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Hi all, I have a 2 1/2-year-old, neutered male bichon/miniature poodle mix (i think), Teddy...I've had him a year and a half, he was a rescue and all I know is he came to the shelter as a stray. As long as I've had him, he's always barked at people who approached him, and a trainer finally helped me realize his biggest issue is people making eye contact with him. Over the last year or so, I've had considerable success with allowing people to pet him, as long as I make sure to tell them not to make eye contact with him. Usually my (spayed) female, who is very friendly, approaches the person first and then Teddy decides he wants to be pet, as well. It also helps if they are sitting. Usually within a minute or so of the person petting him, he relaxes and there is no problem. Sometimes he even rolls on his back for the person to pet his tummy. Until tonight, he'd never bitten anyone. He had snapped at me a few times, usually when he had a bone or a high-value treat, and a couple of times he's "mouthed" my hand, but hasn't broken the skin or anything. I no longer give him any high value items, and hiring a trainer to deal with the resource-guarding has been on the back burner for now...
Tonight, I was talking to my neighbor and I told her, if she didn't look at him and pet him, he'd calm down in a minute. Looking back, it was my fault, I pulled him closer to us and told her to pet him when his back was turned. Well, he snapped and bit her enough to break the skin, for the first time since I've had him. I also think she probably forgot and looked at him anyway, even though it all happened so fast I couldn't really tell. Also, she is in her 70's and has thin skin, so it's possible that the same bite on someone else wouldn't have been as bad. Thank goodness, she was very nice about it and didn't seem upset. But I'm now afraid to let anyone handle him, and don't know what to do. Any advice, please??
Thanks,
Erin, Minnie and Teddy
 

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I find this interesting... First of all, turf your trainer - any trainer that tells you that people should follow the dogs rules and not make eye contact to avoid a bite - isn't worth his weight in water.

Second of all, teach your dog respect. Biting is my line in the sand - I've been bit a couple of times and I've deserved the correction from the dog. If your dog bit me unannounced or without provocation then it would be one sorry dog - and would never offer teeth to my skin again.

You set the rules for the dog - but it sounds like you're and others are living by the dog.

I'd start with a muzzle, and enforce some boundaries/rules. If he has a kennel, don't allow the dog in it with a treat or bone. Put a leash on the dog, if the dog growls at you over a bone, use the leash to remove the dog. The bone or treat is yours, and remains yours until it's ingested completely. The house is yours, the furniture is yours - take some ownership.
 

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Before anything else, muzzle-train! Measure his snout and get a GOOD muzzle that he can pant, drink and take treats through, a basket muzzle. I like the brand Baskerville, in which size he should take a 1 or a 2 (3 would be too big, I'm pretty sure).

Eye contact can be scary for dogs but the fact that he is reacting to something that strangers will constantly do to him is troublesome. The way that he bit the lady sounds like "retreat aggression": She's not looking, now's my time to get her good and make sure she doesn't stare me down again!

Without telling you to do having not even seen the dog, you are going to need to find a trainer who will help you work through that trigger (make eye contact not scary) rather than just manage it (make everyone stop making eye contact with your dog, which is tricky, and goes nowhere to solving the actual problem).

Frankly if you correct a dog that is on a hair trigger like yours I think you will wind up with a catastrophe. Fear of eye contact is what caused this bite so why would you want a dog that ALSO will snap if you reach for it? I don't know what @jagger means by "correct" but to make a dog afraid of its owner... I mean seriously. This is a bichon cross. I'm sure he is well aware that everyone else on the block has a 120 pound advantage on him. Dogs are volatile sometimes but they are universally Not. Stupid. Creatures.

Further, when a dog has boiled over the edge it is in "fight or flight (or freeze)" mode. When the brain is under this much duress it is not capable of learning. Literally, adrenaline blocks the reception of dopamine (the "learning" neurochemical). So when a dog loses it, the "teachable moment" was over 30 seconds ago. To try and alter their behavior during or after that fact is sort of like stepping into the middle of a fist fight and trying to tell those involved 'it's not nice to hit'.

Does he have any stressors other than resource guarding and meeting and greeting? Often "out of the blue" bites like this are not a reaction to any single event, but rather a culmination of triggers (trigger stacking). Every time a person walks by him while he has a high-value item, he reacts to someone, or something scares him badly (loud noise, big truck, take your pick) it raises his overall stress level. Sometimes, neurologically, it takes dogs several days to come down from a bad scare, like one where they react or shut down. Get a few of these going within some hours days of each-other and you have a dog teetering on the edge of a blowup. Reduce these "scares" overall, and you have a dog that can take a couple more on the chin and still not melt down. Defusing your dog will happen through working with meet and greets, but it will also happen through taking those other regular things that stress him out.

