In need of advice: what should be done with a dog that has deliberately attacked its owner?
November 1, 2007 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Last night, my dog attacked me and took out a pretty big chunk of my finger. What should I do?

I have a seven year old Shiba Inu who has an incredibly dominant personality. When my girlfriend and I first adopted her from the animal shelter, it was immediately apparent that she had been abused by a previous owner as she would cower anytime someone raised their hands - even in conversation where the dog was several feet away.

As dominant as she is, she also happens to be very aggressive towards other dogs. We have attempted to try and socialize her by exercising her to the point of exhaustion and introducing her to new animals on numerous occasions. These attempts, however, always have ended in her lunging for the other animals as soon as she is within striking distance.

In these cases, my girlfriend or I will quickly try to control the situation by pulling our dog off of the other dog and rolling her on her back until she settles down. In some of these instances, our Shiba will be so aggressive toward the other animal that she has bitten us, however, these bites are nothing more than 'warning bites' and she quickly rolls over submissively upon realizing that she's bitten one of us.

Last night, however, in attempting to socialize her with a dog that we are dog-sitting over the next week, when she bit my hand, she bit it hard. I ignored the bite, however, and continued to try and get control over her, as I expected that bite to be the last one before she rolled over. Instead, she released my hand and then bit my finger, shaking it like a piece of meat.

My worry is that this attack was in no way a 'warning bite' and that the dog has now escalated her aggression towards humans. If she had gotten my hand from another angle, I would have easily required stitches from this attack.

I've been told in the past that a dog that will bite it's owner is likely to bite just about anyone and should be immediately disposed of. However, my girlfriend and I love this animal and would have an incredibly hard time putting her down. We also don't have the kind of funds required to pay for a 'Dog Whisperer'-esque behaviorist.

So, is this something that I should be this worried about?
posted by myodometer to Pets & Animals (66 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
my girlfriend and I love this animal and would have an incredibly hard time putting her down.

I sympathize. But I think you know what needs to be done. Do it now, before someone gets hurt and the dog is taken away from you and put down in a more brutal way, followed by lawsuits that could destroy you financially.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:42 AM on November 1, 2007 [6 favorites]

Stop trying to socialize her with other dogs. She's too old and it won't ever work the way you want. All you're doing is stressing her out.

Then find a trainer that can teach you effective ways to work with this dog- rolling a dog on it's back is an outdated and ineffective "trick" that, as you've discovered, puts you waaaaay too close to their mouth.
posted by fshgrl at 8:46 AM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]

I think it is possible your dog was just in having an animal fit of rage and grabbing living things nearby her. It is possible you can train her to be a much better pet dog, though I do not think it's likely you'll ever train her dominance entirely out and you will probably have to resign yourself to never seeing her play with another puppy. But you must, must get training. Contact your rescue organization. Find out their recommendations for dog trainers. Or even better, contact pit bull, boxer, or rottwelier organizations and ask for tips on dealing with difficult dogs and recommendations for trainers. Those organizations especially will get a number of abused dogs in and should be able to help.

However, make no mistake, you must get training if you do not want to put your dog down. I know you say you can't afford it, but you also can't afford someone else getting bitten by your dog. If they identify your dog as the culprit, the dog will not only be immediately euthanized but you can get slapped with a lawsuit.
posted by Anonymous at 8:47 AM on November 1, 2007

The reasonable thing to do would be to put her down.
posted by parallax7d at 8:48 AM on November 1, 2007

Either training or euthanize her. There is no option C.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:50 AM on November 1, 2007

The Dog Whisperer might have some tips. Caesar Millan was recently profiled in the New Yorker.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:52 AM on November 1, 2007

Stop taking her around other dogs. Get a behaviorist. Read Cesar Millan's "red zone" information in his two books to help you think about where you need to draw the line between fixable and not.

I believe in the adage "if your dog does something wrong, roll up a newspaper and hit yourself in the head." Bringing another dog to your house is terribly bad decision-making, given what you already knew about your dog. If you're doing things like that, you should probably go to an animal behaviorist yourself for a while before your dog is even involved.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:56 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not convinced you wont have to have the dog put down, but you might try contacting a breed rescue first.

In the future you might look into other training methods. Stressing an already stressed and reactive dog by flipping it onto its back never seems like something that will end well. I certainly avoid people (and their dogs) who use those techniques at the dog park because I don't want me or my dog to be on the receiving end of a flipout.

