Our dog snapped at our 7 year old UPDATED #15 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 07-05-2009, 03:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We adopted a dog (lab/hound mix) from a rescue shelter in February. She's generally a good girl. She snapped at our toddler (21 months when it happened) and we immediately got training for her. Things were going great and she would snap a couple times more, but only when the toddler got what the dog felt was too close to her while she was eating. In early May, my parents were visiting for the weekend. It wasn't the first time she has met them. She was fine the entire first day. The second day, my mom was standing behind the couch showing my husband some pictures and our dog jumped up and did a growl/snap thing at my mom. We reprimanded her, but figured she was being protective of my husband in some way. Later that day my dad was laying on the loveseat and she snapped at his face.

Today, a month after the last incident, my 7 1/2 year old reached to touch her and she snapped at him. Only he yelled "OW!" and showed me his wrist. The skin isn't broken, but he has a raised red welt on his wrist. He is the sweetest kid and definitely the most mellow of all of our kids. It was quiet, there was nothing stressful going on this morning. My son is really upset about it.

I'm worried that a noisy busy house with six people is too chaotic for her. She never lets them run. Whenever the boys are in the backyard playing, she gets mad and will growl and bark at them. If they don't stop running, she will run after them and knock them down.

I don't know what to do. We never let the now 2 year old toddler alone with her just like the trainer said. She gets lots of exercise and healthy food. The boys love her and are good to her. She gets some quiet time away each day. I feel like we're doing all the right stuff and I'm scared that something worse will happen. My oldest (the one that got snapped at today) was bitten by our former dog when he was 18 months old. It was unprovoked. He wasn't even looking at the dog and was four feet away. I saw it happen and couldn't do anything about it. He lunged at my son and got his head and next to his eye and he had to get a lot of staples in his head. So I'm the one that is skittish about this kind of stuff because it was an awful experience. She's really sweet a lot of the time, but other times she does strange things like this. Help please!!
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#2 of 15 Old 07-05-2009, 03:24 PM
 
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I'm so sorry-- I would definitely rehome the dog. I would also emphasize strongly to the children that it is NOT their fault but that the doggie has special issues that you didn't know about before that mean she will be happier somewhere else.

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#3 of 15 Old 07-05-2009, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sigh. That's what I was afraid of. I'm worried that we're just waiting around for the next incident and it could be bigger and cause actual damage. It may never happen but if it did, I'd feel like we ignored warning signs of a problem.

I feel so bad for the dog, she's been returned to the shelter before. She was brought to the shelter as a new puppy, adopted at 5 months, returned at 11 months because the people said they didn't know she would get so big (she's only 44 pounds, but they ended up adopting a rat terrier, so they really wanted smaller), we got her at 13 months and she's 18 months now. That's a lot of home-searching in her young life. I know my kids have to come first, but it makes me sad. And again, I know the kids are most important and definitely more important than money, but we have spent so much money between the adoption, necessary items, toys, vet bill for shots, a year supply of heartguard and frontline, Halo food...it stinks that we spent so much and it might not work out.
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#4 of 15 Old 07-05-2009, 10:03 PM
 
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I agree that the pup needs a new home. I am an absolute dog-LOVER! But, people come first. She is simply too agressive.

I know that it is saddening to have to give up a dog that has already been through so much. But, she cannot be trusted around your children.

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#5 of 15 Old 07-05-2009, 11:40 PM
 
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First things first - full vet check. The key things would be checking for ear infections, hip/elbow displasia (since you said lab mix), full thyroid panel (not just the T4, you usually have to send away for the full thing but I recall it being cheaper than I thought link). Any of these things could cause the dog to act reactively/aggressively when they otherwise wouldn't.
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#6 of 15 Old 07-05-2009, 11:58 PM
 
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and also, not that you should feel obligated to do this as I do believe right now she is a danger and you need to protect your family, but what kind of trainer did you have, what kind of training? A good behviorist may be able to help.

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#7 of 15 Old 07-06-2009, 12:02 AM
 
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when and if you do rehome the dog, please tell the shelter/rescue that she should not go to a home with small children. that will at least help in the new selection process.

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#8 of 15 Old 07-06-2009, 12:52 AM
 
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Where was she (physical location--on the couch, dog bed, on the floor) when she snapped? What was she doing just prior?

The behavior you described as usually sweet but sometimes strange fits with the way my dog resource guards.

She is protective of normal things (food, toys,) but also of odd things, like my running shoes and my purse/diaper bag. She only guards things that are mine--but all dogs are different. Since I recognized her behavior as resource guarding & started specific training/desensitization/putting my shoes away, she has made huge strides.

I understand the seriousness of the situation--I agree, you absolutely can't have a dog that snaps unpredictably--but maybe a visit with a behaviorist would be a step before rehoming?

