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Incidents Of Aggression; Should We Be Concerned?


Guest PaulEmandStan
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Guest PaulEmandStan

Hi all,

 

Come as ever seeking advice.

 

We've had our grey Stan for 10 months now and he's been a dream on the most part. Taken to both of us perfectly and on the whole he's been a textbook grey-adoptee. However...

 

In 10 months there have been 3 incidents of him snapping at a human, the most recent being yesterday.

  • At the in-laws house he was being wiped down after being out in the rain, a small scab was knocked on his belly and he growled jumping up and catching the woman on the arm but didn't drawn blood. I was present in the room at the time and only a metre or so away
  • He was being looked after overnight by my mother when we had to go away very short notice, she was trying to get him to go onto his bed and he went rigid and wouldn't move, when she pulled on his collar to get him to move he turned and snapped at her without making contact
  • Yesterday my brother stood on his paw by accident. he yelped and bit him on the calf drawing blood.

My question is that are these occurrences (3 in 10 months) pointing to an underlying aggression problem or are they just isolated incidents and the normal part of having a hound? He has not growled at us his owners for a very long time and that was due to being given toys and having them taken away as part of training/fetching games.

 

Are these kind of incidents normal? Stan is our first dog and we are concerned that this may be a pattern forming.

 

Thanks as ever

 

Paul, Em and Stan

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It sounds like he's a smidge touchier than some dogs, probably out of fear or uncertainty, but not unusual in my experience. I would say, something to be aware of when he's around people he doesn't know well or in situations where he might be a bit unsettled. If you don't have a kennel (basket-type) muzzle, that can be a useful tool to have at those times.

 

- When wiping down or examining, keep the dog up on his feet and use one hand to hold the collar until you know how he reacts. Some dogs like it, some hate it. Always wipe in the direction the hair grows.

 

- If you need him to go somewhere and he doesn't want to, clip the leash on and use that rather than tugging the collar. For some reason -- maybe because the collar hits the back of the ears in an uncomfy way -- many dogs dislike being tugged by the collar but are just fine when the leash is on. And, that little extra distance provided by a short leash keeps you from having to bend over the dog (scary) and keeps your face a little further from the sharp end.

 

- Having his paw stood on probably really hurt. I'm not surprised he lashed out. Some dogs will just yelp in that situation, and some will yelp and snap as yours did. I hope your brother is OK!

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Oh goodness, in no way does it sound like your Stan has any underlying aggressive issues. I would say these incidents are very normal, considering that in 2 out of the 3 of them, Stan was injured; and injured by people he doesn't know well. His behaviour makes perfect sense.

 

For the remaining incident, where your mother tried to move him, and he wouldn't budge~~it sounds to me like he was uncomfortable in an unfamiliar home, with an unfamiliar human making him do something where no familiarity or trust has been built. Maybe your mother was a little too forceful, or her tone a little too harsh.

 

I think you're right; Stan does sound like a dream, and these "incidents" are simply reactions to being hurt, by people he's unfamiliar with. Continue to enjoy your boy!

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Forever Home on December 20, 2012
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It sounds like the humans are just not being sufficiently dog-aware to me. When I got a leg injury sock caught on one of Peggy's claws without knowing she gave a loud bark and went for my arm, inhibiting at the last microsecond and so not breaking the skin. Although it can be a PITA, I get the muzzle now if i need to do anything medical with her and don't have anyone sensible handy to hold her.

The stepped on paw incident... bad luck. Learn not to step on dogs or shoo them out of the way first.

The bed incident - that's more worrying if the dog wasn't immediately redirected to do something else (ie. so your Mother didn't lose 'face')

 

I'd consider training him to a large crate with a blanket on 3 sides and a cushion in the bottom if he has to stay with relatives at random. The door need need not even be shut.

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I agree with others, these are not aggression incidents, more likely fear related. Each case you describe seem to indicate Stan has some fear issues and to avoid similar incidents, awareness is key. This is not to say you need to be hyper vigilant but just aware that your boy is sensitive to some things and he is 'communicating' the only way he knows how to.

Kyle with Stewie ('Super C Ledoux, Super C Sampson x Sing It Blondie) and forever missing my three angels, Jack ('Roy Jack', Greys Flambeau x Miss Cobblepot) and Charlie ('CTR Midas Touch', Leo's Midas x Hallo Argentina) and Shelby ('Shari's Hooty', Flying Viper x Shari Carusi) running free across the bridge.

Gus an coinnich sinn a'rithist my boys and little girl.

