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Sleep Aggression


Guest mikearnopol
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Guest mikearnopol

We have had Hal for 5 weeks. He is the most fabulous dog in the world. He is nearly 3 years old and recovered from a health problem and was in a kennel waiting for adoption for 6 months. He is the most fun and loving dog and possibly the least aggressive dog I've ever seen. Fine with any small animal. He'll let you touch him anywhere without a problem. But we have had some issues with sleep aggression. Maybe about 6 times since we've had him. But 2 times in the past 2 days. Until today, it only occurred when we were petting him while watching tv with him next to one of us on the couch. We'd be petting him and obviously he drifted of into sleep. (hard to tell as he can sleep with his eyes open!) He would growl and snap at the air---never directed at one of us. He seemed much more upset than us. So when on the couch he can be next to us with a space in between, but no petting if he appears to be relaxing and anywhere near sleep.

We were at our vacation home yesterday (he'd never been there) petting him on the couch. He was sitting. Didn't appear to be near sleep (at least to me). I read in the Dummies book that if your dog does this to read him the riot act. (VERY firm NO)He did the same growl and snap. He appears to be REALLY freaked out when he does it. I gave him the firmest NO I could muster. He gets super upset and depressed when yelled at. It seems to me that correcting a dog for doing something that was not consciously intended is wrong. He is way more freaked about doing it than us.His absolutely favorite thing is to lay on the ground and have tummy rubs and being petted. He will nuzzle right next to me and beg for rubs. I'll lay down next to him and comply. Today when doing this---same thing. Growled and snapped. (again, the snap was not at all directed toward me) He gets so depressed after doing this and I know he feels terrible about it. Possibly could be related to the fact that he spent the past few days at our vacation home, and we returned to the Chicago area to go to a reunion for our greyhound adoption group. He had a great time (lots of dog sniffing and being fussed over). We're just so bummed that one of the things that we fell in love with him may need to be curtailed (hopefully temporarily). I know that sleep aggression has nothing to do with his personality and is an inadvertent reaction. Any suggestions as to help him transition out of this? If it's a lifelong issue, so be it---we love him and he's a great dog even if there is no cuddling allowed, but for him and us we'd like to find a way to solve this.

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

Sounds like you are talking about the GO reunion. What was Hal's name when you adopted him? I dont remember a Hal in the group that had a health issue. I was there today, I was the one guy working some of the booths with the broken leg (bright orange cast and crutches). Now for your issue, this is something that can be worked through. Call Sue G @ 847 421 9828. It is our job as a greyhound group to support our adopters with any issues they may be having. If you don't want to call the main GO number, I can be reached ad 630 272 8178 any time day or night. Don't worry about this, as I said, its something that can be dealt with. My name is Chad.

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Guest mikearnopol

Thanks, Chad. Hal was his original name. His pic is still on the GO enter page (with the bandana) He had severe mange, but it cleared up perfectly. He's a black brindle. Sue and I have become good friends (through the adoption process). I'm going to call her, but if I know Sue she's going to tell me if he has sleep aggression when you pet him don't pet him!

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Guest Jubilee251

I remember Hal! I took him a few adoption events, he was such a sweet boy.

 

Jet had/has some startle/sleep/space issues when he first came home. He used to growl and air-snap if he didn't see us coming, or if we sat too close. He was very threatened by men, and would growl/snap at my husband if he looked him in the eye too long. A large part of it is just trust - he didn't trust us yet, and since July, he has gotten so much better. I think Hal also needs to settle in, and learn to relax in his new home.

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Guest mikearnopol

Hi

With Hal it's a bit different. Of course he's only been with us for 5 weeks, but he seems to really trust us. He is so bonded and focused on me that my wife gets jealous. It's only when I pet him and he starts to drift off. As I said, it was a bit freaky yesterday when it happened and he was sitting on the couch. Barbara K. said that greyhounds are so weird that not only do they sleep with their eyes open, they can start to fall asleep in the sitting position! He is so gentle and loving all the time---the problem is only when he is being pet when he begins to drift into sleep.

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First, Hal has really only been with you a very short time. Five weeks is still into the settling process. He may appear to trust you - and he may totally - but sleeping and his bed space are going to be two of thelast things to come around. Mostly because it is an unconscious reaction. He may get over it, he may not. It just depends, and you likely won't know for several months more. There are some things you can do.

 

First, duh, don't pet him when he's sleeping. Or even might be sleeping. Or could be sleeping. Train yourself to wake him up and/or get his attention *EVERY TIME* before you pet him. Say his name from a few feet away or throw a sock on him, or a light stuffy - not towards his head, but towards his butt and feet. You want to wake him easily not cause him to have a heart attack. Once he's awake, you can approach him for pets and attention. Keep talking to him while you do it so he doesn't fall back asleep.

