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Rescued Basset is attacking me and my partner

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by costelloe, Nov 2, 2010.


  1. costelloe

    costelloe PetForums Newbie

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    We have a 3 year old male basset who is a perfect dog. He's as well trained as a Basset can be, he can do tricks ranging from speak to play dead and roll over. He's still a Basset though so he can be grumpy and he can even growl sometimes but has never bitten us.

    We wanted some company for him so found a rescue 3 year old Basset, also male and he seemed perfect. We travelled a long way to meet him and when we got there they told us about his grumpiness and growling and we figured they just weren't used to the Basset nature and decided that in a better environment we could do better.

    We had a few teething problems as you'd expect from a rescue dog, we quickly found out he doesn't like cars and being picked up. He seemed to think he was pack leader so we read up on how to deal with that, and realised all this nasty behaviour was because he was stressed. We bought him his own cage, made sure we started teaching him tricks to allow for some positive reinforcement. When he starts growling we quickly distract him with something else so we don't get to a situation where we have to punish him.

    He has been fine with me, BUT has attacked my partner a few times. I've put it down to the fact my partner is 6ft 5" and has a deep voice so can seem more threatening. So when he's tried biting my partner, I've walked over and come down to the dogs level and made him do what we want him to do, but if I'm not there he's tried biting my partner and the only reason he's not succeeded is because he's happened to have been wearing thick clothes at the time.

    Last night I came home, and my partner was in bed early so I let both dogs out of their cage and spent some time playing with them. The new dog was sitting on me and letting me play fight with him, then we all sat on the sofa. When I tried to get them off the sofa to put them back in their cages the behaviour that he's shown to my partner flared up, with just me in the room. He wouldn't respond to treats or kind talking, I got his toys and even cooked some bacon as a treat. I was playing with the other dog and nothing worked.

    I wasn't scared of him as I presumed he wouldn't bite me and I stayed really calm. I went towards him and he attacked me and bit me three times on my arm, and broke the skin.

    What should I do?
     
  2. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

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    A tricky one. What a nasty position you're in. You don't say how long he's been with you and has had time to settle. The first thing I'd do is get him properly checked over by a vet. His grumpiness/growling/ not liking being picked up could be because he's in pain - those long-backed short-legged dogs are more prone to slipped discs, arthritis etc. Then, if it's not a medical issue, get a properly qualified behaviourist to work with you to reform his behaviour.
    Was he rehomed from a rescue, or from a private arrangement? Would they take him back if you felt you couldn't keep him after this?
     
  3. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    How long have you had your new dog?

    Maybe it's too early to start play fightiong with him just yet if he is still learning boundries from you
     
  4. Is he they or both castrated?
    As cleo says - no play fightling really"!
     
  5. kazschow

    kazschow PetForums VIP

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    I'd be getting a reputable behaviourist in if it were me.... and get as much honest background info on the og from the rescue/ previous owners.
     
  6. Also!
    2 x dogs! depends here! t'is said that opposite sexes get on better!
    hence the question re castrating! is either or both done?
     
  7. costelloe

    costelloe PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for the replies. We've had him three weeks now, and he has been castrated.

    The reason I've been doing the play fighting was that with our first dog I did this a lot and made sure then when he got too rough I'd make a shocked sound to let him know to stop. He now responds to the word "nice" and he'll stop and lick your hand. I thought if I applied the same technique to the aggressive dog and make him know how rough he's allowed to be, it might prevent these out bursts. I'm happy to listen to anyone who says this is a bad idea.

    The old owners admitted to us they were scared of him, and he dominated them completely. I just didn't realise to what extent, and presumed they just didn't know how to handle Bassets. So I'm not sure that they'd take him back. They've had him from a puppy and they were a nice middle ages family in a nice home, there was no reason for me to suspect he's been mistreat.

    Also it's worth mentioning it isn't always the same triggers. I've got him off the sofa heaps of times with no hassle.
     
  8. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    Personally I wouldn't be play fighting with a dog after 3 weeks even if they weren't displaying any 'grumpiness'. I've had my dog Toby since January & looking back now (I know it's always much easier in hindsight!) can see that we really didn't know him until after a few months when we had spent time with him.

    Also although Toby is a fantastic dog he does 'grumble' if moved from the sofa. I've learnt that it's not a good idea to drag a dog off their comfy spot (yes, I did do this at first so am not really suprised he growled!) also not to reprimand them for the gowl.

    We have learnt that with the help of clicker training (I have found in our case this has been the answer to almost everything!), encouraging/asking Toby to get down then rewarding has been really successful.

    Honestly, 3 weeks is no time at all so don't worry too much. It may be that some people may suggest this is problem that requires a behaviourist - I am not qualified (or experienced enough) to give you advice regarding biting just to say what we have experienced.
     
  9. kazschow

    kazschow PetForums VIP

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    My first stop would be a full vet check to see if he has anytihng causing underlying pain, that might affect his personality IYKWIM. I;d stop plauy fighting with an unpredictable agressive dog, I thin you have an accident waiting to happen doing that unfortunately. Then I would as I say get in a reputable behaviourist to evalute the situation, and help you put in place strategies for success. He needs to be in sutuations to succeed, to help him move on hopefully.
     
