What should I do about someone else's badly behaved dog?
May 31, 2009 3:16 AM   Subscribe

My friend's dog keeps biting me and I don't know what to do.

My friend's wife owns a border collie that will not stop growling at, stalking and biting me. Thus far, she hasn't broken the skin, but she has nipped my feet, ankles, butt and legs on various occasions.

When I first started going over to his house, his wife explained the dog's behavior as "needing to get used to me." While this didn't make checking my pants legs for holes any more enjoyable, i wanted to be an understanding guest and let it slide. It's now been well over a two months and I've been to their house many times. I still can't let my guard down around the dog and whenever I'm in close proximity I do everything I can to remain completely still. Whenever the dog goes after me in her presence she will reprimand the dog and if it bites she'll put it outside. However, the dog is always let back in before I've left. From what I understand, the dog is in some kind of obedience training with the wife, but it hasn't really had any effect on the aggression towards me.

I feel about as comfortable telling someone how to handle their dog as I would telling them how to raise their kids, but it's getting to the point that I can't accept having to constantly having to look out for my physical well being when I go to visit. I'll admit that part of my frustration comes from the fact that if the roles were reversed for even one occasion, I would come down on my dog like the sword of Damocles as opposed to the 10 or so seconds of verbal reprimand she's giving.

I realize the simple answer is to not go over to the house anymore, but I'm hoping mefi might have some productive way of talking to her about it.
posted by uri to Pets & Animals (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is the dog trying to hurt you, or herd you?

I think there are two possibilities: this is an aggressive dog whose owners are in total denial about it, or, it's an understimulated, underexercised border collie who needs a job to keep its mind occupied.

Wikipedia has this to say: ...Border Collies can be motion-sensitive and may attempt to control the movements of family members, cats, bicycles, cars, or anything else that moves if not given enough mental and physical stimulation.

The Border Collie Rescue Group says they nip a lot as part of their herding. Also:
A larger proportion of the dogs are given up because they have bitten someone, almost inevitably a child. The herding instinct, if strong, is overwhelmingly incompatible with a household containing children - particularly when the child and adult owners have not been trained or educated in how to deal with the peculiarities of the herding instinct.


recommends that border collies ... be locked away in the presence of non-family members

This dog probably needs a solid hour or two of exercise a day. If it's not getting it, that might well be the problem.

Perhaps you can suggest the wife look over the border collie rescue website.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:34 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

This woman's dog is biting you. She lets the dog back into the house even after it has bitten you. Even if this is just an under-stimulated border collie, it is acting aggressively towards you, and she permits it in your presence, even after it has shown this behavior. This is dangerous, idiotic behavior. It doesn't matter whether this dog is attempting to hurt you or herd you, continuously permitting an aggressive dog opportunity to be in your presence is highly irresponsible. You can't tell whether these growls are from needing to be exercised or whether it is actually threatening you, and it only needs to be the latter once to result in some serious problems and stitches.

You might suggest further reading on border collies, but I'd honestly suggest you write these visits off. She's being completely reckless, and your friend doesn't sound like he's doing much to stop it either.
posted by Saydur at 3:43 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

That dog is herding you. It is bored, does not have enough to keep it occupied, and has not been taught that all dogs rank below the lowest human. You're doing nothing wrong, but your friend sure is.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:54 AM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

I agree w/bluedaisy. I've never owned or lived with one (I have a beagle) but everything I've ever heard about border collies indicates they need an extraordinary amount of exercise, and to have a "job" to do. The sword of Damocles probably wouldn't help any more than your friend's strategies have.

If you tend to keep your distance from the dog, move away when it approaches, etc.. realize that you're reinforcing these aggressive behaviors. The dog is nipping you in order to control you, and it's working.

That said, I think it's fine to tell your friend how you feel. Regardless of any breed-specific challenges she faces, she shouldn't be shrugging this off as insignificant. The dog's behavior is her responsibility. Maybe she'll take the issue more seriously if you ask her to replace a damaged garment or two?
posted by jon1270 at 3:55 AM on May 31, 2009

I should clarify:

On some occasions, it has been herding-type nipping and gripping, other times it has been fearful biting/freaking out/barking.
posted by uri at 4:01 AM on May 31, 2009

I would come down on my dog like the sword of Damocles as opposed to the 10 or so seconds of verbal reprimand she's giving.

