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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,
I foster for a local Basset rescue and aquired a 9y/o basset about a month ago. He from the beginning uses his mouth to let you know he is not happy. Usually just mouthing but at one point when I was trying to see if he was food aggressive and took his food away he bit me hard, broke the skin and bruised me up. He has been better but I am unsure if it is because we now know his touchy spots or if he is in fact getting better with us. He was given up because he bit the owners child and he was becoming "cranky". I think his hearinjg is going too. His owners had him since he was 6 weeks old. I really thought that it was a respect thing because I would be eating on the couch and he would try to steal my food from me, when I would push him away he would bite me. The previuos owners didn't seem to train him much as he didn't know anything but sit. We have been able to work with him on some of that. When we first got him he would try to constantly hump my cats, that has since gotten better. I jsut want to know If I am doing the right thing and I want to make him adoptable too.
 

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I'm no expert and this sure is a tough one. I'm sure you've been in contact with the rescue organization to let them know about whats going on. I've also heard that once a dog bites its a very hard habit to correct. Hopefully others can chime in?? I googled "Breaking dog biting" ans several websites popped up, maybe you will find some helpful info there. Good luck!

~Heather
 

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You said he was given up because "he was becoming cranky"- if his behavior changed, could there be a physical cause? I'm wondering if it would be worth having his thyroid checked?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
We had labwork done when we brought him home and it all came back fine. I was secretly wishing there was some health reason, maybe then it would have been easier to fix. Behavior problems are sooo difficult.
 

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Some years ago I received a Basset from an acquaintence who knew I was grieving the loss of my 11 year old Basset. a relative of his was splitting from his wife and neither was going to take him. He was a beautiful tri-color and seemed very nice. Well, I kept him for 2.5 years - 2.5 years of pure hell!! He bit me a few times, tormented my other animals, was very food/toy agressive - and barked all the time. I kept trying everything - I had him to obedience school - twice, had a behavioralist come to the house and she said she thought he was abused. She even prescribed Prozac, which has no effect on him! He wreaked havock in the house and yet there were times when he could be loveable. I hung onto that and really loved and felt sorry for him. When there was no relief and I tried everything I could, I was able to rehouse him with a couple in another state. They were losing their only pet, an elderly Basset Hound, and my friend told their vet about Homer. He thought it would be a good match because there were no children and no other pets. I gave him over and cried my eyes out over it, but although I haven't heard anything in a long time, initially it seemed to be working out. I truly pray it has.
 

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I'm sorry, I would not even consider adopting out that dog. He needs to either be a permanent foster (in which case he's taking up resources that could be used on adoptable hounds) or he needs to be euthanized.

I know it sounds harsh, but the liabilites of placing such a dog are too high. Most biters can NOT be rehabilitated, only managed, and at his age I doubt he'll change much. He may become fine with you, as you learn his quirks, but if he is adopted out and bites someone the rescue could get sued and put out of business.
 

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What Miriam said. Given the dog's history, and now his current behavior with you, something is just not right. I'm very surprised that the rescue even took a dog they knew was a biter. If he's 'hard-wired' to bite, and it sounds like he is, training will not help......
 

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I'm sorry that you are in this situation but I do agree with the 2 previous responses. To me that's like giving someone a loaded gun and saying It might go off someday, be careful. Something you just can't do.
 

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Obviously, working successfully with aggression takes a lot of experience.

There are people who have that experience.

And there is someone who has that experience who is the right person for this dog.

Given that people feel comfortable advising you to have this dog killed (because that's the bottom line, can't work with the dog so kill him), I want to at least pipe in and say that unless experts such as those from the shelter featured on National Geographic's series Dog Town, that takes only the worse cases and never gives up on the dog, told you that it was best to put this dog down, euthanize, whatever word you want, than I think that anyone who agreed to take on responsibility for a life, should go all the way. And going all the way may mean finding an expert to work with this dog - or learning to be one yourself.

The place on the Nat Geo show is called Best Friends Animal Society - they are at www.bestfriends.org. Rescue groups and shelters send them their worst cases. Once a dog is there, they guarantee nothing bad will ever happen to them. They adopt out dogs, but some dogs with aggression stay there their whole lives. Some with aggression are there for years and are finally ready to be adopted. BUT it's a great place - not your typical shelter - it's like little college dorms of dogs. They have way over 2,000 animals - it's really quite amazing and they're probably not the only ones. They don't believe in euthanizing behavior problems. So there are such places.

