Why Did Their Dog Bite a Child

In truth, the little Shih tzu has snapped at two grandchildren and one of their friends this last week. Her teeth caught the nose of the last child.

There is absolutely no way she can be called an aggressive dog. She is beautiful and friendly. It is clear that at times things simply get too much for her. Too much noise, too many people and too much pulling about by children.

Schitzu

Boy learning to touch Asha so she feels comfortable

On each occasion the atmosphere was charged with excitement so her arousal and stress levels will have been getting higher and higher until she, literally snapped. On a couple of occasions she had taken herself off to lie down in peace, and the child had gone and disturbed her.

As you can imagine, the family are deeply upset to the extent they were even fearing losing Asha. They adore their little dog but they can’t have their grandchildren or their friends bitten.

We need to look into why would their dog bite a child, and deal with that.

Having questioned the very helpful nine-year-old boy in detail who had been present on each occasion and he himself one of the victims, the reason this has escalated so fast became clear. They simply did not recognise the signs that Asha was sending out, trying to communicate that she was uncomfortable and had had enough and she was almost forced into taking things further. Some breeds’ faces are more inscrutable than others, but there probably was some yawning or looking away. The boy told me she licked her nose.

Unaware of what the little dog was trying to tell him he carried on touching her, so she now growled. Unfortunately he took no notice of that either. So, she snapped. The child recoiled and, bingo, Asha succeeded in what she had been trying to achieve from the start, which was to be left alone.

The second time it sounds like she gave just a quick growl that was ignored before snapping. The child backed off. Job done. The final time, she went straight to the snapping stage, leaping at the child’s face with no prior warning.

Asha had, in the space of just one week, learnt what worked.

Three things need to be done straight away.

Firstly, the opportunity to rehearse this behaviour ever again has to be removed. Each time snapping succeeds in giving her the space she needs, the more of a learned response it will become.

If the atmosphere is highly charged or several children come to play – they have a swimming pool so things get noisy – then the dog should be shut away (something she is perfectly happy with).

Secondly, all children coming to their house must be taught ‘the rules’ and how to ‘read Asha’. The grandson who helped me so well is going to be her ‘Protector’ and teach the other children. I have sent a couple of videos for them to watch. The dog’s ‘den’ – an area under the stairs – must be isolated and totally out-of-bounds to kids. The boy is going to make a poster!

Here are their Golden Rules:

Don’t approach and touch Asha when she’s lying down, particularly when asleep.
Let Asha choose. Wait till she comes over to you. Don’t go over to her.
Don’t go near a dog that is eating anything.
Dogs don’t like hands going over their heads. Chest is best.
If you want to run around and have noisy fun, do it away from the dogs
If you see lip-licking, yawning or if you see the whites of her eyes. STOP. Move away.
If the dog keeps looking away. STOP. Move away.
If the dog goes very still STOP. Move away.
If you hear a growl. STOP. Move away.

Because kids, being kids, may forget the ‘no touching unless she comes over to you’ rule,  I suggest when children are in the house that Asha wears something to remind them, maybe a yellow bandana or little jacket with ‘give me space’ or something similar.

The other thing in common between all three snapping incidents is that Asha was in a highly stressed state, so the third thing is helping to keep her stress levels down. There are quite a few trigger points in her life where things could be dealt with differently to help avoid stress accumulating which will mean she is a lot more tolerant and less ready to explode. I read somewhere a good saying: ‘Stress loads the gun’.

They fortunately are nipping this in the bud (no pun intended!) before it can develop further. I’m sure that with the children educated in ‘dog manners’, with any warnings heeded and things not allowed to get too exciting or overwhelming around her, Asha will feel no need to bite a child ever again.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Asha. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving aggression. 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

 

Cocker Spaniel With a New Home

Show Cocker Lexie in her new homeLexie is eighteen months old. It seems that, although she was a show dog, she didn’t have a normal home life. Her new family of six picked her up about four weeks ago, and it became evident that apart from ring craft she hadn’t been for walks – with traffic, people and dogs, nor ever let off lead. She is wary of new people, men in particular, and is taking a while to get used to their four-year old son. She obviously hasn’t been house trained, and that is causing problems. It is all a big change for Lexie.

