Dog Bites Reporter

Dog Bites Reporter. Who’s at Fault?

I caught a minute of the news mid-week and learned of a terrible accident involving a Colorado news anchor that was bitten in the face by an 85 lb. Argentine Mastiff. It happened during an interview with the dog’s owner and the firefighter who rescued the dog from an ice pond. If you have not seen the news spot, click here.


Dog Bites Reporter


Last week, when this happened, I posted it on my Facebook page and asked folks what they thought the reporter did that put this dog in a no-win situation.  Lots of folks gave pretty good answers on what the reporter did, but not many were able to tell me what signals the dog gave that were a clear message to the reporter to back off.

It is disheartening to see that even today, so many people – adults and kids alike – assume that all dogs want to be hugged, petted, kissed and are okay with this kind of behavior by humans. If there was one extremely clear message to the contrary, this unfortunate accident in Colorado spelled it out with no if’s, and’s or but’s.

Let’s take a quick look at what happened to create this terrible incident. Are you aware of what mistakes did the news anchor lady make with the Argentine Mastiff resulting in a bite to her face?


 Here’s a short list that I noticed just with the short clip aired by that station

  1. She didn’t know the dog
  2. She didn’t read the dog’s body language signals – warning signs that he was stressed
  3. She got on her Knees with the dog cornering him between her and his owner
  4. She made constant direct eye contact up close – almost face to face
  5. She constantly petted him overhead and then under his chin with the other hand
  6. And I think I saw another video with her kissing him on top of the head

A dog’s body language signs can give you a lot of information and save you or someone a lot of pain and heartache.

Let’s take a look at the “distance increasing signals” the dog was giving that expressed his concern about this stressful situation – but no one tuned in to the dog:

Here’s what the dog did to try and tell her he was uncomfortable and for her to back off.

  1. His ears were flat against his head
  2. He was licking his lips
  3. There was tension in his face
  4. His lips were drawn back looking long and showing teeth – incisors, canines and molars.
  5. Ridges of muscle evident at the corner of his lips and near his jaw
  6. Wide-eye look with fleeting glances away from her – then back to her

When a dog gets stressed, anxious and concerned about his environment and potential threats, some dogs will put distance between themselves and the threat by leaving. If leaving is not an option, biting becomes their only other option to create the distance by “making the threat go away.”

Now, let’s take a look at other contributing factors that “kicked that dog into defense drive” resulting in this terrible accident:

  1. The dog was in a new and strange environment
  2. His owner had a tight grip on his dog’s collar – eliminating the dog’s flight option
  3. The dog was pinned or cornered between the owner and the news anchor on her knees and on the other side of the dog further eliminating all flight options
  4. Any stress/anxiety the dog experienced in the last 24-48 hours can sometimes carry over and impact the current stressful situation pushing the dog to his bite threshold.

This dog was set up to fail. Pushed to his bite threshold with all other options eliminated, he simply bit.  Many people and children hug dogs or puppies too tightly and expect tolerance but instead get growled at, snapped at or worse – bitten. Dog gets the blame.

 Is there a lesson here? What good can come of this horrible accident?

Educate your self and your children about dogs. Learn about how they think and relate to this human world around them – which is like a dog. We bring them into our homes and expect them to be “Lassie.”  Not every dog is Lassie. The responsibility falls on you to:

  • Socialize your puppy or dog.
  • Desensitize your dog to people and other dogs to avoid dog behavior problems
  • Train your dog – enroll in a dog obedience training class
  • Educate yourself about dog body language and how to read any dog.
  • Teach your children how best to interact with your puppy or dog.
  • If you don’t know hire a positive reinforcement trainer
  • Set rules to follow and boundaries to respect in your home and elsewhere

No person or dog should be put in a situation that causes injury or harm to either.  If it does happen, it’s probably the fault of the human but the dog will get the blame.

What Do You Think?  Let us know your thoughts about what went wrong here by commenting below and remember “Sharing is Caring.

 “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

15 replies
  1. Keith
    Keith says:

    I had a 235# brindle English Mastiff. Everyone who saw him wanted to wrap their arms around his 32″ neck, few asked. I would want to interact with a large animal as well, but I ask and I don’t challenge them by looking them in the eyes. He was obedience trained several times and was good enough the trainer wanted us to compete, but he would still not allow just anyone to grab his leash or mess with his rear or look him in the eyes. Small dogs and kids were OK. He would exert his dominance over an adult or lab sized dog. It’s funny how I had two different vets have to warn their techs not to look a large dog in the eyes, because they are not afraid to show you who the alpha male is. At home, he would not let you in the house. Once in, you get a big head in your lap and he loves everybody. Just remember whose house you are in. And remember when in public to ask before you approach, before you touch. I am not placing blame in this horrible incident. I hate it happened. The owner should not have allowed her to get face to face. Maybe she did it while on camera and he was afraid to speak out. Don’t know. Maybe she shouldn’t have done an animal story without knowing something about animals. Maybe she asked all the right questions off camera and maybe the dog had never been in that situation before. Hate it for all involved and I hope for best for all of them.

