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Advice Regarding Space/sleep Aggression


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Hi everyone. We just adopted our first retired greyhound, Payton, two weeks ago. I read as much as I could find on greyhounds before we got him. I felt completely prepared. However, I was completely unprepared when he growled at one of us for petting him while he was laying down. Ok, so I learned about space aggression and I have instructed our 9 year old daughter never to touch him while he is laying down. Seemed ok.

 

A week later, I hear him growling and looked to see the cat messing with his ears. Understandability annoying.

 

Then, a couple of days ago, our 9 year old daughter tried to pick up one of his toys and he went crazy. He just up and started barking at her. She dropped on the ground and covered her face. He stood on her head but didn't actually bite her.

 

So I completely see what she did wrong and she does too. I read pretty much every post on this forum, every article I could find and talked to group we adopted him from. I felt pretty confident that Payton just needed his space and that he needed to learn that My daughter is not a litter mate.

 

Most everything I read said that sleep/space aggression were normal. Doesn't mean an aggressive dog.

 

Then I read a post on here about a dog that showed mild space aggression and after two months, bit her owner in the head. Everyone seemed to blame the owner and said that she should have seen the signs. I couldn't see that she did anything wrong. It seemed that the dog showed aggression at first, but after a couple the dog was fine.

 

Now I am really concerned again. I know that any dog can bite under certain circumstances but it really seemed like that bite was unprovoked. Are space aggressive dogs always space aggressive? A bite like that could seriously injure a child.

 

Any advice, suggestions, whatever would be great.

 

PS- we love Payton. He is such an awesome dog.

61bd4941-fc71-4135-88ca-2d22dbd4b59a_zps

Payton, The Greyhound (Palm City Pelton) and Toby, The Lab
Annabella and Julietta, The Cats
At the Bridge - Abby, The GSD

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I would suggest perhaps muzzling Payton while your daughter is in the same room as him for now. Two weeks is a very short time and not long enough for him to get comfortable with his new environment. Taking his toys, as you say is a no-no and I am sure your daughter did not understand so it must have been very scary for her (and you!). Our gentlest boy growled initially if you went down near him on his bed and also he would growl if you tried to take something from him so we had to 'trade-up' and that worked wonders. He became the type of Grey that was beyond gentle and at M&G's he was a favourite of the kids because he became used to people and had no problems with them hugging him, patting him, etc. This took time though as his first M&G was a few months after we adopted him and we always, always are on guard when a child is around even when we have full confidence in our pups just in case.

 

I think the big thing is giving Payton time and perhaps starting to 'trade-up' so he no longer is as possessive.

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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No, to answer your question, a dog with space aggression will not necessarily always have those kinds of issues. But it will require a decent amount of training and desensitization (both the child and the dog) to make your dog understand that others are not a threat. If you don't train em, you can't blame em!

 

I highly recommend reading Childproofing Your Dog. Very helpful info that is more detailed than anything we can provide on this forum. In the meantime, supervise every interaction, leave the dog alone when he's lying down, and allow the dog to approach your daughter at his own pace.

 

P.S. I remember the thread you're referring to (12 stitches in my head, or something like that). I don't think we'll ever know what happened there.

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Thanks for the advice everyone.

 

One thing I failed to mention is that it is only our daughter that he seems to have issues with. I can walk up to him anytime he is laying down or take any toy and he will not have a problem. The adoption group said that he never growled at all with them. He was in foster care for a month or so also with no problems.

 

Is that common?

61bd4941-fc71-4135-88ca-2d22dbd4b59a_zps

Payton, The Greyhound (Palm City Pelton) and Toby, The Lab
Annabella and Julietta, The Cats
At the Bridge - Abby, The GSD

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My Rocket has space aggression issues too - it is only when anyone sits on his bed or the place where he is sleeping. He growls and it is scary. I have no idea if he would bite but I don't want to take a chance of that. He lets all of us take his food away without any issues.

I feel for you - I know it is a challenging situation.

