Dog Bites Owner
Ever Get That Dont Touch Me Message from Your Dog?
I visited with a young lady owning a miniature Labradoodle (female) that is 3.5 years of age. She had originally called me because her dog will snap and bite her with any attempt to be groomed. In fact she has nailed her owner on any past attempts at brushing. Her dog is especially sensitive around the head, ears and eyes. Not only can she not brush her but keeping her eyes clean and free of matter is impossible necessitating more frequent trips to the groomer. It has become an expensive and frustrating problem.
Some other tale-tale signs revealed on the first visit that gave me a better picture of how this might have developed were:
Groomers never have a problem with the dog. She is perfect on the grooming table.
No structure in the home for the dog. She doesnt earn anything.
The dog is carried out the door and placed in the car for short trips.
Will not come when called in the home ignores the owner.
Owner picks dog up and puts her in bed for sleeping (ordinarily sleeping on the bed would not be a problem with a normal dog.)
The first thing I did to begin to remedy this situation was to show her how to put her on a leash and place her on the kitchen counter for brushing. She had always tried brushing her on the floor without a leash where the dog had all the control. Elevating the dog to the kitchen counter AND on leash took the control away from the dog and gave it back to the owner.
The next step was to show the owner how to properly hold the dog by the collar to prevent biting. Once the dog was on the counter we started our praising and treating to ease the dogs nervousness with the kitchen counter. I explained how to hold the collar by instructing her to slip her four fingers of her left hand through the collar from front to back (head to tail) so that if she kept a stiff hand, the back of her hand that was against her dogs jaw would block any attempts to bite. We continued this as we practiced the collar grip several times. Now shes a right-hander so the collar grip position was with her left hand keeping her right hand free for brushing. Now I gotta say that this gal was very nervous as we began the brushing part and the dog knew it. Dogs can sense your nervous energy allowing them to, in this case, keep the upper hand. But our praise/treat remedy along with starting our brushing with the smooth back of the brush first on the back away from the head worked really well. We progressed to the shoulders and then the neck area all with light, gentle touching with the back of the brush. We started our second round with the bristle part of the brush and all went well. By the end of the lesson the dog was tolerating the brushing even on the ears.
Now all that being said, the biggest challenge was still to come - cleaning her eyes. We will tackle this area in following lessons. I wanted to build the owners confidence doing this much needed and simple care-exercise while I showed her how to make other adjustments in her life with her dog. This was to be in the area of leadership. Her dog had become very stubborn and only wanted things on her terms. We put her dog on a learn-to-earn program and began a regimen of frequent, short (2 minute) training exercises of sits and downs to give her dog a sense of working for leadership instead of feeling responsible for it herself. She also had to perform obedience commands for things like her meals, access to the couch, walks, etc.
I mentioned to her that she can't control her dogs behavior unless she controlled the things her dog valued as important. On our first lesson we were using high value food treats that she really liked. It could just as well be a game of fetch, tug or a walk with you. The higher the value, the better.
I also wanted her to know that deprivation increases motivation. If she handed out food treats, love and affection or any other reinforcers for that matter freely, her dog would be less inclined to work for them. So the bargain was: Let me groom you and then you get love and affection and a walk.
In order to get maximum progress on your goals, key reinforcers (high valued food treats, love and affection and walks) should be totally withheld and ONLY rationed out as trade-offs for accepting grooming. She will only begin to see adjustments in her dog's attitude by systematic rationing of the reinforcers she places the most value on and only after good time on the counter being groomed. Im here to tell you that withholding love and affection was the most difficult challenge for this owner.
Getting really good at systematically handling her dogs more sensitive areas on a regular basis will begin to pave the way gradually to her dog allowing her to handle her eyes. It may take time but starting now is the beginning.
And, once she has been successful at doing this on the kitchen counter, we can move our grooming task back to the floor.
Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, Opportunity Barks!
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The information contained on this site is in no way intended to replace that of proper veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment.
It is meant to provide resource, so that we can better understand canine health related issues.