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Ok, so what would *you* do?

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Ok, so I get a call last week from a local guy who says he has a 2 year old border collie that is having "behavior" issues and wants to know if I can help him (I met the guy and his wife a few years before at a local trial). I ask for specifics, as in please define "behavior issues," and he says the dog is getting aggressive. I ask to people? Dogs? What? In what kinds of scenarios? He tells me that that the dog, Buddy, is now biting him when he goes to groom and brush him. He says Buddy has drawn blood several times since he has had him (since Buddy was 8 weeks or so old, so Buddy's whole life). He tells me on the phone that he has never hit Buddy (tells me that a number of times, like, really emphasizes it) and that he has always wanted buddy to be a "free spirit," and that Buddy is "his pal," and that he always does the "best for Buddy." I tell him that I am not really that *kind* of a dog trainer, as in, I stick to stockwork, but I have seen lots of dogs with issues over the years, and that I'd be willing to at least take a look. We schedule for him to bring Buddy by a few days later.

 

The night before our scheduled visit, I get another call and they tell me that Buddy has "attacked" the wife that evening when she went to put his leash on him. She finally managed to get the leash looped over his head and got hold of her end, and held it up, not choking him, but so she could keep him from biting her, until Buddy finally calmed down. Now they are afraid to even try to put him in the truck to bring him here, so could I please come there.

 

I ask for more specifics, particularly about food issues, and I am told that they (guy and wife) would *never* try to take Buddy's food away once they have given it to him, as they know that would be asking for trouble. Buddy has not been taught to come when called (unless Buddy wants to come), nor has he been taught to sit or down; Buddy mostly runs free on several acres of their property and has the ball thrown for him quite a bit.

 

Any thoughts? Any takers?

 

To be really clear here, I'm not asking for people to tell me what I *should* do, as I know what my thoughts were/are, and how I chose to deal with Buddy, but am more interested in the thoughts, ideas, discussion, etc. that this particular case might bring about as far as others and how *y'all* might look at this one (it's been raining and cold all day, so have had limited dog-working time; in other words, I'm bored) :rolleyes:

A

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It seems pretty obvious what the issue is. They let the dog rule the house, and them. And when they try to do something the dog doesn't like or *want* at the moment, he attacks. I know many people dislike Ceasar, and i don't want to start a Ceasar war... but his theory of Exercise, Discipline, and then Affection is a good motto to go by. Something they haven't been doing. It seems anyway.

 

If i were giving the advice i'd tell them either they need to rehome the dog to someone who can really work with this dog knowing he's bitten before, or prepare to take charge of the situation. Most people, would probably choose to rehome the dog.

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Sounds like Buddy got away with murder and his people were afraid of him. I would probably meet the dog and decide from there whether he had any redeeming qualities.

 

If no clear redeemable qualities and he has a bite issue and has drawn blood numerous times (from what it sounds like) chances are I would euthanize.

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My approach won't be popular, but you asked . . . !!! :rolleyes::):D

 

I would actually not approach this primarily as a training issue. I would recommend a Vet Behaviorist.

 

The way I approach this, the biting is not a dog doing this voluntarily. Something is off in the dog's brain. That something needs to be straightened out on a physical level before the behavior can be effectively addressed. If that's even possible. Sometimes in these cases, it's not.

 

Now, if they did consult a Vet Behaviorist and got some meds going and the meds helped, then I would be happy to help them - in conjunction with the recommendations of the Vet Behaviorist - with some training. My approach would be reinforcement based and would consist of quite a lot of desensitization and counter conditioning. I would recommend providing structure, but in a way that takes into account where the dog is at and what can reasonably be expected as we went along.

 

Since the dog enjoys running on the property, I would heavily utilize that as a reinforcer in the exercises that we employed for his behavior modification. A recall would probably be our first order of business in the training department.

 

Of course, that is if, and only if, meds were prescribed that made a difference, and the Vet Behaviorist recommended training. Otherwise, I would not take this client. I will work with people whose dogs have bitten, but not to the degree to which you describe. I'd say this dog is well over the line into needing a Vet Behaviorist.

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There are two sides to this problem. The dog has major issues and the people have major issues. My first thought is that the dog is easier to fix than the people, so I would have suggested relinquishing the dog to a rescue; Buddy needs to be in the hands of someone who can win his respect and control him.

