I failed as a mother and a dog owner…long...positive advice needed :(

  • Tosca bit my son last night.
    If you read my post a few down, we did have one issue when Colton was 2 months old. He is now 9 months. Tosca had growled at him when he invaded her space while she was resting. I posted how the only other times Tosca has growled is when food was involved (rawhide situation) or again, when she was resting. I had intended to get a behavorist or someone involved, and this is partly where I failed. We had had no more incidences since then, and since I knew that Tosca had only shown aggression when with food/resting, we obviously had Colton avoid interacting with her in those situations.
    The rest of the time, we were cautious, but did let them interact. Never completely alone, but when we were in the room together, they would be playing around (usually independently). Colton would occasionally try to grab at/pet Tosca, and we'd just help him do it, or redirect him, but Tosca never showed any aggression toward him doing this. Sadly, we let our guard down.
    Fast forward to last night…
    Tosca and Colton were playing around in the kitchen/living room. We have kind of an open concept, where the two rooms run together. I was in the living room, Colton was crawling back and forth, and Tosca was independently going back and forth as well, but the two weren't really interacting. All of a sudden I heard a snarl in the kitchen, and saw Colton bend over, crying. Of course, I freaked out, and went to Colton, expecting him to be scared, but Ok. When I picked him up, I saw Tosca had bitten his cheek. I woke up my husband, and we examined the injuries.
    He had bruising on his right cheek, and 2 puncture wounds. The bleeding stopped, as did his crying, after a couple of minutes, but the wounds looked pretty deep. I called the peditrician, and took him in to be looked at. They prescribed and antibiotic as a precaution, and did decide to stitch up the wounds. He didn't NEED the stitches, but we did it to help minimize scaring on his face. Colton took it like a champ, but I was a mess. Today, Colton is fine, playing around and happy...but obviously we need to see where to go now.
    When the incident happened, we were both so much in shock, neither of us really did anything with Tosca. As you can read last time, my husband my husband got angry, this time I think he was just sad...in shock and not knowing what to do. We both knew we couldn't exactly do anything so far after it happened, so from Tosca's point of view, we pretty much just ignored her behavior.
    Now we don't know what to do. Even though I didn't see EXACTLY what happened, I am 100% sure Colton did something to provoke her...either startled her, grabbed her tail, or something. I just wish I knew exactly what set Tosca off. There wasn't food anywhere in the area, and she was not having her space invaded. Yet, Colton obviously made her feel uneasy about something, and the thing that scared me was there was no warning growl this time, just the snarl/bite.
    The shred of good news is that once Tosca bit, she didn't keep going. She backed off immediately, did not shake her head or try to keep going at him, and showed no further agression to me or my husband. That is what is so weird too, as soon as it was over, Tosca acted like nothing happened.
    I feel horrible...I feel awful for not seeing EXACTLY what happened, even though I was in the area, I should have been watching them closer. I also feel like a failure for getting comfortable and not following through with a behaviorist after the incident a few months ago. It just seemed we had identified the triggers (food, resting) and we never pictured Tosca acting agressively while just going about her normal day and playing.
    So...now we have a big decision to make...do we try to rehome Tosca, or still try to work things out with our family, obviously with BIG and immediate changes. This is where I need advice...
    *If we do decide to go the route of rehoming her, will BRAT help us out, now that she has a bite on her record? I refuse to take her to a shelter, and I really do think she could have a happy life in a home with adults who understand basenjis and don't have any other kids or pets in the home. Other than this, she is a great dog, and has never shown agression to adults.
    *Since I am in WI, I also considered calling the Basenji Club of Southeast WI...do you think they would be any help?
    *If we do decide to rehome, is there any other resources we can use? Like I said, I refuse to just take her to a shelter. We got her from a shelter in Dubuque, Iowa, so I have no breeder information on her.

    Our other option is to still try to work things out with her...does this seem possible? My husband has looked online for things we can do to divide up our living room to have one area for Tosca, and another for Colton. That way they'd each have their own space and yet not be together. I'd be willing to try, but I don't know if this would work long term or not. Basically, we'd have to come up with some plan to keep them apart. Sometimes it would be easy, when DH and I are downstairs working out, doing our own thing, etc, we'd just bring Tocsa and the other one would be with Colton. Other times we'd have to get more creative, like the idea above.
    Another thing we would have to do (for real this time) is consult a behaviorist. I have some questions about this...
    *Would a behaviorst be willing to help us, or would he/she suggest immediate rehoming?
    *If we were to work with someone, do you think we could ever get to the point where we could have the 2 around each other again?

