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Looking for some help with a challenging basset rescue foster

2219 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  SophieB

I am an experienced dog owner, mostly hounds of various sorts. I have had a 5 year old basset foster for just over a week. My first ever all basset is a BIG BOY, 90lbs big and he's lost 10 since being turned over to rescue.

My concerns all center around his tendency to nip. I have it under control for now but he is going to have to go out in the world away from me and I'd like to fix the problem(s) not just avoid the situations. He is a bright loving guy and deserves that.

He snapped at me the first time I tried to encourage him to "go crate" using his collar. Now I have a set up so he has porch area and I stand so he can't back out, he can only stand looking at the crate with his nose at the door or go in. Once he's in I can reach for the snap and undo the lead. Nine times out of ten now he just goes in when I say "go crate".

He will snap if you reach for his collar to prevent him doing something he wants to, like beg people food or steal it off the counter. He clearly doesn't mean to harm but he also clearly means to follow through if you don't get the message. I have just been letting him drag a light lead and use it to control unwanted behaviours. He does not object to this at all. However I can't see leaving him on a lead all the time for the rest of his life.

The rescue operator said he is to wear a muzzle for ear cleaning and nail clipping still. I am not sure if I should be trying to put the muzzle on him occasionally so he tolerates it. Also I am not sure how to try it without getting nipped. A lead will not help me with this one, or ear cleaning or nail clipping LOL (He will without objection let me handle his ears and feet)

He is very mouthy.
1. He likes to have his lead in his mouth especially when I first put it on him or change from the light indoor lead to one suitable for walks outdoors. I have been offering him a cloth braid toy instead and gently removing the lead from his mouth, saying "off" He has little interest in the braid but seems to be getting the message that I'd rather he not chew the lead. I think his old owner may have thought it cute and encouraged it.
2. He likes to mouth almost suckle on the lead snap and collar ring. I have been removing it gently and telling him off. It does not seem to be affecting this behaviour at all. I tried distraction with toys and that was totally not a success.
3. He likes to lick and often follows licking with gentle nibbling like dogs use to remove burrs. I have allowed the licking to continue, withdrawing my hand and saying off when he nibbles, and I am reducing the length of time he is allowed to lick before moving it to pat where he can't reach to lick. This seems to be being effective.

Before you ask, yes I can ask the rescue operator about this. I do keep her informed. She assumes she has picked foster parent(s) she can trust to do what is needed, sometimes looking to others than her for resources as needed.

We look forward to your input.

slbj.mouse & B.BASSET
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it is likely his snapping behavior has been rewarded in the past that is by snaping he stops the man handling by the collar which he does not like.

Is he touch sensitive. i.e does he prefer not to be touched, petted etc.?
Touch sensitivity can further exaserbate problem with ear cleaning and toe nail cutting. Also keep in mind tough sensitive is often associated with resource guarding as well ie defending toys, food , people so you will want to be on the look out for this as well

As for the muzzle most definately You are going to need it to ensure safety when engaged in behavior mod program outline below I have never had a problem with a dog acepting a soft muzzle however I would be prepared to use desenitizing tecniques if the dog showed signs of fear or aggression when approach
I would suggest a desentiving type approach. Start by touching the collar fallowed by a reward/treat in situations that you are not or would not attempt to control the dog by the collar. Slowing progressing to situation more clossing resempling those in which he has snap previously. The idea is to creat a new association with touching or grabing the collar and that is one of getting food rather than one of being yanked around.

an intermediatecontrol device that could be helpful is a training tab i.e a short leash 6"-16" long or so. With bassets I reccommend the shorter variety you don't want the tab dragging and getting caught on something

I think his old owner may have thought it cute and encouraged it.
it is possible but a more likely explaination again is by biting the lead it is not able to be use to administer a "correction" a reaction to again prevent the infliction of of pain on the part of the dog. That said what the cause of the behavior is not important.

If the braided toy is only allowed when suppervise you might be able to increase interest through flavor enhancement

My concerns all center around his tendency to nip
while it can be disconcerting that fact you classify his behavior AS NIPPING is actual a good thing. He is inhibting his bite which at his age is not something that can be effectiviely taught. If the dog was inflicting puncture wounds or other serious injury the prognoses would not be nearly as bright. One main reason is that the fear of a serious bite limits what an how you can train,.

Keep in mind with desenitization training you will need to also incude as many other people as posible including complete strangers when you are extremely confident of a positive reaction from the dog. Dogs are poor generalizer and very good disciminators. If you are the only one involved in the desenitization training then the dog will learn it has no reason to fear you touching the collar but will still be fearful of anyone else doing so. It will take many repetition with many different people before the behavior is ever generalized to all people and even then you can never be sure.

That is the reason there needs to be full disclosure to any potential adopter about past history, and training on how to continue with any desenitization training. Having acquired a biter not a nipper from a breed rescue that was not fully disclosed I personal know how unpleasant an undisclosed serious behavior problem can be. . Couple that with their attempt to deal with the precurse to aggression ie growling with punishment, they actual created a very dangerious dog that now bit first and asked question latter. It took me over two year before the dog would once again growl as a warning. This is a problem when one emphysis surpression of a behavior over changing the dogs emotional response. That is while it is possible to surpress the growling it did not changes the unerlying fear by eliminating an import cue to understanding its emotional state it was left with only very limited choice of responses with bitting near the top of the list. It will never be one that I would trust with stranger though, Keep in mind at least some portion of most aggressive behaivior are genetic and not really amendable to behavior modification, what that is in any case no one knows but what it does mean is not every case is solveable. and management is the only feasable solution.


