Behaviourist/rescue MNers, please help - need advice and may need to rehome mini poodle boy(27 Posts)
Hello all, I really would appreciate some advice. I know there are some of you who work in rescue or have links with rescues and if it comes to this, I want what's best for our dog. We have not yet made the decision to rehome and we are working with a behaviourist to try to resolve the issues but I could do with some hand-holding as I am struggling with this. I'll try to provide a brief summary:
We got our mini poodle last summer, from a good breeder, at the age of 9 weeks. The normal early puppy phase passed much as you would expect although he has been very barky with other dogs since he was little (that's not the issue). For some weeks now, he has been displaying quite severe guarding tendencies and the behaviourist has given us training to do with him to try to address this. However, he is also now attacking us at random and actually bit me a few days ago in the back of my hand and left a puncture wound. When this happened , he had just come up to me and asked for a fuss and when he lay down to be stroked - as he has done multiple times every day since we have had him - he sank his teeth into my hand. If it had happened to dd (who is 13 and very good with him), I think I would have been looking for a new home for him but I don't want to be the kind of owner who gives up on their dog without trying every possible option first and I am now so upset and feel that we have somehow got something wrong or let him down.
Over the past few days, the aggressive behaviour has got worse and although we have been avoiding stroking him unless he comes and head-butts for a fuss - and even then it's a quick pat and hand away - he is now growling and snapping even without that. Last night, I was training him and after I'd clicked and treated for the final time, I put my hand down to give him quick pat and said 'Good boy'. He leapt up at me with his teeth bared, snarling and managed to rip my shirt as his teeth caught in it.
My mother does our dog-sitting and in the interests of context, I should say that the only reason we have a puppy and not an older dog is because she was quite insistent that she wanted to dog-sit for us. I spent a long time looking on rescue sites for an older dog with some leaving training, as I am out at work and there was no way we could have a puppy (I would only have left an older one for a max of 4 hours but that was far more do-able). My mother spent months insisting that we would be better with a puppy - no bad habits, train them your way from scratch etc - and was quite adamant that she wanted my daughter (whose dog he really is) to 'have her dog' and would happily dog-sit for us every day. I fear now she may have had a rose-tinted memory of her childhood spaniel, who apparently was perfect with absolutely no training
Our dog has also been aggressive to my mother on several occasions and she rang me at lunchtime to say she is 'depressed' about facing this every day. When she arrived today - he is left for 3 hours then she arrives and this has always been fine until recently - he ran to the door growling and snarling, jumped up and tried to snap at her and then when she sat down at the dining table with a cup of coffee, sat on the other side of the room growling at her and barking and snarling if she went anywhere near him. I have some sympathy but she sets herself up as the world expert on everything and just keeps saying that he should be neutered. He hasn't been yet and we planned to wait until he was a year, although when the guarding behaviour started, we did ask the vet about doing it sooner. All 4 behaviourists we contacted before choosing one advised against it as it might make matters worse so we have held off for now. I should add that after he bit me, doggy was checked by the vet and there is no physical problem.
If my mother throws in the towel, we are stuck as I cannot afford to pay for doggy daycare every day of the week and I'm not sure that a daycare place would want a dog with this behaviour anyway. I am in tears typing this as my mother was extremely unpleasant on the phone just now - 'I said at the start you shouldn't have a dog' 'He needs to be neutered, why can't the behaviourist see that' - and I am also really pissed off with her although she has form for her convenient memory (that's another story....).
I don't want to give up on him but I am really stressed by his behaviour - I feel I can't trust him and don't want him near my daughter. It feels as if we cannot even stroke our own dog without watching him like a hawk and to be honest, that doesn't help as the change is so sudden. I feel like a rubbish owner and so sorry for my dd, who is finding it very difficult to deal with and who is now having more arguments with my mother - dd gets home before me and has to listen to a daily diatribe from my mother about the dog.
If anyone has any advice/thoughts about what we should do, I would be so grateful. I have emailed his breeder but she is Spanish and moved back to Spain at Christmas so I don't know if she would take him back , if it comes to that. I haven't asked her that but have asked if any of the other puppies in the litter have had similar issues that she knows about.
If we do have to rehome him, can anyone suggest where to start? That is our last resort but I would rather be equipped with some information now - out of all the rescues we looked at before for a dog, there is only one I would consider giving him to - or should we try a breed rescue? We will try everything we can with him before it comes to that.
Many many thanks to anyone who has got through this post - I'm really upset and have just poured all this out but I know there is really good advice on here
You have had really good advice from your vet and behaviourist, all the research says that we should not neuter aggressive dogs in case it is fear aggression and lack of testosterone would make this worse.
If you do need to rehome I would suggest Poodles in need and very experience specialist poodle rescue who placed dogs with foster homes.
I can't advise on the issues but is your behaviourist working with you on the aggression that you are seeing it just the guarding. Do you feel that it is helping. What I am thinking is maybe you might want to speak to another behaviourist as I went to several trainers before finding one that clicked with my dog so maybe you need to find one that helps if you don't feel you are moving forwards with this. I would also stress that this is urgent to either your current or a new behaviourist.
