Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Will My Rescue Dog Be Aggressive Toward a Dog Walker?
"I am trying to make the right choice for my dog, Hope. I found him on the side of the road starved and in bad physical shape, so I don't know his past.
He growled and lunged at my mom the first time they met. I introduced him slower the next time and gave him treats, and she was able to pet him without any issues. So my question is, can he be trusted? I have to go back to work soon and would need a dog walker. Can he be trusted not to bite the walker if I am not here?" —Belinda
Fear Aggression in Rescue Dogs
Since he growled at your mom but did not bite, he may just be fearful of strangers and not a dangerous dog. Fear aggression can be caused by many things, but it is usually seen in dogs that have had a bad experience and learned to react by growling and even biting.
Start Obedience Training Right Away
An aggressive dog needs to learn to control his behavior. Since you found him on the road, he was probably an abandoned dog that had no training and never learned to control his impulses.
It would be a good idea to start him in obedience training as soon as possible, hopefully at a city park or a pet store where he has a chance to meet other people and dogs. He has already missed out on his sensitive socialization period, but it is not too late for him to learn to be more sociable.
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Experienced Dog Walkers Know When to Back Off
Unless you are hiring an inexperienced kid to walk your dog, the dog walker will probably be fine. People that work with dogs all the time learn the signals when a dog is in fear and know to back off when necessary.
I do not have any statistics on the number of dog walkers that are bitten in the US each year, and that is probably because the number is so small. Most people that are bitten are kids between the ages of 5 and 9 that are playing and not used to watching what signs the dog is giving. (1)
Be Honest With Your Dog Walker
Of course, I cannot guarantee this will not happen, but if you let the walker know that you are worried about your dog being a fear-biter, they will be more careful on the initial walk.
- Chen HH, Neumeier AT, Davies BW, Durairaj VD. Analysis of pediatric facial dog bites. Craniomaxillofac Trauma Reconstr. 2013 Dec;6(4):225-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820741/
This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Dr Mark