Professional advice needed!!

Posted by chefboyardy
Mar 6, 2009

This is my first post and I am in need of some serious advice.

The History:

I bought my dog Morgan at the age of 2 from a store who's breeder simply didn't want him anymore. Morgan is a Norwich Terrier and true to his breed. Apparantly I found out later that he was given to the store and sold to us for cheap because he "interfered with the breeding" what ever that meant. As soon as I signed on the dotted line I gave him a bit of time to get to know me and when I tried to pick him up the first thing he did was draw blood.

I took him home and imediately went through training with him. We paid over 800 dollars for training with unlimited access to the trainers advice who is too busy to return calls. Anyways, the method we chose was the Dogtra collar because of the very fast results, we have a child who was 3 at the time. (don't worry, I have been trained very well on how to use the collar and ensure that it is never enough to hurt the dog but just enough that it gets an ear or eyebrow up)

Morgan has since become a very important part of this family. For the last 2 years now every day before his meal he receives 4-5 minutes of training to keep him working. I have never allowed him to go through a door first, walk infront of me and have him fully trained on what I like to call the "Move" command. Basically if he is in the way, laying on the floor I say "Move" and he does just that without any hesitation.

I will never forget that he is very capable of agression and has demonstrated so on numerous occasions in the past. I always have my eye on him when around anyone that is not me, including our 5year old daughter who takes an active part in his training. Always. I love him but I know he is still just a dog.

Morgan is a very nervous dog. He has iritable bowels, hates any kind of change and above all else hates anyone coming to the door. He has his boundries in this small appartment that he never crosses, even if we are all on the other side of them. He also constantly fights to take the role of Alpha. By this I mean he will nudge with his head to get some loving, constantly jumps on the furnature with out being called etc...

The Problem:

The other day we were watching a movie on my bed and Morgan was walking over to me for some cuddles (we called him up). As he did he stepped on my wife's stomach and her instinct was to nudge him off. he then very quickly turned and put his mouth on her hand but didn't bite. Me being the watcher that I am, acted that same second using a techinque taught to me by my trainer. I made my hand into a claw, placed it on the side of his neck and put him down on his side with a very grwoled "NOOO". You've never seen a 220 lbs italian move so fast as when his family is threatened.

This was the first time he did it in so long but they seem so unpredictable! Ive decided to get some resources readily available, unlike my very busy trainer, hence the new membership. I am now on day 3 of the dominance-aggression program after the hardest 2 days of ignoring him completely but I have to admit, I am skeptical that this will change it! this is our second time addressing his aggression speifically.

I am begining to think that I may need to euthinize, which to be honest brings me to tears to think about. What am i doing wrong? Why does he always go back to his old ways?

Sorry for the long post but Morgan truely is a unique dog, I want to make sure you know his history before giving advice.
Posted by Idan-Kashi
Mar 6, 2009
I'm not a professional. Based on your post, in my opinion, you just don't trust your dog. When reading it it looks like he is a stranger who lives with you, but you'd never put your eyes off, so he won't back stab you.
Dogs can read your mind. They know how you feel. They can smell your energy.
Posted by Annie
Mar 8, 2009
Hi there,
sorry to hear your situation....I´d like to hear what happened after you put your dog on his side after 'biting' your wife? But your reaction time sounds excellent. What is really important is an immediate response and you seem to have that covered. I totally understand you always being alert to the dogs behaviour. I also have young children and am constantly watching....
You have described a very aware dog, who you have spent a lot of time and energy training and it seems to mostly have paid off....what is your wife´s role in all this. Is she as respected as you?
There are some breeds who just never warm to new people, and are always quick to snarl and bite, but the situation you described with your wife just shouldn´t happen.
I have quite a few ideas for you, but if you could give some more information then I won´t be explaining things you already understand.
You said he walked over your wife´s stomach to get to you...this seems to be quite disrespectful....what else does he 'get away with' with her? Is she nervous of him? Do they do training and cuddle time as well?
You also mention a medical condition...could this be painful for the dog? Are there areas of the dogs body that you can not touch?
I don't do the ' scruff of the neck to the floor' myself, I use the 'bannishment from the pack' idea. When my dog was aggressive to our baby I behaved like a Mama Lion! ( you've never seen an Australian move so fast ) Our dog was hunted from the house to the garden using full and aggressive body language, extreme eye contact, and loud noises. She was hunted to the back of the garden and left there for 3 hours. After that she was invited to return. I could see in her body that she was so upset to have disappointed me, so shocked by my actions, and so sorry and distressed to be left 'alone'. It took a few days for her to regain confidence with the baby again ( I made this very positive with treats etc) and the situation has never been a problem again. I have 'hunted' her at another time but the punnishment fit the crime and was only for 10 mins. For me, this was an extreme Time Out....other situations need for the dog only to be removed from the situation for a few moments without all the circus...
What do you know about a dogs body language? and have you read much about what you can potray with your language? There seems to be a missunderstanding between what your dog thinks is OK and what you want ( obviously ) so it would be really good to map what is exactly happening for your dog to react like this.
Please don´t get rid of your dog yet...a dog is not a perfect machine, and it seems to be mostly going really good. If you are really nervous use a muzzle for a while...
I´ll write more soon,
Posted by chefboyardy
Mar 9, 2009
Hi thanks for your reply! Well after I put him on his side I made him get off the bed and immediately used the "out" command which he understands from border training him to not go into the daughter's room. at which point he sulked out of the room immediately and lay down outside, staring in. From there I bnought my membership to this site and immediately did some reading up. I started out with the alpha dog pdf, which most of which I was doing but learnt a few new things like how nudging with his head for attention is bad and staring and sitting at our feet while eating. But I have never let him go through a door before me and do what ever I should to keep my alpha dog position. I don't think he has any question about who is the alpha dog.