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It is likely that your dog only interacted with adults during his racing career. To him, a child is smaller, on his eye level, louder, has less controlled body movements, a higher pitched voice, etc. Some kids (not necessarily your daughter, but some kids) want to get in the dog's face and hug them, chase them, or manhandle them. Really scary, right? I doubt the dog has singled her out and 'dislikes' her, rather, he's really unsure and doesn't know what to make of her.

 

My dogs have never really been socialized with kids on any type of consistent basis. Recently, my friend's 6-year-old son came over to our house. One of my dogs was very shaken. Even though he just stood there politely, Truman barked at him and cowered in fear. He has never behaved this way with an adult. The only other time I saw Truman cower was when we passed a Chinese restaurant and he saw a lion statue. :lol He kept looking to me like, 'OMG, mom what is this thing???!' My other dog, Henry wanted no parts of the kid and kept running away. This told me that the dogs were very uncomfortable with a child being in their home. What I'm describing is a more extreme reaction. Your guy sounds curious, but he's avoiding her because he's still a little uncertain. That's a hopeful sign.

 

Some dogs love everybody immediately, and others need time to adjust. Right now, your daughter needs to be 'the giver of all things good.' Have her feed the dog during mealtimes and give treats. Make sure she takes part in some of his responsibilities, like going on walks and training sessions. Greyhounds are very adaptable- so if these are the worst of his issues, I'm sure he'll eventually trust and accept her.

Edited by a_daerr
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Charlies_Dad, thanks for the great advice and the encouragement. Rmarie, thank you as well.

 

Rocket, yes, it scary and I don’t won’t to chance it either.

 

a_daerr, thank you! I don’t think he dislikes her. He is very excited to see her and loves to play with her. Your story cracked me up! :hehe I appreciate your advice. She is feeding him and kind of hanging around while he eats (not messing with him at all) and giving him treats, etc. Hopefully he will come around. :goodluck

 

It is very hard to reconcile the very affectionate dog that loves attention and petting, etc. to the dog that almost attacked her for touching his toys. Alexis is very familiar with large dogs (she has been raised with a GSD and Lab since she was a baby), and she is not scared of them at all. The difference, I guess, is that the dogs were raised with her too.

 

I am constantly second guessing myself and imagining the worst. But other than this one incident, he has been a perfect angel (except for the sleep aggression, which I don’t hold against him. It is understandable).

 

Bottom line – complete honesty- am I asking for trouble or it is entirely likely that he will adjust?

61bd4941-fc71-4135-88ca-2d22dbd4b59a_zps

Payton, The Greyhound (Palm City Pelton) and Toby, The Lab
Annabella and Julietta, The Cats
At the Bridge - Abby, The GSD

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Alexis is very familiar with large dogs (she has been raised with a GSD and Lab since she was a baby), and she is not scared of them at all...

 

I'll preface this by saying, I don't have kids. I'm strictly speaking through literature I've read and my own dog's encounters with children. But what I quoted above is definitely something to think about. By and large, labs and GSDs are indiscriminantly friendly dogs. Kids can hang all over a lab and pull their tails and get in their face, and the dog is likely to be alright with it because they enjoy the attention. Greyhounds, IMHO, are a whole different ballgame. They require a gentler, less intrusive approach. They show their affection in different ways. They'll come to you when they want to, not the other way around. I get kids trying to approach my dogs out in public a lot, and I find that they often miss the dog's signals and cues because they're used to the lab at home that they routinely wrestle and manhandle. I get really brazen kids who will proceed to touch my dogs even when I tell them not to. Even even the best-behaved kids lack impulse control simply because they want to shower the dog with attention 24-7, when that may not always be what the dog wants.

 

To answer your last question... it really depends on what your expectations are. There are many greyhound adoption groups who won't adopt to families who have young kids, period, due to the issues you're describing. I've seen other groups who require potential adopters to read "Childproofing Your Dog" before they bring the dog home. The reason for this is because many greys need to be taught HOW to share toys, resources, and space. That requires you to put in the time, energy, and training in addition to supervising EVERY interaction between the dog and the child (at least in the beginning). If you're willing to do that, you can have a dog who is 100% safe and appropriate with kids. There are many on this forum who are. But keep in mind that Payton may never be the type of dog who wants to constantly play and snuggle with them like a lab would.