  10. Sled dog hotel

    Sled dog hotel PetForums VIP

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    Thereason the high pitched ow etc worked on your other dog and not him was probably the other one had learnt bite inhibition and he hasnt. Pups learn bite inhibition from their siblings and mum. One bites the other too hard the other yelps and the offending pup should let go. If it doesnt the mum steps in and reprimands the offending pup. If pups are taken away from the litter or mums taken away too early then they dont learn this valuable lesson. The high pitched yelp therefore doesnt work. I think you said you therefore have been using the distraction technique instead ie distracting with a toy or treats? If you think about it this is rewarding the behaviour. He bites a bit to hard so gets a game or treats. Thanks very much this is great as far as hes concerned. Look what I get when I bite. I think you also said when you couldnt get him off the sofa you gave him treats. same thing next time hes on there and you want to move him he aint gonna shift until he gets something. Rough play and play fighting on his level is the same thing he just views you as another dog there for his amusement. You need to get control with firm training. Make him work for things. Start with a course in basic training make sure you do a couple of sessions every day not just you your partner too. Make sure that your partner feeds him at least some of the time make him sit for his dinner before you put the bowl down. Make him sit before his lead goes on and you go out the door first etc. He only gets food or treats and attention for good behaviour or training. If he plays up say no firmly and walk away and ignore him. If he persists then clip hes lead on if you have too annd either put him in his crate or the kitchen and leave him there for 10mins and ignore him. Let him out and walk away. You call him to you for attention. Hope this may give you some insight and ideas. Its not totally your fault hes probably been let to do as he wants. You just need to get training and get on top of things.
     
  11. keirk

    keirk PetForums Member

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    Two things:

    1. What does "he dominated them completely" actually mean? When you say he is a "dominate" dog - you mean he is willful, confident, and intelligent? Or do you have another definition? Mostly likely they meant he used aggressive displays (growling) as a means of communication. In this instance its unlikely to do with "dominance" (ie the social position between to individuals).

    2. "there was no reason for me to suspect he's been mistreated" - a nice middle aged family can mistreat (unintentionally) just as easily as someone living in a council house. The mass of misinformation peddled by the mass media around the dog behaviour, (ie "be the pack leader" etc etc) means it pretty commonplace to find "alpha rolling" and "scruff shaking" etc

    I would suggest that this dog is either, in pain, or has learnt that growling / biting will mean he is left alone, probably because of fear.

    If pain is not the cause, I would suggest you work on building trust with your new dog. This can start with setting clear guidelines on whats OK and what is not, and enforcing these rules with humane handling. For example - either the dog is allowed on the sofa or is not. If they are allowed on the sofa but you need to get them off for a particular reason, attach a lead and reward once they get off. Grabbing of collars is particularly unpleasant.

    Please don't let the rather simplistic view of "be the pack leader" etc cloud your judgement when it comes to your dog. Can I suggest you read: Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs: Amazon.co.uk: Suzanne Clothier: Books

    HTH
     
  12. ClaireandDaisy

    ClaireandDaisy PetForums VIP

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    Can I ask how long the dogs are kept caged? It sounds as though they are very stressed.
    I recommend you get a good (APBC) behaviourist in.
    You should also read some good modern training books- nothing that mentions `pack leader` is going to be helpful.
    Try Jean Donaldson`s The Culture Clash as it covers behaviour and training.
     
  13. Doolally

    Doolally PetForums Senior

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    He sounds like one confused dog. He's moved to a new house 3 weeks ago, from somewhere where he was perhaps allowed to do anything he wanted, not because he is 'dominant' but because he has never been taught otherwise, and he has learnt that growling and snapping gets him what he wants.

    Please scrap the dominance idea, it's a load of bull, and with a dog that has already shown aggressive signs, if you start to follow the dominance theory you will get yourself into a lot of trouble.
    It sounds like he may be resource possessive because he's never been taught otherwise. He's comfy on the sofa, so why should he get off? He probably got off the other times because he wasn't really bothered, but last night actually he was really comfy so grrrr go away..Dogs are motivated by the here and now, so what's important to him at one moment, won't be quite so important the next moment.

    As someone else has said it doesn't sound like he has learnt bite inhibition, which is why he will go all the way and bite, whereas other dogs wouldn't go that far.

    I think you should get a qualified behaviourist in, as there's only so much people can tell you over the net without seeing the dog and how you/your OH interact with him. In the mean time, give the dog a helping hand, treat him like a puppy and help teach him your house rules, because unless you teach him, how is he supposed to know what the rules are?
     
    1 person likes this.
  14. newfiesmum

    newfiesmum Banned

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    Three weeks is a very short time for a dog this age and he is feeling insecure and wondering what has gone wrong. I have known people who, when the dog has growled at them, have just left him in fear in case he bites. I once knew a whole family in fear of their cocker spaniel because of this early action. I would not be surprised if this has happened.

