Seeking dog advice...

Ryan Wright

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Hi gang,

Well, now it's my turn to seek dog advice.

Our dog is a Welsh Corgi mix. We were told she was mixed with a Jack Russell, but I find that hard to believe. She is the spitting image of a Corgi, with longer legs and bigger ears. She's obviously mixed with something, probably a terrier due to her attitude, but I don't know exactly what:



Mocha is about 2 and a half years old. We've got her from the shelter @ 6 months - she was fully housebroken already. Previous owners gave her up because she chewed on things. Well, duh. That's what puppies do.

Anyway, she's been a great dog. She is very vocal - she barks way too much, and does an awful lot of playful growling and "talking", but she's sweet and is a lot of fun. Until recently. We are expecting a new baby, and my wife is pregnant. Shortly into the pregnancy Mocha began treating my wife badly. First, my wife tried to pet her while she was eating. This has never been a problem before, but Mocha decided to snap at her, quite viciously. The discipline method used was: Grab her neck, hold her up, tell her NO! and put her in her kennel. This was a couple of months ago.

Mocha has been getting more and more aggressive now. Last night, she was playing with my 6 year old, and she was growling and carrying on (playfully) like she usually does. The play (between both my daughter and the dog) was getting a little out of hand, so they were broken up. Mocha continued to growl, so my wife slapped her on the butt lightly and said, "No". This is what we've done for 2 years and Mocha always gets the point. This time, she turned around and bit my wife. Not enough to draw blood, but she left a nice bite mark on her hand.

She's never bit anybody before.

I don't know what to do. I love this dog an awful lot, but if she continues with this, I'll put her down. That would be the worst thing I've ever had to do in my life. This dog is family. She sleeps on our bed with us every night, for crying out loud. She's been a wonderful family pet for 2 years now and I can't imagine life without her.
But at the same time, I can't have an aggressive biting dog in my house.

I don't get it, and I need your advice.
 

Chris Rosene

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I don't think "if she continues" should be appropriate here. The dog has to go NOW if there are children around (especially a newborn). As a dog lover and dog owner I understand your attachment to the dog, but there is absolutely NO taking chances when it comes to aggressiveness in dogs when kids are involved. If it was just you and your wife I would advise to attempt to rehab the dog.
 

Lew Crippen

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Ryan I don’t really feel qualified to give advice—but with a six-year old in the house and with a baby on the way added to growing, uncertain behavior from your dog, I think that you must take some kind of action.

Now that might be moving Mocha into her own space (kennel, dog house or such), or respecting her space a bit more (no touching during eating, for example). Or you might want to consider putting her in an environment outside of your family altogether.

If I were you, I’d check with a vet or someone else such as an animal trainer, who is likely to be familiar with these dog’s behavior patterns. You may well get some sound advice.

Regardless of what you decide, you have my sympathy. Although I’ve never had to make such a choice we have had both cats and dogs over many years. All were (and are) family members.

Good luck.
 

Mark Zimmer

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I'd talk to the vet. It's possible that she's picking up on your wife's hormones and that this aggressive behavior will go away when the pregnancy does. The fact that she's starting suddenly at the age of two would be an indicator. I'm assuming she's spayed? If not, that might help too. But I also agree that if the dog continues like this you can't keep it around an infant and it's back to the shelter.
 

James T

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I have a small dog that goes into berserk mode every now and then. Before, I used to be able to pick up the dog while he's sleeping and move him to another place. Now, if he's sleeping, he's not to be disturbed. Especially if he's trying to sleep by the door, if I try and pick him up, he'll try to bite me. After he goes for a walk, he likes to pick up my mom's slipper and run circles around her while my mom screams "no" at him. Long story short, the only person my dog listens to and will allow to pick him up at any time is my dad. He usually walks him and feeds him. I walk him sometimes and feed him sometimes, but mostly just play with him.

Has anything changed in the way your family handles your dog? Like my dad, the person who takes care of the dog the most, will have the most control. I also don't know about grabbing the neck and hitting the butt and screaming "No" would do. I was taught that if the dog needs to be shown who to listen to you, talk to your dog in a commanding voice, but stare slightly above the dog's eyes(to show your above him).
 

Ryan Wright

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Like my dad, the person who takes care of the dog the most, will have the most control.
So, that would be me. Mocha is very much "my" dog. She follows me everywhere. If I go outside for any reason, Mocha wants to come. She listens to me quite well. Not as well as I would like - sometimes she chooses to do her own thing - but I am the person she has attached herself to and who has the most control over her.
 

Julian Reville

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You need an animal behaviorist; get your vet to refer you to one, preferably at a vet college.