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I probably would have suggested a behaviorist as well, mainly because someone needs to help the humans see their active role in creating the dog this dog has become.

 

I would worry about the attitudes the humans expressed to Anna. Obviously they realize something isn't right in their relationship with their dog, but I wonder if they realize or could be made to understand that the way their dog behaves now is a *direct result* of the way they have managed him up to this point?

 

And that would lead me to wonder at their level of commitment to fixing the problem. A dog that has been allowed to run roughshod over the humans since puppyhood isn't going to be an easy fix, and if they aren't willing to invest the time and effort to *change themselves* then I don't see much hope for the dog.

 

So I guess I'm saying I'd try to address the human half of the equation before even attempting to do something with the dog. And probably a behaviorist would be able to influence the humans better than anyone else, but I don't know that for sure.

 

Anyway, I wouldn't touch the dog with a 10-foot pole unless the humans could somehow convince me that they were truly committed to changing the way they do things in order to save the dog from an unkind fate.... So I would start by having a heart-to-heart with them and only after that move on to the dog.

 

J

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Indeed, and these people need help before they get another dog. All too often I see a situation like this where the humans decide that the dog is defective and go out and get another dog, creating the same issue.

 

 

I probably would have suggested a behaviorist as well, mainly because someone needs to help the humans see their active role in creating the dog this dog has become.

 

I would worry about the attitudes the humans expressed to Anna. Obviously they realize something isn't right in their relationship with their dog, but I wonder if they realize or could be made to understand that the way their dog behaves now is a *direct result* of the way they have managed him up to this point?

 

And that would lead me to wonder at their level of commitment to fixing the problem. A dog that has been allowed to run roughshod over the humans since puppyhood isn't going to be an easy fix, and if they aren't willing to invest the time and effort to *change themselves* then I don't see much hope for the dog.

 

So I guess I'm saying I'd try to address the human half of the equation before even attempting to do something with the dog. And probably a behaviorist would be able to influence the humans better than anyone else, but I don't know that for sure.

 

Anyway, I wouldn't touch the dog with a 10-foot pole unless the humans could somehow convince me that they were truly committed to changing the way they do things in order to save the dog from an unkind fate.... So I would start by having a heart-to-heart with them and only after that move on to the dog.

 

J

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My first thought is that the dog is easier to fix than the people, so I would have suggested relinquishing the dog to a rescue; Buddy needs to be in the hands of someone who can win his respect and control him.

 

True, but what are the chances of a rescue being willing to take him?

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When we got Scotty as a rescue, we knew he was a holy terror when people came to the door, but we didn't know he had a problem with men disciplining him until he nipped at my husband and drew blood when Ken ttried to pull him off the bed. Ken came out of the bedroom and told me to find a suitcase. When I asked why, he said, "Well, it's the dog, or me and I know you're not going to give up on that dog." Well, needless to say, we regrouped and consulted a few people who understood truly aggressive dogs to figure out if Scotty was snake mean or just trying to run the railroad. Turned out it was the latter and that was the last day he ever nipped at anyone. The next time he tried it, Ken went right back at him, and that was it.

 

But that was Scotty. He only had a problem with men ordering him around once he got the kinks worked out of his system and realized he wasn't going to be unfairly punished if he behaved, he was a gentle giant. After he died we were essentially holding a wake and I was talking about that first rough week and how we nearly gave up on him and Ken just shook his head and said, "I just can't imagine Scotty biting anyone," then got this sheepish look on his face, remembering he'd been the one that Scotty had nipped.

 

 

 

A vet exam is in order for this dog just to make sure there are no underlying physical issues -- then, I'd recommend, as we did, finding someone who understands what aggressive is vs. plain spoiled bad behavior.

 

I'm not a believer in meds (sorry Root Beer -- it comes from seeing too many kids put on meds for "hyper-activity disorder", but that's another debate), but some one on one consultation with a trainer used to dealing with these kinds of owners is in order if they are willing to put in the time and attention and not play the "blame game" with each other -- blaming each other for the condition that the dog is in and then not really doing anything consistently to correct it.

 

I also suspect owners of some of these unfortunate misbehaved dogs take a certain pride in what they see as their dog's expressions of individualism until the dog bites their hand and they need twenty stitches. But some truly just don't understand how bossy and smart a Border Collie can be. Scotty came from elderly people who did their best with him, but they just didn't have the fortitude to deal with his energy.