    Play fighting is something you cannot do with all dogs. It excites them, winds them up, and unlike your other dog, nobody has yet taught him how to stop. I think, like others, that your first stop should be the vet. Then work on keeping him calm and learning to trust you.

    I have to admit that of all the breeds in the world, I am a little wary of bassets. I have no idea why, perhaps it's that long face! I am sure you will do fine, but do not expect him to behave like your other dog.

    If you do decide on a behaviourist, please read the sticky post on this forum about how to choose one. You do not want to make matters worse.
     
  15. costelloe

    costelloe PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you for all your comments, can I ask, how long does it usually take a dog to adjust to a new home, or more importantly how long does it take to accept someone as it's owner, and that it's not just a change of scenery?

    He's only in his cage over night not during the day at any point.

    At his old house, he had the kitchen and garden as his, and wasn't allowed anywhere else in the house. In our house he's free to roam 90% of the house with the other dog . And when they said they were completely dominated by him, basically they told us that they didn't have much interaction with him in the way that we have with our dog, because when they tried anything he'd growl and bite.

    I don't know any dogs that bite their owners, and I think our dog still hasn't accepted that we get to tell him what to do.

    He's still using viscious biting as his first response to a situation. The only way we've found to control him is to put his lead on him and walk him away from whatever he's doing.

    I'm worried by the comments that are saying he won't become the same as my other dog :(

    I'm going to try take him to the vets, I was hoping I wouldn't need to until we'd got more control over him, apparently that's his main hate, and bites the vets etc. He'd never has his nails clipped till he moved in with us, and yet on the first day I sat with him and managed to do them. I was hopeful I'd be able to control him at the vets, but since he's started going for me I'm not too confident! But I think you're right, he need checking.. wish me luck!
     
    #15 costelloe, Nov 5, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2010
  16. Cleo38

    Cleo38 PetForums VIP

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    Things will take time & he is adjusting to a completely diffferent environment, rules, etc so it can take months.

    Also he is not the same as your dog & may never be, you need to accept that. As you said, his owners have already admitted that they have had little interaction with him so it has obviously affected him. Same with any animals, kids, people - you should always expect differences!

    I know it's difficult but small steps are better than pushing for changes over night. The fact that you are trying to find out why he's acting in the way he does & do something about it shows that he is already getting more attention & care so things will start to improve.

    Our dog is very friendly, etc but HATES going to the vets. Even though he is usually calm, confident & chilled out he hates having his claws clipped & really panics at this. It has taken us months to get him to let us do his claws without him shaking. Even now it is not a 2min job.

    With the vets we have started doing short journeys of just going to the surgery for a treat then home again but it will be a lengthy process before he loses his fear. unfortunately when he really has to go (he had to have some lumps checked a while ago) he has to be muzzled as he is so scared & I am concerned he will bite the vet. As he is a rescue I have no idea what has happened to make him this fearful but can only work with him at trying to relieve this fear.

    Hope it goes ok at the vets for you both :D
     
  17. leashedForLife

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    re the vet:
    i would get a Thyroid test, 5-way
    ask for a 5-way thyroid-panel to be sent for analysis to the Michigan State Univ vet-lab - they have the world's largest breed-specific database of blood values for comparison.
    if his test is marked borderline-low ask Ur vet if s/he would consider a 3 or 4-week trial of low-dose thyroid-supplement to see if it improves his temperament; hypothyroid can cause irritability.

    box-muzzle - habituated
    if being bitten is a distinct possibility and he HAS broken skin MORE THAN ONCE, particularly on Ur partner, then i would habituate him to wear a basket-muzzle properly fitted -
    habituation means he is taught to put his own face into it, and he wears it happily - it is not another source of stress.

    in the meanwhile, have him wear a drag-line indoors + out, so that U can direct him where U want WITHOUT taking hold of his COLLAR.
     
  18. goodvic2

    goodvic2 PetForums VIP

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    Hi. Sorry to hear u r having problems. Well done for giving this dog a home.

    Keep it simple...

    Don't allow him on beds or sofas
    Don't play fight or get him too excited
    Get him checked by the vet
    Don't give bones/treats/toys unless they r deserved.

    My opinion when a dog turns on it's owners, unless its medical, it Is a lack of respect. Don't bend down to him, don't grab him. If he won't do as u ask, put the lead on him and make him! Don't back down, but don't frighten or intimidate him.

    U have my sympathies. If you can't resolve this behaviour, u may have to look at putting him to sleep. As it's unfair on the dog to be passed around.

    Best of luck x x
     
  19. newfiesmum

    newfiesmum Banned

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    Why? In my experience if a dog is aggressive, he is usually scared. No one knows what this dog has been through, it is early days, he has had no reward based training, which is essential.

    I think the problem arises from the owners thinking he was going to be just like their own dog. He isn't because they have not raised him, someone else has, and that someone else has done a lousy job of it.

    He needs time to settle and to learn to trust again.
     
    kazschow likes this.
  20. kazschow

    kazschow PetForums VIP

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    Couldn;t agree more rep for that post....
     
    #20 kazschow, Nov 6, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2010
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