No nipping here, mine draws BLOOD!

Biting…A short novel by TuckerVA:

Okay, so I've been reading through the forums about biting and nipping and I've yet to see one where anyone's B bites like mine. Not a source of pride, mind you...

As I've stated in threads a while back, mine was a BRAT adoption. I knew before I adopted him that he had bitten a 14yo kid with his past family, but I never knew the details. I learned the details early with Tucker. He stole a sock and I pinned him and took it away from him about 2 days after I brought him home and I'm now missing a chunk of my right inner forearm (yes, scarred for life now...boo hoo!). :rolleyes: It was almost instantaneous...the recollection of a conversation with his previous owner about giving the dog a treat to get stolen articles away from him. His biting went unpunished but I was also thinking "why in the hell would I want to treat my dog for stealing things I didn't want him to?". Eventually we came to terms. However....

Since this event and in the past 10 months I've had him, he's bitten 9 PEOPLE! Me (lots of blood), 2 kids (no blood), the UPS guy (no blood), the neighbors dad's (a bit of blood), and three of my friends (some bloody, some not so much).

I've tried to make sense of this and can chaulk some up to him being startled, some defensive of his territory, etc. But on some occasions, he's snarly and really pissed. One moment you are playing nicely, the next he's in attack mode.

I haven't had a thyroid done because it's been so seldom (to me) that he loses his mind (methinks).

I'll try to explain each situation as I remember it. Maybe that will shed some light...

  1. Me, story told above.
  2. UPS guy. Walker was walking him and the UPS guy wanted to say hello. I wasn't there, but the UPS guy got a nip for his friendliness. I imagine this is just simply 'he's a stranger, I don't like him, he wears funny brown clothes'.
  3. Neighbor's dad. Tucker was with walker again. Walker around a corner and neighbors dad came out of condo in breezeway. Tucker rounded corner and was allegedly startled by a man standing there who subsequently bent over Tucker to say hello, and got bit for it. Mainly deep scratches. Neighbor's dad is stranger to Tucker.
  4. My buddy. I was helping a friend move and brought the dog along. We left him in an empty apartment while between places. My friend tried to push the dog back through the door as Tucker was trying to bolt. Got bit for it. Minor scratches, a bit of blood. Relationship wasn't established between the two of them. Friend was stranger to Tucker.
  5. Another buddy. My friend had been around only a few times but was scared to death of Tucker for whatever reason. He came over once and as soon as he came in the door, Tucker leaped off the sofa, ran to door in a flash, jumped up and bit his arm pretty hard. If my friend didn't have a jacket on, he would have lost some skin. I didn't see it happen it was so fast.
  6. My nephew-in-law, 7yo. Kid was told not to acknowledge the dog (to ignore him) and he didn't all weekend and there were no problems. However, the kid broke down once and started teasing the dog and got attacked. Just minor scratches, but I heard it from the other room and there was some serious snarling going on. I thought the kid was a dead man, but it was a case of volume over damage.
  7. Another friend. A female friend of mine was over who had a good relationship with Tucker. Pretty long one as well. They've been around each other a LOT. So she was petting Tucker (she was standing, he was standing on sofa). When she stopped petting him, he snarled and bit her in the leg as she turned. No warning, no nothing. This one has me perplexed.
  8. My ex roommates friend/boyfriends' kid (mouthful, yes, I know). My roommate took the day off around Easter and hosted her man's kid to dye eggs. I don't know all the details, but the kid got bit. She's since moved out, and the stories I've heard are vague. My walker was there about to take Tucker out. Apparently, the kid was teasing with the dog, as she described it, but nothing to deserve getting bitten. Just running around. Tucker doesn't seem to like kids, and I understand that and am wary of it, but my roommate didn't tell me what was happening that day while I was at work. Note: My roomate was informed of his behavior around children REPEATEDLY.
  9. My new roommate and long time friend. After a couple weeks of living together, we got some take out food. My roommate placed his food on an ottoman and I told him not to do it because the dog might not respect him yet and may take his food or claim it as his own. So my roommate stood between the dog and the food and the dog persisted, so my roommate tried to push the dog away. I caught only the last second of this and before I could scream "NOOOOOOO!", Tucker bit his arm slightly. MY roommate went to push him away again and Tucker sank his teeth into my roommates thumb which should have gotten stitches. In hindsight, this could have been avoided by my roommate simply removing the food from the ottoman, but whodathunk it was going to happen? (I guy who's dog had already bitten 8 people...probably.) :rolleyes:It was a unique situation that I handn't experienced, so I was unprepared and until it happens, you can't warn someone off from a dog that's never exhibited food aggression previously.