 

If he is awake and is growling/snapping, make him get off the couch right away as that means he's probably guarding something - you, the couch, the pillow, the air around him :rolleyes: - and you don't want to let him do this. Teach him "off" or "down" and just be matter of fact. You growled, you lose. DO NOT grab him to move him as that can cause him to snap. A verbal command, clap your hands, pull the blanket, but don't touch him. If you really need to, get a treat and lure him off - the treat is for following the command not for growling. And he looses his couch privledges for a time. The fun of having him on the couch with you is greatly outweighed by the danger of an inadvertent bite.

 

It's not really a big deal after all. He's a great dog and you already love him. Just a few precautions and training yourself will solve the problem.

Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

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Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom

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i posted this several months ago in another thread:

 

murray had terrible sleep/space aggression when we adopted him. he was 5 when we brought him home. he was returned to our adoption group twice for biting while asleep. we were told that one of those times he was sleeping in a hallway at night and someone in the family tried to step over him and was bitten. we were both were bitten by murray in the first few weeks we had him. both times we did exactly what were knew we should not do....petting him on his bed as he was falling asleep. we knew that it would be important to define a place for him to sleep in the house. as his third home we felt a lot of self imposed pressure to make this work for murray. who would want to adopt a dog that bit in three homes in a row? we did not want to return him. we committed ourselves to working with him. here's what worked for us.

 

we tried crating murray in the first few days that we had him. (not sure why we felt we had to crate him when we were gone....it just seemed like this is what people did when they newly adopted a greyhound.)he broke out on the first day. he tried to bite burke on the second day as burke tried to get him in there. clearly this dog wanted nothing to do with a crate. he was not at all destructive when we went to work so there was no reason to crate him during the day. we abandoned that plan. we still needed to set some sleeping boundaries with him. we felt that he needed to go to his crate when sleeping/falling asleep. we really wanted him out in the living room with us in the evening but murray continued to growl at us as we walked around him in our home.

 

our main challenge was getting murray to use his crate for sleeping. we set the crate up in our bedroom, covered it with a sheet to make it denlike, and took the door off. that one thing, removing the door, made all the difference for us. the crate was not a place where he would be locked in. he could come and go. early on, as murray would fall asleep in the living room we sent him to his bed. we would wake him up by calling his name and send him to the crate. sometimes, after a power nap, he would reemerge with us in the living room. some nights he stayed in his safe place for most of the night. anytime he growled we gave him a stern BAH sound. this would wake him. then he was sent to bed. gradually he learned to trust us. he spent more and more time with us in the living room. sometimes he would put himself to bed when he was tired. it was funny to watch him get up, say goodnight, and go into the crate (something we never thought he would do!).

 

we have had murray for almost two years. we continue to be aware of his tendency for sleep aggression but having that safe, defined space for sleeping in our house seems to have worked for us and for murray. in the living room we can sit on murray's bed with him and pet him. bee wiseman (who came home seven months after murray) can lay near murray on the dogs beds. (bee has her own crate in the bedroom so that both dogs have a safe, designated sleeping area in the house.) in the living room murray does not react at all as she walks near him or if she moves on the bed next to him. he does not seem to care if she is near him.

 

inside our house the world feels safe to murray. now he spends most of his time out in the living room with us when we are home. we are able to step over or step on his bed when he is on it. we haven't had any growling in over a year. murray is, and will always be, a fearful dog. i'm sure with time your problem will ease as he settles into the routine in your home. it's amazing how far murray has come in his time with us.

 

Edited by 45MPHK9

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Tricia with Kaia the wolfhound-schnauzer mix
Always missing Murray MaldivesBee Wiseman, River, Hopper, and 
Holly Oaks Holly
“You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.“ -Bob Dylan

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Guest mikearnopol

Thanks, all.

Yeah, of course I know not to pet him if there is any chance that he's sleeping.The situations that I'm talking about is when he's being pet when fully awake. Now I realize to watch very carefully when we pet him to understand the cues he gives as to whether he is awake/aware or beginning to drift into sleep. He's always asking to be pet so now I know to stop petting earlier so that the petting session stops at a point that I'm sure he's awake/aware. I understand that I need to adjust our behavior so that it's a win/win situation. He NEVER shows the vaguest signs of any aggression at any other time.Only when he's being pet when he begins to drift off into sleep. He marches right into his crate when we ask him at bedtime. (which he wouldn't do a few weeks ago) So in every other area it's all good. I'll just have to be patient and hope he outgrows it, I guess.

