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Lula Bit Me In The Arm - Really Long Backstory


Guest chaoran22
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Guest chaoran22

Some background on her - when we first got her, she was very skittish and would often growl or snap at us if we did something unexpected. We worked very patiently with her, letting her know it was not ok to do that while increasing her tolerance for handling. Now, almost two years later, she has come SO far from how she was before. She's so good with us and will let us do anything to her (including leaning over her and hugging her on her bed), if she doesn't like something, the most she will do is a little yelp before moving away. The only times she ever still shows a bad reaction is if a stranger tests her patience with excessive and prolonged petting - sometimes she'll snarl and snap her teeth but has never hurt anyone (other than their feelings) and we try very hard to keep things within her comfort zone with strangers. But with us, it seems like her comfort zone has no boundaries and she's completely trusting and so sweet nowadays so today really took me by surprise, and I don't know if I responded properly.

 

Anyway, so Lula peed on her bed today and got some on herself (stepped all over it - she's always shown a surprising disregard for that sort of thing, she's been known to puke while lying in bed and continue lying in her puke because she was sleeping and didn't feel like getting up; my other dog would die before he would let himself do that) and since she was slated for a bath later this week anyway, I decided to just give her one now.

 

She was acting totally guilty about having peed on her bed even though I didn't yell at her at all for it (because I felt it was my fault, looking back she showed signs of needing to go out but I thought it was too early and brushed it off so I did not punish her at all for it) but I also didn't reassure her either - just because I wasn't mad at her for going inside, I also didn't want her to think it was ok, so I just pretty much ignored her while she was acting guilty. I put her out on the deck so she wouldn't wipe the pee on her leg elsewhere while I threw everything in the washer. In hindsight, that probably seemed like punishment to her because she was already feeling guilty. Then i brought her down to the yard to give her a bath.

 

Unfortunately the sun had gone down so she was pretty uncomfortable with the cold bath. Halfway through, she decided to run up to the back door and escape the bath. I was calling her to me as she was trotting away (she has good recall normally) but she was totally ignoring me so when I caught up to her, I yelled something like "NO, you come when I call you!" I know, totally pointless of me to do that but I was frustrated. Anyway, I just raised my voice once and then just brought her back and continued the bath (while saying soothing things to comfort her).

 

I was really quick about finishing it up and then I started to dry her off. She's sensitive to being dried off under her armpits and under her thighs, which is something that I was aware of. Normally she'll yelp if I rub too hard underneath her armpits and that would be the end of it. But today, I guess the combination of feeling upset about peeing on her bed, me putting her out on the deck, me raising my voice when I had to retrieve her when she tried to run away, and the discomfort of the really cold bath all added up to be too much for her and when I got to her thighs, I didn't even get to dry her off there before she whipped around and dug her canine into my forearm really hard.

 

I give her credit for having enough restraint to not break the skin but I have a very angry red welt (with a big red dent in the middle) of my arm. I yelled HEY because I was so surprised then I grabbed her collar just as she was thinking about making a getaway and yelled SIT because that was all I could think of in that moment. She immediately sat b/c she knew she was in trouble. Then I didn't know what to do because this totally took me by surprise. I was SO angry so I just stood there over here really angry, kind of huffing and puffing in anger, but didn't do or say anything because I didn't know how to react to it. And when she decided to get out of her sit and try to slink away, I stopped her and made her sit again while I continued to stand over her in silence (though still huffing and puffing in anger and glaring at her). So we did that for about 5 minutes then I decided to finish drying her off so she doesn't think she can get away with it by biting me - but I was shaken up and didn't go near her sensitive areas and just sort of wiped her back. And then I went inside, ignoring her the whole way, and left her out on the deck because I couldn't deal with her. She just stood on the other side of the screen door looking in and looking sad. My other dog was looking at her trying to figure out why she had to stay outside and then even my cat went over there and meowed to let me know that Lula was still outside. Then I felt bad (even though it had only been 10 minutes) and I went to the screen door, had her sit, then let her inside and have proceeded to ignore her since then.

