are a lot more productive than corporal punishment.
Dog bites can be extremely serious, and about 800,000 of the 4.7 million dog bites that occur each year across the U.S. require medical attention. Knowing what triggers dog bites and teaching your children how to act around dogs can help prevent dog bite incidents. Not only will this keep the people around your pet safer, it will protect your pet as well.