    Any positive advice and input would be greatly appreciate. I know I screwed up big time in a lot of areas (not following through with the behaviorist, letting my guard down, etc) so I am not looking for criticism, but some positive advice on how to handle the situation now. I at a loss, and I know our decision will not be made overnight...right now we are just going day by day until we figure out the right thing to do for everyone. I'd love to try to keep Tosca in the family, but I'm not sure it's the right thing or not...I need to look at all the options and try to do the right thing.

    Thank you for any positive input/thoughts you can give me to help deal with this. I should add that I do not believe for a second Tosca's bite was a result of a physical matter. We are going to the vet (as required by law from all dog bites), but I really think Colton just did something to provoke her. She has been acting totally normal since the incident, we have just obviously been keeping the two of them apart.

    This is so hard, and I am hoping I can get some help and support here, which ever route we decide to take. 😞

  • First of all, you are not a failure in either venture! Things happen, don't beat yourself up. Thank goodness that the bite is healing up quickly, and Colton is a little champ! It sounds like Tosca gave him a 'correction'…he was doing something she didn't like, and she corrected him like she would a puppy. Fairly normal dog/toddler interaction. She has been acting like nothing happened, because in her mind nothing happened....rude puppy, she corrected him...

    As far as keeping her vs. rehoming her...that is a very personal decision. Some people couldn't tolerate the thought of a dog that might bite their child in their home....some people are willing to take the risk...but keeping your child safe in that situation can be a lot of work. As you have learned, you can't ever turn your back on them; but some people are willing to do whatever it takes to make that a reality. The good news is that she may get more comfortable with Colton as he gets more predictable. Toddlers and dogs are the WORST combo...for a lot of reasons. That being said, I would totally understand if you decided you can't live with the risk.

    I think that you could find a behaviorist that would work with you. You may find someone that will suggest rehoming, but is willing to work with you if you are truly committed to everyone's safety. There is a behaviorist/trainer in that area that has Basenjis. I will try to find the info and post it. A good trainer will help you recondition Tosca to feel like good things happen whenever Colton is around. I definitely think that you could get to the point they could be around each other again, particularly when Colton is older and can understand consequences of behavior.

    I do think that BCOSW would help you in whatever way they can. I don't know for sure if rescue organizations would take her on, but it is possible, and worth investigating if you want to take that route.

    So, don't beat yourself up. This could have happened if you had been right there..dogs and kids are fast! And Tosca is not a bad dog...she is just confused by the baby. And you are certainly NOT a bad mom!!!!

  • Shoot, the person I was thinking of is in the Twin Cities area…so not much help. I will see if I can find some other contacts.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write me such a thoughtful response. I know you are very experienced, and a mom, so you were one of the people I was most hoping would respond. Even though I am not active here much since Colton came, I have been a part of this community for years now, and have really gotten to see the wonderful advice many people have…thank you so much for that.
    That's too bad the person you were thinking of is not from our area, if you do know of any resources PLEASE send them my way. Not that it is an acceptable excuse, but that's part of the reason why I didn't pursue things more months ago, I never seemed to find any good people to contact in my area. If we decide to keep Tosca, though, something obviously HAS to be done this time, no more putting it off.
    I am glad to hear you think we might still be able to work with Tosca, though I am still not sure what we are going to do. It's so hard to talk to anyone in real life about the subject, also, since everyone is so quick to judge, and most people don't understand dogs the way people on here do. I think if we do decide to keep Tosca, the majority of people I know in person will think we are insane.
    ALso, thank you for not judging me...though I'll fully admit this was a lack of proper parenting, I am glad to hear you don't think I'm a horrible mom 🙂

  • I agree with Andrea, don't beat yourself up. And I don't think anyone else here wants to either. 🙂

    Shawn Smith might be able to help. http://www.custompetservices.com/about-custom-pet-services.html She used to be involved with BCOSW/BCOA and is a trainer and knows basenjis. She is closer to Whitewater I think, so not super close to Sheboygan, but maybe she can recommend someone in your area. Otherwise, I can definitely ask someone else in BCOSW if they can recommend any trainers.