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I think it's sad situation and I feel badly for the dog and it's owners. But then again, I'm one of those bleeding hearts I guess. Unless I had personal experience with a dog just like this and was able to turn it around, I would never presume to give the owners advice on it. I would refer them to a vet behaviorist. I also would like to add that not every dog that grows up in a "loosey goosey" type environment turns out to be Cujo. If so, with the number of clueless owners that exist in this world, our emergency rooms would be crammed with bloody owners. They screwed up for sure, but the dog may also have some serious mental problems. JMO

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I'm not a believer in meds (sorry Root Beer -- it comes from seeing too many kids put on meds for "hyper-activity disorder", but that's another debate), but some one on one consultation with a trainer used to dealing with these kinds of owners is in order if they are willing to put in the time and attention and not play the "blame game" with each other -- blaming each other for the condition that the dog is in and then not really doing anything consistently to correct it.

 

I wasn't either, until I ended up with a dog who simply needed them to have a quality of life that I consider acceptable.

 

I am not one to medicate willy-nilly, but in a case of a dog that is biting on a regular basis, I'd leave that judgment to a Vet Behaviorist. If something is off, like thyroid, it doesn't make sense to expect the dog to "shape up" without the benefit of medication to get his system in correct balance.

 

A lot of dogs are left to run wild in their homes and they don't end up going around biting people. Rescues are full of them. In spite of the fact that he has not been given any structure, the "attack" over the leash indicates to me that this not likely a dog of sound temperament.

 

I think sluj is right - most rescues would not be likely to take him. And there is good reason for that.

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I wasn't either, until I ended up with a dog who simply needed them to have a quality of life that I consider acceptable.

 

I am not one to medicate willy-nilly, but in a case of a dog that is biting on a regular basis, I'd leave that judgment to a Vet Behaviorist. If something is off, like thyroid, it doesn't make sense to expect the dog to "shape up" without the benefit of medication to get his system in correct balance.

 

A lot of dogs are left to run wild in their homes and they don't end up going around biting people. Rescues are full of them. In spite of the fact that he has not been given any structure, the "attack" over the leash indicates to me that this not likely a dog of sound temperament.

 

I think sluj is right - most rescues would not be likely to take him. And there is good reason for that.

 

 

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that there aren't instances where meds are entirely appropriate. I was thinking more of the tranquilizers pumped into poor dogs when the owners aren't willing to take the steps to correct their behavior toward the dogs that is creating the underlying problems.

 

I'm curious...why the reaction to the fact the dog bit over the leash...my ( likely faulty) logic would lead me to think that it's just an extension of the battle for control that the dog is fighting -- the leash means the owner is controlling the dog and of the dog is clearly vying for control of the household then and fighting the leash is just taking the fight it to the next level?

 

Liz

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They appear to have enabled this for the entire life of the dog, I don't see things changing w/o meds for the "humans" - purple shot imo is best. He's got a bite history and he's a huge liability now. Sorry, but I wouldn't go near him for anything. Sad, as this simply will enable them to yet go out and ruin another dog....

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I'd recomend a behaviorist if they really wanted to "help" Buddy. If they wanted me to help buddy I might try to explain that it is them that needs the help more than Buddy, short of that...

I'd say "I'm sorry, you have the wrong number!" :rolleyes:

 

Such a sad fate for what could have been a good dog.

 

Such a leap from the positive training concept to people getting that confused with let the dog do what it wants without disipline.

I think this is a good example why there's such a disconnect between positive only training and +/- training, somehow this sort of thing gets blamed on positive training when really it is just NO training at all.

JMHO

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Lots of interesting input so far...one more tidbit I'll toss out here (I'm totally amazed that noone has asked this yet)...yes, Buddy is intact! :D:rolleyes: (Had a hard time deciding which face to use, so put both)

A

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Free Spirit - Pal - Best For Buddy - and a man called you...... of course the dogs intact :rolleyes: Still wouldn't go near it.

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I'm curious...why the reaction to the fact the dog bit over the leash...my ( likely faulty) logic would lead me to think that it's just an extension of the battle for control that the dog is fighting -- the leash means the owner is controlling the dog and of the dog is clearly vying for control of the household then and fighting the leash is just taking the fight it to the next level?