With all of these unique situations, it's hard to find a pattern aside from that of general aggression toward strangers, a lack of proper socialization prior to adoption (the prev. owners told me he was 'their pup' and was not exposed to many visitors or other dogs), and just a downright ornery disposition sometimes. He'll growl at me now and again over things like the warm spot he's nested on the bed, but now that I've established myself as the boss or 'pack leader', he's easy to shut down with a harsh stare, showing my teeth, growling back or simply telling him to shut the heck up. Seems like the less a person is afraid of the dog, the more he respects you which is understandable after having read some stuff on it. Basically, I'm his boss and he's got total respect for me, but me alone - seemingly. My roommate has established this with Tucker as well.

I warn everyone who comes within 100 feet of him about his behavior and tell them to ignore him. If people do this, there's NEVER a problem and pretty soon, he's pining on total strangers for attention and lying in their laps. It's only the people who surprise him or that momentary lapse of judgement on my part that he's set off.

I WILL get him checked for hyperthyroid soon as it seems necessary at this point. I didn't previously because the previous owner did so after he bit the kid and Tuck tested fine.

However, perhaps the more experienced members here can provide some input? I don't think the hyperthyroid is going to unearth some miracle explanation to his behavior, but I'll let the vet determine that. This is a distinct character trait in this dog. With B's, I swear, if it's not one thing, it's another. Mine doesn't eat furniture or tear stuff up, he doesn't surf the counters, he isn't food aggressive but he'll bite the piss out of you if you cross him.

I'm thinking that it's a simple case of undersocialization combined with a distinct fear or wariness around strangers who have not established themselves to him. I can do anything I want with or to this dog without fear of the prior reprocussions that I learned the hard way initially and in the wake of establishing myself as THE ONLY man of the house. I would think a hyperthyroid disorder would extend to me as well given similar circumstances, no???

In my novice/unsolicited/untrained opinion..(however I've done quite a bit of reading & working with an animal behaviorist for my own B's issues 😃 ) it sounds like he's afraid of people & strangers! Every time someone approaches him is another opportunity to reinforce…that YES these people are scary & now I am SURE they are scary because they keep coming at me.

They're intimidating Tucker & he'll get a whole lot worse before he gets better. He's also probably thinking my human is not helping me much becuz the people come around & he lets them get near me when I clearly want to be left alone. It's not his fault he's protecting himself....because he's afraid. I say "afraid" becuz it sounds like when given space & ignored he's fine.

It's up to you to teach him that these situations are not scary. His encounters with people need to be in a controlled environment where they can listen to the following instructions. And you'll need to work on this..it won't be easy & he won't change over night but you don't lose anything by giving it a good try.

1-manage the situation so everyone is safe! Do not let people around him if he's afraid of them. If you have to have people over then put him in a room that's safe. If he's on a walk & people are around the Walker should avoid any contact with people. Every chance that someone approaches him it reinforces his fear. He absolutely can not be around people until he's better.

2-write out a list of what the triggers are...& look for them..is it a knock on the door? is it eye contact for someone? is it a reaching hand?? Watch him closely & figure out what triggers his fear. Look for signs of when he's feeling tense...stiffness, glaring eyes, tight pucker, ears upright..

3-figure out what Tucker LOVES...and ONLY let him have it right after the appearance of a trigger (person, doorbell, knock..) Food is usually the answer here but GOOD food...not cookies, not store bought fake meat..the real good human stuff.

4-When the trigger appears give the most AWESOME treat in the world....starting with low intensity triggers & easing your way higher. For example: a knock on the door...YUMMY treat or door bell ringing...YUMMY treat or seeing a person from your window YUMMY treat..then work your way up...open the door with a person in the door way YUMMY treat...then person in the room (NO CONTACT at all) Yummy Treat

5-don't do too much too fast otherwise he will regress PLEASE start very very slow...session 1-should just be a low trigger like a knock on the door. Then session ends after 2 minutes. Session 2-a door bell then session ends after 3 minutes...Session 3-unfamiliar person sighting session ends after 4 minutes Session 4 unfamiliar person in the room (NO CONTACT)..session ends after 2 minutes...slow progression is key

6-don't every stop working with him...every day...forever!

You may also want to look into working with Animal Behaviorist in your area..check out the website www.iaabc.org

And finally…read up & educate yourself as much as you can. The more you learn about your dog & how to communicate with him the better your relationship will be. He will learn to trust you in scary situations...so be there for him when he needs you.

These are some of my favs...

Patricia Mcconnell -The Cautious Canine: How to Help Your Dog Overcome His Fears
Brenda Aloff -Agression in Dogs: Practical Management
Emma Parson -Click to Calm
Terry Ryan- Toolbox for Remodeling Your Problem Dog

Good luck & hope some of this helps. It's helped me tons with my fearful little one.

<_>

Sadly....this is what punishing, or yelling at a biting dog can lead to...more biting....without warning.

