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  1. #1
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    Feb. 11, 2013
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    Default Teeth, Face, Personal Space: Please Advise

    Seeking advice from the knowledgable dog peeps on this board. BF adopted a retired racing greyhound in October. Learning how to be a pet dog has involved a steep learning curve– as you would expect for an animal who never set foot in a house until almost 4. When he first arrived he was shy and withdrawn, but he’s gradually become much more playful and expressive. He’s been very mannerly and easy to live with, even though he has not had any formal training. On the very rare occasions we’ve spoken sharply to him as a correction, a single harsh word will send him to his crate to mope for hours. What I’m saying is, he strikes me as a sensitive soul and a fundamentally Good Dog.

    That said, on two occasions he has reacted badly to having familiar people get close to his face. The first incident was in late December. I was greeting him, he was prancing around all happy, but then I leaned in too close with my face next to his and he barked and snapped, totally unexpectedly. I just assumed I got into his personal space and wrote it off as a one-time thing, since it seemed so out of character.

    Then earlier this week I saw him do something very similar with my BF, his main person, who he adores. This time there was no surprise factor involved. BF and dog were lying side by side on the rug looking all happy and relaxed, BF was petting him and sort of snuggled close to his face and then all of a sudden with no warning the dog barked and actually made contact with teeth on BF’s face. No injury, but it was disturbing because the reaction was sudden and extreme. There was no growl or other warning. If he had actually bitten, it could have been a bad scene.

    It is perplexing because this dog is such a soft, gentle character. These two times are literally the only two times I have ever heard him bark in four months. We obviously plan to avoid getting our faces near his in the future, but we were troubled by his reaction. What steps can we take to reduce the likelihood of something like this happening again? Can anyone recommend training strategies that might work well in this situation?



  2. #2
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    Default

    What steps can we take to reduce the likelihood of something like this happening again? Can anyone recommend training strategies that might work well in this situation?
    step one, don't get in his face. If he's an off the track dog, remember they wear muzzles for a reason.

    training: stay off his face. Most dogs don't like it anyway, they just tolerate it. Leaning or bending over is also a big no no for most dogs.


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  3. #3
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    Some dogs go absolutely crazy when you blow on their faces, not sure why. Any chance you both breathed in his face a bit? It is obviously an over the top reaction if that is what causes it, you can be careful to avoid that.



  4. #4
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    Aug. 5, 2007
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    Get this book. from .01 so completely affordable.
    http://www.amazon.com/Grrr-Complete-.../dp/0316790222

    Read it.

    Change your behavior immediately or you will be bitten; this dog is not tolerating face-to-face at this time.
    This is not a vicious dog he simply can't handle your behavior. Both of you need training.


    There are many exercises in the book to train your dog to become better at dealing with close contact with humans.

    Don't get in the way in the mean time.

    You don't realize how much psychological pressure you are putting on this dog.

    Get busy.


    3 members found this post helpful.

  5. #5
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    Feb. 11, 2013
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    Default

    Thanks for the helpful suggestions. Clearly, yes, the dog is not comfortable with face-to-face contact. Which is fine. Before we did not realize that this is an activity that needs to be specifically avoided, and now we do. So the immediate solution to the problem is obvious. The stimulus is, luckily, easy to avoid.

    My concern is more the fact that the dog reacted in a fairly extreme and sudden way to an experience that disturbed him. We have already established that no one is going to be getting near his face in the future. It's important to set animals up for success. But in the event some other activity inadvertently causes "psychological pressure" in future, it would be great if he could express that via moving away or growling or, oh I don't know, anything rather than going full-on with the snap and the teeth.



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sooty Tats View Post
    My concern is more the fact that the dog reacted in a fairly extreme and sudden way to an experience that disturbed him. We have already established that no one is going to be getting near his face in the future. It's important to set animals up for success. But in the event some other activity inadvertently causes "psychological pressure" in future, it would be great if he could express that via moving away or growling or, oh I don't know, anything rather than going full-on with the snap and the teeth.
    He may have been communicating his discomfort prior to the event, just the signs were so subtle you missed them.