Yeah, do this, but to the owner. She is being a bad host.
posted by poppo at 4:03 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I realize the simple answer is to not go over to the house anymore, but I'm hoping mefi might have some productive way of talking to her about it.

Might help if you figured out what you want the owner to do about this. It sounds as if she's already doing what she knows to do, and is probably frustrated herself. Simply saying 'fix it' isn't any help when the person you're talking to doesn't know how to fix it. I think you need to settle on a specific request, i.e. 'please put the dog outside or shut it in a crate or another room.' Be kind, but firm about it. Make it easy for her to understand how to satisfy you.
posted by jon1270 at 4:27 AM on May 31, 2009

It might be easier for you to discuss with your friend if you imagined the dog biting a child on the face. That's the height that dogs bite at. It's better to come from you, heading it off at the pass (sort of), than waiting till it does some real damage to a littlie... or a post/delivery person.
posted by taff at 4:31 AM on May 31, 2009

I think I agree with Saydur (despite my long post on the proclivities of border collies). This woman does seem to be in denial... and your friend isn't helping.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:31 AM on May 31, 2009

Kick that dog in the ass. Seriously. The owner is responsible for establishing bounderies in regards to the animal's behavior. If the owner isn't willing to do it then it is between you and the dog. Next time the dog goes after you, give it a good kick. If that's too harsh for you just stay away from that situation. Nobody should ever have to deal with that nonsense, ever.
posted by metagnathous at 4:39 AM on May 31, 2009

Don't kick the dog, that isn't going to change the behavior and it does not make you a good person.

Those that stated above that this is a dominance/alpha issue are probably correct...

This is the dog's family's problem. Your best solution is to be honest with them, let them know you find the dog's behavior unacceptable and, as long as it continues, you will choose not to visit. When enough friends have told them this, they may choose to address the dog's behavior.
posted by HuronBob at 5:01 AM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm a hardcore dog nut, and my parents have a semi-psycho collie mix whom I love dearly and forgive for all sorts of transgressions I probably shouldn't, but I'm firmly with the people saying you just have to tell your friend you can't come over any more because of the dog. It really isn't your job to tell her how to fix this situation; just take care of yourself. I'd be genuinely scared around a dog like that (even if he is probably an under-stimulated and under-exercised border collie just being himself.)

Don't go over there. If she asks why, tell her what you told us. You're being perfectly reasonable.
posted by Neofelis at 5:40 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Reprimand the dog"? It sounds like she yells at the dog.

Yelling at a dog doesn't work. The dog thinks you're barking. What works is a choke collar or pinch collar. Give the dog a good yank when it misbehaves.

Putting the dog outside isn't discipline either. Maybe the dog likes behind outside. Most border collies do.

It sounds like the guardian of this dog refuses to actually discipline it. Which is terrible. Dogs like to know what they're supposed to do and not do, and they feel safer when they know the limits. Moreover, border collies are extremely smart and trainable dogs. This dog has had no boundaries established, and it's like a five year old that no one talks to. It's going out of its mind with boredom.

The dog should be on a leash when you're there, on a training collar.

I think for the sake of this dog's life -- because it surely will be sent to the pound -- you have the right to tell your friends that they need to work with a dog trainer. They don't know how to train their dog. Most people don't. But you really don't want to have an untrained dog -- and your dog really doesn't want to be left untrained. Four sessions with a trainer and they'll know what they're supposed to do. (The trainer actually trains you how to train your dog.)

But I think the problem is also that you're too polite. If someone's dog bit me, I'd say, "Your dog freaking bit me!" and leave. If someone's dog growled at me, I'd say, "That dog is growling at me!" and leave. If someone was waving a knife around, wouldn't you leave? I would. That would get the message across.
posted by musofire at 5:59 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

The proper thing to do is to deal with it. In other words, quit observing the behavior and take action.

Some possibilities: Since this is territory specific, quit invading the friend/dog's territory. Have your interactions on YOUR turf, minus her dog.

