Avoiding Bites and Aggressive Behavior from Your Newly Adopted Dog

Adopting a rescue dog can be one of the most joyous moments in both your own life and that of your new furry friend. However, it’s also important to take a step back and consider the practical reality of the situation. Your rescue has most likely been through a harrowing experience and is going to need some time to adjust. This can even mean that your new dog might lash out or even bite you. But there are steps you can take to calm your pup and ensure that he doesn’t bite.


The first thing to keep in mind is that a dog’s breed doesn’t matter as much as you might imagine. The debate over what role a dog’s breed plays in aggression has been going on for some time and isn’t likely to ever be fully settled. However, as the American Veterinary Medical Association points out, aggression is a normal part of canine behavior. Just as aggression is a normal part of human behavior. But just like no human is inherently aggressive no dog is either.

Social Bonds

What a dog is defined by are his social bonds. Dogs are inherently social animals who want a pack. Likewise, a dog has a deep need for some level of social hierarchy. This is one of the primary factors in a dog biting and nipping after he’s been adopted. He’s trying to figure out his place in his new “pack”. The bites typically aren’t as aggressive as they might seem to a human. If you had fur and thicker skin the bite would be more like an overly firm handshake. Unfortunately, you don’t have the thick skin and fur of canines. But you can help both yourself and your dog by taking things calmly and slowly when he nips or bites.


It’s tempting to yell or make aggressive gestures if you receive a light bite. But that’s merely reinforcing the dog’s own bad behavior. You’re essentially using the same improperly aggressive behavior that you’re trying to get rid of in your dog. It’s all extremely confusing from his perspective. Something along the lines of a person screaming at you that screaming is never allowed.

It is important to demonstrate the proper way to communicate. Use words as simple commands and speak firmly and confidently when reprimanding him. Do not shout or make aggressive motions. The main point is simply to communicate that the dog has done something wrong. The secondary point is to demonstrate that disagreement is communicated with a firm, but quiet and calm, tone. You are trying to do the exact opposite of a dog aggressively barking.

Take Things Slow

Next, keep in mind that your new dog has gone through some rough times. How would you feel if you weren’t really allowed to have anything of your own? Where even food might be grabbed by any of the others around you at any time? Would you be a little insecure if you spent almost every day essentially behind bars? That’s the life your new dog came from. It’s going to take a while for him to get comfortable with the happy new life that you’re providing him. Until then you need to remember that he’s used to thinking of everything in his life as transitory unless he fights to keep it.

So while you can play with toys together, make sure your dog knows you’re not trying to take them. Let him have some space when eating, but still stay with him so that he can see that you’re not after his meal. Ensure he has a place where only he’s allowed to sleep and that you don’t disturb it. Giving him his own space, his own possessions, and his own ownership of his food will tell him that he doesn’t need to bark and bite to protect them. In the end, stopping a dog from biting essentially just means learning how to communicate with each other. You understand his fears, he understands your needs, and thus a whole new happy life is created together.

It is also a good idea to take introducing new people to your dog slowly. Ask guests not to approach your dog and let the dog decide when he’s ready. Watch for signs that your dog is nervous or agitated and remove him from new people if necessary. If your dog were to bite someone, you could be liable for any injuries or damages that occur. It is best to use caution when introducing your dog to friends, family or acquittances in order to protect yourself, your pet and other people.