Thanks Lonecat, it is making me mad that my mother (and various well-meaning friends) keep pushing the neutering when we know that 's not the right thing for him at the moment.
I'll look up Poodles in Need although the thought of handing him over to anyone makes me cry.....
Has you dog had a vet check, just to rule out any physical causes? Just a thought.
Hi BiteyShark (great name!) - our behaviourist has only met piranha poodle once, last Saturday, and thinks the aggression is linked to the guarding. Our dog did bark at her a lot when she arrived but he does this with all visitors he hasn't met before - he didn't growl or snarl at her though and after a few minutes, came and put his head on her arm for a stroke so he seems to have accepted her. She reckons he may be guarding his territory and possibly his personal space. I have texted her today after my mother's call but she can't call me until the morning as she has training classes running this evening
Hi Lucisky, yes he has been to the vet and no physical cause found at all - he's in really good health, good weight etc but the vet had to muzzle him to examine him - fair enough, as I had told him I'd been bitten and I would have been mortified if he'd bitten our very lovely vet!
Sorry, no real help, but how old is your puppy? And, before consulting the behaviourist did you do any other formal dog training? Is he your first dog? How much is your mother involved in the training? (Puppies need firm boundaries, he could have received mixed messages to his behaviours and is utterly confused.)
It might just be, that you missed a few cues when he hit adolescence and he is now firmly established as the head of your family (I know, some nmers think this is "old fashioned" but dogs are pack animals with an hierarchy.)
With the result, that he is a very insecure "leader", that has lost control of his pack.
My best advice would be, as already suggested, to seek second option and get in touch with an experienced breed rescue... they most likely have come across these problems before and could give you some sound advice.
Hi Ylvamoon and thank you for your post - I'm just so grateful that people are reading this and replying. Puppy is now just turned 10 months old and we took him to puppy pre-school and puppy training classes, where he was the (noisy) star of the class as he learns very quickly. He is my dd's first dog but not mine and I have never had this problem before. My mother does what we tell her to do with him!
My dd and I have both wondered if there is something going on when my mother is there but short of secretly filming her we can't know and if we ask her anything, she gets very defensive and accuses us of not trusting her. She is used to dogs and generally good with them and he has been quite happy with her until recently. That's a good idea to call the breed rescue for advice - thank you
All pack leader stuff is absolute nonsense , does he behave any differently when you are at home with him all day at the weekend ?
Hi Floralnomad - I take no notice of any pack leader stuff, we've done enough reading to know this is out of date! His behaviour is pretty much the same when we are with him all day - still the random snarling and snapping. Oddly - or maybe it isn't odd - outdoors he is a delight. He's very good off lead, comes back every time to the ball chucker, is lovely with other dogs and reads them well ie doesn't pester or do zoomie circles round the oldies/more sedate ones! There is so much I love in him but I feel if we can't resolve this, we may not be able to keep him - I hate feeling nervous about stroking my own dog.
How difficult for you. I am really sorry that you have been put in this position. Do you think that your mother has frightened your little poodle in some way? Might she have pinned him or alpha rolled him? When other people look after your dogs you are never really sure quite what is going on and she might have tried to dominate him to get him to behave and he is now showing you that he doesn't like your mother and doesn't trust people at all. You certainly need to get her onside otherwise things will only deteriorate. Dogs do what is best for them-he is making sure that you give him space.
I was also reading this and wondering if something has happened when he's been with your mum but that will be impossible to find out, I guess.
If there's a sudden change then I would think it's the result of something specific... My childhood dog was fine until an idiot visitor walked down the drive and 'play' growled at her at about 6 months old. She piddled herself and from thereonin was a vicious little madam, except with us. She'd bite given half a chance.
It's right that neutering can make fear aggression worse......but is it fear aggression? Do you know about the temporary castration injection? Lasts six months. Lowers the hormones to such an extent that the dog is effectively castrated until it wears off, the testicles actually shrivel up for six months.
Might be worth considering to see if it makes his behaviour better?
I tried it with my aggressive dog and it didn't make any difference, I do think my dog was fear aggressive. But it was a last ditch, clutching at straws, last chance before we had him put to sleep.
I didn't feel I could rehome an aggressive dog.
Might he be bored if he's getting left even with daily visits from your mum? Poodles are intelligent and known for separation anxiety. Maybe try something like agility with him at the weekends to mentally stimulate him?
Difficultdora - it's not really funny but the mental image of my 74 year old mother channelling Cesar Milan and alpha rolling the dog did make me laugh (about the only thing that has all day). I do wonder though how she behaves with him as she is well known for always knowing best. I don't think she would I got home today to hear that she'd been telling the assistant curate of the church over the road (he has a dog that he walks in the park) that I should be neutering the dog but 'won't listen'. You're right that if she's not onside it will be impossible but she is quite difficult to deal with some of the time. I don't think she would use any physical discipline on him but I wonder if she has been shouting at him or behaving in a way that he finds threatening. It's so difficult as we only have our puppy because she was adamant that she would dog-sit - she knew I couldn't afford more than 1 or 2 full days a week of daycare max and 'wanted to do this for her grand-daughter'
My mother was of the opinion my dog needed a sound thrashing and shouting at. . Consequently she wasn't allowed anywhere near him!
