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Does your little dog bite?

 If you ever want to hear the sound of laughter, tell your local letter carrier that your dog doesn't bite. To get some more laughs, repeat your claim to a veterinarian, an animal control officer, a personal injury attorney or an insurance  claims officer. While almost everyone is convinced that their dog is incapable of violence, these various experts know the truth -- all dogs bite.

 Before you tell me that your Shi Tzu, Fluffy, couldn't possibly bite someone, lift her cute little lips for a second. Inside that flat little mouth are 42 teeth -- exactly the same number that are found in the mouths of Rottweilers.  Those little tiny front teeth are called incisors and they allow Fluffy to daintily pick up things like crickets and cat poop. You might convince someone that these itsy bitsy pearly-white lozenges could never do more than leave an  impression on a person's skin, but what about those big teeth on each side of the incisors? Those are canine teeth -- Just like the ones that Edgar Rice Boroughs called "fighting fangs" in all of those Tarzan books. (The same canine  teeth that the Dog Encyclopedia says are made for ripping and tearing flesh.) No amount of cuteness on the outside can completely camouflage the truth. Canine teeth are remarkably similar to pruning shears -- and Fluffy has two sets of them.

Now that we have gotten past the fact that she is actually capable of biting, you may remain convinced that Fluffy  would never really do it. After all, she has never really tried to bite you. Well, she did go after the groomer once, but he must have done something to provoke the poor little thing. He just didn't understand how sensitive she is.  That awful veterinarian said that she tries to bite him whenever he gives her a shot. It is perfectly normal for a dog to dislike being hurt. The clinic staff always seem to overreact and hold her down so roughly. Of course she tries to  bite them, but that isn't really aggression, that's self defense. The growling and snarling she does when she hears the sound of the UPS truck isn't really serious, because you can always pick her up and hold her as you sign for your  package. Of course, you don't let her play with the grandkids anymore ever since that time that little Robby accidentally fell on her. Every one said it was probably her claw that scratched his face, not her tooth.

 While many of us do not like to admit it, all dogs are capable of aggressive behavior. Many people own a dog specifically because of the canine tendency to defend territory. When Fluffy starts snapping at children who try to  steal her toys it should not surprise anyone. When she begins lunging and barking at strangers who deliver packages, it should be viewed as a normal progression. Despite the fact that canine aggression is a common  occurrence, many pet owners refuse to believe it about their own animal. It is often this form of denial that leads to unexpected violence. It is the unprepared owner whose dog is most likely to burst through an unlatched screen  door and nail the UPS guy. The same dog may easily slip out of its collar and bite a neighbor's child.

While many pet owners are in control of their pet's agressive tendencies, many are not. To determine if you have a  problem, ask yourself these questions. If you answer several of the questions afirmatively, you may need to seek professional help in controlling your dog's behavior.

 * Do you automatically confine your dog when the doorbell rings? Do you attempt to hold a conversation while simultaneously holding the dog's collar?

 * Can you bathe, dry and brush your dog without using some type of restraining device?

* If your dog had a thorn in its paw, could you remove it without help? If you knew how to remove stiches from a  minor injury, would your pet let you do it?

* Could a child remove a chew toy or treat from your dog's mouth? Does your dog growl at people who get too close to a favorite toy, sleeping area or food bowl?

 * Does your veterinarian always use a muzzle or other restraint when your dog is examined or treated. Do you find your self leaving the exam room rather than watch the attendents restrain your pet?

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 Copyright 1997 by Gary Wilkes -- No portion of this web page may be reproduced without permission.