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#9 of 15 Old 07-06-2009, 01:26 AM
 
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Your dog shouldn't be resource guarding and she should NEVER feel the need to protect anyone in the family by snapping at others. That is VERY serious. I can't stress that enough - VERY serious. People can get seriously hurt by dogs who feel the need to "guard" without your command.

You either need to re-home or you need to start from scratch in terms of training.

As in start NILIF - consistently - from everyone in the family. You don't even pet the dog or touch her without making her earn it. And then call a behaviorist to diagnose the rest. There are also many ways to eliminate resource guarding - googling it will yield tons. My method, when my dog was a pup, was that I fed him one meal - literally, he ate out of my hands. The other meal was in the bowl, but I'd randomly stick my hand in his bowl and drop a yummy treat.

However, do NOT stick your hand in your dog's bowl right now. Obviously. It's better to start slow, and feed out of your hand - no bowl.

The running after your kids, and knocking them down - VERY common behavior issue. The most common one, in fact, that I come across in training dogs and kids to live together. It's a lab/hound mix - she's seeing a lot of little people running around, and her excitement and prey drive rises. Her reaction to that is 100% natural, but it has to be trained out of her when it comes to kids.

Basically, this dog will need A LOT of work if you want to re-train from scratch. I mean, A LOT. I'm not saying it's impossible - it is quite possible. But, it will require a lot of time, energy, and money. On top of that, you'll have to get your kids on board with NILIF.

If you re-home, tell them all the reasons and why she wasn't good with kids.

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#10 of 15 Old 07-06-2009, 01:44 AM
 
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s... i hope whatever you do it works out for you, your family and the pup! best wishes...

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#11 of 15 Old 07-06-2009, 08:01 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Sailor View Post
Your dog shouldn't be resource guarding and she should NEVER feel the need to protect anyone in the family by snapping at others. That is VERY serious. I can't stress that enough - VERY serious. People can get seriously hurt by dogs who feel the need to "guard" without your command.

You either need to re-home or you need to start from scratch in terms of training.

As in start NILIF - consistently - from everyone in the family. You don't even pet the dog or touch her without making her earn it. And then call a behaviorist to diagnose the rest. There are also many ways to eliminate resource guarding - googling it will yield tons. My method, when my dog was a pup, was that I fed him one meal - literally, he ate out of my hands. The other meal was in the bowl, but I'd randomly stick my hand in his bowl and drop a yummy treat.

However, do NOT stick your hand in your dog's bowl right now. Obviously. It's better to start slow, and feed out of your hand - no bowl.

The running after your kids, and knocking them down - VERY common behavior issue. The most common one, in fact, that I come across in training dogs and kids to live together. It's a lab/hound mix - she's seeing a lot of little people running around, and her excitement and prey drive rises. Her reaction to that is 100% natural, but it has to be trained out of her when it comes to kids.

Basically, this dog will need A LOT of work if you want to re-train from scratch. I mean, A LOT. I'm not saying it's impossible - it is quite possible. But, it will require a lot of time, energy, and money. On top of that, you'll have to get your kids on board with NILIF.

If you re-home, tell them all the reasons and why she wasn't good with kids.
Excellent points!!!


As a teenager I dealt with my neighbors dog who I would house sit for, he had EXTREME food agression, with other dogs and people. I started by talking to her near her bowl, calmly saying what a good dog she was. Over time I moved closer to her while eating. Then I would come closer carrying her favorite treat, talking to her the whole time. Sometimes she would stop eating and get the treat sometimes she would finish and then come for the treat. Eventually I started to drop the treat into her food bowl while she ate. In the end I could actually move her bowl if needed (if her bowl moved towards another dog she would get mad!) and she was perfectly ok with me approaching her. This was a huge change for her.

This was a dog who had been extremely abused in her first home and needed a lot of work. This type of dog is not for everyone. My suggestion is to see if more training will work for your family and if not, try and use a rescue to place her with a new home that can do the training with her. She is not a lost cause but as much as I even hate to say it, some families and some dogs don't always work for one another.

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#12 of 15 Old 07-07-2009, 09:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We ended up taking her back to the shelter on Sunday. I called them to see what advice they had and the owner said she absolutely thought we should bring her back. She did have their trainer call me because I wanted to know if there was anything else we should try and the trainer agreed about returning her. She asked some questions about her training and said the trainer we used was a very good one (positive training). It's a no-kill shelter and they have a policy (like most shelters probably) that if you adopt and can't keep the dog, it must be returned to them. She said they would have the trainer work with her some more and they would adopt her out to someone without kids. It was a hard thing to do, but we feel it was the right thing.

