Denise Holmes is a local pet behavior counselor who owns Ain’t Misbehavin’. She trains animals and also answers pet questions sent in by NWA moms for us here on Motherlode. Denise has been training for 25 years and is passionate about pets. To send her a question, email it to: mamas@nwaMotherlode.com. Here’s the latest question — a really difficult one:
Our 8-year-old husky just tried to bite my 4-year-old’s face. He grazed her leaving one small puncture under her nose. I don’t know what to do with him but he can’t stay here anymore. I don’t have a single extra penny right now and I’m at a complete loss. I’m shaken up and so upset. Please give me some advice!
This is such a tough question that I wanted to answer it right away. Truthfully, there is no ‘right’ answer or course of action, and as a trainer who has had to help clients deal with this issue, I can tell you that every situation and every solution is different and very personal. Ultimately, you must do what is right for you and your family, and only you can make that decision.
Though you have already decided the dog can no longer stay with you, and I have no intention of trying to change your mind, I do want to address the bite from a behavioral perspective. It is not uncommon for a child to be bitten in the face by the family dog. Sometimes it’s because the child is in the dog’s face, but often it is because that’s where the bite was intentionally applied.
From the canine perspective, this is correction. A dog will apply a corrective bite to a puppy or other dog at the muzzle or to the back of the neck, which is why children are often bitten in the face. This is NOT an attack; if it had been an attack there would have been a lot more damage. My guess is that your husky outweighs your child and was most likely close enough that had he wanted to actually BITE your child, he very well could have. It is likely that the child was doing something that the dog deemed inappropriate and was trying, in dog language, to correct the behavior. I do not say this to excuse the behavior, but simply to explain that we are not dealing with a vicious animal or dangerous animal.
Now, to answer your question as to what to do with the dog. Since you have decided the dog can’t stay with you, I would seek out someone to take the dog temporarily. In the meantime, you can contact a breed rescue. Breed rescue is your best chance of re-homing this dog appropriately, and based on the information in your email, I do not think this is an irresponsible option. Breed rescue will carefully evaluate the dog and the new home before making a decision to place it.
A dog that has bitten a child doesn’t stand much of a chance in a shelter; the age of your dog makes that equation worse. As for a no-kill facility, it is just my opinion, but I don’t like them. Jail is no way to live your entire life, and this is a dog that has known love and a family. If an appropriate/temporary home can not be found, or a rescue located, and you are convinced the dog can not stay with you, then please, do right by this animal that you have loved, and escort him from the world just as you have led him through it. It will be very hard, but do not make him go alone.