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New Grey Seems To Have A 'switch' - Then 'bites'.


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Guest Bogeyatur6

Hello....

My name is Marc and we are on our second Grey. Our first was 14 years ago; we got her when she was 6 when she had been turned back in due to a divorce. She was great, but sadly, we lost her to cancer when she was 10.

 

Now, our 2 kids are older and were great with our other dog (8 year old 30# cattle mix - also a rescue) that we have had for 6 years now. We had always wanted another greyhound, so figured this was a good time with the kids being older and able to help out.

 

We ended up with Bogey, a 3 year old male back in April of last year. He has been great but had a devil of a time at the start with 'toddler' type behavior; no listening, counter surfing, standoffish at times - but an incredible love 99% of the time. Any aggression/not listening seemed to dissipate as the months passed - attributed to him just being fixed prior to him coming to our home - lots of remnant testosterone?

 

One trait has remained and is becoming a major scare/issue. We know he has a HUGE prey drive and are ok with that - very cognizant of it and cautious. However, he has repeatedly shown a biting issue. When the kids are playing (play wrestling like kids do), and/or doing that with me, he will come from where ever he is/was and go to bite the head/face of the weakest member. He does not attack the largest, but usually the smallest. It almost seems like he is trying to play but doesn't know how. All very minor scratches - no gashes or anything and he sort of backs off when rebuffed by an adult--but not a full retreat.

 

He has gotten away from my wife twice when he went to attack a small dog (2 times, 2 different dogs). Grabbed them by the neck, but was immediately pulled away with only minimal damage. He has 'played' aggressively with our other dog as well to the point that our other dog keeps his distance at times; at others, will walk under him and co-habitate well - but zero real bonding has occurred.

 

It is almost like a switch goes off in his head.

 

We have altered behavior to try to teach him. We tried 'doggy daycare' where he played fairly well with the other dogs and was only aggressive a bit.

 

However, most recently, he was on the couch and the kids and I were playing. We were ever watchful of him and he was relaxed. As we continued to play, we were thinking he had grown and understood what was going on. Suddenly, he came off the couch, made a bee-line for my son (10 yrs old); we immediately stopped, stopped his approach, firmly redirected him, and he then turned and made a bee-line for my daughter, 5 feet away, who was not wrestling any more, by herself and just on her back on the floor. He 'bit' her forehead. I put 'bit' in quotes as again, not full bite as only a scratch, but his mouth was open and most of her forehead was in his mouth.

 

We are at wits end. We love Bogey, but are scared at his 'switch' behavior. He gets walked 2 times a day at minimal. He has been given runs before all this major snow in the North east. And we have tired him out with doggy daycare - but none of this has stopped this switch behavior.

 

My daughter, as well as the rest of us, will be crushed if we have to turn him in. Just wondering if he has to be an only dog with adults in the household? Or we are missing something.

 

Please, please, please - let me know what else we can try as we are at the end of our rope and quite frankly scared. He is such a sweet love 99% of the time, but we can't keep this up as is.

 

Thank you in advance.

-Marc

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I'm going to state the obvious here, but until you can get to the bottom of this, if your kids want to play rough, they should do it in a room where he is not. First step to correcting a problem is to manage the environment. You'll probably want to reward him for staying away from the kids when they play (so, if he's sitting quietly on the couch when they start up, give him treats, etc.). Have you done any training with him? Such as teaching him to leave it or stay?


Meredith with Heyokha (HUS Me Teddy) and Crow (Mike Milbury). Missing Turbo (Sendahl Boss), Pancho, JoJo, and "Fat Stacks" Juana, the psycho kitty. Canku wakan kin manipi.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

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Guest Bogeyatur6

Thanks for the reply. We have done some formal training. Including, but not limited to, stay, give, take, lie down. We have rewarded good behavior but never during that sort of resting period while activity was going on. That being said, we will give that a shot immediately.

 

In terms of the uber high prey drive toward smaller animals, as well as the 'playing' too rough with the other dog - how can 'good behavior'/good playing be taught/rewarded if it doesn't happen initially?

 

Thanks again for your help.

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Well, you'll need to train waaaaaaaay under the threshold initially. That is to say, train the behavior you want first without any additional stimuli. Then start training around gradually increasing stimuli. Start small and build up duration and distractions.

 

You'll likely never be able to train the preydrive out of him, but you should, over time, be able to distract him from the prey with a solid "watch me" or "leave it" command until you can get away from the prey.

 

So - figure out what you want your dog to do in a particular situation, teach that behavior without any distractions/children/small animals/triggers first, then gradually introduce distractions.

