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Hi Dog Forums! I have a question that I am hoping someone can help me with.

I recently adopted a great rescue dog named Biff. He is a 6-year-old poodle mix and I almost no idea where he came from or what his past life was like.

Anyway, he has been absolutely wonderful so far. He is friendly with other people and other dogs, barely ever barks, has never chewed or touched a single thing in our apartment even though he is home alone for 8 to 9 hours at a time (and totally fine with it). He is a very happy dog overall!

The only thing is that he has bitten my roommate and I on a couple of specific occasions. The first time was when we were in the vet waiting room and he was playing with a yorkie puppy. The puppy kept digging its little razor sharp teeth into my dog's ear and practically hanging off of his ear. The puppy's distracted owner wasn't much help, and so when I intervened to get the puppy off his ear he nipped me. Then a minute later he did it again when I went to pull him away from the puppy.

The next time, we had just gotten in from a walk and I wanted to wipe his feet off before he ran over to our (newly cleaned) rug. Of course, he ran right over to the rug while I was trying to get him to stay, so I raised my voice, ran over to him and grabbed his collar -- and he full-on bit me again.

I have watched him be nearly attacked by other dogs on the street -- even to the point where he has yelped and another dog drew blood. Even in those moments he did not bear his teeth.

I took him to the dog park last week for the first time and he did well, of course. But I realized "oh no" when I went to pull him off another dog he decided to hump. I started noticing the tell tale sign of him about to nip at me again, but I made sure to stay gentle and managed to separate him from the other dog without incident.

This is a tough situation for me because the times when he does this are times I find I have to be physical with him (not hurting him, simply pulling him off/away from something or another dog). He is not treat-motivated enough to, say, not run straight to the carpet or stop playing with another dog just because I am offering him a sausage.

They are also times that I am trying to "punish" him from doing something wrong. Is diversion the answer? Can someone give me a specific example/idea that would help deter this behavior?

Thank you!
 

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Good for you for continuing to help this dog even though he bit you! Not everyone is that committed to their dog. You don't say HOW recently you adopted him, but he may still be feeling stressed in a relatively new situation to begin with. I wanted to share this video that might help clear up what could be going thru your dogs mind at these times. It's horrendously long, but has some great info at about 17:30 minutes to 30:00 minutes...so you can skip around!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFFto1XVtxI

You might want to let him drag a short leash, or even piece of a leash on his collar for a while. Just to have something to take hold of instead of his collar in case you need to. I wonder if using a positive interrupter would help?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBvPaqMZyo8
The kikopup channel offers over 300 free videos on positive training techniques as an alternative to punishment. There's one on handling and reaching toward your dog that might help too.

You know, it almost sounds like he might just need more time adjusting to his new home and people, new routines etc. As he begins to have more confidence that he's with kind and caring people now he will develop more trust. In the mean time, you could try to avoid putting him in potentially more stressful situations - I mean if he needs to go to vet he needs to go, but maybe an off leash dog park might be too much at this point. He may need a more gradual approach.
 

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Quit grabbing his collar.

Try to distract him in some way, hook a leash to the collar and lead him away, but don't grab it and try to pull him.

It is very possible he came from a home where being grabbed by the collar meant bad things, that could've been how the dog was punished in some way.
There's a good chance he's learned not to let himself be grabbed.
 

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Are you grabbing his collar each of these times? Some dogs really don't like having their collars grabbed and the one decent bite I've ever had was from grabbing a dog's collar. It doesn't mean he was abused or anything - the dog who bit me came from a great home, she was just touchy about having her collar grabbed and I didn't know that.

I would work on pairing the collar grab with treats. Just do a lot of reps of grab collar with one hand, give treat with the other. Make grabbing his collar the best thing ever that results in lots of treats.

It's also quite possible that your demeanor when you are punishing is scaring/freaking him out. If you do have to redirect him, try doing it in a neutral way without grabbing his collar (until you've built it up as a positive thing).
 
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