Be direct: "I am afraid of your dog and can't come over unless it is locked up." BEFORE you go visit. Dog comes out while you are there, you leave.

It's really not that complicated. Hosts have a responsibility to see to the safety and comfort of their guests. If this person really qualifies as a freind, she'll treat you like one if if she doesn't treat you like one, it's time for new friends.
posted by FauxScot at 6:20 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have never dealt with border collies, but I have dealt with German Shepherds (which need to know very early on what their place is, lest you end up with 90 lbs of dominance). I would suggest buying your friend this book. Perhaps she can read it and try employing the concepts, and if she isn't doing it well on her own they can hire a personal trainer for a couple of hours to reinforce what she should be doing.

The book is geared towards establishing your role as the alpha and tells you how to discipline a dog that is out of line (you never kick or yell at a dog - that is ridiculous behavior - you scruff your dog swiftly, immediately following a transgression, book will explain how). If you feel too forward suggesting all of the above, just get the book and give it to them and tell them it comes highly recommended by a friend. Or just leave it in their mailbox.

Of course the real key is that the owners need to implement the advice consistently.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:30 AM on May 31, 2009

It is a dog.

It needs to be treated like a dog. Not mistreated, but simply not treated the same way as a human.

IMO, your friends are assholes who are letting you get abused by an animal they are supposed to be responsible for. Assert yourself to your friends and let them know this is not acceptable.

Personally, I'd kick the fucker next time it tried to bite me. It's a dog. A dog.

By the way, my uncle used to have a border collie that was very friendly and nice to everyone.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:37 AM on May 31, 2009

You should put some extremely bad tasting and/or smelling substance on your shoes & pants legs, obviously use a special pair of cheap jeans for this purpose. You might ask about products used to train puppies not to chew shoes, like Ropel. I've seen such products claim they are strong enough to prevent nipping behavior too.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:53 AM on May 31, 2009

I agree with those who say you need to set some boundaries by not going there anymore, and being very specific about why. Tell your friend you're not coming over anymore because of the dog, but are still willing to socialize with him (and his wife) in public or at your place, unless the dog is put away from you for the entirety of every visit. If the dog comes out while you're there, leave. Every time. Since they're not training their dog, you need to train them.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:29 AM on May 31, 2009

Clearly those of you recommending physical abuse have no understanding of dogs. What a horrible suggestion.

I am an owner of a previously abused dog I got from the pound. His problem? He would go around peeing on things in the house, because he hadn't been neutered.

It was obvious that, much like those of you who recommend physical abuse, his previous owner felt that beating him was the solution to the problem. Once we had him neutered and trained him, it solved the problem. He is housebroken now and we've had no problems with him since.

We've had him for 10 years, and to this day, he still cowers a little when I go to pet him, even though I've never struck him for any reason.

Others in the thread who understand dogs and Border Collies have adequately explained what the problem is. The solution is diplomacy with the owners, and discipline and training for the dog. But not physical abuse of the animal.

Physical abuse of the dog won't solve the dog's behavior, but it will end their friendship instantly.

I am truly astounded that some of you would recommend kicking someone's dog. I mean... what the fuck?
posted by Fleebnork at 7:47 AM on May 31, 2009 [11 favorites]

Clearly those of you recommending physical abuse have no understanding of dogs. What a horrible suggestion.

I do hope you realize that in a pack, dogs are physically manhandled by the alpha when misbehaving. That's all we're saying. There's a difference between abusing a dog and smacking it on the ass/kneeing it in the chest when it jumps/jerking its collar.

Anything less just serves to reinforce bad behavior. Dogs are wonderful, but dogs are NOT children. They need different discipline because they are animals.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:56 AM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm going to agree with everyone who says the dog is bored and underexercised & etc - and strongly disagree with choke or pinch collars - but I have a different suggestion for you. Try to make friends with the dog. If you become the dogs best friend, then your visits will go a lot more smoothly for everyone. How do you become a dog's best friend? Food. Have treats in your pockets - and go spring for the really good treats, like the smoked duck jerky or the freeze dried liver chunks - every single time you visit. Every time the dog does something even slightly okay, like it doesn't actually take a chunk out of your leg, slip it a treat. If the dog is afraid of you and won't take something from your hand at first, toss the treats gently towards it, smiling, saying something gentle. Slip it many treats, always with a kind word. By the third time you visit, that dog will love you so much you won't believe it. Your immediate problem is then solved.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:56 AM on May 31, 2009

Also, I should point out, IAAPDH (Professional Dog Handler,) so I do know what the fuck I'm talking about.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:57 AM on May 31, 2009

There's a difference between abusing a dog and smacking it on the ass/kneeing it in the chest when it jumps/jerking its collar.