Julian Reville, DVM
 

Joe Szott

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Ryan,

We have been (and are in) a similar situation, I'm still not 100% on what causes it, but it may not be as bad as you think.

We have a Chow/Shepard mix (named Buddy) who we raised from a puppy and had before we had kids. Buddy was extremely friendly, but once my wife got pregnant, he would growl and show teeth to her when pet, fed, whatever. Pretty much whatever was going on didn't stop until she gave birth, maybe her scent changed back to normal? He would also occasionally snap at her, but never seriously (more of a show and threat than a real intent to bite.)

Anyway, that was 2 years ago and he is ok today. Doesn't like the 2 yr old much, but he puts up with him and pretty just leaves if he is bothered by the boy. If the boy pets him, Buddy growls but the rule in our house is "go on Buddy, just move on". It actually works pretty good.

The one area that I would change is don't hit your dog, not even a light slap if you can help it. A hit works for a dog that respects/fears you, but a dog that is unsure enough to growl at you anyway resents that form of discipline. We would give Buddy a little slap when he first did this stuff, but it only got worse. We found that just scolding him and sending him to his bed for a few minutes was a good enough punishment. Didn't end the growling, but at least the snapped stopped altogether.

My wife is actually pregnant now with our 2nd, and the growling started up again recently. This time it is less and sometimes he'll even walk over, put his head in her lap, get petting, and growl the whole time. He likes her and wants the attention, it's just this odd impulse to growl at her at the same time?

So I suggest modifying the humans behavior a bit (don't have your wife discipline the dog for now) and seeing what develops as time moves on. Feel free to PM or email me if there is anything else I can help with.
 

Carl Johnson

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I've been thinking about getting a dog, if you can't resolve this maybe you could send her to me
 

TonyD

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giving the dog to soemone seems like it should always be a higher priority then "putting her down"
someone is always around to take an animal.

are you sure this new behavior didnt start around when it was known that your wife is pregnant
 

Walt N

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These problems are fixable. First, one should never hit a dog with your hand, a newspaper, or anything else. I'd recommend some professional training if you can do it, but at least head over to Petsmart and pick up a training manual or two. A good one is "How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend" by the Monks of New Skete. http://www.dogsbestfriend.com/

Many dogs are protective about their food. The way to cure that is to feed the dog by hand a couple of times by tossing food into the bowl little by little, so the dog learns to associate hands with feeding instead of a threat.

What seems to be the underlying problem here is that the dog think it's in control. Your wife and you need to establish yourselves as the "alpha" presence, and a good manual or trainer will teach you how to do that.

I adopted a German Shepherd some years ago that was violent toward people, but now he's a docile as a newborn puppy. Never had to hit him, instead the "alpha rollover" manuever did the trick. That's where you roll the dog over on it's back, grab it by the scruff of the neck and face it down with some strong words. Sounds funny, but that's how alpha wolves establish dominance and it works great on dogs.

There are very few bad dogs, just poorly trained owners. The key is to communicate with the dog in a way it understands and while that's not easy, the information is out there. You just need to find it and learn it.

Good luck.
 

Malcolm R

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Sounds like your wife is the disciplinarian and the dog resents her for it. Similar to a child who might resent the one parent who always doles out the punishment or enforces the rules, yet has no such resentment for the other who does not take on an equal share of the discipline/punishment.

Do you and your daughter enforce the same rules and punish Mocha if necessary? Or is the discipline always at your wife's hand?
 

Steve Schaffer

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This is probably triggered by your wife's pregnancy and may go away with some of the methods others have suggested or by itself once the baby comes.

In any case, do not have Mocha euthanized if things don't work out. There are plenty of people with no kids who would love to have a companion like her.

My household consists of myself, my smallish Corgi mix, and my cat. I am Alpha, but the dog is definitely second in command. I too never hit her for real. She knows when she's done wrong and always acts depressed, guilty and scared until I discover the "crime". Then I must go through a ritual of tapping her butt lightly with one page of newspaper rolled up and putting her outside for a few minutes so she can come in and be forgiven.
 

Ryan Wright

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The one area that I would change is don't hit your dog, not even a light slap if you can help it. A hit works for a dog that respects/fears you, but a dog that is unsure enough to growl at you anyway resents that form of discipline. We would give Buddy a little slap when he first did this stuff, but it only got worse. We found that just scolding him and sending him to his bed for a few minutes was a good enough punishment. Didn't end the growling, but at least the snapped stopped altogether.
Joe: This sounded great, so we tried it. Mocha's behavior has changed significantly! She's back to being her old self again. No more snapping, and the same old amount of growling.

