Dog bit me again -- don't know what to do

5 replies [Last post]
cstrawfield's picture
Joined: 2014-05-05

My doberman turns six years old this month. Today he bit me for the fourth time. He's recently bitten another guy in the neighborhood. I'm sad beyond anything I can explain here. I have no idea what to do, and would really appreciate thoughts, advice.

A bit of background. My dog came from a reputable breeder. He's had a loving, stable environment his entire life. He gets mutiple walks every day. He has an excellent diet. There are no other dogs in our household. He can be the gentlest, most affectionate dog in the world, but he's exhibited considerable aggression toward other dogs since around his ninth or tenth month. For the first few years, though, it was manageable. I've considered that he may have some degree of anxiety, though his quickness to aggressive responses to other dogs barking, a delivery man on the porch, etc, have seemed consistent with the breed.

Then trouble started. One night, about three years ago, I tried to slide him over so I could get in bed. I was gentle with him, and it was a maneuver we'd done a hundred times before. But he arched over me and bit into my scalp -- pretty bad bite -- basically ripped the scalp off my skull. It took 28 staples to close one of the lacerations -- 12 staples for the other. We talked to a behaviorist and several vets. Since he'd never aggressed toward me or any other person up to that point, the consensus seemed to be that he may've had an injury, and that my interaction with him exacerated, and/or that in his sleepy stupor he may not have understood what was going on and reacted aggressively out of fear. It was his only aggressive act toward a human up to that point, so we got past it, and we had no other issues for another couple years.

Late last year, he developed bladder stones and had to have emergency surgery to clear his urethra and remove the stones. We made the decision at the time to go ahead and have him neutered, as we'd been advised this would decrease his odds of various health problems in the future. In addition to minimizing his chances of getting another infection like the one that caused his bladder stones, our vet also said this might moderate his aggression against other dogs. This was the beginning of a number of health and behavioral issues for our dog.

In short, once he healed from the surgery, his aggression toward people and other dogs increased significantly. This became apparent about eight months ago.  We'd stopped during a walk to talk to an acquaintance in the neighborhood. The dog sat calmly and faced our friend in a non-threatening way. But when our friend reached to pet my dog, the dog gave him a quick nip on the hand -- something he's never done when interacting with any other people. In fact, he'd been friendly with this same fellow in the past. The bite wasn't hard enough to break the skin, but it made a mark, and was clearly aggressive -- not playful.

Shortly after this he began showing other signs of increased aggression. Now, when sees another dog during walks, he flies into a rage and -- this is the new thing -- he bites, or attempts to bite, me or my wife on a leg, evidently in an effort to escape our control and get at the other dog. This happened yesterday, and resulting another bruised and bloody leg for me.

Now today, this happened. Toward the end of our walk, my dog began dancing and leaping -- this is my queue that he wants to run the rest of the way home -- that is to say, he stays on the leash and we both run home. He's always seemed to relish this activity -- he gets visibly happy, leaps, dances, is typically very affectionate when we arrive home. So, as my usual, I complied -- we started running -- but almost as soon as we took off, he leaped, snarled and gave me a vicious bite on the arm. I'm don't need medical attention or anything, but I've got a bleeding half-baseball-sized knot on my forearm.

I'm at the end of my rope here. I've tried everything I can think of to make his life happy, to minimize any stressful elements in his environment, to get him good nutrition, plenty of exercise, etc. But I'm at a loss. I love this dog and I'm devastated at the thought of losing him. But his aggressive behaviors toward me and others are increasing in frequency and intensity, and I can't allow him to endanger my wife and other people in our lives.

Has anyone else dealt with similar issues? I'd really appreciate any advice or perspectives other owners might share.

I'm so sorry you are going through this -

Have you spoken to his breeder? What do they say? 

I always advise people to get a full bloodwork up on a dog with aggression issues - make sure they do a full thyroid panel. Low thyroid is very common in Dobermans and can cause aggression issues. Not saying that is the cause of it, but it is worth exploring. 

Personally, if the thyroid is not an issue I would consider Euthinasia. He has become a dangerious dog and a liability. There is no shame in saying "enough" - for sure you don't want to rehome him and make him someone else's problem.... not to mention the fact that he has a bite history - if you rehome him and he bites someone else, you could be liable. 

DobermanGuy's picture
Joined: 2017-12-11

Pinch collar and a greyhound type basket muzzle while you figure things out. Killing him ought to be a last resort...

Before I give you any more advice - How did you correct him the last times he got out of control, overly aggressive or bit someone?


The Greyhound type basket muzzles are good at what they do. Dog can still breathe, bark, drink, etc. but he will not be able to get a hold on squat with his teeth. A properly fitted pinch collar will make a world of difference in the pulling if not stop it entirely while the pinch collar is in use.

cstrawfield's picture
Joined: 2014-05-05

Thank you for your response, Fitzmar.  I think I read another of your responses in another thread where you advised someone else to get a thyroid panel for their dog, and I'm getting that done tomorrow.

I've regrettably been considering euthanasia. The thought of it is nearly unbearable, but if the thyroid panel is normal, I'm going to be running low on options.

I half-hoped there might be rescue organizations for problem dogs. From your response, I take it there are no such organizations?

