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Greyhound Bite, Sleep Aggression?


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We adopted Paddy a three year old ex racer about six weeks ago. Last night he went for and bit my husband,thankfully very minor injury. My husband managed to push him off and he seemed to come to his senses and back off. Paddy had been lying on his bed and my husband had thought that he was awake and had been giving him a goodnight stroke, so we think he must have actually been asleep and my husband startled him. Paddy then lunged and barked at him later in the night when my husband got up to go to the toilet. Paddy's bed was very close to ours so I think again it was sleep startle. I have rearranged our bedroom so his bed is further away from ours. It gave us all a real fright and we can't help being a bit wary of him now, particularly as we have two kids and our eldest loves to cuddle Paddy. Other than this he gets a little over excited when playing sometimes but will calm down if I end the game and walk away. Mostly he seems very laid back and docile.

 

Does this sound like sleep aggression ? I have told everyone to leave Paddy alone if he is on his bed.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions of how we can get over our wariness?

 

Any thoughts would be very welcome.

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Guest rlblattau

We have had some similar problems with our new adoptee. In the beginning I do believe it was a startle reflex. We have had our Carly about 3 months now and we have moved past the startle issue, but now she seems to be very possessive/aggressive regarding her toys. We have had to remove some of them completely. I am anxious to read others comments & hope we can both find a solution to the problem before someone gets hurt.

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It does not sound like sleep aggression, it sounds like sleep startle. Don't confuse the two terms. Your dog is not being aggressive, he is simply not used to being touched or approached when sleeping.

 

I spent the last ten years with a hound who was subject to sleep startle sleeping next to my side of the bed. I never got out of bed with saying something to him to let him know I was there. Usually saying "hey (insert name)" or "hey buddy" was enough to let him know I was there. We went through several bites as a result of startle, each one of them the human's fault.

 

Also, touching the hound while on his bed or laying down is off limits for everyone. That's his space and his alone. Even if his eyes are open, he can still be sound asleep.

Edited by Time4ANap
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We've had the same experience as Don above. We simply don't touch Sweep when she's lying down. She's as affectionate as can be when she's on all fours, but after 6 years we realize she's not likely to outgrow her sleep startle (as some do) and we act accordingly. We've never had any serious bites, thankfully.

 

I understand how upsetting it is when an incident happens, but you just have to give it time. Try to remember that it's not personal but just a split-second reaction, that Paddy lives in the moment and has already forgotten it, and that he will detect your fear if you approach him nervously. Also keep in mind that he could have done real damage if he'd wanted to, but it sounds like he has good bite inhibition.

 

How old are your kids? Do they understand fully that Paddy is not to be touched when lying down? Also, you might want to read up on calming signals so everyone in the family can recognize when Paddy is nervous or uncomfortable.

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Agree with the advice already given......

 

'Let sleeping dogs lie' is not just an 'old wives tale'.

 

Do not go near your dog when they are laying on their bed.

At all.

 

Our Ruby came to us with space issues and even 7 years later we always give her advance notice when we approach her when she is laying down. Just saying her name is enough 'warning' for her and then she's perfectly happy to have us come sit beside her on her bed.

 

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Thanks for the advice and the correction I didn't realise sleep startle and sleep aggression were different.

 

My kids are 8 and 10 so they know to leave Paddy alone when he is on his bed. My husband knows it was his own fault I have told him before that Paddy's bed is his safe space so we should leave him alone when he's there so he shouldn't have been stroking him anyway. Now I think he has learned his lesson.

 

Paddy sometimes comes and does turkey pose and then lays down right in front of us and rolls around or bats at us with his paws until we stroke him. Other than that I guess it is probably not a good idea to try and stroke him if he is laying down even if he's not on his bed?

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Paddy sometimes comes and does turkey pose and then lays down right in front of us and rolls around or bats at us with his paws until we stroke him. Other than that I guess it is probably not a good idea to try and stroke him if he is laying down even if he's not on his bed?

He's inviting play at that point and is probably fine. My boy would do that as well and want his belly rubbed. Needless to say we were always poised to jump away just in case, and if he started to growl we needed to figure out if it was really a growl or a purr or just playing. This same boy who would sleep startle would often be sleeping on his back with his front paws wrapped around my legs while I sat in my chair and he would be sound asleep. Usually all I had to do was call his name and ask him to move if I needed to get up. They all have little quirks that you will learn and identify over time, but your husband learned the lesson about safe spaces the same way that many if us have.

 

I stay away from the term sleep aggression simply because if there is a bite that gets reported and you use that term, it will end up in a report, and maybe in court with a dog being labeled as aggressive who doesn't have an aggressive bone in his or her body. The term aggression or aggressive may end up giving a great dog a not so great fate when what really happened was a startle. We've seen it happen before.

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I stay away from the term sleep aggression simply because if there is a bite that gets reported and you use that term, it will end up in a report, and maybe in court with a dog being labeled as aggressive who doesn't have an aggressive bone in his or her body. The term aggression or aggressive may end up giving a great dog a not so great fate when what really happened was a startle. We've seen it happen before.

 

That is a very good point. I certainly wouldn't want him labelled as aggressive as he definitely isn't.

Edited by Greynewbienow
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