 

For a dog that is easily over-stimulated (like yours), I might want him to watch me rather than the kids. So I teach a watch me and get it really, really solid using a very high value treat with a high reinforcement rate (i.e., constantly popping food into his mouth). Then do it around the kids while they're doing nothing. Then when that's solid, do it with the kids lightly engaged. When that's solid, the kids can be more engaged. Always keep him under his stimulation threshhold until you can get a very reliable response. Move at tiny, tiny increments and build up distraction and duration.

 

Hopefully Neylasmom or another trainer will pop in and give better advice :)


Meredith with Heyokha (HUS Me Teddy) and Crow (Mike Milbury). Missing Turbo (Sendahl Boss), Pancho, JoJo, and "Fat Stacks" Juana, the psycho kitty. Canku wakan kin manipi.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

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(Also, until you can be sure that you or your wife can walk him without fear of him bolting and either of you dropping the leash, I'd suggest walking him with a basket muzzle :) ).

 

ETA: he may not be a dog that can play with other dogs. My boy Turbo was so, so gentle in almost every aspect, and he started off doing really well with other dogs, but he had the tendency to get overly stimulated in the presense of rough play - at dog parks, he would join in with packs, he would gnaw on dogs that had gone belly up - not hurting them (though alarming their owners!) but just engaging in obnoxious behavior. So we stopped going to dog parks because he was an ass. He would just get super excited and think mouthy behavior was appropriate, when it wasn't. When I first adopted him, he was just barely two years old, and would try to do the same thing with humans. He grew out of it, with minimal work by me, but it sounds like your boy will need some work.

Edited by turbotaina


Meredith with Heyokha (HUS Me Teddy) and Crow (Mike Milbury). Missing Turbo (Sendahl Boss), Pancho, JoJo, and "Fat Stacks" Juana, the psycho kitty. Canku wakan kin manipi.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

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Guest Bogeyatur6

Greyaholic -

Thank you for your advice...

I will implement immediately and pray we can make this work. I really appreciate your tips. After having the 6year old female, I thought we were 'experienced' enough that we were prepared. This has been a culture shock of sorts and we are still learning - just a very steep learning curve this time.


(Also, until you can be sure that you or your wife can walk him without fear of him bolting and either of you dropping the leash, I'd suggest walking him with a basket muzzle :) ).

That too has been put into practice since the last episode.

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Guest Bogeyatur6

(Also, until you can be sure that you or your wife can walk him without fear of him bolting and either of you dropping the leash, I'd suggest walking him with a basket muzzle :) ).

 

ETA: he may not be a dog that can play with other dogs. My boy Turbo was so, so gentle in almost every aspect, and he started off doing really well with other dogs, but he had the tendency to get overly stimulated in the presense of rough play - at dog parks, he would join in with packs, he would gnaw on dogs that had gone belly up - not hurting them (though alarming their owners!) but just engaging in obnoxious behavior. So we stopped going to dog parks because he was an ass. He would just get super excited and think mouthy behavior was appropriate, when it wasn't. When I first adopted him, he was just barely two years old, and would try to do the same thing with humans. He grew out of it, with minimal work by me, but it sounds like your boy will need some work.

Needing some work may be an understatement....

But it sounds like some of your 'Turbo's behavior is very similar to Bogey. It is good to have hope that he will potentially grow out of some of it. We will continue working with him in very close supervision and detail. The 'super excited' piece is right on to Bogey's exuberance -

I really hope all of these work as he is a great dog with a huge heart.

 

I really appreciate all of your help.

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Please don't call what he is doing to your children "bites" when they are actually "mouthing behavior." Bite has such a huge negative connotation, and a real aggression behind it, that they are not even close to the same thing. He's playing, unfortunately his playing involves his mouth (it could be fierce pawing behavior, bouncing up on people, pushing them down, etc.) - not appropriate, but not meant in a mean way. And I don't think this involves any "switch" in his head, I think he just watches and gets more excited and then his resistance to joining in just is overcome with the desire to be part of the playgroup.

 

That said, I understand how his excessive "mouthing behavior" when playing is troublesome for you and your children. I agree that he should be blocked entirely from deciding that when you are playing with them in a physical way that he can decide to join in on his own. His method of playing unfortunately includes his inappropriate (for *you*) mouthy behavior, which is how a lot of dogs play. I think his "aiming for the weakest" as you put it, is merely his choosing someone who is closer to his size and more available to him. She was lying on the floor, a place that to most dogs means "time to get up close to the face that I usually cannot reach" and he was keyed up by watching the play going on in front of him, which he thought meant playtime for him too (and mouthing). You directing him from you and your son didn't mean that he understood that he was uninvited from the entire playing field, and your daughter was just another possible playmate.