It is a hard decision to put your dog down, but consider that ther are plenty of other dogs, many with fewer issues, who are going to be put down. You could save one of them.
posted by Good Brain at 8:58 AM on November 1, 2007

Everyone else is right and you had better be prepared for the fact that training may not work. It is sad and it is horrible but unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary to have a healthy adult dog put down. I had to do it once after seven months of escalating aggressive behavior and in retrospect, I only wish I had done it sooner, even though it was about the hardest thing I have ever done. But there is no room in our world for seriously aggressive dogs and you are not doing anyone a favor by keeping her because the chances that she will bite again are very, very high. Remember, there are thousands and thousands of perfectly sweet, wonderful dogs being put down for no other reason than that they became inconvenient for someone. You could save one of those dogs.

However, look, this comment of yours scares me. "attempting to socialize her with a dog that we are dog-sitting over the next week", Um, NO. No, you have an aggressive, alpha dog. You do not dog sit next week. If you're going to keep your dog, then you can forget dog sitting; you own a dog who is dog on dog aggressive. She repeatedly has shown that she is, and at 7, I'm sorry, but she is not going to change. It is your responsibility to never have her around other dogs. If you can't afford a trainer than you sure can't afford the vet bills that you will be incurring the minute you look away from your dog houseguest, not to mention the trauma and the shattered friendship with that dogs' owner, because I tell you, if I asked someone to watch my dogs and then found out that they had exposed them to an aggressive dog and they'd gotten hurt as a result? I can't even imagine what I would do but it wouldn't be pretty.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:00 AM on November 1, 2007 [5 favorites]

My father's side of the family has raised prized hunting dogs for generations, dogs worth $500 to more than $1000. Still, if a dog ever, ever bit anyone my grandfather would take it out and shoot it in front of the other dogs. He loves his dogs, but a dog that attacks people once can never be trusted again.

That's just my opinion, and yes it is old fashioned, but as much as I love my dog I'd never put a friend or family member at risk because my dog is "going through a phase" or "just needs some training".

Loved ones safety > animal's life.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 9:01 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

I agree the dog has a temperament issue, I disagree that it needs to be put down at this point. I'm basing that on my understanding that the dog has never bit any humans until physically forced to socialize. I'd say that, for now, avoid that aspect and focus more on your relationship with the dog.

You mentioned the Dog Whisperer - a friend of mine bought his book and used his techniques with great success.

Above all stay safe. If the dog has become uncontrollably aggressive and it's a danger to yourself and others, you do absolutely have a responsibility to put it down. From what I read it's not quite at that point yet, but only you can decide.
posted by empyrean at 9:03 AM on November 1, 2007

However, make no mistake, you must get training if you do not want to put your dog down. I know you say you can't afford it, but you also can't afford someone else getting bitten by your dog. If they identify your dog as the culprit, the dog will not only be immediately euthanized but you can get slapped with a lawsuit.

It's hard to get clearer than that. A lawsuit is guaranteed to be more expensive than euthanasia or training. Even if your dog doesn't bite a person, if it attacks and seriously harms another dog, you can still be sued. And that's a very real possibility here. That's not saying that your dog would "intentionally" try to hurt someone, but it's still an animal. If it becomes frightened, it's response might very well be aggressive.

Either training or euthanize her. There is no option C.

Not necessarily. Depending on the area you live in and the people you know, you might be able to give the dog away to someone with experience "rehabilitating" dogs with behavioural issues. It's not common, but there are some people that do rescue-style adoptions of dogs that would otherwise be put down. There aren't a lot of people like this though, so it might not be an option in your area. You might want to contact you local ASPCA and see if they have any information.

Whatever the case, maintaining the status quo is not an option. For your dog, your happiness and financial future, you've got to do something and soon.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:07 AM on November 1, 2007

So, is this something that I should be this worried about.

Yes. You need to either to pay for training / rehabilitation, find someone who's willing to adopt her and work on her, or put her down. Otherwise, you are putting yourself, others around you, and the dog herself in unnecessary danger.

I have a friend who had a doberman from a very similar situation. He was adopted when he was 5 from a very abusive owner. He never fully recovered from that experience, but with a lot of work he got much, much better. The first time he met my (or any other dog) he tried to rip her head off. By the time we were done with him, they would wrestle and play together for hours. It will be a long road, but it can be done.

It is important to note that forced submission (rolling her over on her back) will do nothing to fix her aggressive behavior. She does not feel that you are controlling the situation when you introduce her to other dogs, so she feels the need to take charge. Rolling her over will not change that perception, it will just make her feel more vulnerable, and thus more anxious about the next encounter. You need to be in charge in these situations, and if she exhibits signs of anxiety, break off the introduction calmly and immediately. Being dominant is about trust, not enforcement. If the dog does not trust you to be in control of the situation, no amount of punishment will convince it. Right now your dog respects you (as evidenced by her behavior after accidentally biting you), but she does not see you as dominant outside of the house.