While killing a dog with a serious and potentially deadly behavior problem, may seem like the only option and, in fact, the right thing to do, THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS. So, while I agree with the intent of the comments hinting at euthanizing this dog - meaning that what they are saying first is that it may be very difficult if not impossible for someone without serious, serious experience to rehabilitate this dog, I don't agree that the first option should be kill him. That should be last on a long, long, long list of other options - no one has yet said contact an expert - I think that is interesting.

The only other thing I want to say is that I totally think you are doing the right thing by asking for other people's opinions -- and maybe one of the questions you could ask is if you are right the person for to work with this dog. If you have the experience, than awesome - this dog with grow you. If you don't have the experience, than you could get that experience with the help of an expert. If you don't have the experience and you can't get expert help, you could find a foster family that does have it. Or you could try a shelter like Best Friends.

Point being, there are too many options available to you at this point in the game.

Again, I'm not saying this dog should be adopted out, or kept at your house, or anyone's house - there is obviously a huge and dangerous problem, all I am saying is that maybe it's not okay to jump right to the ultimate cure before really exploring.

I think that is exactly what you are doing by asking your question, "Am I doing the right thing?" So, I'm saying that I think you are doing the right thing - just keep making sure to discover what else is available to you and that you are not in harm's way as you do it.

I have a fear aggressive dog and I hired Pat Miller the behaviorist who writes for Whole Dog Journal on her issues - I realized that even though I had read no less than 12 books on the subject, am a fair trainer, have had loads of dogs, I could not go it alone - it was too serious, too important and that I had to fair to my dog and make sure she had the best chance. I had to swollen my pride that "I can handle this!" and get real help. I learned a lot and this is a really long and hard road, but we are getting there.

I don't agree with the human version of euthanize for behavior problems either - so I also want to say that I do understand that there are different views on this forum - and I love that there are - and I know no one would say anything that they didn't truly believe with their whole compassionate heart was right and good. So, I'm not judging the people, just the opinion - and throwing another view into the ring.
 

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I had a dog-aggressive, fear-biting golden. We employed a behaviorist, who worked with the dog for *years*. We learned to successfully manage his behavior, and he lived a long and happy life with us, finally dying of age-related causes. That said, he was a huge PITA, and our daily stress level decreased in a major way when he went on to his reward.

I should also note that we had the resources to manage a problem dog like this: megabucks for the behaviorist, medical testing, and construction of an indoor/outdoor run; one of us worked at home and could provide a lot of structure; and we have NO children. Not everyone enjoys these conditions/resources, and not all problem dogs can be successfully managed, even under the best of circumstances.

Only a person/family actually living with a particular aggressive dog can determine whether they'll be able to manage the dog, day in and day out, longterm. Given this dog's age, I think it would be very difficult to eliminate his biting behavior, although I applaud kittiesareus for working with him. :) I assume that because this dog is being fostered for a rescue group, the group will make a determination as to the dog's future. Will be interested in hearing their decision.
 

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I did not make the suggestion lighlty. I HAVE worked with aggressive dogs, some successfully, some not. I did choose to maintain a "problem" dog, because I was able to get him to the point where his aggression was not an issue *in our situation* and because I had the resources to manage and care for him. I would never have dreamed of adopting him out.

It's one thing to maintain a dog in a home, quite another for him to spend the rest of his life in a cage. To me that doesn't seem like much of a life.
 

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As you said, Miriam -- a dog living 'in a bubble' doesn't have much of a life. And all the 'What if's'. What if someone's child manages to get just a little too close. What if the dog totally snaps and there's no getting control? What if, what if, what if, what if?

It's very sad, and so unfair, but sometimes -- there is only one viable, safe solution.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
We are actually going to Best Friend this next week to volunteer while on vacation. I hope to pick up some tips from them. The rescue is well aware of the problem and have referred me to a trainer that they employ. This trainers onlyadvice was that he is old and to get used to it because it can't be changed. I will not adopt him out unless the prospective owner is painfully aware of the potential issues. I have a fear biter of my own and am able to maintain, although a doggy behaviorist was not helpful she is getting better slowly with time. It is so hard with these dogs because it is not a speedy process training a negative attitude out. I have to say that the foster dog is doing well but I would never consider him cured. he is really sweet with people that he meets, it is just that he doesn't like to be challenged.