 

Or, it could be that the dog does not trust the owner and he is perceiving the way he is being leashed as a threat to himself. In that case, his response is quite logical. (I am not saying it was "OK", just that there are many possible reasons why he could have reacted to the leash being put on him and that I would take that into consideration)

 

But it wasn't the leash itself that causes me particular concern. It is the extent to which the incident apparently went. The owners are now afraid to put him in the car - this strikes me as much more than a quick, clear signal from the dog that he would rather not be leashed. What did they see in him that caused that fear? That's what indicates to me that this is more likely a dog with a much deeper problem than lack of structure.

 

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that there aren't instances where meds are entirely appropriate. I was thinking more of the tranquilizers pumped into poor dogs when the owners aren't willing to take the steps to correct their behavior toward the dogs that is creating the underlying problems.

 

Got it. Thanks for the clarifications. I didn't mean that, either.

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Yea vet behaviorist if they want to work on this, euthanasia if they won't - Buddy sounds like he could easily go on to bite people other than his owners since they seem to not understand how serious this is (it's been happening his whole life and has been escalating but they don't seek until now - very odd imo) and that is a HUGE liability to anyone who works with him. I'd rather have someone who can do a full health screen, assessment, and do meds if needed work with him rather than me.

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The owners are now afraid to put him in the car - this strikes me as much more than a quick, clear signal from the dog that he would rather not be leashed. What did they see in him that caused that fear? That's what indicates to me that this is more likely a dog with a much deeper problem than lack of structure.

I would guess that he gets "that look" in his eyes that says, "Don't mess with me." (You've dealt with a fear aggressive dog, so no doubt you know that look. Not saying this dog is fear aggressive, but the "don't mess with me look" would pretty much be the same.) If he's already bitten them then I imagine they are afraid of being bitten again, especially if he's been escalating. If he tried to bite the wife over the leash and that was just the latest incident, I can see very well how they would fear putting him in the car, because again they'd be trying to "make" him do something he likely doesn't want to do, and they've already found out that doing so results in a bite or attempted bite. He's pretty much never been required to behave in an appropriate manner and the few attempts they've made at controlling him have ended in bites, which apparently have been successful in backing them off in the past, so he's learned he can bite to get them to stop doing whatever it is they're trying to do to/with him. It's not hard to see why they would fear him. And it may or may not have to do with some deep-seated problem; it could just as easily be a dog who's learned he can be in control.

 

J.

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And it may or may not have to do with some deep-seated problem; it could just as easily be a dog who's learned he can be in control.

From the limited information given, that was my assumption.

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First, I want to establish the difference, IMO, between an aggressive/vicious dog, and a biter. An aggressive/vicious dog will not stop at a bite, they are out to take the dog/person out. A biter is different. Whether it is from being spoiled, or lack of training, or fear. The first thing to do with either is a complete medical. Different medical problems can cause different reactions. I really don't think him being in tack has a lot to do with this particular dog, since this seems to be an on going problem since puppy hood. They say they would never think of taking food from him. Probably when he was a pup, right after leaving his litter, they may have tried petting him or something else when he was eating, and he snarled or bit at them and instead of correcting, they backed off. I imagine a big light bulb went off in Buddy's head. Of course this is all assumption on my part. From the information, it really sounds like he is just nipping/biting to get them to stop what ever they are doing. He's not just randomly attacking them. It is only when he does not want to do something.

 

Holly would have fit his description to a T when I first got her. It took a lot of work with her, and part of that was me not letting her bites stop me. And yes, I did force her to do what I wanted by any means, as long as I was not hurting her. If she would have bit me and then continued to bite and attack, she would be chasing bunnies at the rainbow bridge right now. I just was "bigger" than her. I will say this right now, (forgive the caps but it is an important point)IF WHEN HOLLY BIT, SHE REMOVED A GOOD CHUNK OF MEAT, IF THERE WAS ANY VICIOUSNESS IN HER BITES, IF THERE WERE REASONS TO FEAR JUST LIVING WITH HER, I WOULD HAVE EUTHINIZED HER. In fact, after one particular bad bite, I came to these boards ready to do just that. It was suggested to get her spayed, and her heart worm and kennel cough cleared up before making the decision. I thought that's a lot of money to spend to euthinize a dog, but then, why did I rescue her? To give her a chance. So, we did the medical stuff (thanks to all who helped with that!) and we eventually came to an understanding. I'm not saying this is something that could or should be done with this dog, but if the people are willing to put some real time into this dog, and if the dog isn't just wired wrong, he can be turned around. If not, euthinize and protect those around him.