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Guest kkaiser104

Agreed--he was just communicating with the people involved that he was uncomfortable. Teddi used to be more sensitive/snappy with my parents because he didn't trust them or know them very well. This weekend my mom stayed with me and he slept in bed with her. It takes time for some hounds to become close to their people's friends and families.

 

I would avoid having anyone except people who live in the house with Stan do any "work" with him. Make sure you wipe him down and be careful/gently with him. If someone needs to watch him overnight make sure they have access to/know how to use a muzzle and teach them to either lure him to his bed with a high value treat (we use a bit of string cheese here) or clip a leash on his collar. When my friend watched Teddi for a long weekend a few months ago I told her to pretty much just leave him alone and let him come to her for love. Discipline and directions are best left to the owners who know their dog the best.

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Guest PaulEmandStan

We've been worried about this so your answers are helping us a lot.

 

As first time dog owners we're a little nervous when things like this happen. Usually he's the most placid cuddle-seeking dog ever. But he is a little nervous which we are trying to work on.

 

We have a routine vet appointment tomorrow so we will raise it with her (she keeps greys herself) and just be vigilant when others are around. Deffinately look into a crate as well

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Guest Giselle

Aside from encouraging the humans to pay more attention to his signals, you can also modify the dog's behavior. The easy solution is to change his fear by desensitizing and counter-conditioning him to the scary stimuli. In other words, you'll gradually pair the scary stimulus (people touching sensitive spots, touching his neck area, etc.) with something FUN & DELICIOUS. I put these words in capitals because I can't stress enough the power of your motivator- Use your happiest voice, smile often, and use DELICIOUS treats (rotisserie chicken, beef, ham, the works!). Work briskly and make it a fun game. The more powerful your motivator the faster your dog's response.

 

For example, for problem #1: You can start by popping a treat into his mouth while you simultaneously brush the general scab area. Pop a treat + lightly brush the belly area again. Repeat repeat repeat. Then, pop a treat into his mouth while simultaneously tapping the belly area. Repeat repeat repeat. Then, pop a treat into his mouth while simultaneously tapping the scab. Repeat repeat repeat. Then, pop a treat into his mouth while simultaneously tapping the scab a bit harder. Encourage friends and family to do this training with him. It should only take 5-10 minutes. Be aware, however: If, at any point, he refuses to eat or freezes or gives you a stare, stop and go back a few steps. When performed correctly, this process will teach him that strange people touching and interacting with him are GOOD events, and he'll learn to enjoy these interactions rather than fear them. Even if certain procedures cause minor physical pain or discomfort, he can still be conditioned to enjoy these events (and many dogs do!).

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Good answers so far. I'll just add that Jeffie was very growly when we got him, out of fear and uncertainly, and because he was in pain from a mouth problem. It made him hyper twitchy - even about his feet, which had nothing wrong with them at all - especially since he didn't know us very well. As he's settled in, and learned to trust us, his 'twitch' level has gone right down and I can do pretty much anything with him without eliciting a growl.

 

I'm pretty sure he'd have bitten me if pushed when we first got him, but not now. :)

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The plural of anecdote is not data

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Agree with Giselle. We called it 'puppy torture time.' Touch his ears, give him a treat. Touch his belly, give him a treat. Give his tail a little pull, give him a treat. Do this routine a few minutes everyday incorporating a variety of places like ears, teeth, feet, etc. Through desensitization and counter conditioning, the dog starts to understand that being handled is fun instead of scary.

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I totally agree with the desensitization training as well. He sounds like he is VERY sensitive, especially to having things done to his body. I would be doing work on having his paws lifted up, collar grabbed, sensitive areas touched, etc. Just remember not to push it, or else you will be rewarding him for being anxious or nervous. You might want to use a clicker as well which is a very distinct and accurate marker for "good job." Once he is comfortable with you doing all of these things you could move onto strangers. :)

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Guest lucylei

This doesn't sound at all like aggression - you just need to know your dog's ticks and avoid them. There is also the 'fight or flight' instinct that is the same in people. It's genetic. You never know what you're going to get. I often call my dog a coward because she'll bark and play snap at other dogs, but when a dog turns around to play snap at her, her instinct is to jump back. Just like if I accidentally step on her foot, her instinct is to jump away. Your dog's appears to be the 'fight', which doesn't necessarily mean he's aggressive. You just need to know your limits.

 

Anecdotally, when we first brought Missy home she had just been spayed and after 2 weeks I had to remove the stitches myself. I sat next to her while she was passed out on the couch and cut/tweezed the stitches out of her skin expecting her to turn around and bite my face off the entire time, but she didn't even look up. BUT, try to take a bone out of her mouth while she's eating it and she'll growl and snap.