Mocha was kennel trained when we adopted her. We've never kennel trained our dogs in the past, so this was new to me. She enjoys her kennel and often sleeps in it by choice. Anyway, after a little work, I can now say, "Mocha, go to bed" and she will put her ears down and slink off to her kennel. She also now knows to stay there until we call her back out - without being locked in.

So every time she barks unnecessarily, we send her to bed. If she growls at us for any reason, we send her to bed. She's doing much, much better!

Thanks to everyone for your advice. We've owned dogs forever and have never had problems with them, but it is obvious now that every dog is different and responds differently to various discipline methods.
 

Joe Szott

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Sounds like Mocha and Buddy are peas in a pod. Buddy still growls at Heather (pregnant with 2nd currently), but the snapping is non-existant. Odd thing is sometimes he doesn't growl at all, sometimes he can be in a great mood, she pets him, and suddenly the growling starts. Of course, when she gets down on all fours and chases him around the room a bit, that ALWAYS gets a little growling (she's bad!)


Glad it worked out, Mocha should return to normal after the birth. She'll probably growl at the baby once it can move/grab, but even that gets better with time too. Buddy never shows teeth either, or he gets a timeout. Some dogs just like to growl I guess...
 

JayV

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Ryan, I'm very happy to hear that things are improving!

As for Mocha's makeup, I have a feeling she's half border collie. I've seen a bunch of border collie mixes, and Mocha shares many features with them. My Lucy is a border collie/lab mix and has similar features (white toes, white patch on chest, feathering on leg hairs near her butt).

As for the dicipline, I's like to "ditto" what you learned from giving Mocha time-outs. Dogs are social -- separating her from people sends an unequivocal message to her about her behavior. Lucy had a high naughtiness level and nothing worked/works as effectively as separation or ignoring her.

-j
 

Chris Hovanic

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I had just the opposite problem with my Male Australian Shepherd, Sam. Once my wife started to really show during her pregency he developed a mesterious limp that Im pretty sure changed legs. It would go away after a good petting and some attention.

After the boy was born it got worse. Took him to the vet. They wanted $150 to sedate him to take some x-rays. I laughed and told the vet about how it dissiapers after giving Sam some love. He said it was up to me on the x-rays. I decided to wait it out and the vet gave me some doggy advil which did nothing.

Over 3 months he limped less and less. Now he is adjusted to the new member of the family and I think cant wait till the boy can run around a play with him.
 

Jason_Els

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Dogs have a "thing" about where they sleep. Where a dog sleeps is very important in dog society. Sleeping on the bed with you is a very strong invitation to become number 2. Mocha sees your wife as the current number two and is challenging her for the number 2 position. It is very important that you and your wife maintain discipline. Do not have Mocha sleep on the bed any longer to prevent her from receiving mixed signals about her place in your home. If she growls, even in play, immediately ignore her for a few minutes and if she runs up to you to apologize keep ignoring her. Growls are little challenges, little tests of chinks in the armor. Don't tolerate them.

Other, similarly important cues that she might mistake are how you enter a building or rooms (including and particularly at home). Be sure she's the last one in. Don't let her dart ahead of you. When with your family be sure she's the last to enter. With food too, be sure you and your family are fed first if you eat when she does. Only give her scraps after you all have finished eating. These signals reinforce her status within your family as lowest on the totem pole. You might think it harsh but Mocha will appreciate the consistent signals you and your family are sending.

Some dogs are born alphas and will always seek to become number 1 in the home. If they don't think you're doing a good job or are acting questionably they will challenge you for leadership. Part of that is her reaction to your wife by biting her without piercing the skin. In dog society this is a major challenge to the pecking order and indicates to Mocha that she is above your wife in the order. If she is part border collie then she is undoubtably a dog more intelligent than most so she might always try to gain the upper hand when the opportunity presents itself. Some dogs are born omegas (like Newfoundlands) and have a tendency to never challenge.

There is no reason neither type of dog could make an excellent pet providing you stay clear and consistent with your signals of dominence. I think most of the other posts here are outstanding and I'll chime-in on getting a good book on dog behavior. Learning how dog society works illuminates so many things about these wonderful animals behave and will help you and your dog become even better friends down the road.
 

Ryan Wright

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With food too, be sure you and your family are fed first if you eat when she does. Only give her scraps after you all have finished eating.
Ah, I forgot to mention this! That's another thing we started -- my wife now feeds Mocha. Mocha's food has always been available 24/7. Her bowl was just on the floor and when she ran out, we refilled it.

No longer. Now the food bowl gets put up (water is always available, of course) and my wife puts it down for her twice per day, after we eat. In this way she can learn that my wife controls the food, which should help her find last place in the Wright family hierarchy.


Now we just have to ensure she knows that the children are above her, too.
 

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