 

Holly, after being with me 16 mos. will now let me do anything I want with her. She has had free reign of the house for about a year. She has remained loose in the house around younguns as small as two years old. All the kids love her and she reciprocates. The only thing I can't do is trim her nails. Only because it puts my face too close to hers! So, I got my vet to order the muzzle they use on her to trim her nails, and now, I attempt to trim without the muzzle, and when she resists, the muzzle goes on, and she gets her nails clipped. Yesterday, we did one nail before she couldn't stand it! It is a progress.

She will never be adopted, because she does have a bite history, and I do tell the few who have asked about her this. They never call back. I understand. But Holly loves me and is totally devoted to me. She hangs with me much more than the other dogs. They are fickle!

 

Good luck to all involved.

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I'd go see the dog. I know this isn't very helpful, but I wouldn't feel I could make much of a judgment until I'd seen him, and I'd actually prefer to see him at their place. It doesn't commit you to anything further, and it might be pretty obvious when you see him what the problem(s) is/are.

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Personally:

 

My biggest red flag here is:

They called you for help.... but then called you the next day and asked you to come get the dog.

 

Call me cynical, and maybe it is because I deal with people trying to get out of their responcibilities by placing them on others on a daily basis, but if these people really wanted help wouldn't they have asked you to come over and see the dog instead of coming to get him? --Yes there are exceptions to everything, but this worries me.

 

I would also suggest a vet behaviorist *if* the people were willing to work with the dog, and wouldn't touch the situation any further.

 

As a part of a Rescue Org:

We would go to their house and evaluate the dog to see if the situation was salvagable, and if the people were at their wits end if we could take the dog into rescue.

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I would guess that he gets "that look" in his eyes that says, "Don't mess with me." (You've dealt with a fear aggressive dog, so no doubt you know that look. Not saying this dog is fear aggressive, but the "don't mess with me look" would pretty much be the same.) If he's already bitten them then I imagine they are afraid of being bitten again, especially if he's been escalating. If he tried to bite the wife over the leash and that was just the latest incident, I can see very well how they would fear putting him in the car, because again they'd be trying to "make" him do something he likely doesn't want to do, and they've already found out that doing so results in a bite or attempted bite. He's pretty much never been required to behave in an appropriate manner and the few attempts they've made at controlling him have ended in bites, which apparently have been successful in backing them off in the past, so he's learned he can bite to get them to stop doing whatever it is they're trying to do to/with him. It's not hard to see why they would fear him. And it may or may not have to do with some deep-seated problem; it could just as easily be a dog who's learned he can be in control.

 

J.

 

Yep, Mick is a dog that if allowed could easily be a dog that would bite to be in control. He tried it with me once when I told him to get off the bed, he didn't listen, and he whipped around at me when I went to grab his collar to pull him off. That was the one and only time he got hit from me. I just smacked and rolled him. He never tried it again. He didn't have any fear when he snapped at me, it was pure dominance on his part (and, yes, he's fixed). But I have no doubt in my mind that if I backed down on him, he would have attempted it again. Mick is a dog that likes to push to the limits to see what he can get away with.

 

That being said, I personally would never keep a dog around that I was scared of. I grew up with a very aggressive (in the over protective way) German Shepherd, but I was never scared of her. No one in the family was. It was everyone else that had to worry.

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Errrgggghhh.

 

This post frustrates me not on a dog level, but on a people level. I teach 14-year-olds, and we inevitably get a kid or two every year whose parents are "at their wit's end," and "don't understand how the kid can be flunking... he's so smart!"

 

When you probe a little more deeply, you find out that the kid has never had to do anything he didn't want to do - never had to cope with a struggle or a task that wasn't 'fun.' Parents just don't have it in them to "be the boss," so the kid rules the roost, and sometimes we even hear of escalations into hitting and throwing things at the parents. Go figure.

 

And the responsibility for 'fixing' the kid always falls onto the school. After all, education is our job - why isn't this kid learning? I want to scream, "Because HIS PARENTS BROKE HIS BRAIN and HE DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO USE IT NOW!!"

 

Oy.

 

Poor dog.

 

Mary

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