She is a very quiet dog and never barks (yet) – not when she hears things and is obviously looking scared, nor at people who come to the house. Being totally silent apart from the occasional whine is very unusual. My own Cocker Spaniel Pickle is quite vocal.

Like Cocker Spaniel Shadow who I visited just over a week ago, Lexie has quickly become very attached to the lady, not wanting to let her out of her sight. She took a little while to get used to the husband. She growled and snapped the air near the little boy when, beside the lady on the sofa, he leaned over her and patted her on the head.

I am very pleased that instead of trying to dominate the dog for growling, they reacted kindly and sensibly, by removing her. Copying or misinterpreting certain techniques seen on TV can have disastrous results. Lexie is already getting more at ease with the child, and with a little encouragement for him to give her space unless she comes to him, I am sure she will get used to him.

Although in many respects they have made quite a bit of headway since they fetched her, Lexie is however being rather spoilt by the females of the family! They probably feel this is the way to make her feel at home and loved. She jumps all over them where she doesn’t on the males who are much more matter-of-fact with her. Too much attention can be a burden on a dog, resulting in a needy dog. She is at a sensitive stage, so they need to back off a little.

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

Doesn’t Like Being Cuddled by Little Girl

American CockerI have just been to see Max, a two-year-old American Cocker Spaniel.

I was expecting a whirlwind like my own ten month Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, but instead found a quiet and subdued dog. They have had him for a couple of months now. When they visited him initially in his old home, he was very excitable but calmed right down as soon as they picked him up and brought him home. This change in personality may be because he lived with another excitable dog or simply because his new home is a lot calmer. When a dog’s behaviour changes so dramatically the first port of call is the vet to make sure he’s not in ill or in pain. As Max has a persistant ear infection that is being treated, this may be something to do with it. He’s not carefree like you would expect, so maybe he is missing the other dog who may have beeen the more dominant and confident of the two.

Max is fearful of other dogs on walks and this is now going to be addressed over the next few weeks or however long it takes. More worryingly is that he has snapped at the little granddaughter who I will call Cara (not her real name).

Cara was so thrilled when they got him, to her he is a big cuddly toy. She simply would not leave him alone. She had to cuddle him all the time. She would touch him and lie on him. Poor Max gave her all the warning signals he could – from freezing, grumbling to a brief lip curl, but she either didn’t notice or ignored them. Her mother and grandparents had to watch and nag constantly, but in an unguarded moment last week he snapped.

Cuddling doesn’t come naturally to dogs. The nearest they do themselves is humping. The front paws grab the other dog and this is usually an act of dominance.  So poor Max would be reading something other than love into Cara’s actions. Unfortunately, if his warning signals are ignored, he can’t talk after all, he will learn that there is no point giving them at all and he may snap straight away another time.

This is a bit different from my usual cases because it involves child-training! Having explained that Max just didn’t like it and that he was scared (hoping she might listen to ‘The Dog Lady’ more than her family!), I then praised her every time she looked at Max and didn’t go to him. It is simpler initially to teach her not to touch him at all. What a good girl! Max was soon happily coming over to her because he wanted to. With lots of reminders and praise Cara was learning! When ‘no touching’ becomes second nature to her, she can then be taught where and how to touch him – and only when he comes over to her through choice. As an extra precaution they will be getting a crate to put Max’ bed in. The door will be open so he can come in and out freely and only shut if the adults are unable to watch. Cara will be taught that this is strictly a Cara Free Zone!

As I left I asked Cara, ‘What does The Dog Lady say?’

Cara said,  ‘Don’t Touch Max’!

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.