I understand what you're talking about with regard to asserting your place in the pecking order. I have two dogs myself.

People recommended kicking.

Do you kick dogs to train them?
posted by Fleebnork at 8:04 AM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

Maybe I'm mis-interpreting... but when someone says "kick" I don't think of "knee gently in the manner of a professional dog handler".
posted by Fleebnork at 8:09 AM on May 31, 2009

Do you kick dogs to train them? No, I saw that but assumed you were decrying all physical punishment.

I should point out that I agree with Fleebnork. Kicking is abuse. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:10 AM on May 31, 2009

"There's a difference between abusing a dog and smacking it on the ass/kneeing it in the chest when it jumps"

not really....

Regardless of InsanePenguin's assertion that he is a professional, you'll find few professionals who advocate hitting or kneeing a dog (kneeing a dog can cause some serious injuries). I really hope you take a different approach.

Another issue here is, if you were in a friends house and a child was misbehaving, would you physically strike the child? You have no more right to hit/knee this dog that is not yours than you do to hit/knee someone's child.
posted by HuronBob at 8:13 AM on May 31, 2009

I'm not going to bother arguing it with anyone who doesn't understand pack behavior. Sure, not all dogs need the physical reinforcement. Some dogs do. I do a lot of work with wolves and wolf hybrids, and they sure do.

And yes, HuronBob, there really is. I wouldn't abuse my child, but spanking does not equal abuse in my mind, nor in a lot of people's minds.

I agree, OP has no right to hit the dog at all. If it's such an issue, tell your friend you won't be coming over until she's properly trained the dog, whatever way she chooses.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:18 AM on May 31, 2009

Simple-- tell your friend that you won't come over anymore because you're tired of being bitten by their dog. They can decide what to do from there. Border collies are an easily trained breed, and if theirs has these issues, they are just being lazy dog owners.
posted by ishotjr at 8:30 AM on May 31, 2009

Mandetory neuter propaganda: He would go around peeing on things in the house, because he hadn't been neutered.

An intact dog does not pee in the house merely because he is intact. My parents have had three intact dogs throughout my life, none of whom ever peed in the house past their early puppy days.

While I'm all for neutering/spaying to decrease the surplus population of dogs and cats and have a neutered cat myself, the mythology and propaganda around what will happen if you don't neuter a dog is ridiculous and counter-productive. Neutering does not solve any behaviour problems. Training and good handling does. You neuter to ensure that you don't create unwanted pups/kittens, not because doing so will improve the animal.

OP: I think the food suggestion is a good one, but you might find that your friends object to you constantly feeding their dog. That leaves you back having to point out that it's all you can do to stop being bitten. It sounds like a rough situation all around.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:34 AM on May 31, 2009

I don't think kicking will have the desired effect, dogs may need *authoritative* physical correction, but I don't think kicking will seem authoritative, more likely fearful. I mean, a kick is the strongest unarmed attack humans posses.

Just treat the dog respectfully but firmly, a slap on the nose maybe, but mostly a loud voice. Or cover your pants in Ropel, cyanine pepper, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:43 AM on May 31, 2009

I don't understand why you're sitting frozen stiff trying to not antagonize the dog who is biting you. Or why your friends think that this is okay -- they're being tremendously rude.

After about the third time of being understanding, I think I would've been raising my voice alright -- at both humans, using phrases like "what the fuck" and "get your dog away from me now."
posted by desuetude at 9:58 AM on May 31, 2009

Water bottle full of small pebbles. Shake violently at dog.
posted by A189Nut at 10:08 AM on May 31, 2009

This is one of the most depressing threads I've ever read here. I've got two beautifully behaved, highly trained herding dogs (they both compete in agility), and neither one has EVER been kicked, kneed, slapped on the nose, smacked on the ass, or had its collar jerked. These tactics are not only unnecessary, they are not very effective.