 

Does he have other ways of playing with you and the children, which doesn't involve roughhousing? Tossing him toys to run after and getting him to mouth them instead of putting his mouth anywhere near a person? Playing with him in that manner, with an associated indicator word or phrase "playtime, Bogey!" or "let's play, Bogey!" can tell him that he is specifically being invited to play, in a manner in which you have set rules (no teeth on person, mouth is only for the toys, any misplaced mouth means playtime is over) and yet lets you bond with him and give him an opportunity to use his mouth in a way that is natural for him and many other dogs. Then when time is up, you tell him that it is over and he is no longer playing (another phrase like "time's up" or "all done" or something that works for you) and then everyone gets time to calm down. Even if he continues to try to get you to play after you're done, doesn't get you to play. And if he does make a mistake, puts a mouth on you - the game is done and he's told so with whatever word or phrase you use, and playmates calmly leave the playing field completely (leave the room preferably, for 20 seconds or so). Then they can come back in, but if he's still too keyed up, do not resume playtime. Give him time to calm down, because he might not be able to contain his excitement because he is still too keyed up.

 

And when you want to play roughhouse with the kids, make sure he's in another room and can't get all excited and join in. And if he gets keyed up knowing that you're playing even if he can't join in, give him time to calm down before letting him join up with you and especially with the kids. He might think that he's being invited in if you're playing and dinner is called and everyone stampedes where he is - "Yay! My turn to join in!" and any potential resistance to his urges may falter or fail.

 

As for prey drive or the going after other dogs, I think your wife absolutely needs to properly hold onto the leash. It should have a loop on the end, and she needs to hold onto that loop tightly enough that if he does see something (rabbit, squirrel, outside cat, small dog) he cannot just jerk out of her grasp and get to it. Any time he has the opportunity to reinforce his chase behavior and catch something, it will make it that much harder to restrain him the next time because he's succeeded before. If holding the leash loop over the wrist and holding onto the leash itself is considered too dangerous because he could pull her down, I don't think she should be walking him. If the leash doesn't have a loop, get one that does. If she was having trouble (pushing something else, or walking other dogs at the same time), don't try juggling that much at once, because it's not enough to hold him back if he takes off. (There are also leashes that can attatch to a belt around the waist, if that would work better for her.) If the dog ever did manage to catch someone's pet, and a child was on the other end of the other dog's leash and tried to intervene, you could easily have a bite to a child on your dog's record. And that would be tragic for everyone!

 

Good luck! It seems managable, but will require work and cooperation on everyone's part!

Edited by Fruitycake
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Just wanted to reinforce what Fruitycake said - these are not bites, but mouthing behaviors. If he wanted to bite, your kids would be bloody messes by now :lol Dogs frequently engage in bitey-face with eachother. It just doesn't go over so well with humans and their furless thin skin ;)


Meredith with Heyokha (HUS Me Teddy) and Crow (Mike Milbury). Missing Turbo (Sendahl Boss), Pancho, JoJo, and "Fat Stacks" Juana, the psycho kitty. Canku wakan kin manipi.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

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Just wanted to reinforce what Fruitycake said - these are not bites, but mouthing behaviors. If he wanted to bite, your kids would be bloody messes by now :lol Dogs frequently engage in bitey-face with eachother. It just doesn't go over so well with humans and their furless thin skin ;)

Very true.

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Guest normaandburrell

 

 

And when you want to play roughhouse with the kids, make sure he's in another room and can't get all excited and join in.

 

Good advice from Fruitycake. Good luck, and kudos for wanting to work with the dog.

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Re your wife walking him: The muzzle, of course, is necessary, but I wonder how she's holding the leash and how far out she lets him walk from her.

 

When I adopted Annie, it was suggested to me that I hold the leash in a way which would almost certainly not allow her to get away. It worked for me. In the first three months I had Annie, she pulled me over three times (I'm a slow learner I guess... LOL) but the leash never left my hand. It's difficult to explain but what I do is make a second loop by feeding a portion of the leash through the hand loop already there. I put my hand in the newly created loop but put my thumb under the original loop so it runs across the palm part of my hand. I pull it snug. When Annie pulled on the leash, the movement tightened the leash even more.

 

I also don't let Annie far away from me. I discovered that there is little leverage in controlling a dog when she's feet away. Annie pretty much heels until she indicates she's got to go potty. I let the leash out a little, but even then, I'm standing right next to her.

Edited by Feisty49
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Let's also understand that there are two separate behaviors going on here. Both instinctual and both with many of the same characteristics. But they are different things.

 

What happens when he gets over-stimulated is different than a prey drive reaction to small animals/dogs. He sees his family playing and he wants so much to join in. He gets excited. He jumps around, he may bark or whine. And when he gets to a certain level - his threshold - he can't control himself anymore. It's not aggression. It's play behavior. If he wanted to cause injury, he would have long before now. Greyhounds play much differently than other breeds of dogs. They use their mouths and teeth, they nip and bite each other. They run and wrestle and it sounds like Armageddon, or at least the worst dog fight ever - but it's all just play. It's often why you see so many retired racing greyhounds with scars. The injuries didn't occur on the track or while they were racing, they are from turnout play, and even injuries growing up on the farms.

