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My Dog Nipped my Roommate!

10089 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Embersmom
I have had my dog for about seven months. She was a rescue, found wandering the streets in TX. I don't know her history apart from that. She did have quite a few scars when i got her, but I don't know if they were from someone abusing her. They looked more like she got into fights with other dogs. She's about three years old. She can be timid around new people but has never been aggressive at all. I've done a lot to try and socialize her. She goes out with me all the time and I have stranger give her treats (she's very food motivated). She's generally fine with new people as long as you don't make sudden movements or loud noises or hold any large objects. She's also more wary of taller people.
My roommate happens to be well over six feet. Ever since she moved in (about four months ago), we've been trying to get my dog to warm up to her, but she still growls and barks at her every time she comes home and is very wary of getting close to her unless I'm right there with her.
But the last two times my roommate has come home my dog has barked viciously and has actually lunged at her trying to bite her from behind when she walks through the kitchen. Today she actually got her thigh. Didn't break the skin or anything but that is completely unacceptable behavior and I don't know what to do about it!
Normally when she barks or acts aggressively towards her, I yell at her and make her leave the room but I know there has to be a better way to teach her to be polite to my roommate. I don't want to be punishing her for growling and nipping (as I know they're important warning signs when a dog is uncomfortable), but I can't have her barking endlessly at my roommate and lunging at her either!
Oh and I do have other roommates and she's never been all that worried about them. She growls when they first come in but then she sees who it is and kind of ignores them. So the problem seems to be specific to my one tall roommate.
Ideas?? Please and thank you!!
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hmm this is tricky, have you tryed having her crouch or kneel to appear less intimidating to the dog?
Congrats on getting a rescue dog :) Hmm, tricky situation, but I would start by stop punishing your dog for the barking, as your dog will associate the negative experiences (yelling, banishment to room) to your roommate.

It's a good thing your dog is food motivated. I would use counter conditioning and give your dog the most tasty food in the presence of your tall roommate. You could have your dog on a leash when your roommate comes home, so he does not have a chance to lunge at her during this training period and then give the food. And your dog only gets this special food when your roommate is near (bully stick, cooked chicken, something your dog is nuts over). Also as your dog gets a little more comfortable, you could get your tall roommate to give LOTS of treats to your dog...she could ask for a Sit, Down, etc. first
From the sound of it, it seems like this dog is working up towards a bite. Really it sounds like this dog has already bitten, the bite just didn't break skin/wasn't serious. It is not getting better, it has gone from reactive barking to lunging and now to making contact.

Yes, counter-conditioning is a good choice for changing the behavior and having your roommate interact with the dog in a training situation may be helpful in building trust, but at this point I would be seeking the help of a local, positive reinforcement trainer/behaviorist for this problem. I would NOT advise her getting down on the dogs level because the dog has already shown an inclination to bite and I would NOT want to put a face in bite-range. If this is a larger dog she is more than capable of really hurting her if she finally does decide to attack, and even if it is a small dog she is more than capable of biting hard enough to need stitches or medical treatment. Once a dog has shown aggressive behavior they can be labeled as a "dangerous dog" and make it harder to find housing, and dogs who bite people will usually be placed in quarantine either in the home or at an animal control facility for a certain amount of time.

When you are not home, I would keep this dog confined to your room. When she is out at the same time as the roommate she is having problems with, I would highly suggest she be leashed at all times, on a long line, or dragging a 6' leash. I would consider muzzle training her as well and having her muzzled when she is around this roommate.

Four months is a long time for this dog to be showing problems with someone and still not warming up to them.

Like I said, counter-conditioning is a helpful tool but it also must be done correctly and in a situation where there is this kind of risk (the dog has made it clear it is building up to a bite and is a danger towards someone it lives with) it really should be done under the eye of a trainer.

Yelling at her/making her leave the room isn't really doing much. She is likely reacting out of a place of fear towards this roommate. By yelling at her you may be reinforcing the fear/anxiety she feels and is expressing in a warning growl or bark. By removing her you are really just removing the scary stimulus (the roommate), which isn't really teaching her anything.

Given your description of her as being covered in scars that look like she fought with other dogs and her being found wandering the street, I ave to ask- does she show any dog aggression? Is she a pit or pit mix? Often strays with marks from fighting with dogs will be dumped or escaped fighting dogs (if pits) or bait dogs (which may be pits or pit mixes but may also be any breed/mutt) used to train aggressive responses in fighting dogs. If she is a pit or pit mix, it makes it that much more important to get a professional involved because if/when she does break skin, the deck is already going to be stacked against her.
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I actually had a sort of similar situation when I rescued one of my dogs, it never went to nipping or biting, but there was a lot A LOT of barking and running away from one of my roommates when I was in college.

My dog was rescued (basically stolen by my sister) from a frat house after my sister caught some of the members harassing her, throwing things at her and seeing someone hit her at a party. Due to this she was weary of men so she was not a fan of my male roommate.

Thankfully my roommate really wanted her to like him so he was willing to help me get her to get over this issue. What I had him do was only be a positive thing for her by taking over all her feedings and coming on all my walks with me. It took probably two months, but after that she LOVED him. She knew when he came home after work it was dinner time and I would always have him pick up the leash to signal it was time for a walk.

As said above, it never hurts to get a professional involved since every dog is an individual and what worked for me might not work for you.

Hopefully you have a roommate as awesome as mine was, and you can obtain similar results. Good luck to you, and good for you for giving a chance to a dog in need! :)
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