It is much easier to teach a dog a more desirable alternative behavior through positive reinforcement than to deter it from doing something you don't like by kneeing, slapping, etc. One quick solution for this dog is to teach it "place"--to go to a mat and stay there. If it is lying on a mat while you're there, it's not nipping you. This is easy to do--incredibly easy for a Border Collie. If you want to learn how to do this, MeMail me and I'll be happy to point you in the right direction.

But, really--having read any number of dog-training questions here, I have to say that AskMe is good at many things, but answering dog training questions is not one of them.
posted by HotToddy at 10:17 AM on May 31, 2009 [7 favorites]

Don't kick the dog, don't bully the dog. I'm tempting to recommend kicking and bullying your friends, but that's really not a good idea either. Your friends aren't dealing with this dog. At the very least, they should separate it from you when you are there and keep it away, though that's just dealing with a symptom.

The problems seem to be that the dog is 1) undisciplined, 2) under exercised/stimulated 3) nervous, anxious and fearful and undersocialized. These things are all tied together and addressing any one of the issues should go a long way towards helping with the others.

They need to be giving this dog enough exercise and stimulation that it isn't getting neurotic and nuts. Beyond that it sounds like they need a lot of socialization and obedience training work until the dog has a good understanding of 'no', and no, I don't think prong collars and kneeing the dog is an essential part of that training. Between the exercise, the socialization, and the obedience training, the dog should develop a sense of its place and feel more secure. There may need to be special work on the fear issues, there may not be.

Prong collars, slapping the dog, kneeing the dog, kicking the dog, etc are counter productive. They'll just increase the dog's fear and anxiety. That might moderate some behavior, but at the risk of more extreme biting in particularly stressful situations.

Oh, border collies are not wolves.
posted by Good Brain at 10:45 AM on May 31, 2009

Obviously none of the above is your responsibility. If your friends won't keep the dog apart from you when you go over, I'd suggest you don't go over.
posted by Good Brain at 10:47 AM on May 31, 2009

Tell your friend that you love visiting, but can no longer tolerate the dog's behavior. The dog could, at the least, be muzzled during your visits or kept in another part of the house. Don't accept the existing situation. It's not good for this dog to be allowed to behave this way.

The owner is behaving very badly. The dog should be better exercised and better trained. A biting dog may cause a serious problem. (My child was attacked, unprovoked, by a German Shepherd, at age 7. He has minimal scars, and still loves dogs, but it could have been much worse.) The dog is likely frustrated and bored, and if it behaves badly, may have to be put down. This is very unfair to the dog. If you can talk to the owner about ways to be a better dog-owner, great, but it doesn't seem like she's interested in dealing with the problem.
posted by theora55 at 11:35 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to bother arguing it with anyone who doesn't understand pack behavior.

There are pack behaviors and pack behaviors.

I think this dog is engaging in a very different pack behavior than anyone has suggested so far.

This little border collie is trying to drive you away-- not herd you-- because 'hey! we girls have already got our alpha male, and we don't want you hanging around, pal-- so beat it!'

Her behavior might, in essence, be an act of fealty to the leader of her pack, AKA your friend. There could be an element of competition here, possibly, but it would not be between you and the dog, it'd be between the dog and your friend's wife. The dog could be demonstrating her superior loyalty.

But the more likely, and more deeply intractable possibility, in my opinion, is that your friend's wife is jealous of your relationship with him, and the dog is mirroring her feelings and trying to do something about it.

I would say you should examine your behavior and your history with this couple. If you have or have had reservations about your friend marrying this woman, or any jealousy of her, you can count on her knowing it and regarding you as a threat. If this is so, the way forward is to celebrate their marriage and intimate how lucky you feel your friend is to have found her. His wife would then regard you as an ally, and the dog would start welcoming you when you show up.
posted by jamjam at 12:10 PM on May 31, 2009

The question here is NOT how to train the dog. That's not your responsibility - it's your friend's. The problem is what to do with the friend. Stop going to her house. Tell her why if she asks. You need to take yourself OUT of this situation.
posted by dog food sugar at 12:37 PM on May 31, 2009

If you become the dogs best friend, then your visits will go a lot more smoothly for everyone. How do you become a dog's best friend? Food. Have treats in your pockets - and go spring for the really good treats, like the smoked duck jerky or the freeze dried liver chunks - every single time you visit. Every time the dog does something even slightly okay, like it doesn't actually take a chunk out of your leg, slip it a treat.