Hi PossumInAPearTree, I'm sorry about your dog . I do know about the injection and it was something we had thought about before, but 6 months seems like a long time if it might make him worse. Poodles are clever dogs and we do quite a lot of training with him to keep his brain busy - we can't use feeding puzzles though as he removes the bits and tries to chew them! He does get quite hyper if he doesn't have enough exercise but he gets half an hour on lead in the morning when my dd walks him to the station and I bring him back then take him in the park for 20-30 mins. We have a small woodland next to the park and loves that - rushes in and out of bushes and jumps logs then fetches his ball until I have to go to work. My mum arrives at midday and is with him until I get back from work - she takes him out in the afternoon and I know she does play tuggy and 'hide the toy' with him at home. Then dd and I take him out in the evening - there are always other dogs he knows in the park in the evening so he gets a nice playtime. Dd is planning to do agility with him but we can't start until he's a year old as it can damage their joints to be jumping before that.
Sorry, me again...poodles are very quick to pick up on negative vibes. I have seen it recommended that if your household is a bit frantic it can have a bad effect on them, discord can cause them to be very unsettled. I am not saying your household is discordant, but perhaps he is being confused by a lack of consistency in his daily life because he is being raised in two different ways by two different people. They are usually such sensitive gentle and loving souls, who are extremely intelligent and pick up on body language very quickly, they seem to know what you are going to do before you do!
It sounds like he gets plenty of exercise and stimulation.
I'd be wondering why this behaviour has fairly suddenly started...
The vet check? Did they do eyes, ears, run bloods?...is his coat mat free? (Just running through physical stuff really)
Lying down to be stroked sounds - well, unusual...is it definitely wanting stroked and not appeasement stressed type behaviour?
Have you spoken to the behaviourist about the biting?
It's just that it's not exactly common that a dog will not be giving off a load of warning signals before escalating.
I'm wondering if either you've missed those warning signals (some dogs are subtler than others) and it's been building for a while, or, if your vet has missed something.
Where does your dog sleep ? does he have a crate or a bed of his own ?
What did you do when he bit you ?
Do you think your Mother would answer honestly if you asked her if she has smacked him ?
I don't know what more expert doggy people feel about 'thunder' coats ? They can make them feel more secure I believe ?
Thanks tabulahrasa for your points raised - the vet did check his eyes, ears and anal glands but didn't think he needed to do anything more as all seemed fine. What blood tests might he have done? Doggy was clipped a couple of weeks ago so his coat is quite short and there's nothing stuck in it anywhere.
When I said he lies down to be stroked, perhaps that wasn't a clear explanation - he comes and headbutts your hand if he wants a fuss and then when you start stroking him, he very often collapses onto his side and rolls onto his back to have his tummy tickled and the inside of his back legs stroked - he's done that since he was a very young puppy. I don't think it's appeasement behaviour although we have wondered if there are signs we are missing. We have never told him off for growling though, as we know that means he is letting us know something is not ok or he doesn't like something, so we are also puzzled about the snapping and snarling with no growling preceding it........ He got hold of a slipper this morning and did growl when I came near him so I stopped where I was and waited for him to stop - behaviourist has advised us to 'hold our ground' when he growls and toss a treat when he stops, take one step forward and reward no growling etc
frumpet at night he sleeps on a blanket in my bedroom (he destroys beds!) and sometimes gets up on the end of the bed during the night. We had intended that he would sleep in the sitting room in a puppy pen with a blanket over the top but he made such a racket for so long every night that we had complaints from the neighbours (we live in a small block) so we had to move him into my room, on the advice of the puppy class trainer. During the day he sleeps either on a big cushion in the sitting room or in his den under the coffee table, where he has a big fleece blanket. No-one is allowed to disturb him when he's in either place
Lucisky that's very interesting about poodles. I knew they are a sensitive breed although we have been lucky in that ours got used to being left at home pretty easily and we built it up in 5 minute stretches. I googled a bit last night and found some stuff about noisy or unsettled environments potentially causing behavioural problems. Our home life is the same as it has been since we got him but maybe he is picking up on stress? I just wish I know how to solve this - the behaviourist is calling later today so I hope she has some ideas
If this has happened suddenly, is there any possibility it could have a neurological cause?
I've seen a huge change in my dog's behaviour recently when I was very stressed OP.
My vet asked me if I was stressed, after I took my dog to be checked out as her behaviour was worrying me - not aggression, more sad and wary.
Anyway, I made a big effort with her and her behaviour changed almost over night.
Don't really know if that was the problem, but she certainly seems happier now and a stressed owner can certainly have a huge impact on a sensitive dog from what my vet says.
Join the discussion
Please login first.