  • Thank you, I will look this over and contact her…if nothing else just to speak with her if possible, and see what she suggests. If you do know of any more places in my area, please do send them my way 🙂
    If you are able to give it out, do you have any contact info for BCSOW? I looked on their site, but couldn't find a phone number or anything. I found email links, but they didn't work with the way I have my computer set up, I couldn't see the actual email addresses, just the links, which didn't work for me.
    I just wish I had seen more what happened, so I could get better help/insight from a trainer. I am thinking Colton just startled her somehow, but I wish I knew if it were resource guarding or something like that...I don't know what she would have been guarding in the place it happened, but you never know...maybe there was a piece of food on the floor that I missed or something. Either way, I am anxious to at least speak to a professional. As great as it is to post on here, it will be easier and even more helpfuul to explain exactly what happened, and discuss the situation in a live conversation.

  • We don't have a general contact email on the site yet, but you can email Lisa Marshall, who is our club president. She would be happy to help (and probably would contact Shawn, actually). If you can't get to her email address on the http://www.bcosw.org/contact.html page like you said, try the specialty contacts page which has another link to her email. http://www.bcosw.org/2011BCOANational/Contacts.html

    Otherwise, I can have Alex give you my email address and I can send it to you that way.


  • I tried the second site, but still couldn't get to it…it just has the person's name, and when you click on the name, it's supposed to put their email address into a message for you. I don't have this set up on my computer, so when I click the name, it says I have no default email client or something like that 🙂 I have tried setting that up in the past, but using Yahoo email, I couldn't figure out how to do it...
    So, if you don't mind, that would be great if Alex could send me your email, and I can get in touch with you that way.
    I don't remember, because it's been awhile since I've been more active here, but are private messages back? Is it against TOS to give personal contact information there?
    Whatever is easiest 🙂 Just let me know...thanks again for your help, I am anxious to talk to someone in person and see what they recommend also.
    Have a great day!

  • When you hover you mouse over the person's name, if you look down in lower bar of browser it will say the email address but only as long as you are hovering on the link.

  • I asked Alex to send you my email address, so you should have that if what lvoss suggested doesn't work for some reason.

  • I am uber responsible about dogs and toddlers. I have dogs (chows and rotties) who could kill a child. And yet, I once came out of the bathroom to find my child sitting with my rottie, her head wrapped in a blanket and … I kid you not... Qtips stuck up each nostril.

    My point? We all make mistakes. Anyone who says they don't hasn't lived very long, is delusional, or a liar.

    Fortunately, I had raised the rottie right. And I believe there are things you can do to change things soon. Once your child is old enough.. and that may be in as little as a year ... he becomes the one and only giver of food. No one ever feeds the dog but him. He also becomes the person to let her outside and in. You would be amazed how fast a dog will see even a toddler as higher in the pack if they control those things.

    If there is a university vet school near you, call for a behaviorist consultation.

    In the mean time, crate her when you can't actively watch her. Or, get a basket muzzle for her to wear when she has to be around him. She won't die, removes the worry. But absolute supervision is critical.

    I am not sure about BRAT's policy on taking a dog that has bitten but sadly <putting on="" flame="" proof="" clothing="">I do know what many rescues do and what I sadly believe all should... dogs that have bitten, no matter the reason, should be kept out of rescues. Sadly if you know a dog has bitten, and it doesn't matter WHY, if that dog bites again the person placing the dog can be sued. It isn't worth risking a rescue being shut down to save one dog, however innocent.

    Yes, you should have gotten help with the food issues before. But guess what? It is not too late to work on it. Understand this, and hopefully explain to your husband. Food aggression is NORMAL for dogs. Dogs that are not protective of food starve in the wild. We work on food issues from birth, we train it out of them. But it is normal. Really it is. Fortunately most dogs learn that humans are a food source. Unfortunately when small children are involved they also must learn that even if a human TAKES or bothers the food, they don't get to respond.

    Mary Woodward is a friend, and trainer. Sadly she is in DE so of no help individually, but her pages can help you understanding how to turn the behaviors around.