Lastly, for an incredibly fearful dog (have only ever run into a handful who are so fearful that they will bite a person who hasn't even touched them) I think that medical investigation is well worth it. Rescues are especially prone to coming from a genetic and historic background that stacks up against them. Neuroses are common. If your dog is stressing over a lot of stuff in general, it may be something like a thyroid disorder or something treatable in the short/long term by meds.

My new rescue (not normally aggressive or reactive, but horrendously timid) bit for the first time, with little provocation, 2 weeks ago and the route I took was:

1) www.muzzleupproject.com -- muzzle training!
2) found a vet experienced in dog behavior/aggression by asking local trainers for their recommendation
3) vet had a full blood workup done to rule out thyroid and liver issues
4) vet prescribed Prozac to address not just the aggression but her constant, crippling fear of cars, machinery and loud noises

I'm lucky enough that I know her history. Her mother and siblings are similarly fearful. I'm already noticing positive changes in her that indicate that she is coping better on the whole and shutting down less. I'd recommend the same course to anyone having witnessed their dog do a level 1-4 bite out of the blue.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Hi,

He does have other "triggers," particularly skateboards and bikes...he also tends to be leash-aggressive towards other dogs, so I generally don't allow him to greet other dogs while on leash. (When I first got him, he couldn't walk past another dog without barking and lunging, but now he only reacts if the other dog sniffs his face without the "proper" amount of butt-sniffing first.)
However, in this particular instance we had just walked down the steps of our building, when I stopped to talk to the neighbor...so there had not been any other "triggers" to get him nervous or anything. I feel the bite was my fault because I told her to pet him while his back was turned, and I guess he was startled? As I said in the earlier post, it's also quite possible my neighbor looked at him anyway.
I've used numerous trainers in the year and a half I've had him, for various issues. The first one tried to use a "BAT" method, mostly dealing with the other dogs issue, but never really addressed the problem...I've also used a couple to attempt to deal with the resource guarding, but did not have much luck there so it was easier to just avoid the problem by not giving him high-value items, knowing that down the road when I have more money I will have to get a more experienced (and more $$) trainer. One did recommend "owning" the furniture, etc., so he knows he has to wait for me to give him the "OK" to get on the couch, for example. I'm also hesitant to use a trainer who would use any "negative" methods, particularly the "alpha-roll"--I'm afraid with a dog who is already fearful, something like that would make it worse, but maybe I am not approaching this correctly?
I've also had him to the vet several times, had blood work done about 6 months ago to rule out any issues. There was nothing physically wrong with him, but they gave me an anxiety medication for him, but it didn't seem to help with anything except the "night frights" he gets sometimes (there's another thread, sometimes when he falls asleep on my lap or bed he will suddenly snap), so I didn't see the point in keeping him on medication 24-7 when it didn't seem to help any of his issues with people/other dogs. Thanks for your help, I appreciate it.
 

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Hi Lattepr1ncess. So sorry! Scary and tough situation.
Honestly sounds to me like a pretty straight forward fear/discomfort telated bite. Going forward if this were my dog or student there would be a no touching rule on in place. And fwiw, your instinct telling you to avoid harsh methods such as alpha rolls is spot on!

Reason for the no touching rule is that you'll want your dog to be comfy in close proximity (people looking at, talking to, moving around normally) before you work on actual physical interaction.

To achieve this I typically suggest beginning by working on a couple of foundation exercises:
Open bar/closed bar for strangers or people who never need to be friends with your dog.
Treat and retreat game for friends/family who should be on friendly terms with your dog.

Once in place, thes exercises can be built upon in many ways including building up to petting! And I def recommend working with a trainer.

I will post links to videos or share descriptions later when better able unless I see someone has shared for me. They might be in the reactivity sticky thread in the behavior and training sticky subforum.
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@kmes, exactly
The only thing I have to add, is: it's perfectly okay to say "no". "No, my dog doesn't want to be petted." Or, "he's shy", or "he has a skin condition".
He probably never liked petting, and had enough, and didn't know what to do about it. Rolling on his back could of been him submitting, hoping if he did so the "threat", unwelcome petting, would go away. Hard to know without seeing. Dogs also roll on their backs because they want scritches, are happy, relaxed. Tension is often in the eyes and lips if they are doing it out of fear, but that can be subtle.
 

