(For how to handle a puppy that bites click here)

Adult dogs can ‘play’ bite…  it’s not breed dependent, either. Some dogs use their mouths to investigate things. Some dogs bite aggressively because they are worried.The trick is not to let any dog bite a person or other animal.

If you have an adult dog that likes to ‘play’ bite, the size of the dog matters because the size of the bite influences the potential danger. It is not appropriate to encourage because appropriateness can get out of hand and the nature of the play can quickly transform or escalate into something dangerous. 

The capabilities of every dog needs to be considered.  A dog that initiates a ‘play’ biting activity can be redirected to another equally rewarding and less dangerous activity. Some of these might be but are not limited to:

  • Using its other senses
  • Give it something to chase 
  • Take it for a walk 
  • Encourage sniffing 
  • Do a treasure hunt for it
  • Ball play
  • frisbee 
  • trick training 
  • scent work 
  • dancing with dogs 
  • dog yoga
There are lots of options for activities to turn play biting behaviours into safe play behaviours, with less risk. 

If you own an adult dog that bites aggressively:

According to Australian law, a dog that bites should be reported to council and registered as a dangerous dog. It must be microchipped and desexed. Most dogs that bite are only reported after they cause injury. Having a dog registered as “dangerous” can be life altering for a dog owner.

Many people who have dogs that bite, know their dog is a risk to the community and their families and put strategies in place to stop that dog from biting. These responsible dog owners follow a prevention strategy that is effective. The process includes but is not limited to:

  1. Seeking professional help from a veterinarian with special training in behaviour and canine psychology
  2. Implementing safeguards to protect people and other animals from being bitten, like:
    • Basket muzzles
    • Desexing
    • Controlling access to free areas where people or other animals are
    • Suitable confinement, including but not limited to; locked gates or double gates to prevent escape and injurious behaviours

It is also valuable to remember that some dogs only bite other dogs and are safe with people, and some dogs only bite people and are safe with other dogs. This does not make either group inherently safe. It is possible for a dog that is known to bite only dogs or people to redirect its bite behaviour in the wrong circumstances. 

Working with a veterinarian with further interest or a specialist in behaviour and their associated reputable dog trainer can help a family that owns a dog that bites to make good decisions for the dogs and their own well being and safety. 

We do not recommend that you handle a dog that bites, if it is not your own. We do recommend that you report the dog’s behaviour to the owner or an authority, so that it can be managed appropriately and the safety of the community can be protected. 

Our communities deserve a social environment that is safe. Dogs are part of our social fabric. Knowing when a dog is playing or not, and knowing how to interact with a safe dog so that it understands appropriate social behaviour with people is an important aspect to Australian life. 

Community program PetPep run through the Australian Veterinary Association supports healthy safe engagement with dogs. 

Recognising safe and unsafe dogs is instrumental to a healthy community and the Dog Bite Prevention Program focuses on this if you would like to register your interest for this program CLICK HERE.