I think Tucker has learned to use his mouth to get what he wants. I can't tell if he is fearful...or if it started out that way. But I think he sounds a lot like my Ivy. If you piss her off..she might bite you. When I tried early on to punish her physically, it got worse. Ivy is nervous in many situations...she is very high strung...but she isn't exactly a fear biter. She learned early on that if she bit someone, they would stop doing what was making her angry/irritated.

So we use lots of management for Ivy. She rarely gets to meet new people; at least not in a situation that isn't very carefully controlled. She always gets muzzled at the vet's. I know what her triggers are, and I know what she looks like right before she bites. If there are people visiting our house who are uncomfortable around her, or unlikely to follow my specific instructions about how to deal with her, she goes in her crate.

I have worked a lot with her on object exchanges, and distractions, and leave-it. It does help. She hasn't tried to bite a family member over a guarded item in years.

My first word of advice to you is to keep most of your friends away from Tucker, unless they can follow your instructions. Too many guys want to be the big, macho, dog slayer...it will only make your problem worse.

Set him up for success. Find a good behaviorist to give you some exercises to work on. But make sure it is someone who really understands aggression, and doesn't discount your dog off the bat because he is a Basenji._

There could be another side to this. We don't know what happened in the last family situation. However, this dog seems to have been able to control everyone and eveything around him. Many guard dogs get into this habit. They have been trained to be in control instead of being trained obedience first and then guard. Any guard dog worth his salt should listen first and foremost to obedience commands. The first time, everytime. Sit means sit the first time, not sit-sit-sit-good dog, but sit-good dog. Obedience training may help you control a lot of these situations. He would have to focus on what the commands are instead of the reactions to his action. (If that makes sense-telling him to sit when he gets agitated and then go through a roll of commands may take his focus off the item and back onto you>)

The other family had it right, sort of, in that distraction is a tool. Andrea is correct. Find a behaviourist that will work on all techniques-without thinking he's "just a Basenji". Control of the situation seems to be of utmost importance.

Find a behaviourist that will work on all techniques-without thinking he's "just a Basenji". Control of the situation seems to be of utmost importance.

Arlene is absolutely right…control is key. And I think Andrea hit it right on the nose (better than I ever could 😃 )..it's an emotion whether it's fear, anger, irritation, frustration...any number of emotions will force your dog to take matters into his own hands and then HE controls the situation.

With a good AB you will be able to figure out what is triggering him & what exactly is the emotiont that is forcing him to react in such a way & then you'll be to work on communication with Tucker..."no need for you to worry here I am and I will handle it for you."

To me it sounds like the previous owners praised his bad behaviors when he would take something which would be confusing for anyone. I would begin to give treats when he does good things to retrain the idea.

Use a spray bottle for growls or bad behavior. Use it to startle but dont acknowledge the bad behavior. Act like you didnt see the water and dont let him see the water bottle.

The other main issue it sounds like is the socialization. I would suggest doing the basic obedience training in a Petsmart. You will have a trainer with you each time you go. You will be introducing your basenji to other dogs in your class in a controlled atmosphere. You will be in a busy store with people that will help him socialize and get used to the people.

Once you have learned the tricks or commands from class and your basenji performs them with you flawlessly. Have your roommate use the same commands and gestures until your b can do them with your roommate. Then add a friend that isnt around all the time and slowly teach the dog how to communicate and receive praise and treats for his actions.

I suspect that with this training, your basenji will soften that aggressive behavior and want the treats. The behavior may never go away completely, but you will always be around to keep an eye on him. If you have a dog walker, I would think that it is very important that your walker follows your guidlines for training to keep your dog safe when he is away from you.

Strangers who have been bitten by a dog have had the ability to put the dog to sleep and it is important that you do not permit him to find an opportunity to slip.

My rescue was food aggressive and fearful of everything. She had seperation anxiety, growled, and took 2 years to potty train. It is important to be consistant with your training. It is important to praise. My rescue settled down completely after 3years and I learned the triggers to avoid.

I would also suggest not having any pull or shake playing with your basenji which would mimick tugging or tearing prey.

When your basenji is relaxed, massage him. Touch his mouth, his ears, hold his feet. Teach him to understand that there is no off limit area. Have your roomate and dog walker do this as well once you feel he has begun learning from the training. Have your roommate help you bathe him, and so on and so forth.

As long as one of the 3 of you can handle him in basic training, around people and handeling him you should be more confident that you are protecting him as well as the many victims he could encounter in the future.

You know he is great and you want to take care of him. The best way to do that is by helping him learn to communicate with people, not out of fear.

Oh, and a soft muzzle is a great way to take him for walks with a dog walker and keep him from hurting anyone else. He can move his mouth, but wont be able to open it. I bought mine at Petsmart when Caesar was a puppy and eat his seat belt off when in the car going anywhere. Do not use it with punishment, but as a tool to let him know it is time to go for a walk!!

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