This booklet provides a step-by-step dog training program of desensitizing and classical counter-conditioning.

Desensitization & Counter Conditioning

Helping a dog accept human handling
. When a dog is fearful, reactive, worried, concerned, nervous, anxious about someone fussing about its neck and/or about its body, it will attempt to fight back in the only manner it knows.
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Wow & thanks!!

So much helpful, positve, realistic information. I think it will help me to return this wonderful guy to the best he can be after his BAD start.

He is not touch sensitve, rather wants contact. He sits on my feet. When I sit on the floor prefers to lie between my legs or over them when allowed. The second thing he wants after mouthing his lead when let out of his crate is to lean into me for patting. One day he knocked me over he was leaning so hard so I just sat on the floor and he wound himself around and around me, leaning in and rubbing on me like a cat would around ankles.

He is not food or toy agressive, so I assume not possesive of those. It never occured to me to include people as a class for possessiveness. He is definitely jealous = possessive of me already. He responds well to my showing it is not something I like or reward however which is a positive thing. He is so eager to please. Happiest when rewarded with praise, or affection. Food's okay but can be ignored if there is anything else of interest. Affection even verbal makes him just glow, almost vibrate with pleasure.

I have never before worked with a dog where I needed a muzzle. I would never have thought to use it as a part of a desensitizing process but it makes alot of sense. Also brings alot of relief! I don't mind being nipped accidentally. He's done that once, bruised my arm but didn't break the skin. He was having what I could only describe as a temper tantrum. Throwing himself around and snapping, not at anyone or anything just clearly saying stay away from me. I run a back packers hostel and he had been begging food from one of the guests. This tantrum was the reaction to my reaching towards his collar to move him away from the guest. When he finally sat up I looped the lead I was holding through its handle making a slip collar and from a distance slipped it over his head. No reaction, when I tugged gently on the lead and he knew I had it on him he again launched into the tantrum. I had no trouble getting him to the door of his crate where he calmed down and willingly entered it, as though nothing had ever happened. After that he seemed a little easier to control as though he had recognized that either I could/would control him or I wouldn't beat him.

I am aware of the difference between nipping and biting. If it were biting he would be on his way back to breed rescue as I do not have the skills to deal with that. This is a dog with a huge potential and I am so pleased to have found the help I need to give him as much of what he needs as I can.

Thank you! I will let you know how it goes and I am sure get more useful support as needed.
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Food's okay but can be ignored
I think you will notice a big change as the weight comes down,

good luck.

When using the muzzle it is a good idea to practice putting it on and off at time whem it is not being used for control line toe nail clipping , ear cleaning or a trip to the vet. That way the muzzle does not become conditioned as a predessor of bad things to come, Also when it come to using the muzzle it is unlikely to stop the dog from being able to nip but will prevent the dog from opening it mouth wide enough to do serious harm. With toe nail clip here with the bite is a two person process, and she is actual excited about it. The muzzle goes on and is accompanied by rapid fire feed of highly valued hot dog piece, only time she gets them while the second is free to clip the nails without much of a struggle.

I have never before worked with a dog where I needed a muzzle. I would never have thought to use it as a part of a desensitizing process but it makes alot of sense
I had no problem just putting the muzzle on with out desensitization there is no need to go slower than you need to just be prepared if you meet resistance to step back and go slow.

FWIW a size five worked best but she is a relatively small female with a short muzzle,

strdelength.flv video by toughynutter - Photobucket
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He snapped at me the first time I tried to encourage him to "go crate" using his collar. Now I have a set up so he has porch area and I stand so he can't back out, he can only stand looking at the crate with his nose at the door or go in. Once he's in I can reach for the snap and undo the lead. Nine times out of ten now he just goes in when I say "go crate".

slbj.mouse & B.BASSET
Our Moe was completely untrained when we adopted him at approx 7-9 months old. He was skinny, sick and not neutered. He was a wild and crazy guy who was not housebroken, had no manners or training at all and he bit hard enough to leave large purple bruises. Crate-training was very important to help get him well, to protect my children from his biting until we could deal with it, and to keep this insane mischeif-maker in check while training. We called his crate "home". We would say "Go home Moe" and then toss a treat into his crate. In he'd go. Basicly that was it. First he tolerated it, then he grew to like it. His crate was where he "buried" biscuits in his blanket, hid his toys from Tally, our Doxie, and it was where he retreated when reprimanded or when he was tired or unwell. He learned the signs of when we were going out and would go "home"to wait for his treat.

We dealt with getting him veterinary treatment and neutered. Then, when he was well, we had him evaluated by a trainer to determine why and when he bit, and she taught us how to handle it. It took time but my totally untrained but handsome Moe became a loving, well-loved member of our family who I can't bear the thought of losing.

Toughy is a fount of helpful information and one of the best recources cyberhound has for Basset owners. His advice helped me many times in my early years with Moe.

Good luck!
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My family have had Bassets (mostly rehomes apart from my current pups and two others from pups) and never once have we seen any agression of any sort in any of them, or others that we have known over the years.

Perhaps your foster Basset needs to be with someone who can give him one to one attention where there are no other dogs in the house because Bassets are not known to be aggressive and I have heard the Dog Whisperer say that they are the most dicile and least agressive dogs he has ever come across! My two Bassets grab each other around the neck but they are playing with each other! Was yours 'playing' with the poodle?

Can you try him with a softer type of muzzle rather than a hard plastic thing that he will find uncomfortable and it might annoy him!
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