 

Now I'm kind of worried that since I didn't do much of anything other than make her sit when she bit me that she will think it's a good way to get me to stop doing whatever she doesn't like - I don't want her to regress back into the way she was before she trusted us and certainly don't want her to start doing this more often. What should I have done differently? Will this just be an isolated incident or should I be worried about future episodes? Most importantly, IF this were to happen again, how should I react?

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Guest tinams8

You know her best, and if you think it was the culmination of lots of bad things happening in one day, plus her background issues, you're probably right. It does sound like she was pretty miserable. I'm sorry you're going through this. It must be very upsetting. :(

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Guest Samantha

You probably did right ignoring her, being ignored by the alpha is the worst thing to happen to a dog and they know their in trouble. Poor you...Poor Lula xxx

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I'm sure she picked up quite easily that you were angry with her, even though you didn't yell. She already knew she'd done several somethings wrong - but she doesn't have any other way of expressing herself. Most likely, she bit because she felt the situation had already escalated beyond her usual protest. I think if she had wanted to really hurt you, she would have.

 

I don't generally have them do a command (like "sit") as a punishment. Bad precedent for future requests to do the command. Same with using recall when I'm visibly/audibly angry - not a good way to get them to come to you.

 

It's super hard in those situations to put your emotions aside and deal with the dog calmly, but it's really necessary, especially with a timid or fearful dog. If you can't do it at the time, ask another person in the house to come and hold or watch the dog until you can.

 

It's hard to say if this will cause a regression to her former behavior. I think not, but you'll have to see. Most aggression is not caused by dominance but by fear. You might do some work to help her increase her confidence level, and some further desensitizing training. Maybe go back several steps and start again from where she can tolerate the handling. Some NILIF might also help her to come to trust you more.

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Most aggression is not caused by dominance but by fear. You might do some work to help her increase her confidence level, and some further desensitizing training. Maybe go back several steps and start again from where she can tolerate the handling. Some NILIF might also help her to come to trust you more.

 

I think Chris was spot on with this statement. There still seems to be an issue of trust with her so stepping back and starting over might help in building her trust and her confidence.

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

Greysmom is right on with "most aggression is caused by fear". Your statement that she was "acting guilty". She was not acting guilty, she was REACTING to your body language. Obviously your body language was that you were angry with her. Later you were washing her, I would wager a bet that you were still annoyed with her. Greyhounds are very good at picking up your non-verbal communication. So going back to the first sentence, aggression is fear based. I would not call her biting you as aggression, I would say that being as you know she was shy and fearful from the beginning, and the combination of your non-verbal anger with her, and possible rough handling caused her to become fearful and feel the need to protect herself from a perceived threat. As you said, you commend her for restraint, yes she could have hurt you but chose restraint. I think that maybe you should take a lesson from her and offer her restraint. All the "posturing" after she bit you was totally unnecessary. She knows you are the boss and was not "testing" the "alpha". She was scared and felt as if she needed to defend herself. I would not worry about this happening again, I would worry about the trust issue. Anyone can demand their hound follow their commands, but when they want to listen to your requests, thats when you have something. I apologize if this sounds judgmental, I was not there, so I cannot know exactly what happened, but it truly sounds as if you are taking her fear bite personally and not seeing the fact that you caused this entire episode. I would say that you need to work on patience with her and maybe try some bonding exercises. Not just obedience training, but maybe hand-feeding (this helps with relationship building), agility training, lure pole exercises and other types of "training" may be helpful for you both. Greyhounds don't understand humans holding a grudge for 20 minutes after something happens. If you look at pack behavior and see when two hounds get into a fight, once it is over, it is in the past. Greyhounds live in the present, not the past.

Edited by Greyt_dog_lover
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Guest LindsaySF

I agree with Greysmom and Greyt_dog_lover. Excellent posts.

 

I know you didn't mean to, but I feel you were way too harsh with Lula. Leaving her outside alone, yelling at her when she didn't want a bath, grabbing her collar, making her sit, glaring at her for 5 minutes, leaving her outside alone again, etc. None of those actions teach the dog anything other than: "My owner is very scary, I better stay away from them."