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Guest TBSFlame

Our first had sleep agression. He was so calm and sweet until you woke him up. IMO I would not allow him on the sofa or bed yet. In time it will most likely get better (to some degree). 5 weeks is really not much time. This is what fools people. They will act like they trust you and they will follow you around but true trust is different. You will know it when you see it and it will take longer than 5 weeks. You could always put a muzzle on him while he is resting.

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Guest auforygirl

PG had sleep aggression when I first got her. She just needed to get used to being touched while sleeping. The first thing I started with socks, pillows, and stuffies. Chuck them at her for a while. Once she got used to that I would use a pillow and deliberately touch her pulling back immediately and using the pillow as a shield just in case. Then pet with the pillow. Then using the pillow as a shield touch and pet with hand. Then short touches without a pillow if still slightly worried use your foot the first few times. Then pets. Then lean over. Then add a little weight. Soon you might be able to use them as a pillow.

Now I know a lot people will say just accept it but aggression of any type isn't acceptable to me. This is just because they haven't ever been touched while sleeping EVER. They can learn how to deal with that without any issues. It takes patience. It takes a lot of patience. It took PG at least 6 months if not 9 months before I got to the point that i let her on the couch. And a year before she was able to get up on the bed.

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Guest Greyt_dog_lover

Which Sue are you talking about? If you are talking about the Sue that runs the kennels, then you are talking about Sue P, not the person that will answer the phone number that I gave you. What you need to do is two things, first, understand that he is very new and sofa/bed privileges should not be given at this time (due to trust issues that you have already seen). Secondly you should work on desensitization with him while he is asleep. This can be accomplished many different ways. Personally what I do with new fosters is sit at their behind when they are laying on a doggie bed on the floor and gently stroke them and pet them while they fall asleep. Once I see they are asleep I call their name to wake them, while never stopping the petting. I continue to do this for weeks if they seem to have issues. This generally works well. I will also with time move from stroking the rear end, to higher up the body, while always maintaining my body at the end of the hound (safety). Now, if you have a known issue, then you may want to muzzle when you are going to do this so that you don't have to worry about an accident.

 

Chad

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Guest mikearnopol

Had a very interesting talk with Sue G.. (one of the tribal elders of Greyhounds Only) She said that what I'm experiencing is possibly some sleep aggression, but likely not. She pointed out that it has only occurred when I have placed myself in a submissive position (lying on the floor with him) or resting on the couch (at the same level). She said that retired greys are the only dogs besides wolves that have lived in pack situations until they were adults and that they try to figure out the pack order anytime they are put into a new situation and that in my hurry to have the perfect cuddly affectionate dog I'm confusing him as to the pecking order. She (as well as others as I remember) said I should read "Leader of The Pack" which explains this concept and how to apply it. My new Sue G. rules are---when he's on the floor, only pet from a position above him, and no couch or chairs for 6 months. And I will be getting the book.

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Guest Barbie1188

Thank you for these posts. I now know there is hope for my Gabby, who I have had now for a little over 3 weeks. She has snapped three different times, and it was quite disturbing, and unexpected to say the least. Never at me, but my son and my sister (both adults). I had read all the required reading before adopting, and more than that online as well. I guess they really don't emphasis enough on the sleep aggression, so glad to know I am not alone in this. I banned her from furniture after it happened two times with someone sitting on the sofa with her, and then the third time, she was laying in her bed, awake, wagging, pawing at my son to keep petting her, and all of the sudden snapped at him. He was down at her level, so this may have been the reason. So we are being very cautious around her sleeping areas. I was glad to hear that she may change as she trusts us more. Glad to have found this website and the support the posts offer.

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Guest 4dogscrazy

You have absolutely great advice and guidance posted above, and I will also vote for limited furniture access while you all get straightened out. In my house, you only cuddle or pet a dog while he/she is standing in front of you asking for it. Mine always seem like they are half asleep unless it's dinner time! The only other thing I noticed is that during the first five weeks you've had him, there seems to have been a lot of commotion. I usually keep life very very calm (as possible) when I bring a new dog home, especially one who is a total home newbie. A new house, a big reunion with tons of people and dogs, a vacation house, etc. His view might be very different than yours. While greyhounds are definatly used to seeing lots of other hounds in one space, might the whole thing have been totally overwhelming in his mind? Random weird people walking all over the place with hounds roaming all over? I would try for calm for a bit too, that might also help.

 

There is also a neat little article on here somewhere about what a greyhounds life is like before he goes into a home, from the dog's perspective, which I thought was totally cool when I read it. Anyone know what I'm talking about? I don't know where to look on her but I know it's pinned somewhere. Good luck and congrats on your new baby!

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