Also, can any one recommend books on the subject of dog behavior because every one that I have looked at is different and I feel that my dogs have personally suffered from this because of the inconsistancy. How do you know what is best and what to try with out being inconsistent and causeing harm to the dog?
 

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When I started doing research on the topic, I found that Patricia McConnell had a combination of positive training only point of view (that's important to me) along with specific expertise in fear aggression and aggression specifically. She has a ton of books. Pat Miller who I mentioned before also has lots of articles - probably a book or two on the subject as well. You can also email Patricia McConnell and her office will send you the names and contact info on trainers they "approve of" in your area and I bet Best Friends could recommend a ton of good books.

One of McConnell's books For the Love of a Dog - is about emotions in dogs and even though the whole book is not about aggression, it gives tons of good insights. I believe The Other End of the Leash also has really good sections on aggression.

Have fun at Best Friends! WOW!
 

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I am so happy to hear that you are going to work on this problem rather than to put him down. I would never do that. As far as I know, Homer has worked out with his new family, mostly because there are no other dogs or children there. If you get a dog in the right situation there is always hope. Good luck to you!
 

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This trainers onlyadvice was that he is old and to get used to it because it can't be changed.[/b]
Oh, poop!

Okay, Morton was a dog that I sold as a puppy. They returned him to me when he was 8, and I discovered he had "issues". Mainly, he was afraid of being disciplined. He was obedience trained, but they appear to have used William Koehler/Cesar Milan type methods, so if he thought that you were upset with him, or if it was a situation where he had been disciplined before (like nail cutting), he would growl and bite. I nearly had him put down when I boosted him into the car and he went for my face! However, I worked with him. I would use a muzzle and leash if I had to do something with him that would upset him, so that I could work calmly with him without worrying about getting bitten. I made a point of NOT getting upset with him, but being friendly and matter-of-fact and continuing on with what I was doing. Once he realized I wasn't going to get mad and hurt or scare him he calmed down, and I was able to praise and reward him for good behavior. He also learned that I WAS going to do what I wanted, and he couldn't make me back down, so he might as well accept it and get the reward instead.

As I said earlier, we got to where he was just fine with me, I was eventually even able to do his nails without a muzzle, pick him up, all the things that would have set him off before. But it was a long road, and as mentioned I would not have tried to send him to a new situation where they might not understand him. And I always kept in mind that he had to be handled in as non-threatening a way as possible. Even when picking him up, I let him know exactly what I was doing, I would not have simply grabbed him and hauled him into the air the way I do with my other dogs. When clipping nails, I made sure he knew what I was up to, rather than simply flipping him over and clipping away like my others are used to.

Now, every dog is different, and I can't see how your dog is reacting, so take this with a grain of salt. But I suggest the following:

Obedience classes - they open up the lines of communication between you and the dog. It's great for building confidence in dogs that need it, and for bringing the rowdies under control.

Nothing In Life is Free - a great way to establish your leadership in a nonviolent, unthreatening way.

http://k9deb.com/nilif.htm
http://www.goof.com/~pmurphy/NILIF.html

Make sure he understands the following.

YOU (and hubby), are the boss. What you say goes, always, and you are not intimidated by his antics. Plan ahead for situations, use a muzzle and/or leash if necessary so you have control of the situation.

You will not get mad, hurt or scare him. Remain calm and friendly at all times, even when the little *(%*#$% is trying to rip your face off while you're doing his nails. Reward and praise ALL progress, no matter how minor.

If you can find a trainer with something more constructive to offer than "get used to it", that would be helpful. Having an experienced outsider watching can help to pick up things you might not notice. Avoid anyone who wants you to "show him who's boss" or "alpha roll" him, he needs to learn new ways of dealing with situations.


No, I don't think he can be "cured". But if you're willing to work at it, and change some of the ways YOU do things, you should hopefully be able to get to a place where you can cohabitate peacefully.

I'm sure Mike has some good links for you.
 