    Kathy Diamond Davis is another buddy, and writer. You can write her directly, tell her I sent you. KDiamondD@aol.com


    And like the rest said, stop beating yourself up. ((hugs))</putting>

  • Hi..my sweeties, Lucy (basenji) & Ella (granddaughter) are the best of friends…NOW. Lucy was very grumpy when awakened or "loved on" when eating. She has grown out of most of the grumpiness! I worked on telling her OFF, when Ella came to sit with me..she grumbled & sometimes would "strike" with clenched teeth, but she did get off. We then invited her back up, & she found a comfy place, on our laps to sit & get scratched. Ella (now 6, also) has gotten very good at the off & the hours of scratching Lucy's head & ears...I swear she purrs. With her food...I would hold her bowl & ask her to sit..& wait. I then would put the bowl down..only if she held it. Then while she was eating I would position myself in front of her bowl...& she would sit or lay down & wait till I gave the okay. This took time & nerves of STEEL with a basenji looking at you sideways & being very still, ready to strike. Today all is good, & Ella LOVES Lucy & vice a versa!

  • Thanks again everyone! I called Shawn today, and left a voicemail…she called me back but we can't talk till tomorrow. She was hesitant to help because of distance, but said she would do what she could, and she is looking for someone in my area. I am anxious to talk to her tomorrow, hopefully I can get some good information 🙂

  • I agree with Andrea. Tosca was correcting. Sadly, a baby's skin isn't protected by fur nor does a baby have the reflexes of a puppy who would have been diving for cover at the first hint of snarl.

    I'm so sorry that Colton was bitten. I imagine that was terrifying to you as a mom. It was a mistake. That happens. Everyone is lucky that it wasn't worse.

    Colton could have bumped her. You will never know what occurred. Now to do what you can to prevent it from ever happening again. 🙂 Hang in there. Reaching out and asking for help was a HUGE step!

  • I do hope whatever trainer your able to get, can help you work with your b in your home.
    Its always best if that can happen.

  • I really have nothing further to add and I'mm sure with the help you're getting this can be resolved. I agree with what has already been said and that it was purely a reprimand and natural to Tosca. As the others have said there is no point beating yourself up about something that could have happened to any one. I once adopted a dog who when he came treeated my small children as people to be disciplined when he thought they were naughty (often just invading his space)

    It took us exactly a year to resolve the whole thing mainly by establishing the childrens control by hand feeding him (they took turns) Until we considered him reliable we kept a basket muzzle on him but didn't separate him from the children. It was also a matter of teaching the children too to respect his space. I know your little one is as yet too young to expect him to understand but as somebody else said time will resolve this and not much either.

  • Just wondering how things are going?

  • Thanks for asking 🙂
    Things are going ok…Colton is healing well, he got his stitches out yesterday, so he no longer looks like Chucky 😛 You can definitely still tell it was a bite, though, which is embarrassing when I take him anywhere.
    Tosca is doing ok too...her vet visits have been fine (we have to go 3x in 10 days per law) but she is going crazy with no walks for 10 days. Monday can't come fast enough in that regard!
    It hasn't been too bad, though, keeping them apart. It sucks, but it's been managable with rawhides, and rotating her between outside, and up/down with DH or I, whoever doesn't have Colton at the moment.
    I have called 2 behaviorists, but so far we are playing phone tag. One I am hoping to talk to on Sunday, the other might have to wait until after the weekend. I was sick Tuesday and Wednesday so I didn't get calling as quickly as I should have. The first was recommended by Shawn Smith, and the second from my vet. After I speak to them in person, I'll try to decide who would be better for our situation. Hopefully we can get whoever it is in quickly and get working on this...so far it's been manageable, but certainly not easy. Especially with winter coming, and we can't put Tosca outside as much.
    So overall we are managing just fine, and waiting for more news...I'll update again soon 🙂 Thanks to everyone who helped me...it's great to have such wonderful support!

  • Do you not have a large crate for Tosca?
    Not sure what kind of rawhide, but I am of the "should be banned" group. One of my worse experiences with dogs was watching a dog strangle and die a horrible death with FIVE of us trying to hold him down to get the wet sticky rawhide chunk out. It was traumatic to put it mildly.

  • Let me know how your consult goes with the trainer 🙂 you can email me at quercusbasenjis at gmail dot com

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