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Agree with Giselle. We called it 'puppy torture time.' Touch his ears, give him a treat. Touch his belly, give him a treat. Give his tail a little pull, give him a treat. Do this routine a few minutes everyday incorporating a variety of places like ears, teeth, feet, etc. Through desensitization and counter conditioning, the dog starts to understand that being handled is fun instead of scary.

 

Yep, we did a lot of this with Jeffie. I would just touch him anywhere at all in passing at first - very, very briefly and softly. He'd jerk and twitch away at first, but gradually learned to ignore it. Then I'd let my hand rest on him longer and more firmly as time went on, and progressed to touching his feet, touching his ears, holding his tail etc. It does work, you just have to tone down the touch and the length of touch to his comfort level in the early stages, and increase the contact and the length of time very very gradually. If he takes a step backward, you're going too fast. Go back a stage or two and begin again. :)

GTAvatar-2015_zpsb0oqcimj.jpg

The plural of anecdote is not data

Brambleberry Greyhounds My Etsy Shop

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Guest Krizzy

Aside from encouraging the humans to pay more attention to his signals, you can also modify the dog's behavior. The easy solution is to change his fear by desensitizing and counter-conditioning him to the scary stimuli. In other words, you'll gradually pair the scary stimulus (people touching sensitive spots, touching his neck area, etc.) with something FUN & DELICIOUS. I put these words in capitals because I can't stress enough the power of your motivator- Use your happiest voice, smile often, and use DELICIOUS treats (rotisserie chicken, beef, ham, the works!). Work briskly and make it a fun game. The more powerful your motivator the faster your dog's response.

 

For example, for problem #1: You can start by popping a treat into his mouth while you simultaneously brush the general scab area. Pop a treat + lightly brush the belly area again. Repeat repeat repeat. Then, pop a treat into his mouth while simultaneously tapping the belly area. Repeat repeat repeat. Then, pop a treat into his mouth while simultaneously tapping the scab. Repeat repeat repeat. Then, pop a treat into his mouth while simultaneously tapping the scab a bit harder. Encourage friends and family to do this training with him. It should only take 5-10 minutes. Be aware, however: If, at any point, he refuses to eat or freezes or gives you a stare, stop and go back a few steps. When performed correctly, this process will teach him that strange people touching and interacting with him are GOOD events, and he'll learn to enjoy these interactions rather than fear them. Even if certain procedures cause minor physical pain or discomfort, he can still be conditioned to enjoy these events (and many dogs do!).

This is real helpful. Our dog is a broken leg and the only time he really snaps is if an infant or dog trips, drops, or walks by his leg while he is laying down. We will definitely do this.

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Guest Giselle

This doesn't sound at all like aggression - you just need to know your dog's ticks and avoid them. There is also the 'fight or flight' instinct that is the same in people. It's genetic. You never know what you're going to get. I often call my dog a coward because she'll bark and play snap at other dogs, but when a dog turns around to play snap at her, her instinct is to jump back. Just like if I accidentally step on her foot, her instinct is to jump away. Your dog's appears to be the 'fight', which doesn't necessarily mean he's aggressive. You just need to know your limits.

 

Anecdotally, when we first brought Missy home she had just been spayed and after 2 weeks I had to remove the stitches myself. I sat next to her while she was passed out on the couch and cut/tweezed the stitches out of her skin expecting her to turn around and bite my face off the entire time, but she didn't even look up. BUT, try to take a bone out of her mouth while she's eating it and she'll growl and snap.

When confronted with acute stress, all animals (from rats to dogs to people) will freeze, flee, or fight. It is a normal primal function of the brain to react to stress in these ways. However, normal animals almost always choose fleeing or freezing as their first choice. In my opinion, only seriously abnormal animals choose aggression. Only seriously abnormal animals choose to fight as their first resort. Ecologically and biologically speaking, aggression is a highly risky behavior, and normal animals will move Heaven and Earth to avoid aggression. It is definitely not a normal animal's first choice.

 

I haven't evaluated or seen this dog, but this dog is likely normal with healthy social skills. His first choice probably was not to fight. His first choice was probably to freeze, to look away, to give the person clear body signals that indicated, "WHOA. Back off! I'm scared!" What often happens, however, is that most people do not "speak dog", and most people miss these body language signals. So, they keep proceeding towards the dog, and the dog has no choice but to use aggression. So, yes, the solution is two-fold: 1) People need to be aware of the dog's stress signals and avoid exacerbating them & 2) The dog should be desensitized and counter-conditioned to minor physical discomforts. If we can expect dogs to tolerate and enjoy nail clipping, we can expect them to tolerate and enjoy mild physical discomforts, like tapping a scab.

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