Please Help! Already Desperate!

Posted by Lucass-Mom
Sep 18, 2008
After walking many dogs as a volunteer at our Humane Society, I fell in love with Lucas, a 5 year old retriever mix. He was gentle, obendient, affectionate, and we formed a bond quickly. I adopted him last week, and he is a dream dog in so many sweet, and eager to please. He has gotten to be really obedient on the leash, and we are working on sitting at corners, "heal", etc.

Yesterday, I invited a dog sitter/walker over for an interview, so that I would have one on file and ready should I need to be gone all day, etc. I took him out on his leash before her scheduled arrival to insure he was not in need of potty time while she would be here. She arrived early, and met us on the driveway. He barked, I made him sit, and after he had calmed down, she approached him slowly with her hand out. He walked slowly to her, and BIT her, breaking the skin!!

I am horrified, and afraid he will do it again. She later came in, and he was fine with her...even affectionate. I think he knows he is not the Alpha dog in our house. I need immediate advise. I do not want to put him down, but, know if I take him back to the shelter, that will be it for him. I really love him. Help!!! I am more than willing to spend the time to train him, he is so worthy of my help.
Posted by Matt-amp-Liz
Sep 18, 2008
My husband and I are in a very similar situation with our pup Bailey and are unsure of how to handle it either. I look forward to someone responding to your post.
Posted by Annie
Sep 18, 2008
Hi there,
I´m not sure how much help I´ll be but....

the situation you described sounds really unfortunate. It is possible that your dog does not appreciate a hand coming towards him. I know this sounds like a small detail, but it´s quite similar to meeting a human and they are pointing a finger straight in your face. This is quite intense unless we are used to this action. It sounds like your dog, in this situation, felt under attack and retaliated.

You need to also watch for signs that your dog is uncomfortable. I think often a dog gives off thousands of signals that he is unhappy with this situation and we just don´t read his language. A dog my lick his lips if he is nervous and insecure. He may also tuck his tail under, take steps back ( or forward) he may grow extremely still and focused or pull his chest in, he may also yawn if he is unsure how to behave. Did he lock eyes on the womans? did he glance at you for reasurance? It is important that we start reading these signs so as to judge how happy our dog is, and then politely ask the person to wait and let the tension dissolve.

However, many people approach a dog with hand out so your dog needs to learn this behaviour. There also seemed to be, from your description, a lot of attention on your dog. I always find it is a good idea to really ignore the dog at the begining. He must sit, wait for everybody to talk, not sniff or approach the person etc etc.

You only took this dog into a new environment quite recently. I´m sure he´s still trying to work out what is what, and he may be very very nervous with all the new changes. It´s great you are thinking forward to needing a dog walker, but maybe he also needs a bit of time to get used to you first. Maybe you could meet her a couple of times, similar to what you did at the shelter, and slowly gain his trust.

I understand, for your visitors, that he is a new addition to your family and they all want to meet him, but at least in the next few weeks they should really give him space. Ignoring is a good start, and then maybe a fun game, or a walk together, but a nervous dog should be allowed to approach slowly at his own speed. It may be that your visitors never really get a good pat with him for a couple of weeks....I´m not sure how much you know about his history, but at his age, this might be a pattern he has developed.

But you can improve it.

It sounds wierd, but with new visitors, think of your dog as a handbag(!) It sounds rude for the dog, but actually quite relaxing for him. You don´t need to let everybody touch your handbag, or introduce it either! Just ask him to wait quietly while you have your chat or let him find a nice place while you have a coffee. I think quite soon your dog will coming sniffing around to say hello, and then should be greeted gently with a rub under the chest, or possibly nothing at all.

If you are really concerned that you don´t have enough control over him, then start with a muzzle ( get him used to it first), but still, don´t take advantage of this and let people grope him knowing he can´t defend himself.

Please, please don´t give up too soon. The dog you fell in love with is still there, and wanting really really hard to please you, he´s just lost his way at the moment and needs some understanding.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 18, 2008
Hi there,

I understand how shocking it was for you to see your dreamed dog bit the dog sitter. I am sorry that it happened.

For Lucus, it must have been a confusing situation too. He was in the shelter for a while and got adopted by you just last week. He has no idea of "being adopted". He doesn't know this is going to be his home from now on either. All he knows is that he is with you now....and he loves you. He might be just starting to think he has to protect what he has got here at your home.

He and the sitter met on your drive way so he might have felt like he had to protect you, your house, etc. If he had met the sitter in a park or somewhere else, things might have been totally different. Also, if you have walked Lucus towards the sitter and introduced Lucus to her, he might have felt more comfortable rather than the sitter coming towards him while he was leashed.

Well, no crying for spilled milk - it happened so we need to prevent from this happening again.

My biggest concern is that you are feeling horrified. This will make the situation worse because it will make Lucus feel more uncomfortable and more fearful. I hope you scolded him right away when he bit her. How did he react after he bit her? Did he know he did something unacceptable? You should let him know that right away.

He might be lacking of socialization with people so it is very important that you look confident rather than looking afraid or nerveous when you introduce Lucus to many other people. Sometimes, it will help to have a person give a treat to Lucus with an open hand. Again, don't push him too much but wait him to come close to the person.

Each dog has a different tolerance about the space between him and a stranger and takes different amount of time to become comfortable. We need to respect the difference at the beginning so that the dog becomes more socialized.

I have been fostering dogs to find new homes and sometimes dogs get returned with a reason like challenging a husband from behind, or growling at a guest, etc. Since Lucus sounds like a very obedient dog I hope you will be able to work on the issue to help him build his self-cnfidence and security that have been missing from his previous life.

Good luck
Posted by Lucass-Mom
Sep 30, 2008
Annie, thank you so much for all of your good advice. I will incorporate it in my training, and I am very grateful to you for taking the time to respond. Lucas is a good dog soul, and I just know he is worth all the time I can give him to save his life, and between all the good advice I receive here and our pro dog trainer who is coming next week, I think we will succeed. Thanks again! Lucas's Mom
Posted by Lucass-Mom
Sep 30, 2008
Thank you so much for the great insights! We are still working on Alpha training, and have good days, then bad days. I expect things will just get better with time and patience until we have only good dog days! I appreciate any advice I receive...thanks again! Lucas's Mom