In most abused dogs, the issue is not plain aggression, but insecurity. Overcome that insecurity and you will see a completely different dog. But since you're posting this question to AskMe, I'm guessing you do not know how to do this, which is why you need to hire a professional or get rid of the dog. Anything else is unfair to the dog.
posted by chundo at 9:12 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

He loves his dogs, but a dog that attacks people once can never be trusted again.

He is free to his opinions, but that is not necessarily true. This is like saying any human that gets into a fist-fight should be locked up for life. Even a well-trained and socialized dog can bite someone after exhausting other means of escape or conflict avoidance.

In this case, the dog is being forced into an anxiety-inducing situation. If you prevent it from escaping, yeah, it might bite someone.
posted by chundo at 9:21 AM on November 1, 2007

I understand that you're unwilling to put her down, and I sympathize.

But you must seek professional help. You think a behaviorist is expensive? Contrast that with the expense of your dog biting a kid, and it starts to seem like a good deal.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:23 AM on November 1, 2007

I agree that you need to either invest in serious training or put the dog down. Training a dominant dog is serious business and you can't learn it solely from a book, no matter how good it is. For example, one of the reasons that "flipping a dog on its back" (known as the "alpha roll") is now disfavored is because it is so difficult to execute: it is based on what an adult wolf would do to a pup or subordinate member of the pack who gets out of line, and requires: (1) surprising the dog by pouncing on it from behind; (2) immediately and forcefully rolling it onto its back; (3) grabbing it by the neck and shaking it; (4) staring directly into its eyes; and (5) vocalizing until the dog submits. I wouldn't try this without professional supervision.

This is probably hard to hear because your dog may often be kind and gentle to you, but your dog is a danger to others. Even dogs who do not bite their owners need training to make sure they do not harm strangers who are not part of their pack. Because your dog views itself as the alpha of its pack, you will not be able to adequately protect others from it. And, though not large, shibas are a hunting breed.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2007

Please arrange for someone else to take care of the dog that you are dog-sitting, or keep them completely separate. Clearly your dog can not be trusted around other animals.
posted by radioamy at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2007

You don't need to put the dog down nor do you need a "Dog Whisperer".
What you need to do is stop putting your dog into situations that it is obviously unsuited for.
Some dogs, as you have discovered, just don't get along with other dogs. And yet, here you are physically restraining your dog in a situation fraught with stress. I'm honestly surprised it hasn't bitten you harder before.

So, to answer your question without joining the pile-on, from what you've said here, your dog only bites when you force it to interact with other dogs, so, the simple answer is to stop doing that.
Unless your dog starts biting you for other, completely unrelated, reasons, you've got no reason to worry.
posted by madajb at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have a dear friend who socialized her rescued American Bulldog to the point where he could be taken for walks on a leash in her neighborhood. It took over two years of work with him before she was comfortable with him being off of her property, and she's experienced at working with aggressive/abused dogs.

You CANNOT dog-sit next week if this dog is going to be present.
posted by desuetude at 9:28 AM on November 1, 2007

Actually, the only reasonable thing to do is stop forcing her into situations that she is clearly not comfortable with. I bet you wish you had the perfect dog, but animals are not like that - stop trying to turn her into something she will never be.
posted by fire&wings at 9:29 AM on November 1, 2007

it was immediately apparent that she had been abused by a previous owner as she would cower anytime someone raised their hands

This does not mean she was abused. It only means that she is fearful and/or reactive. Plenty of dogs who have never been hit, ever, will act like that -- if they are crazy. Your dog is crazy.

In these cases, my girlfriend or I will quickly try to control the situation by pulling our dog off of the other dog and rolling her on her back until she settles down.

"Alpha-rolling" is a terrible idea...

In some of these instances, our Shiba will be so aggressive toward the other animal that she has bitten us

...and this is one reason why. It puts the dog into a position where it's more likely to actually bite someone, and end up being killed as a result.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:33 AM on November 1, 2007

Nth'ing the advise of stop trying to socialize her. My wife got a 6 year old american staffordshire (read: pitbull) German sheppard cross. The dog was abused by the previous owner who wanted to turn her into a guard dog. This was a very intelligent, and gentle (to humans who she didn't interpret as being threatening to ms. nobeagle) dog. However, she *hated* other dogs. It saddened ms. nobeagle to work hard to avoid other dogs while walking, and that she couldn't take her to leash free areas.