    How did you react to the incident? IME, there is a "honeymoon" period with any new animal you bring home, then their true self starts to show as they settle in and become more comfortable in their surroundings. If this is not nipped in the bud it may escalate. We dealt with similar issues with our Aussie when we first brought her home. Only I have kids(and alot of young nieces and nephews) and wasn't having a dog that went for the face. A year and a half later she's a happy, confident dog that I trust. Google NILIF(nothing in life is free) it worked wonders with our dog, along with serious obedience training and alot of confidence boosting/bonding activities like dog agility.
    Now when my dog barks at a stranger(she doesn't often) I trust her opinion. She won me over the first time she barked at my MIL


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  7. #7
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    Agree with keeping your face out of his face. It's considered to be an aggressive move to most dogs, and will make them uncomfortable.
    He actually sounds like he has very good bite inhibition. He did growl to warn you, and when he put his teeth on your DH he didn't bite down.
    So just keep your face away from his, and also don't "hug" him. That's also perceived to be an aggressive act.


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  8. #8
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    I think you are worried about nothing- your dog obviously has wonderful bite inhibition. Think about the "incidents" as communication, which is what they are- the dog was telling you he didn't appreciate your behavior. Communication is always good.
    But now that you KNOW he doesn't like certain human behaviors, you can fix the problem. You need to desensitize him to these behaviors- a slow, gradual process. It is important to do this, because you never know when some stupid child will run up and hug your dog. Dogs hate being hugged. You have to teach your dog to just tolerate it. And tolerate faces shoved into his. Dogs hate that too- it's an aggressive behavior.


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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by wendy View Post
    I think you are worried about nothing- your dog obviously has wonderful bite inhibition. Think about the "incidents" as communication, which is what they are- the dog was telling you he didn't appreciate your behavior. Communication is always good.
    But now that you KNOW he doesn't like certain human behaviors, you can fix the problem. You need to desensitize him to these behaviors- a slow, gradual process. It is important to do this, because you never know when some stupid child will run up and hug your dog. Dogs hate being hugged. You have to teach your dog to just tolerate it. And tolerate faces shoved into his. Dogs hate that too- it's an aggressive behavior.
    I must have been raised around much more affectionate and tolerant dogs than some of you.

    I do realize the OP's dog was not a pet for his first four years, and so I wouldn't expect him to act like a dog that's been raised in a home.
    Last edited by grayarabpony; Feb. 26, 2013 at 06:26 PM. Reason: Spelling


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  10. #10
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    I'm not a dogger, but I think other posters and the OP are right.

    1. You don't realize how much psychological pressure you are putting on this dog when you get up in his grill.

    2. He was not civilized to put up with that from people.

    IMO, your job is to make him trust you in general *and* systematically to take stuff like being crowded by people. It's akin to teaching horses to accept restraint. After all, every fiber of their being says to thrash or run if they get trapped that way. We teach them to think and give up instead.

    This could take a very long time with your dog. I don't think he's making a reasoned choice when he suddenly snaps at you. If he is like a horse, his world needs to slow down when he's under that pressure so that he has a chance to think and do otherwise.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat



  11. #11
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    This is a sighthound, and not one bred for companionship; although if understood and treated accordingly can be a wonderful companion. It isn't a Golden Retreiver or a Cattle dog and will NOT react as they might.

    Sighthounds are subtle and often touch-sensitive. Simple freezing or looking away may be this dog's early warning of too much input being received.
    Some are very aloof and independent and are not into wrestling with a DH or rough rubbing of heads, etc. TRAIN the dog and the people.

    I recommend teaching go to your place, come, and the other obedience commands through clicker or reward training to give this dog some structure and confidence if you are not working on them yet.


    Again, please get the book.

    Will save you lots of confusion and possible bites - even an inhibited bite or snap can injure soft human skin.


    3 members found this post helpful.

  12. #12
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    Jun. 15, 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by D_BaldStockings View Post
    This is a sighthound, and not one bred for companionship; although if understood and treated accordingly can be a wonderful companion. It isn't a Golden Retreiver or a Cattle dog and will NOT react as they might.

    Sighthounds are subtle and often touch-sensitive. Simple freezing or looking away may be this dog's early warning of too much input being received.

    I think this is a really great point. Greyhounds often make wonderful companions but your dog was not bred to be a companion. He was bred to highlight his sighthound traits of speed and drive.


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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by wendy View Post
    I think you are worried about nothing- your dog obviously has wonderful bite inhibition.
    I'm sorry Wendy, but I have to disagree with you here. I think there is something to be worried about. Had this been a child instead of an adult, it could have easily been a bite to the face.

    I have a good friend and dog trainer who has had 2 off the track greys. The last one, a male had good bite inhibition but low tolerance for in-his-face-behavior. The child was 3, when my friend looked away for a moment and the child hugged the dog, got a snap that pinched her face. I think there is something worth a bit of attention here.

