Seamus is a red/wheaten Norwich Terrier, ten years old. He was lying on the floor beside my bed. It was time for bed
and sometimes Seamus snores and wakes us, so my
husband went to pick Seamus up to put him in
another room for the night and he snarled and bit
my husband’s hand. This is the first time
anything like has happened.
Is it true that a dog will repeat this behaviour
once he has bitten, or how would you suggest we
deal with it?
Dog and cat bites are serious business. They can lead to serious infections, and in the United States often lead to major lawsuits. So, although I have said it before, let me reiterate that the advice in this column should never be substituted for face-to-face consultation with a veterinarian.
I suspect that Seamus has not suddenly developed problems with aggression. And after a dog bites a person for the first time, he is unlikely develop a taste for human flesh or become a chronic biter.
However, unless you take preventive measures, the scenario you have described is likely to repeat itself. This is because I suspect your husband surprised Seamus, causing him to bite out of fear.
Young dogs and cats, like young people, tend to have excellent hearing and vision. Pets can tell that someone is at the door before the doorbell rings. Pets usually are aware of guests or intruders long before human occupants of the house suspect anything.
As well, most younger pets are relatively light sleepers. It is very hard to sneak up on a sleeping dog when he is young–his instinct is to be aware of his surroundings, even when he is asleep.
However pets, like people, change as they grow older. Their vision and hearing grow weaker. They sleep more heavily.
I think that Seamus was asleep when your husband picked him up. Seamus awoke, realized that he was in someone’s grasp, became scared, and bit your husband out of fear.
The way to prevent this in the future is to ensure that Seamus is fully awake before you pick him up. Nudge him with your foot or make enough noise to rouse him before you handle him.
Be aware that certain medical conditions can cause increased aggression in older dogs. Although I doubt that any such condition is contributing to Seamus’ issue, you should see a veterinarian if the problem persists or if you are worried that someone might be injured.