My rescue toy poodle bit me. What should I have done?

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My rescue toy poodle bit me. What should I have done?

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Old 04-05-2012, 11:21 PM
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My rescue toy poodle bit me. What should I have done?

My partner and I are fostering a 3 year old 6.5lb toy poodle rescue. She has taken very well to us and is very affectionate and playful now. We have trained various tricks and a relatively good heel, and we have house trained her. She is dominant and high strung, and fear bites/nips other dogs and humans about 50% of the time (we just got her a muzzle so we can socialize her a bit more without offending people as much).

We have watched various videos about positive conditioning and training, and we try to be understanding and patient with her if she has accidents or whatever, but when it comes to biting me, I just don't know how to handle myself.

Today I was trying to get her to follow me off leash using raw meat as an incentive. She was a bit too bouncy and excited so I took her by the collar to bring her to my side and show her where I wanted her to stand and SHE NIPPED ME! Argh, I got annoyed and scolded her verbally, and tried to lead her by the collar again. She became alarmed, nipped again and BROKE THE SKIN! Maaaaan I just lost it . I shouted at her and swatted her on the bum. I didn't know what to do and I didn't want her to win, so I tried it a few more times, but things just got worse. The expert drama queen flailed and squeaked and bit and screamed and I scolded her and tried to lead her by the collar until I gave up.

By this point she wouldn't even eat the meat, and we agreed that the safest place for her was in a cardboard filing box with a loose fitting lid (I lifted her into it knowing she wanted to get away from me and that I didn't want to look at her), which she didn't come out of until I came back for her ten minutes later.

By this time I felt terribly guilty and like a complete failure. We had a snuggle session and we both felt glad we were forgiven. She ate the rest of the meat out of my hand after another ten minutes, when she was sure that it wasn't what caused me to be so angry with her.

I obviously made a mistake here and I feel terrible, but I just don't think this dog (Gigi. Or G. Or G-Dog! ) should be able to reserve the right to pull the bitch card on her owner/handler just because she gets scared when she's pulled by the collar. What do I do and what should I have done?
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Old 04-06-2012, 12:48 AM
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Personally I would ditch trying to force the issue along with the physical corrections. It honestly didn't work for you and it sounds like it even caused the situation to escalate!

Instead I would teach this dog to hand target (touch her nose to your hand). It is fun and very easy to teach! And once learned you'll be able to maneuver your dog without ever touching her!

Also, I would work heaviliy on Counter Conditioning this dog to handling. Counter Conditioning just means that you'll be changing the way she feels about you reaching for her collar by pairing the reach and eventually touching her collar with something she really loves (typically a very tasty treat)!

Last edited by kmes; 04-06-2012 at 12:51 AM.
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Old 04-06-2012, 02:21 PM
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Don't feel too guilty, you reacted out of frustration and pain. It's understandable, and you know it wasn't the best response so don't punish yourself too much.

Dominance theory is about 40 years debunked (at least in the scientific and behavioral community). Dogs do not behave like wolves and wolves do not behave the way dominance theory says they should, so it's a bit like basing your understanding of human behavior on the fictionalized behavior of chimpanzees.
Regardless, thinking this way is setting you up for an unnecessarily antagonistic relationship with your pup. People often equate aggression with 'dominance,' but in reality the more confident a dog is, the less likely it is that it will become aggressive. Aggression is a distancing signal, and it is the mark of a more insecure or fearful dog. This is a dog that will respond very poorly to any kind of correction or intimidation, because it teaches them that their fear was justified. They were put into a situation that they felt was unsafe, then more bad things happened.

Lose the idea of 'winning,' this is a human moral-ism. Fear biting is an escalation of a dog's more polite attempts to tell you to back off because they are uncomfortable or scared. Usually, there are a lot more signals that precurs this (check out the Calming Signals sticky ) but either you're not used to looking for them yet or (being a rescue) the dog may very well have learned that more polite signals didn't stop things they didn't want.

Based on her behavior, it seems very likely that she was given collar corrections and has become fearful of having her collar grabbed (this is VERY common in rescue dogs). Kmes was bang on with those video suggestions, and if you're into some reading I would add the book 'Click to Calm' as a recommendation.

Many small dogs are extra sensitive to handling because it's much more likely for them to be grabbed and physically manipulated against their will simply by virtue of their size. Be careful to let her initiate all physical contact (this goes double for guests, the old 'no talk, no touch, no eye contact' until she makes the first moves), don't flood her (always take new things in small steps), counter-condition to things she is nervous of, and if you have to manipulate her (in an emergency) have her drag a light line or keep her leash on at all times so that you can pick that up instead of her collar. Physical manipulation in training (called molding) isn't very effective. Dog's learn best when they have to use their own brains to problem solve.

Oh, the muzzle. I understand it's important to keep others safe, but muzzles often make fearful dogs more fearful because it makes them even more vulnerable. I would try to fade it as soon as possible.
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Old 04-06-2012, 03:15 PM
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Phenomenal post from MA!
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Old 04-12-2012, 03:17 AM
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Wow thanks for your advice, and thanks for understanding my situation.
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:44 PM
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Not sure if its been said...but do NOT force her to meet people especially with a muzzle on....

Also, hopefully you won't react that way again, and not to sound rude, but if you do you should tell the rescue to find a new foster home because being physical with this dog is going to cause horrible set backs.
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Old 04-12-2012, 09:58 PM
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I dont agree with the muzzle either. You should use counter conditioning to desensitize her to other dogs and meeting new dogs, this will also improve once you build her confidence. Bringing her to meet new dogs and people with a muzzle on going to scare her because she will have no way to protect herself if she is threatened.
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