I've been trying this for the last month or so. It works while there is actually a treat visible in my hand, but the second the dog is not fixated on actual food, it's as if a switch flips and she's straight back to growling. If I have to move towards where the dog is, holding food isn't even enough (twice, the dog has stopped paying attention to the food, bit me and started barking and snapping).
posted by uri at 12:39 PM on May 31, 2009

Sorry if my answer is too curt. I would stop going over there. If the friend asked I'd tell them: look. Your dog makes me very uncomfortable. I'm afraid it's going to bite me. It has bitten me. It tore my pants. I would calmly state this as a fact. I would not add any more. I would absolutely NOT tell them how to train their dog. I would not criticize how they're trying to train their dog at all. By saying the first part I would have stated my issue and left it to them to decide if they're going to take action or not. If I had to go over there I'd wait outside for them to come outside. I would not put myself in the same room with this dog.

I say this as the owner of a difficult border collie. I've had dogs my whole life but with this one I had to really step up as a dog owner.
posted by dog food sugar at 12:50 PM on May 31, 2009

It's not your responsibility to resolve the dog's behavior it's your friends'. It they're not going to do so then you need to stay out of there.
posted by dog food sugar at 12:53 PM on May 31, 2009

This is unacceptable. If they harbor a vicious cur that attacks people they should give guests fair warning (e.g., "I harbor a vicious cur that attacks people") and make you sign some type of liability release. Otherwise you can and should make a claim against their insurance or against them personally for medical checkups (I would get a full workup for rabies and anything possibly transmitted from vermin bites) and for new pants.

Be aware, by letting them laugh this off you are encouraging them to train their dog to bite people. Not only that but you are encouraging society to foster this sort of antisocial behavior.

You could always try simple dominance behavior with the half-tame wolf. Flip it on its back and hold it down by the throat until it accepts you as the alpha. I have not had problems with dogs after I have done this with them. Don't worry, it is the language the animal speaks and it will understand you if you speak it. The problem is the owners of the vicious nuisance might consider you to be acting strangely rather than them and their mongrel. Oh and thwack it in the nose if it tries leaping at your throat. Also tried and true.

I don't dislike dogs, btw. I would say I'm basically neutral toward them. I do dislike being barked at constantly by my neighbor's dog whenever I go into my front door, or being jumped on/scratched/bitten by the dogs of people I visit. These creatures are dependent on humans for food and shelter and they need to respect that.

Possible outcomes:

1) Dog ceases attack, owners laugh it off. Never come back and tell them why. Report them to animal control.
2) Dog ceases attack, owners punish it, apologize, buy you new pants, treat your wounds, and see that it never happens again. These owners are socialized and worthy of a place in our society.
3) Dog continues to attack, owners do not restrain it. Fight that dog nature-style. Kick it in the throat, gouge out the eyes, whatever you have to do. It would do this to you given half the chance and you have more of a right to live considering you didn't attack it unprovoked.

Here is a nice ancient law about dangerous animals:
If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the bull shall not be held responsible. But if the bull had a habit of goring in the past, and it has been testified to its owner, and he has not kept it in, but it has killed a man or a woman, the bull shall be stoned, and its owner shall also be put to death.
Remember, this dog has tasted blood.
posted by vsync at 1:50 PM on May 31, 2009

From what I understand, the dog is in some kind of obedience training with the wife, but it hasn't really had any effect on the aggression towards me.

Clearly, the wife thinks that obedience training is for the dog. If she doesn't get it, you're not going to be safe there.
posted by dhartung at 3:10 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd tell the dog owners that "I like you but I don't like worrying about your dog biting me every time I come over. Until the obedience training works, I don't feel safe coming over anymore". That said, if you do continue to go over, ask for the dog to be kept outside or in a close room until you leave. Don't feel like you're being the least bit out of line about this. You've been super understanding and the owners are being idiots. This dog will end up hurting someone unless they change the way they interact with the dog.