Thanks everyone for the advice.
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#13 of 15 Old 07-12-2009, 09:45 PM
 
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99.99% of the time it is ethically wrong to re-home a dog who has a bite history. In cases where the dog can't be reconditioned the only people qualified to take them on are behaviorists, trainers, or people who are VERY experienced in the rehabilitation of biters (don't want to use the word "aggressive" since biting can be triggered by all sorts of things, including fear and axiety... so call it what it is - biting).

It's essentially akin to selling a car with no breaks and watching the new owners drive away down a busy hill knowing they won't be able to stop at the bottom. Even if the new owners are aware of the problem and are OK with it, they'll be putting other people in danger, and that's just wrong.

Most reputable vets, trainers, and behaviorists will agree with this. Dangerous dogs that cannot rehabilitated in the home where they currently live should not be bounced around, they should be humanely euthanized.

I know it's hard to rehabilitate a dog when you have a family and children, but if you're re-homing a dog because the task seems daunting, and dare I say - inconvenient, than you should not have gotten a dog in the first place. They're life time commitments, even if they have problems. If the problems cannot ever be fixed, than do the responsible thing and have the dog humanely euthanized.

And I say this with the experience and understanding of the financial and emotional commitment of having to diagnose and then put the treatment into practice. We have a Jack Russell with anxiety issues who was nearly euthanized last year because of his behavior... and I'm an experienced dog person, too. I finally got in touch with the only board certified veterinary behaviorist in the southern part of our state and am so glad we didn't have him euthanized because he has improved SO much. She put a lot of things into perspective for me and really brought into light a lot of things that I over looked or dismissed as possible triggers. It was enlightening and worth every penny.

However, even she agreed that any dog who has bitten, snapped at, or attempted to bite a person is not a candidate for re-homing unless in the certain circumstances that I mentioned above.

Feel free to PM me if you want to talk about what's involved in dealing with a BCVB, or even just the logistics of co-existing with a "problem" dog with children in the home.

And dare I come off as an evil and cold hearted witch, but this kind of commitment is not for everyone and I know a lot of people who simply would not do it or don't have the experience, and I still think the dog should be humanely euthanized. This can be an unpopular opinion among people who feel you're putting your convenience above the life of a dog, but if safety is an issue at the expense of not being competent or inclinced to rehabilitate the dog, you can't use that as an excuse to re-home it, you know? Chalk it up to the ultimate learning experience on how to acquire and pre-screen a family dog, and to the ultimate commitment it is to get one in the first place. Luckily for them, the experience is much harder on us than them, since it's not painful, and they don't have any fear or anxiety leading up to it. Just the love and comfort you provide for them as your pet and family member.

I've come to the conclusion that the stigma associated with euthanizing "problem" dogs should be reconsidered by society as a whole, and perhaps less dogs would end up in shelters where their problems become exacerbated and passed onto the next unsuspecting victim. It will also lessen the chance that a problem dog could end up in the wrong hands and get bred, thus perpetuating bad behavioral traits. It's a vicious cycle - where dogs get bounced from home to home, while having litters of more problem dogs, all the while people feel obligated to preserve the life of the dog at all costs, which means more and more people get to experience the difficult behavior until finally someone gets seriously hurt.

Ok, I'm rambling.. think I've made my point. Feel free to PM me if you don't want to talk publicly about your dog. But at the end of the day, if you can't make it work, I think she should humanely euthanized. And I wouldn't fault you for recognizing that you just don't have it in you to make that commitment.

ETA: I admitt I skimmed most of the replies and just noticed you returned her to the shelter, but I'll leave this for anyone else reading. I hope you gave them all the history so they can make a sound decision about her future. Even "no-kill" shelters euthanize dogs that won't make safe and reliable pets.

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#14 of 15 Old 07-17-2009, 11:30 PM
 
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I know this is kinda an older post, but just wanted to give thanks for both sides being represented. My baby girl collie dog is 10 and has been over-protective her whole life of me, but gotten much worse in the last couple months since she's re-torn her ACL She's snapped at people before, but never caused any danger, then two days ago she actually ran at and attacked a neighbor boy The scene still makes my stomach turn. She didn't break skin, after all she's a collie, so she goes for the ankles, but still - not okay! Humane euthanazia is the route I'm going even tho it breaks my freakin heart to itty bitty bits and keeps making me cry. I run a daycare, I just can't risk having it happen again. ugh. still, glad it was put out in this discussion, that it's okay to put down these pups that have recurring aggressive issues instead of trying to rehome them...

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#15 of 15 Old 03-02-2010, 01:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I thought I'd update this thread. The dog was taken back to the shelter in July. In August, she was adopted to a couple with a 17 year old son. They were made aware of her history and chose to adopt her anyway. It's going great! The family said she's doing wonderfully and is much happier in a quieter home.
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