Thank you again for the response.

cstrawfield's picture
Joined: 2014-05-05

Thanks for responding, DobermanGuy. My methods of correction have probably not been the best. In general, I've tried to use only postitive reinforcement as a conditioning technique. But when he bit my scalp, that all went out the window. In the circumstances, I threw the dog across the room, and, frankly, kicked the shit out of him. This was completely instinctual -- a cataract of blood was washing over my face, and I thought I was fighting for my life. When I realized what had happened and got a clearer sense of the circumstances at hand, I ordered the dog out of the room, and he instantly obeyed. Note that the dog did not attempt to attack again after that initial bite, nor in response to my repeatedly kicking him -- for which I suppose I'm very lucky.

After I got back from a long night in the ER, I isolated the dog and allowed him minimal interaction with us. This lasted for two days. The dog behaved in what I took to be a very deferential and contrite manner, and after two days, I let him be with us again. At that point, I'd become convinced this had been a freak occurrence, and I considered it unlikely he would aggress again.

Of course, my reaction in that case was unusual. I mention it mainly to describe the dog's behavior throughout. In general, I've tried to use mainly positive reinforcement. After reading some considerable amount of information about doberman training, I'd become convinced that positive reinforcement was much more effective than negative reinforcement -- with this breed, in particular. Consequently, I'm not really well versed in how to properly apply negatively reinforcing training techniques.

In the other instances of biting, I've made the dog sit (which he fairly quickly accedes to) to gain control of the dog, and yelled "no" at him repeatedly (he understands 'no' and usually responds appropriately). Sounds kind of dumb to actually write here, but this has been my operant protocol when the dog has gone out of control when aggressing; ie, to command the dog into a compliant posture, and then to shout a forceful series of "No's."  After the biting/nipping, I've isolated him from my wife and me for varying lengths of time. I meant this as a sort of negative conditioning, but I'm not sure how effective it is -- it's not clear to me whether the dog understands why he's being treated this way.

As must be apparent here, I've been at a loss for appropriate responses to these behaviors -- I'd appreciate any advice you might have.

I'm taking your advice and checking out basket muzzles. Looks like there are a lot of options. You wouldn't happen to have any suggestions for a brand, would you? Any thoughts about this one?

I've been using Lola Limited pinch collars since his second year.

Thanks a lot for your response.

DobermanGuy's picture
Joined: 2017-12-11

Considering the damage he did to you in that instance I personally see nothing wrong with how you reacted. I would have done the same. You sent a clear message 'as soon as it happened' that that will NOT be tolerated and there will be a price to pay for using those teeth on you like that.

That muzzle in the picture you provided looks good. Worth trying at least and he WILL get used to it in short order. No different than a Doberman getting 'accustomed' to a cone when they have their ears done. They hate it at first and then quickly learn to deal with it... If it saves you from a single incident in the future - It has paid for itself many times over.

Note that the dog did not attempt to attack again after that initial bite, nor in response to my repeatedly kicking him -- for which I suppose I'm very lucky.

He didnt attack again because he knew he screwed up and was submitting in my opinion.




Even if you need to try a few different muzzles before you find the one that works best for you it is going to be cheap insurance that will work while you take a breath and figure out your plan of action in the future.

I liked this one:

Adjustable leather straps, appears to be padded where it rests on the nose, metal basket so it is not likely to go anywhere or get destoyed very soon...

A few mornings back one of mine would not do her poop when told. Wanted to dink around smelling the yard for as long as she could get away with... After about three times and several minutes telling her the command and getting nothing I dropped the lead went back inside and got the pinch collar. Once she saw it and I 'explained' it to her she dropped that turd in less than a minute and was ready to come back inside.

Never had to even use it or put it on her (that time) but she got the idea and quit messing around. Some dogs are hard headed and asking nicely won't always do...

I looked up the pinch collar you said you have been using and it is only barely similar to the ones I have been using. Mine are all steel (the common type you find at places like tractor supply), medium size links (and I do keep extra links around for as they grow). They have lasted for a handful of Dobermans so far and will likely last for 20 more... Have to adjust the links and fit them properly as the dogs grow but I have never had a dog 'back out' of one and if I need to give a correction I can give a damn good one if I am paying attention.  


If you look close at that picture you will notice how the prongs on both those collars have slid around to the sides of the necks. Like that they do not do so well. Prongs need to be under the neck and not obstucted by another collar so they can work the best they can.  

Just a guess / opinion here but it almost sounds like your dog never learned bite inhibition. They generally learn this stuff when puppies as they grow up around their parents / siblings. They will be playing rough and using their mouths to 'play' with the other dogs and if the one squeezes too hard the other dog will yelp and leave thus ending the 'game' they were playing. Or one might squeeze a little to hard while playing and the other dog will respond by REALLY squeezing the next time she chomps down causing the instigator to yelp and leave thus ending the game. Generally they learn pretty quick to not squeeze to hard or else there is a negative for them. The game either ends when the other dog yelps and leaves or they get a plug taken out of them by the other dog. Neither is 'fun' for the dog that squeezed too hard to begin with.

In a single dog home where the puppy was brought home very young it is usually up to the owner to help their dog finish learning bite inhibition as they will not have had enough time to learn it from their parents and siblings. If you bring home a pair of young puppies they usually finish all of that learning on their own during normal playing with each other. Most every 'pair' I have raised ended up with really 'soft' mouths as compared to the times I raised a Doberman in a single dog household. Those single Dobermans took more work on my part to help them learn how rough they could get before getting corrected.


Regardless of the decision you eventually make regarding putting him down or to keep on trying to get through this - You very much have my respect sir. You put up with more than a lot so far and from what you said have always provided well for your dog. Guys / gals generally dont shell out for doggie behaviorist fees if they consider their dog 'disposable'.