My wife does not train him at all. She just can't be bothered to until she needs him to get out of her way or off her lap or what ever. He has always felt that he is a higher level than her and made it quite evident. I've decided not to let him on the bed anymore as I just remembered that the last time he put his teeth on her was when we me and him were laying down together and she came to join in the cuddles. He is seems very jealous. Also, play fighting around him (not with him) has been known to be problematic as he really has no no ability to discern between play and real. To be honest the daughter (who has realized that if she doesn't train him he will think that he is her "boss" and might consequently bite her) takes a much more active part in training him than the wife does.

I wouldn't say she is nervous of him. Quite the opposite. She is too comfortable. I have to remind her constantly that he just climbed up on her and she didn't call him, or that she is petting him because he was nudging her hands. She thinks I am being too hard on him for not allowing those things. But then again, she is the mother of a human child, and very good at it. So that's the way she knows to show love.

Yes he does have parts of his body he doesn't like being touched. His main area is his back side (legs, ubove his tail and his tail). When we did aggression training with him, we did what we could to desensitize him to those area's and the things that made him nervous (people's feet and my daughter). so we pet him with our feet (the daughter just pet him with her hands) and pet him really gently on his legs and his tail. Since then he seems fine with those areas and feet and now absolutely adores our daughter. So this was a very big shock as it seemed like we took care of his issues.

I've done some reading about dog body language and it seemed helpful but it's hard to tell what position he does just from reading. they all look the same. I know when he is about to snap though. usually his ears are flat down, he sulks with his head but looks up at you with his eyes and his tail is between his legs. Also he stiffens up and takes very tiny steps. That's the stance he takes when we really have no idea what he is upset about. for example:

we train him everyday before feeding him. no longer than 5 minutes and it's always very light and happy training. normally he is exicted and playful when we train him for the sake of training, it's just when he knows he is about to get food for being trained (very bizzare... almost like he is over excited or else really peeved that he has to work for his food). Also, he piddles on the floor abit in that stance. This is very strange to us because he will only act like that in a training session before eating. in that stance he is suseptable to aggression if we aren't paying attention to the signs. The only time I have seen him act like that not towards food was when a buddy of mine (who refered me to his trainer) tried to get acquainted with him. and it wasn't just a piddle, it was almost a whole roll of paper towel worth.

With that being said, when he outright snaps like he did with my wife, it is without warning and impossible to predict. I almost wonder if it his way of warning as he always stops right when his teeth barely touch the skin. Still not ok though even if it is a warning. when the daughter pesters him (she gets told by us when she does) he will give her a soft growl and she immediately knows she is pestering and stops. it's very different than the warning he gives my wife.
Posted by Sparky
Mar 14, 2009
This may be a stupid question, but do you think maybe your wife starled him. I was just thinking that maybe he was intent on getting over to you and really wasn't paying attention to anything else. Then when your wife nudged him, it might have been because she surprised/scared him.

The only reason I ask is my sister has a black lab, who is usually very gentle and loving. But when she is surprised or taken off guard, she has been known to nip. From what you wrote about teeth on skin without the bite, it sounds just like my sister's dog. So I thought you might want to consider it.

Sorry for the intrusion,
Posted by Annie
Mar 17, 2009
Hi there,
you wrote;

My wife does not train him at all. She just can't be bothered to until she needs him to get out of her way or off her lap or what ever. He has always felt that he is a higher level than her and made it quite evident. I've decided not to let him on the bed anymore as I just remembered that the last time he put his teeth on her was when we me and him were laying down together and she came to join in the cuddles. He is seems very jealous.

I would think this is the basis of your problem. It is easier to teach your dog to behave with strangers or visitors, than to teach a dog to respect someone who is living in the house ( with them sabotaging your efforts )....I think that you need to tollerate that your dog will behave this way around your wife until the point that your wife says 'enough'....or the other option is that you do some scare tactics on her A dog that has the confidence to bite a loved one may bite a stranger or child etc etc. I can read that she is a loving mother so you could try to use some examples of how she might behave with an unruly teenager or a disrespectful child and what actions she would take. Try to get her to see that by encouraging this rude behaviour is not good parenting....
It's great to see you understand your dogs tender areas, and train regularly...I think it' s all sounding really terrific!

Keep us posted with any other problems...
Posted by chefboyardy
Mar 24, 2009
Well, I have been really focussing on alpha dog training with him and he has been really acting better. I've also set some ground rules with my wife which are basically no attention to the dog unless he works for it. Also that the dog is not alowed to paw her or jump on her for attention and that should get him time away from the pact. So far things seem to be shaping up. The only thing she could do to better the situation now is to actually spend time training him. But to be honest I think that is out of the question.

Also, about the startling, yes it's possible that she startled him, but I highly doubt it. He was fully aware of her presence and was blatantly walking over her stomach to get to me. And it didn't seem like he was startled. More ticked off.
Posted by Annie
Mar 24, 2009
Hi there,
all that sounds really good. I think it´s just fine if someone in the house doesn´t do formal training with the dog. But demanding respect, being the Alpha and often ignoring the dog is needed. I really hope you can find a good balance, but it sounds great so far.
post again if more issues come up.