Bad Start with New Rescue Dog

Malamute Alaska injured new rescue Shar-pei's faceShar-pei Yoko had been in her new home for one day when she received a bad injury to her face from Malamute Alaska, requiring many stitches. But it wasn’t a fight as such.

What a sad situation. It had started so well. Both dogs had been walked together several times before bringing Yoko home and they had got on well.

What the lady hadn’t been told was that not only did Yoko have a bad ear infection, but in addition to a skin problem she was also in season. So, here was a very stressed dog trying to adapt to home life after nine months in rescue with physical problems as well.

Alaska, the most polite and confident dog with people who you can imagine, was only castrated recently. Yoko presented herself to him and he started to do what male dogs do. Unfortunately he has a bad hip problem and he will have been in pain also. Things were stacked up against them.

Anyway, the outcome was a sudden angry response from Yoko as she tried to escape, followed by the same from Alaska and at the same time he must have grabbed her face. There is a big discrepancy in the two dogs’ size and possibly because of her baggy skin, what may otherwise have been a puncture wound was a tear, probably caused when they were pulled apart. She has a good number of stitches.

The lady has a £400 vet bill and got off to a very bad start with her new rescue dog.

The final really sad thing about this is that the lady, a very conscientious and caring person who chose the two dogs specifically for their seemingly calm temperament in the kennels and not their breed, worries that she may never be able to trust them together again. She is now so anxious that she keeps the dogs apart unless Alaska is muzzled.

So this is the situation I arrived to. Should she or should she not keep Yoko?Alaska  is accepting of the muzz.e

Alaska himself had been in rescue for over a year before she adopted him last year. He has a few problems which we will work on, including marking in certain parts of the house and being a bit of a bully with off-lead dogs.

There are some very positive things also.

Because she has two children, the young lady has always played very safe. She gradually taught Alaska to welcome wearing a muzzle just in case it was ever needed  – it’s a bit too big and he looked so comical I had to take the photo.

She is a gentle person and the household is calm. Alaska is a quietly confident dog. When I arrived he was lying in the hall and I simply walked past him.

Both dogs showed no animosity to one another and although they are now let outside separately, they walk past each other with no reaction.

New rescue Sharpei,unknown when they fetched, is pregnant


At the moment Yoko is very uptight.  Understandably.  When she joined us and a muzzled Alaska in the sitting room, she l ay with her back to us for much of the time.  I then suggested we put Alaska on lead and removed the muzzle. When Yoko was walking about, the only sign of any trouble between the two was when Alaska sniffed her bum and she growled softly.

When the three guinea pigs that are kept in a large cage in the kitchen got active, Yoko became extremely agitated. She began to pace, cry and stress. It takes her a long time to calm down again.

The eleven-year-old daughter did some great calming work with Yoko that I showed her, reinforcing her whenever she sat, lay down or settled.

Whether or not Yoko stays will depend upon how she turns out when she settles in and what behaviours come to the fore. She has so many new things to adjust to.

Whether or not she stays will depend upon how the two dogs get on once her season is over and her body healed.

Whether or not she stays will also depend upon whether the young lady, who lives alone with the two children, ever feels she can relax again and leave the two dogs together – her house is quite small.  She got another dog to be company for Alaska.

If Yoko can’t stay, she won’t be abandoned back to the rescue. The young lady, bless her, has already decided she will get their permission to find the dog she already loves a good home – but not until she is fully healed and is in much better physical condition.

A week later it became apparent that Yoko was already pregnant. She had two puppies and the story goes on. The lady has managed the situation with Yoko and Alaska beautifully and they get on fine. However, she couldn’t find homes with people she felt she could trust for the two puppies so she still has them. Life is hard but she is doing her very best in difficult circumstances.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Yoko and Alaska, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Shar Pei Friendly but then Bites

Sharp Pei Harry may bit if touched on top of his headHenry is a confused fifteen-month-old Shar Pei.

He has been loved and indulged by everyone in the family, but recently has become increasingly snappy and unpredictable. The problem seems to have come to a head when his family moved house a short while ago, grandad moved in and older daughters moved out. His new house gives him a lot more uncontrolled outside space and freedom.

Always a vocal dog, it is hard to tell the difference between his natural snoring type noises due to his physique and growling. I think he has been given the benefit of the doubt for too long and what has been put down as friendly vocalising is actually growling. He will go over to someone for a fuss, and after a minute’s petting, suddenly bite. He seems to indiscriminately bite family and strangers alike if a hand goes over his head.

They think there has been no warning, but with the usual doggy facial features, mouth and eyes lost in folds of skin, it’s hard to see what he’s thinking. This puts Henry at a big disadvantage. I believe he is now biting because he has learnt that warning is useless – his warnings are always ignored. Imagine how frustrating this must be for him. I’m sure to start with he will have tried facial warnings, but these won’t have been visible. Then he will have growled ‘out of the blue’ so far as his humans are concerned, and they have taken it to be friendly vocalising.  All his warnings saying ‘leave me alone’ or ‘get out of my space’  ignored, it seems reasonable from his point of view for him now to go directly to the next level with no preamble – biting. This then makes the person angry, which scares and confuses Henry – because in his mind what he did was entirely reasonable.

Another possibility is, because of his hidden eyes, he can’t see a hand approaching from above, so this intensifies a dislike of being touched on the top of his head or body.

From when he was a puppy members of his family alternated between fussing him, ‘training’ him with repeated commands, and playing the sort of games that have encouraged him to do the very things they now don’t like – growling through tug games, physical play encouraging use of mouth, teeth and growls and playing chasing feet games.

Although he has been to puppy classes and understands commands, giving a dog commands doesn’t make a leader. In fact, a dog like this will choose to ignore them much of the time unless they are repeated over and over, and then it can end in either the owner giving up and not carrying through, or in defiance and confrontation. A lead dog certainly doesn’t give verbal commands! Confrontation and punishment in response to growling or snapping will only make things escalate.

The question is, what DO you do?

How should they be reacting to growling and biting, and how will they avoid it happening altogether by winning Henry’s respect through changes in their own behaviour? This is what we are now working on. Unless in pain, a dog won’t growl or snap at someone he respects and, just as important, treats him with respect too, which means being respectful of the dog’s own comfort zone. This isn’t about love, it’s about leadership – dog ‘parenting’.

NB. Always with any sudden changes in behaviour the dog should first be checked over by a vet to make sure he’s not ill or in pain.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.