Confrontation and control from the man has recently started to bring out aggression and defiance in Connor. The more defiance he displayed, the firmer the gentleman became.
(To recap: The five-year-old Staffie Greyhound mix came to them a year ago probably only weeks away from death. The dog, scarred, with broken teeth, scared and skinny, had stopped eating. He had been in the kennels for two years and seemed to have lost the will to live).
Over the year he has learned to fit in to their lives beautifully, apart from the strange problem described in the previous story. They have been patient and conscientious.
The confrontation problem reared its head a couple of months ago. It may not be directly connected to the hugging problem as the trigger isn’t his humans getting to close to each other. It’s control – the man imposing his control onto the dog.
On their bed
From the start, so that he would feel safe, Connor had shared their bedroom and for nearly a year this had gone well. He had his own bed in their room but would also jump up onto theirs. All was well.
He seemed to have no problem with their proximity to one another when they were lying down in bed (part one).
Very early in the morning, a couple of weeks ago, Connor was on their bed lying between them. The man wanted the dog to move over. He gently pushed him.
The lady told the man to leave it but the man, as many other people would have done, wasn’t going to back down. Instead, he matched Connor’s growling and growing defiance with increased anger and confrontation.
Connor bit the man.
In the face.
As he dropped onto the floor, the dog continued to attack him. The frantic lady threw the duvet over Connor while the man escaped to the bathroom.
There was a lot of blood. The man went into shock.
What a heartbreaking thing to happen with a dog you love and have worked so hard with. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.
This very sad story illustrates the importance of taking growling seriously.
After this there have been another couple of tense occasions. Both involved the man trying to make Connor do something he didn’t want to do in a confrontational manner. Connor was having none of it anymore, but after this crisis the man has backed down immediately.
The more dominance, confrontation or ‘aggression’ the man uses, the stronger and more defiant Connor will now become. It’s a contest that can only end one way, and Connor has the teeth.
A different approach
I must stress again that the couple adore Connor and have done wonders. Even after the attack they are just as committed to him as they were before. They say he is a lovely dog – which he is. They have certainly never punished him. Now, unfortunately, due to the wrong but very human reactions, things are going in the wrong direction.
A different approach is needed – one of using rewards so that the dog is happy and willing to comply. He can earn some of his meals. To get him off their bed and into his own, for instance, the man can gently call him there. When he gets in, reward him. Then ask him to lie down – food again.
Dominance and confrontation with a strong dog invites defiance. This is where old-fashioned dog training that advocated being the Alpha and dominating the dog went so badly wrong. It ends with either with dogs that completely shut down if conquered, the human/dog relationship destroyed, or with dogs put to sleep when things reach their inevitable conclusion.
Moving Connor out of the bedroom
They aren’t happy with leaving him downstairs alone. So, the plan also involves removing him from their bedroom gradually while keeping him nearby and happy, until his bed is in the doorway but the other side of a gate.
Since the attack, they no longer allow him on their bed.
When something has happened once, it’s more likely to happen again given similar circumstances.