People may have heard that once a dog bites someone, it is likely to bite again. The truth is that there are different levels of biting dog behavior, according to the official scale adopted by The Association of Professional Dog Trainers. In some cases, a professional trainer can train or rehabilitate a dog that has bitten someone. In others, the owner may need to consider euthanizing the dog.
These are the six levels of dog bites:
- The dog is aggressive or obnoxious and may snap, but its teeth do not come in contact with skin.
- The dog's teeth touch the skin and may cause a little bleeding if there is a scrape, but there are no puncture wounds, or they are no deeper than one-tenth of an inch.
- One or more of the dog's canine teeth puncture the skin, but the wounds are shallow: half or less the length of the teeth.
- One or more canine teeth puncture the skin, and at least one of the wounds is deeper than half the length of the teeth. The victim could also suffer extensive bruising as a result of the dog bearing down while biting. The dog may cause lacerations by shaking its head as it bears down.
- The dog bites the victim more than once, and two or more of the bites are level four or greater, or the dog has attacked more than one victim with at least one level four bite in each incident.
- The dog kills the victim.
In more than 99 percent of all dog incidents, the "attack" is a level one or two, and these dogs are typically exhibiting fear or rambunctiousness, or the dog is simply out of control. Experts recommend Classical Conditioning training and other methods to ensure the dog does not repeat the incident.
If the owner complies with the recommended treatment for a level three bite incident, it is likely that the dog will not attack a second time. The treatment is very time intensive, though, and there is some danger to the trainer during the process, which must be rigorous to be effective.
An owner whose dog has caused a level four bite should know that this dog is extremely dangerous and likely to cause serious harm again. Authorities should receive reports of every level four bite, and the owner should sign a form in triplicate stating he or she is aware of the danger and will take full responsibility for ensuring the dog does not harm anyone again. This involves keeping the dog in the home at all times except for visits to the veterinarian, at which time the owner should muzzle and properly restrain the dog. The owner should also keep the dog locked away when children are nearby and ensure the key never leaves his or her person during this time. Unfortunately, most owners of level four biters do not comply.
Any dog that causes level five or six bites has mutilated the victim, and experts recommend euthanasia rather than the only other alternative: complete solitary confinement.