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I totally agree with you, especially about the Lab. I don't worry about him (although there is no dog I trust 100%), he is 11 years old now. The GSD was a different story, but simply because she was much more hyper (she passed away last summer). But what I meant was that Alexis is not frightened by their size.

 

While Alexis is kind to the animals, she is very accustomed to the Lab. She can walk up to him at any point and do anything (in a manner of speaking) and he is completely happy just to have her around. And while I always supervised her interaction with the GSD, she had basically the same attitude-she loved having Alexis around her.

 

Payton is incredibly affectionate and loves to be petted. But we definitely need to teach Alexis that he is a different dog and needs time to adjust. The concern I have is that he lives in the house with us. So we all have to share space so to speak.

 

My expectations are basically that I expect no one to be bitten by a dog for simply picking something up off of the floor. I believe there are situations where the dog has every right to bite. That was not one of them. I realize that he didn't actually bite Alexis, but I don't know if it a precursor to biting. Alexis is not a toddler, and she knows better than to hurt the dog. She definitely is the type to pet the animals all of the time. Showering with affection is a good way to put it. That is what Alexis is like.

 

I have no problems putting in the effort to work with Payton. All of my dogs have been trained, but Payton is a different animal all together. :flip

 

Also, I did buy and read "Childproofing your Dog" last night. I am sure I am not good a reading Payton's signals yet, but he definitely does not give off the same signals as the Lab or the GSD. I have not even seen him wag his tail yet, but I know there are times when he is definitely happy. :ghplaybow

 

I do appreciate your help!

Edited by Acadianarose

61bd4941-fc71-4135-88ca-2d22dbd4b59a_zps

Payton, The Greyhound (Palm City Pelton) and Toby, The Lab
Annabella and Julietta, The Cats
At the Bridge - Abby, The GSD

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Right now, your daughter needs to be 'the giver of all things good.' Have her feed the dog during mealtimes and give treats. Make sure she takes part in some of his responsibilities, like going on walks and training sessions. Greyhounds are very adaptable- so if these are the worst of his issues, I'm sure he'll eventually trust and accept her.

Correct. He needs to see her as the Alpha instead of him.

Mary in Houston

Everyone has a photographic memory, but not everyone has film.

LAND OF THE FREE BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for the advice everyone.

 

One thing I failed to mention is that it is only our daughter that he seems to have issues with. I can walk up to him anytime he is laying down or take any toy and he will not have a problem. The adoption group said that he never growled at all with them. He was in foster care for a month or so also with no problems.

 

Is that common?

Ah - that's important information! IMHO (in my honest opinion) - it's kind of a pack mentality thing. He views YOU as a leader - his boss. He views your daughter (DD) as a subordinate. Dogs love their heirarchy - and they're totally cool with wherever their place is (leader, follower, whatever is appropriate) They make sense of the world this way. SO - you need to bump your DD up in the heirarchy, and get her some respect!

 

You can do this by having her feed the dog. She who controls the food - gets the props. And - you can have her ask Payton to DO something - before she gives him the food. A great first command is "look at me". Have her hold the food dish and say "Payton - look at me - look at me"(happy voice). She might have to bring the food near her eyes - but just as soon as he make a glance of eye contact - have her praise him - then set down his food. It puts her in control of his food - and he's learning that he need to do things she says. That will bump up her status in the pack. You can also have her walk him. You MUST be there, but let her do it (teach her to do it right). Leash time is bonding time. DO NOT let the dog lead her. She has to be the boss. He has to know she's in charge.

 

If his issue is just with her - it's probably just him figuring out his proper place in this new world. That's OK - as long as he learns the RIGHT place. That place is below the humans. Period. BTW - I don't think he actually has space aggression - just a little trouble settling in. And - I don't think your DD is doing anything wrong. I'll bet if you propose the idea that she needs to work on teaching Payton that she's his leader - she might think it's cool. Once he respects her - he won't threaten her.

 

I've seen a 6 year old give their dogs what-for - and the dogs hang their head and follow - yeah - greyhounds. The kid knew how to lead. The dogs knew their place.