 

Is it possible that you were being less than gentle with the bath and the drying? I've been there, you feel frustrated so you might not be as gentle as usual (I clean A LOT of pee off Sophie on a regular basis....), but that is very frightening to a dog with fear issues. Being sent outside, the yelling, a cold bath, and then rubbing her sensitive thigh area, it was all too much for her. You are also VERY lucky that Lulu has the restraint she does. My dog with major fear issues (Cody) would have sent you to the hospital if you handled him like that. I am not kidding.

 

I also think a combination of factors were at play so she felt that biting was her only option: She tried several times to get away from a situation that was frightening her, but you kept bringing her back, she was trapped. You also mention that when she used to growl and snap at you you would let "her know it was not ok to do that". I assume you would scold her for growling? If so that can lead to a dog that bites without growling as a warning first. She probably had some body language expressing her discomfort, but you missed it, so the bite was the logical conclusion.

 

I would work on reestablishing Lulu's trust. Right now she is probably terrified of you and has no idea what she did wrong. This is likely to happen again until she can trust you again. Good luck.

 

 

 

~Lindsay~

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Guest chaoran22

Thanks for the suggestions. Just stepping back from it and talking it over with my boyfriend, who is her other "parent", it's obvious she perceived the entire episode as one big scary punishment even though I didn't think it was and tried to convey that it wasn't, like chatting happily with her the entire time I was washing her and babying her during the bath because I knew she was cold. It's been so long since she's displayed fear and trust issues that it just wasn't even on my radar anymore. But in hindsight, I realize me ignoring her made her upset, (whereas all I meant by it was to not encourage her to go in the house again, I really wasn't even frustrated about the accident as she peed on the waterproof bed so it was super easy to clean up), and then when I gave her a cold bath, it probably solidified in her mind that I was terribly angry with her.

 

If this had happened a year ago, I would not have bothered even posting here because I would have known exactly what it was and not even been surprised. And really, this wouldn't even have happened a year ago because back then, before she had blossomed so much, I was always very aware of her boundaries and only pushed them gently and knowingly to get her out of her shell and never pushed her boundaries in a careless way like I accidentally did today. As she's blossomed, I've become less aware of the things that scare her (because most of them don't anymore) and so today, I thought nothing of doing something upsetting like a cold bath shortly after something else upsetting (the accident in the house) and in this way, accidentally and carelessly pushed her boundaries.

 

More than anything, I was surprised and hurt because I haven't seen her as my dog with trust issues in a LONG time and just saw her as my loving little girlie and because of that, I took it personally when it happened. My reaction in making her sit and submit to me in that way may have been appropriate for a dog who was trying to dominate but entirely inappropriate for a dog who was acting out of fear. And I knew that before and I know it now, it's just that when it happened, at that moment, I really did see it as her misbehaving because I had forgotten that she was fearful. Even as I was typing my original post asking for help, it was already dawning on me as I was typing her background, but it just took more time passing for me to really get over it and see it clearly. (also, yes she was showing upset body language when I was bathing her, I attributed it all to being cold, of course, in hindsight, she was cold AND upset).

 

And just to set the record straight, we really have worked very hard with her in the past almost two years and I believe, did so in a well informed way (part of it was getting A LOT of advice from people here and reading a lot elsewhere and making sure that we did things right in order not to make her worse). For instance, when she would growl at us before, we didn't scold her as one might assume most people to do. We simply would tell her "no" in a gentle but firm voice, and then get up and go elsewhere and leave her alone. We knew that a growl was simply a warning that she was uncomfortable and scolding her for it would make things worse by making her think she couldn't tell us to stop something when she felt like she needed to. Also, note that I never used the word aggression in my post, I know very well it wasn't aggression with her but rather a fear response, nor was I ever worried that it was aggression. In the heat of the moment, I was worried that it was misbehavior and forgot about her fear, but I never thought it was aggression. I'm not being defensive, but just wanted to be clear that we've been responsible in going about treating her trust issues. One of the things I love is seeing someone who knew her when we first got her and hear how amazed they are at how different she is and how they can't even believe it's the same dog because she really has made such a huge turnaround in her issues. We just need to remember that she's not and may never be 100% over them and not accidentally be careless about pushing her boundaries. Thanks for the reminders.