Below: My admittedly less than knowledgeable dog tips

One of the best things anyone ever told me about dogs is to say "Good dog, what a good boy/girl!". It totally confuses the dog. They link that tone with their owner and will stop and stare at you with a "do I know you?" look. I use to do delivery and found this extremely helpful. It stops the aggression long enough for the owner to talk to you and for the dog to realize the owner doesn't consider you a threat. It also helps establish you as higher up in the hierarchy. The way it was explained to me is that dogs are pack animals. You want to establish yourself as higher in the pack so they know not to be aggressive with you. If you feed the dog anything, make sure it's something you can take a bite of first. You're higher up, so you get first dibbs on food. The dog gets what's left over. The dog can think you're subservient if you're letting it eat food first.
posted by stray thoughts at 5:59 PM on May 31, 2009

Stray Thoughts... neat comment... and great idea....
posted by HuronBob at 6:23 PM on May 31, 2009

Is the dog only aggressive to you or is it also biting other visitors to their house ?

Is it possible you smell of something that the dog doesn't like ? (cats?)

Either way, the actual problem (for you) is not between you and the dog. It's between you and your friend.
posted by selton at 8:12 PM on May 31, 2009

I see two issues here. One is how to fix the dog, the other is what you should "do."

What you should do, if you feel genuinely at risk, is tell your friend that, and say that you don't feel comfortable coming over.

I'm a dog handler, as in search-and-rescue, therapy, canine good citizen, agility...etc. Three wonderful pupperoni's running around the house right now. Like 'em more than people I do. I do, however, have a friend with a dog that is completely absolutely absurdly out of control, I swear the little fucker is 15 inches at the head and has bit me in the face. I have, and will continue to, show him who is alpha at the drop of a hat.

I'd like to point out that InsanePenguin isn't advocating punting the dog, or dropkicking the dog, or "break a two-by-four on your leg" kneeing the dog. A good reaction to a jumping dog is to simply bend your knee a little bit and ruin the dog's angle/make it harder for her to get off the ground.

That said, you can help your friend socialize your dog, if you want to. There are lots of books about it. From the sounds of it, the dog is under exercised, understimulated, and like a dog chained to a box all year, he freaks out when anyone new comes into his personal space. I don't feel like writing a book here, but the behavior could probably be corrected in 15 minute spurts 4 or 5 times a day across a couple days. Feel free to MeMail me for suggestions.

Just some advice for when you encounter the dog:
-take off your hat. I know a lot of BC's (mine included) who really, really dislike hats. Storm got past that though.
-don't look him in the eyes, until after you've established alpha, which will come down the road.
-Hands palms DOWN during interactions unless you need to protect yourself

Now, should you tell the friend that you're uncomfortable with the dog, and the dog still comes at you, it's perfectly OK to protect yourself from the dog. You can do so w/o injuring the animal and w/o hurting yourself.

On the muzzle of the dog, you can feel the canine teeth, immediately behind the nose. Squeezing your fingers together there, your fingers as low as the teeth are long, as though you were picking up cheerios off the floor (and crushing them) will make the dog let go. Don't crush his airway, don't try to put his gums on his teeth. Just press in behind his teeth.

If you need to manhandle the dog, that's why they have thick manes---BC's especially for when they get roughed up by cattle and biting sheep. The closer you can grab to the base of the jaw (just beneath the head, under the ears), trying to get skin as well as hair, the harder for the animal to bite you. Please note that this will freak him out and he'll go nuttier before he gives up.

On smaller dogs, I've actually clamped my hand down around the bottom part of the muzzle (open mouth) any time that mouth comes open in a non-panting way. You grab the whole jaw like a motorcycle throttle and hang on. If it's a small dog (<3>
I don't want to turn this into a "how to protect yourself from an evil dog" thread, because that's not why you're here. I've also worked with prison dogs, and learning how to (potentially) protect yourself from one of those bastards is scary.

Really though, just tell the friend you're not coming over.
posted by TomMelee at 8:31 AM on June 1, 2009

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