Ehh, I don't know about alpha. I don't really believe in alpha dominance theory, but I do think it's important that he look to her as someone who is fun and gives him food. :)

Whether you're an Alpha-philosphy person or not - I think everyone can agree that a new dog needs to learn where he fits in - and where everyone else does. If it's not clear to him that the "short humans" are deserving of respect - he needs to learn.

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Remember that your greyhound has NEVER EVER had to share anything - space, food, toys, treats, ANYTHING - in his entire life. Part of his learning to live in a house is learning that not everything he has within reach is *his.* And he's only been in your house, with your family, for two weeks. Give the poor guy a break! It can take months for some greys to settle into home life to the extent that they relax their hypervigilance over space.

 

Teaching him some basic obedience commands is a good idea. If you can locate a good trainer, either through your group or on your own, who uses good, positive reinforcement techniques, both you and your daughter should take him. It's all about learning to communicate together. Also, "watch me" is an excellent multi-purpose command, but I would not teach it using a bowl of food. He's likely still way too focused on eating as fast and as soon as possible for this to be a safe thing for your daughter to do.

 

In all of this, you will get better at reading his signals if you pay close attention. Sometimes a growl is just a growl. After all, it's one of the only ways he has to tell you he doesn't like something. Don't correct him for growling, or he may learn to bypass trying to communicate and go right to biting (which was part of the problem with the previous thread you mentioned). If you hear a growl, stop what you're doing and look at the situation and why he might be feeling vulnerable or threatened or anxious. If you know the cause you can either train him to accept it or avoid the trigger.

 

And again, give him some time. The dog you have right now will NOT be the dog you have in 6 months, or a year, or five years from now. He may always have some aspects of space aggression - probably a sleep startling response. But as he learns about you and your family, learns the new rules, and relaxes, much of it will probably disappear. In the meantime, set up some rules - don't touch the dog on his bed or when he's lying down is the most important one. If your daughter wants to give him some attention, have her call the dog to her (make sure she has treats available to reward him for good behavior).

 

And RELAX! If you're tense, he'll know. Time and patience. Patience and time.

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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Remember that your greyhound has NEVER EVER had to share anything - space, food, toys, treats, ANYTHING - in his entire life. Part of his learning to live in a house is learning that not everything he has within reach is *his.* And he's only been in your house, with your family, for two weeks. Give the poor guy a break! It can take months for some greys to settle into home life to the extent that they relax their hypervigilance over space.

 

Teaching him some basic obedience commands is a good idea. If you can locate a good trainer, either through your group or on your own, who uses good, positive reinforcement techniques, both you and your daughter should take him. It's all about learning to communicate together. Also, "watch me" is an excellent multi-purpose command, but I would not teach it using a bowl of food. He's likely still way too focused on eating as fast and as soon as possible for this to be a safe thing for your daughter to do.

 

In all of this, you will get better at reading his signals if you pay close attention. Sometimes a growl is just a growl. After all, it's one of the only ways he has to tell you he doesn't like something. Don't correct him for growling, or he may learn to bypass trying to communicate and go right to biting (which was part of the problem with the previous thread you mentioned). If you hear a growl, stop what you're doing and look at the situation and why he might be feeling vulnerable or threatened or anxious. If you know the cause you can either train him to accept it or avoid the trigger.

 

And again, give him some time. The dog you have right now will NOT be the dog you have in 6 months, or a year, or five years from now. He may always have some aspects of space aggression - probably a sleep startling response. But as he learns about you and your family, learns the new rules, and relaxes, much of it will probably disappear. In the meantime, set up some rules - don't touch the dog on his bed or when he's lying down is the most important one. If your daughter wants to give him some attention, have her call the dog to her (make sure she has treats available to reward him for good behavior).

 

And RELAX! If you're tense, he'll know. Time and patience. Patience and time.

I defer to greysmom on not using look at me and feeding combined - that was probably poor advice on my part. I've done it as an adult - but she's right - probably not effective or wise for a child to do.

 

Both things are good - DD doing feeding, and DD teaching and treating "look at me". But separate them.

 

A good example that most of us are always learning here!

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