  2. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    You are correct. Differences to consider: the dog on the magazine cover is our dog, she was in familiar surrounds, familiar people, she was not stressed.
    Major differences. No offense taken at all.

  3. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    You’re correct. But some differences to consider are: the dog on the magazine cover is our dog, she was in familiar surroundings, familiar people
    she was not stressed. All of that makes a difference. So yes, the “pose” is the same but that’s all that was the same. No offense taken

  4. Nom
    Nom says:


    How on earth is this even remotely the owner’s fault? Common sense should tell ANYONE that you don’t put your face that close to a dog YOU DO NOT KNOW.

    To suggest the owner should be responsible for the reporter’s actions is just obsurd and is one of the major flaws in our society today. I am very sorry that this happened to the lady, but to put the entire blame on the owner is just ridiculous.

  5. Brenda "BJ" Hutter
    Brenda "BJ" Hutter says:

    Jim, I totally agree with you! I am a canine behaviorist in Alabama and even some of my clients called to tell me that even they knew the signs I had taught them on stress! Some people are blaming the owner. Perhaps he should have said something to the reporter. However, not even a human wants someone in their face! She totally disrespected his. Unfortunately most people don’t know how to read their dogs, how sad!

  6. Connie Collin
    Connie Collin says:

    I’m pretty sure that I can identify another factor in this. Everybody is looking at the camera. The owner is trying to keep eye contact with the camera, the reporter is cheating towards the camera, and she turned the dog’s head so he was pointing more towards the camera. In the attempt to make better film no one was watching the dog closely enough. Yes, he gave escalating signals that he was unhappy. If the owner or the reporter had been paying attention this bite could have been avoided.

  7. James Wang
    James Wang says:

    I grew up with dogs so I know basic sign when a dog is uncomfortable and might bite. However, judging by the video, I can see no clear sign that the dog is about to bite. Judging by the video also, both the dog owner and the firefighter have no idea what the dog about to do and when the dog did bite they just sit there motionless as if nothing happened.

    Maybe mastiff should be treated as potential dangerous animals and should be regulated and don’t put it close to children or even any stranger. I think 99% of the people have no clue when the Mastiff is uncomfortable and about to bite.

  8. Karl
    Karl says:

    Always a sad situation and I have owned many dogs… but… a biting dog has little room for tolerance. Extreme situations aside, dogs that cannot interact with people will not be in my house.

  9. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. While I agree that some of the fault does lie with the owner, I also know that the anchor lady was the “go-to” anchor when it came to doing animal interview/pieces for that station. Because her job puts her at potential risk interviewing the humans and being around all kinds of animals, I would think she would “want” to know a minimum amount of information as it pertains to keeping safe. News people have been injured by horses, chimpanzees, birds, etc. when doing interview pieces.

    If I only focused on what the owner did or didn’t do, the reader wouldn’t learn about what not to do. NOT pointing out the mistakes she made doesn’t allow people to learn. You can’t always rely on an owner to forewarn people. Even if they would forewarn, I’ve seen some people get in the dog’s face anyway and get bit. Some people pet a dog before the owner notices their approach.

    Thanks for your comments. We should all learn from this.

  10. steph
    steph says:

    i’ve had pets my entire life, i love animals, i’m vegetarian, i’m starting to volunteer at an animal shelter, and i am a petsitter.

    who does not know better?

    stupid person, the animal is NOT in the wrong, just did what was natural to them.

  11. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    I have had this on my mind since it happened and am so glad to see you address it. You said it better than I ever could: “No person or dog should be put in a situation that causes injury or harm to either. If it does happen, it’s probably the fault of the human but the dog will get the blame.”

    I feel bad that the reporter was bitten but I feel much worse for the dog.

  12. Marty
    Marty says:

    Thanks for this article. I saw this when it was on the news and not until I read your article did I realize all the signs that dog was giving everyone and they just kept pushing him.

    I hope he will be okay and that’s a hard way for those folks to learn a lesson about putting a dog in that position.

  13. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    Hi Jim, I really liked this post. I watched the video after reading the post. Wow, these are signs most of us easily miss. Not sure why we think if a dog opens his mouth he’s smiling as opposed to giving a warning sign as if to say ‘hey, you see my teeth don’t you.’ Thanks for the heads up on this.

  14. cw
    cw says:

    Hey Jim-

    I know you mean well, but this is 100% the owner’s fault and here’s hoping she sues and collects.

    As she pet the dog, her face was very close to its face as it was panting and looking harmless–the owner just sat there quietly. How could she possibly know the distance from the dog’s face which the dog perceives as threatening?

    It IS NOT a reporter’s job to understand dog behavior and signals. It IS the dog owner’s job to tell people around his dog to keep their faces away from the dog’s face–Pet with an extended arm.

    Implying that the reporter did something wrong is the height of offensiveness.

    The spotlight should be pointed squarely at the owner, not the reporter or the dog, and I hope she goes after his homeowner’s policy.

    Love to hear your argument to this.

    Thank you.

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