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I don't know what @jagger means by "correct" but to make a dog afraid of its owner... I mean seriously. This is a bichon cross. I'm sure he is well aware that everyone else on the block has a 120 pound advantage on him. Dogs are volatile sometimes but they are universally Not. Stupid. Creatures.
What do you think I mean? Correct automatically means get physical with the dog?

The dog is being "allowed" to escalate to the point of a bite - owner need to learn her dog, read her dog - and know when the dog is going to react - and not allow it to happen. Correct can be a simple snap of the fingers or a hey to snap the dog out of it.
 

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What do you think I mean? Correct automatically means get physical with the dog?

The dog is being "allowed" to escalate to the point of a bite - owner need to learn her dog, read her dog - and know when the dog is going to react - and not allow it to happen. Correct can be a simple snap of the fingers or a hey to snap the dog out of it.
I don't know many dogs that would be
one sorry dog, and never offer its teeth to my skin again
if I snapped my fingers at them for biting. It would be great if it did work that way, because hiring someone for aggression training is expensive.

Further, I wouldn't recommend anyone snap their fingers in the face of a dog that has just bitten someone. Sticking your fingers anywhere near the teeth of a dog that is attacking or has just attacked is a very good to lose your fingers!!!
 

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Further, I wouldn't recommend anyone snap their fingers in the face of a dog that has just bitten someone. Sticking your fingers anywhere near the teeth of a dog that is attacking or has just attacked is a very good to lose your fingers!!!
Wow, people don't read - reread what i posted. Dogs don't bite without warning signs - if the owner can't read the signs - then that's a problem. See the warning signs - correct the dog before it bites, snap the dog out of it before it gets to that point. Or simply remove the dog from the situation before it escalates.


And yes, if your dog bites me unprovoked, both you and the dog are going to have a serious issue.
 

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Wow, people don't read - reread what i posted. Dogs don't bite without warning signs - if the owner can't read the signs - then that's a problem. See the warning signs - correct the dog before it bites, snap the dog out of it before it gets to that point. Or simply remove the dog from the situation before it escalates.


And yes, if your dog bites me unprovoked, both you and the dog are going to have a serious issue.
Dogs don't bite without warning signs, unless some joker punishes them for showing warning signs. This does not leave dogs in a good place. Twice during aggression cases I have had dogs silently let me approach them, and then leap up and launch themselves straight for my face when I held eye contact for too long.

The fact that this dog has escalated past inhibited biting like air-snapping, muzzle punching and mouthing would indicate that the dog is now skipping warning signs that didn't work in the past. That's not good news. Less to watch for in the future.
 

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Dogs don't bite without warning signs, unless some joker punishes them for showing warning signs. This does not leave dogs in a good place. Twice during aggression cases I have had dogs silently let me approach them, and then leap up and launch themselves straight for my face when I held eye contact for too long.

The fact that this dog has escalated past inhibited biting like air-snapping, muzzle punching and mouthing would indicate that the dog is now skipping warning signs that didn't work in the past. That's not good news. Less to watch for in the future.
So you feel that a snap of the fingers, voice command or removing the dog before it escalates is punishment?
 

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So you feel that a snap of the fingers, voice command or removing the dog before it escalates is punishment?
I have only ever seen people chasing their dog around, snapping their fingers fruitlessly in its face so I am not a fan of the "dog training... Just snap your fingers" movement. Dogs are not waiters. They seem to be wise to this.

Voice commands don't really prevent/stop a bite unless your dog is trained in schutzhund.

Removing a dog from a situation where it is uncomfortable may not technically register as a punishment with them (probably -P) but is nonetheless the best move in my opinion. The beauty of time outs is that they are relief from an uncomfortable situation OR a consequence for rude behavior, depending on whether the dog is friendly but rude, or not friendly and wanting to exit as politely as they can.
 

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I have only ever seen people chasing their dog around, snapping their fingers fruitlessly in its face so I am not a fan of the "dog training... Just snap your fingers" movement. Dogs are not waiters. They seem to be wise to this.

Voice commands don't really prevent/stop a bite unless your dog is trained in schutzhund.
You called me a joker that punishes a dog for a simple voice command or a snap of the fingers, trying to wrap my head around that. Where did I say snapping fingers in the dogs face?

You are looking to de-escalate, or disarm a dog. What would you suggest the OP do to prevent a bite?


Chasing the dog around - if a dog is prone to be defensive, aggressive or prone to bite - it shouldn't be running around. The dog should be on leash - should it not?
 
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