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The only thing I have to add to what Greysmom, Greyt_dog_lover, and LindsaySF have said is to emphasize LindsaySF's final point: you have breached Lula's trust, you're going to have to work hard to rebuild it, and she's likely to be very reactive in the meantime.

 

Just as an aside, it's been my experience that when working on increasing tolerance, positive training and treats work fastest: touch then treat, gradually working toward the sensitive bits. Try not to move so fast that you trigger a negative response. If you do get a negative reaction, don't react strongly; I use a fairly businesslike "Knock it off", but even that might be too much for Lula.

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Guest chaoran22

And agreed - never handle dogs when pissed. I really wasn't even close to being pissed but those brief moments of frustration were definitely enough to put a dog with trust issues like her over the edge when combined with earlier events.

 

With her having changed so much, I'm not as self aware as I should be about how my moods, no matter how brief, can affect her and I will definitely take several steps back and rebuild trust with her again. My boyfriend and I were actually already discussing some changes to our weekend entertaining plans just to help her stay in her comfort zone for now and prevent her from being reactive again with this incident in the recent past.

 

A businesslike "no" or "knock it off" isn't too much for Lula to take, when we would get a negative reaction, that is exactly what we did with her, and then got up and left her alone. We also went totally crazy with the treats at first for positive reactions but then graduated from those to effusive praise as she started to get better - but now, as we rebuild her trust, I'm thinking we'll go back to the treats as those were her highest value rewards.

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Guest PhillyPups

I am reading a lot of psychological reasoning that I do not believe dogs do. They live in the moment.

 

Is it possible you were drying her roughly and she has a tender area, possibly tender for a medical reason, or an old injury?

 

I have had both fear aggressive and fearful spooks. My fear aggressive would bite first, my fearful spooky girl runs to a safe spot. When I went to her safe spot (corner) to give her a pill one time, she did nip me, totally my fault, I know her better than to do that to her.

 

With any fearful dog the first thing to do is earn trust. The seed of trust grows in time, patience and time are the keys to develop trust. I do this by giving them the time they need and not forcing myself on them in any way. Trust is not just letting them know I am the boss, but also letting them know that I will not hurt them. The most exciting moments are to watch a fearful spooky girl come running to me with her tail wagging and eyes full of love. This is not a regular occurance with her, but is celebratory whenever it does happen.

 

It is not that important to me to make any of my dogs feel "shunned" or "punished" for any period of time. I want them to know I am always "there" for them for comfort, love, food, treats, etc. Having her sit on the deck to calm down shows her that the other pets are where she wants to be, (inside) so are you, but she can't get there, in my personal opinion, and I am in no way a trainer, I do not think that would help build trust.

 

I would have her checked to see if there is an injury where you were touching when she nipped you.

 

Good luck with her.

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Guest KennelMom

I think you handled everything that happened pretty well. My suggestion would be, since you know she has some super sensitivity to some things (stress, being dried in certain areas) that when you know these things are building up, do everything possible to mitigate them or, at least, avoid adding to them. ie, maybe instead of insisting on a cold bath in the dark, just get a really wet washcloth and wipe down the dirty leg. Handle the bath the next day when you and she is a little more fresh.

 

I would never handle my dogs when I am pissed, they scatter and that's what I need them to do.

 

this x1000

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If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend Patricia McConnell's The Other End of the Leash. The things that jumped out at me where the human emotions/explanations you were provided regarding your dog. They don't feel human emotions like we do, and they definitely don't rationalize them (ex: I peed on my bed, I feel so guilty. Now my mom is mad, and she put me outside! Now I'm upset that she's mad at me, I think I'll bite her).

 

Your girl was picking up on your emotions and actions (ex: your anger, your frustration, glaring at her, yelling, etc) --- and they probably scared the crap out of her, so she did what instinct told her to do.

 

 

Jennifer, Mike and the menagerie ---

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It sounds like your girl has come a long way in the time she's been with you. So she had a set back. You had a set back. You'll both get over it and move forward again because it sounds like you have a great foundation to work from.

Edited by Jackandgrey

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