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Ask Kathy About Your Dog's Sudden Change Of Behavior

By Kathy Santo | Updated: May 1 2019

Student’s Question:

“My dog is very loving! He hugs my leg the minute I walk in the house, and constantly paws at me when he wants to play. Usually, he smiles at me when I pet him while he’s eating, but yesterday when I did that, he bit me (although he looked sorry afterward). Why did he suddenly turn on me?

Kathy’s Answer:

When I hear the description of your dog’s’ behavior, it feels like I’m hearing about someone who parked their car in the middle of the railroad tracks while the gates were going down and the train horn was blowing. All the warning signs were there, they just weren’t heeded or understood. You think your dog’s behavior is the canine version of a human’s hugging and smiling, but you’re wrong. Anthropomorphizing dog behavior is one of the biggest reasons people find themselves getting bitten. To make solving the issue even more complicated, aggression is never a black and white issue. Some dogs don’t care about their food, but will attack to guard a paper towel.

Beyond the fact that it has many sub-categories, it also can be worsened by variables such as the time of day, the age of the dog, and the person doing the “challenging.” The fact that he “looked sorry” afterward is a common occurrence in dogs, so don’t be fooled into thinking that his remorseful countenance means the tiger has changed his stripes. He hasn’t.

I urge you to contact a reputable dog trainer immediately (if you’re in NJ, call us!). In addition, our monthly, free, Body Language Seminars (which we also have in the form of a webinar) are an excellent source of information regarding understanding what dogs are trying to tell us with their body language to help you prevent fights and bites.

Solving the aggression puzzle after it’s crossed over into the biting stage isn’t easy, but by using various strategies to control the issues, progress can occur.

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Ramsey, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.