    Dogs hate being hugged. You have to teach your dog to just tolerate it. And tolerate faces shoved into his. Dogs hate that too- it's an aggressive behavior.
    remember that there are some dogs who will never tolerate it, or only for a very, very brief moment.

    I would suggest a combination of desensing and management.


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  14. #14
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    Default

    Thanks again, folks, for your perspectives. The dog has gone through a lot adapting to a totally foreign set of circumstances in the last few months, and for the vast most part he's done remarkably well. Of course I cut him a lot of slack due to his background. Any number of behaviors that come naturally to most dogs raised as pets have been totally new concepts for him. BF acquired this dog knowing and expecting that to be the case. What's been surprising and kind of touching, actually, is seeing how much this dog does want to be a loving companion - even though there's nothing in his background that would have prepared him to see humans in that light.

    I believe the behavior is very situation-specific and given this dog's overall humble, affectionate demeanor I see no reason to believe it will escalate. I guess if these two incidents were the worst miscommunications we were ever to have with this dog, I would say it's not all that bad. Now we know something about him we didn't before, and that is useful information. I didn't object to what the dog was saying, so to speak - it's more the way he was saying it. I would like to see him learn a more nuanced 'vocabulary' so he can express himself without getting panicked in an aversive situation and having to resort to extremes.

    I think /hope / expect that his communication skills will develop with consistency and time. We are both working with him in a low-key way to reinforce basic commands, which i think will help. The book that was recommended sounds great, am ordering it. Thanks again.



  15. #15
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    Greyhounds wear muzzles so they do NOT catch the lure as it will kill them

    A greyhound is a SIGHT HOUND. They see clearly items or animals or people who are at a distance. Close up is a blur and creates confusion.

    Having bred and raised Afghans, Whippets, Borzoi and owned Greyhounds on the track they share a common trait...far sightedness.

    The greyhounds are especially sensitive if they have been on the track. Unethical trainers will put kittens at their face...pull them away...let the kitten scratch them...before it makes a kill.

    this is a back and forth..into the face...away...back at it...condition.

    My Afghans...that had been bred and shown by me..did NOT like to have my face in theirs.

    This is one reason we never let children around our hounds without total supervision. Owning a dog is a lifetime journey...and so is the ongoing training. The track Greyhounds can be wonderful


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  16. #16
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    "I didn't object to what the dog (person) was saying, so to speak - it's more the way he was saying it. (And not listening/watching how I responded to his moves)

    I would like to see him learn a more nuanced 'vocabulary' so he can express himself without getting (pushy and in my face) panicked in an aversive situation and having to resort to extremes.

    I think /hope / expect that his communication skills will develop with consistency and time. (Yes, please. They overwhelm and crowd me at present)"

    I am sure the dog would express almost the same wishes about his owners.

    It is a mutual learning experience.


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  17. #17
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    One of my co-workers' OTTG snapped at her grandson because the dog was laying in his bed (his refuge) and the 4 year old decided to climb on the dog and kiss his face. The kid had been told numerous times not to bother the dog in his bed, and not to get all kissy-face with the dog, but was a typical toddler. The dog didn't bite the kid, but did snap at him and pull away first. They basically learned the hard way to keep the kid away from the dog unless supervised, and to respect the dog's boundaries. She says the dog has snapped similarly at her husband (his person) when he has leaned down in the dog's face while he's on his bed. The people had to learn to modify that behavior in themselves.

    My dogs not only accept kisses from me, they snuggle to get them, but I don't have sighthounds now. My afghan used to allow me to kiss the top of his head.

    StG



  18. #18
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    A four year old is not a toddler. And old enough to obey instructions about leaving a dog alone.
    "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanuel Kant


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  19. #19
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    I agree with the others. My first thought on reading this was, don't get in the dog's face! Few dogs are comfortable with that. One of mine tolerates it, the other would bite. My second though was, "Wow, great bite inhibition!"...which is a very good thing. He does sound like a good dog, I really wouldn't worry much about this.



  20. #20
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    My experience with two totally different greyhounds is that for a four year old who has only been homed for four months is that it is still early days.

    I would work really hard to get him to tolerate this because you never know when a kid will run up to him and - oops, too late, a snap. They re the right height. It would be pretty nerve wrackig to have to always be on guard.

    Good for your dog for giving a warning. We felt the same way as you do about the dogs, they deserve the time and attention. I'd have another in a hertbeat and will do when a vacancy occurs at my house.

    Our dogs eventually turned into really solid citizens, full of confidence, but it took time and gentleness.
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


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