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Unfortunately, there are some bassets with medical problems that no amount of training or work will help. In 40 years of working with bassets, I can think of at least 2 that finally were put down. They both had brain tumors and would suddenly for no reason, attack vicously. The hounds with correctable problems will maintain an attitude after the biting, sort of saying " I told you to leave me alone ". The ones with the tumors, immediately went into a posture of "I deon't know why I did that. I'm sorry, please don't scold me"
So if you have a basset that attacks and then, immediately goes into a total submissive posture, you should get a vet to check for a problem.
 

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I lived a similar experience like Betsy. My German Shepherd was very hard to manage. I got him at 8 weeks, then my Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I became her sole caretaker. I had no time to socialize this puppy and should have made the decision to return him to the breeder. I didn't and it resulted in him only accepting me, my Husband & my Father. To make matters worse, he was a compulsive tail chaser. The University of Penn. told me to euthanize him because he was so neurotic. :( He would turn on someone without warning and try to bite. We had him for 9 long years and like Betsy lived our lives around him. We limited houseguest. Someone was always home with him and we also have no children. He was sweet as pie with us but no one else. He finally passed away for illness (he was sick alot) at age 9 and it was bittersweet. We were incredibly sad but also relieved. If you have the time it takes and the funds it can be managed but it is exhausting. I wish you the best.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thank you everyone for your suggestions. They are all very informative and I will take them all to heart. I am going to keep working with this old boy because I know that there is a sweet old gentleman in there somewhere and will only give him up if there is no hope. Thanks again, Marcie
 

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Thank you everyone for your suggestions. They are all very informative and I will take them all to heart. I am going to keep working with this old boy because I know that there is a sweet old gentleman in there somewhere and will only give him up if there is no hope. Thanks again, Marcie[/b]

A couple things to keep in mind


1. A dog that is food agressive is likely to guard other resources as well and have touch sensitivity issues at least in some part of their body and it can easily be the whole body. It is unlikey the will ever be cuddly. A good resource for Resource guarding is Jean Donaldson's <a href="http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB740" target="_blank">MINE! A GUIDE TO RESOURCE GUARDING IN DOGS
</a> For a fair review of the book check out Kate Connick's Web Site
Clearly, this is not a book for someone who wants a quick fix to their problem. It requires a food-motivated dog and an extremely dedicated and talented owner with the patience and perseverance to apply the technique.

Although the book is decorated with oddly cutesy clipart, it appears to be written more for the dog trainer than the owner himself. Donaldson repeatedly refers to the dog's owner as a third party, implying that the owner is not the target audience of the book. Similarly, her writing style maintains a quasi-academic aloofness. This is unfortunate, because a more approachable writing style and tone geared more towards the owner himself would make the book more welcoming for the reader who really would benefit from reading it.[/b]
2. The more severe the bite the harder to rehabilitate the dog. Bite inhibition, a soft mouth can not be reliably taught to an older dog. In this way they are a ticking time bomb. While a dog may be able to be taught not to bite in situation it did so before. This is not the same as have a reliable dog. When push comes tro shove there are circumstance and and every dogs reaction is to bite. What distinquishes a safe dog to a dangerious one is the bite force use. As because of the relative dageriousness of a known biter is is dificult to to impossible to set up enough training with a likes of stranger to counter condition the dog never mind proof the behavior. While it may be posible to creat a dog that is reliable non biter around you it is much more diffcult to do the same for stranger. Say a bearded midget riding a unicycle for instance, Since most dogs bite out of fear. And dog are preprogamed to fear that which they have not seen , new and novel experience are more likely to prevoke a bite.

3. "I feel that my dogs have personally suffered from this because of the inconsistancy." WELCOME to the real world of dog training and behavior. No to dogs are alike and no two trainers, behaviorist owners are alike. There is no holy grail a magical methodolgy that works with every dog. and this does not even include the ease and ability of an owner to implement it. The best I can suggest is a basic understanding of behavior theory and taking what you know as your dogs likely reaction to a particular training concept and decide what you thing probability of a sucessful outcome using that technique. One must alos keep in mind that a techique is more of and out line than a specific game plan. It is most likely going to needed a bit of tweeking to fit your dog. Nothing in the world is consistent. By being too ridged we create just as much a problem in not teaching the dog how to properly adjust to change than being inconsitent in dealing with a behavior. In the end what you want to strive for is consitency in rewarding the behavior you want, and ignoring the behavior you don't. not necesarily consistency in training methodology.
 
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