 

You've had good suggestions for teaching him self control. I add my voice to those who say to not engage in activities that test him in front of him for the time being.

 

His issues with small dogs is a matter of prey drive. If he is truly not tolerant of small dogs, the behavior can be managed, but not eliminated, for the most part. Wearing a muzzle is a place to begin though you *must* be extremely vigilant when walking him, so keep him safe from off leash/free-roaming dogs. You have removed his only way to defend himself from an attack, so it's your responsibility to protect him. Wearing a muzzle could actually increase his reaction, as he could be anxious and stressed if he is approached by dogs he considers dangerous.

 

You should ask your adoption group for a recommendation for a positive reinforcement base trainer, or a good canine behaviorist who can help you with both issues.

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You should ask your adoption group for a recommendation for a positive reinforcement base trainer, or a good canine behaviorist who can help you with both issues.

:nod You really should get help with these issues in addition to the good advice you are receiving here.

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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Guest Bogeyatur6

I hesitated to use the word bite completely - hence the quotes. I too do not feel that they are truly 'bites' - so I really appreciate the notation of 'mouthing' as that sounds much closer to the actions we are seeing. Also - I completely agree that if there was malice intended by Bogey, the results would have been much more severe and I would not have been nearly as patient.

 

That being said - I appreciate all the advice and will implement muzzle work asap. I will also work on training as noted above immediately. I will let you know how that goes, but truly am thankful for all of your advice and tips. As I said from the start, he is really sweet and we are looking to work with him - not rid of him. I will also contact the agency we got him from and keep them in the loop.

 

Again - thank you.

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I agree--he's trying to play.

 

Personally, I think this dog is not a good match for your home--period. I don't have kids, but if I did I would certainly not trust them not to get the dog overly excited if I wasn't around--and I wouldn't want to live on eggshells always wondering if the dog is put away, are the kids not roughhousing. There are plenty of dogs who were "turned in" that are older and used to being around children that would fit your situation.

 

And plenty of people like me with no kids for whom this behavior would be a total non-issue. It's not always a good match the first time.


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Guest Bogeyatur6

That is my fear to be honest - but I/we are not ready to give up on him yet. We are really trying to make it work. He is an incredibly bright dog - learned to turn a door knob with his mouth and make his way out - all within the first week. Between the tips given, and some more time invested, I am still hopeful. I am keeping the idea of this not working on a back burner if necessary - as it is not out of the question; but I want to know that we have tried everything first.

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but I want to know that we have tried everything first.

Then I would really encourage you to seek out professional help. I agree with Susan that this is a less than ideal match, but I appreciate that you're committed to working with and keeping him. I think in order to do that, and to keep your children and other small animals safe, the best thing is getting professional help. Most trainers will do an initial in home consult with you and then you can do follow up visits, or just correspond via email or phone (usually included with the initial fee) after that. It doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor, but you should do your due diligence in finding someone who uses force free, reward based training. Adding punishment in a situation like this could cause his behavior to escalate and become aggressive.

gallery_12662_3351_862.jpg

Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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You should be looking for a trainer that uses positive based techniques, rather than one that uses pinch collars and such. Not necessarily a "greyhound" trainer.

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In going for a trainer/professional help - would you recommend a greyhound specific trainer - or any behaviorist?

Sorry it took me a bit to respond. Honestly, greyhound specific trainer is a bit of a misnomer. Any trainer who is skilled should understand greyhounds as they would any breed. I could go into this more, but I think I'd be heading down a rabbit hole. :P

 

I wrote a brief article for my group's newsletter about finding a trainer. You can read it here:

http://greyhoundwelfare.cwsit.com/GWNewsletters/GWSkinny_Winter14_Final.pdf

 

And there's a great article here:

http://eileenanddogs.com/2014/10/13/world-dog-training-motivation-transparency-challenge/

 

I wish I could change one line in my article. I think looking for a CPDT trainer in your area is a decent way to start. From there you can read their websites nad speak with them to find someone who is truly force free and has some solid experience and education under their belt. Also highly recommend looking to see if there's a Pat Miller certified trainer in your area: http://www.peaceablepaws.com/referrals.php?type=pmctReferral

 

Hope this helps.

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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Guest Bean_Scotch

Yes, in addition to what was said get yourself a good positive reinforcement trainer. A good place to start searching is www.ccpdt.org and www.adpt.com both excellent resources and have trainer listings. I happen to be a member of both, but a bit far away from you. :)

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