She rescued an abused pitbull in the neighborhood ("sure, take the damn dog, it can't be housetrained") that was being slowly starved to death while tied to a tree. This being a pitbull, SPCA wasn't a good choise as it was likely she'd end up just being put down. It was apparently quite hellish for the 2 weeks that this other dog lived in the basement before she found a no-kill shelter 5 hours away who'd take her. Her dog tried digging at the basement door (the other dog was in a room in the basement, so there was no direct interraction), would piss and poop around there, and was generally in a start of high alert for that time. When the dog was out of her house, and she could thoroughly investigate the basement she calmed down.

My beagle (anyone want a beagle? :) quite intentionally bit me once after pooping in the house. I had to work hard with ms. nobeagle to not get rid of her after that. However with consistent positive reinforcement training, it's been a good 6 months since she's even growled aggressively at me when she doesn't get our way. Given that your dog who hates dogs had another dog in her house, I think that she's like our beagle; she should be possibly trained away from aggressiveness in a good environment.

Cranky dogs will get worse as they age, and you should be aware of that while monitoring her moods as you continue to live with her. However if I may be a bit blunt, after hearing that you're keeping a dog in the same house as a dog who hates dogs and *trying to introduce them* I think that you need a *lot* of dog education if you want to consider keeping this dog.

If you look hard, you might be able to find someone who will take this dog while knowing her anti-social traits combined with her biting only while being separated from other dogs. It would be immoral to drop her off at a shelter without revealing this information. And if you drop her off at a shelter letting them know this I wouldn't be surprised if they don't make the dog available for adoption and put it down.
posted by nobeagle at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2007

Dogs can be crazy just like people can. You can't trust this dog. How much blood is this dog worth?
posted by cmiller at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2007

I do not necessarily think you must put her down, and I think surrendering her to a rescue organization or to another home would be terribly irresponsible.

However, she clearly does not socialize well with other dogs, and at her age, I think it's unwise to keep trying. Also, after she bit you, I would *never* trust her to be around children or strangers unsupervised or unmuzzled.

If you don't have a muzzle, get one. You should use it when walking her outside or in any situation where she will have direct contact with strangers or other dogs. I would also let your vet know that she should be muzzled during exams.
posted by tastybrains at 9:41 AM on November 1, 2007

Not to be mean, but put it down.
It will bite again.
posted by damiano99 at 9:46 AM on November 1, 2007


Euthanize your dog. She is a danger. Also, killing a dog is not the worst thing you can do to it. I would lay money on your dog having a terrible quality of life -- not because of anything you're doing or not doing, really, but because she's crazy and so lives her life in a never-ending mix of terror, rage, and frustration. If you could somehow present her with the alternatives and make her rational for a minute, I would not be surprised if she would choose simple nonexistence over her current internal life.

If you do not euthanize your dog, give up on socializing her now. From here on out, your dog does not ever, ever, ever meet any other animal or any person who is not you or your girlfriend. Under any circumstances whatsoever. No more dogsitting. If people are over, your dog needs to be crated or it must otherwise be absolutely impossible for her to get out and attack someone.

Nobody has mentioned this yet, but your dog is now a perfect storm of liability. She's prone to attack dogs. She's prone to attack people. And you know this. If you're walking her and she gets loose and attacks the neighbor kid, you can expect to be Nailed. To. The. Wall. because you knew that she was a danger to others, and yet took her out for a walk out in public anyway. If she bites someone, this could be life-ruiningly bad for you and your girlfriend.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:46 AM on November 1, 2007 [4 favorites]

your dog is now a perfect storm of liability. She's prone to attack dogs. She's prone to attack people. And you know this.

I have to second this. In case you're brushing it off in favor of the more-soothing things other people are saying.

Frankly, while I hear that you love your dog, I think that it's unacceptable of you to take a dog who routinely bites her owners (no matter what position you roll her into, this is absolutely and completely unacceptable) out into the streets.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:51 AM on November 1, 2007

The dog should be put down. The dog is not safe to keep.
posted by disclaimer at 9:54 AM on November 1, 2007

by pulling our dog off of the other dog and rolling her on her back

Bad idea.

I don't see anything in the behavior that's inconsistent, by the way, just aggressive; in my (completely non-expert) opinion, you have an aggression problem but not a neurological one, which is good as it can be predicted.

So: in the short term, if you're taking your dog anywhere that an aggressive response is even a remote possibility, muzzle. Keep up with consistent training, and go to a professional trainer who will train you at the same time they train the dog. Don't let kids approach your dog without warning them, and absolutely do not leave your home with your dog off-leash. Oh, and stop rolling your dog, of course.

In the long term, it depends entirely on how things go in the short term.

By the way, both of my dogs have bitten us; one while playing, bad timing on a grab resulted in a bit hand (after which the dog immediately went uber-submissive; we've had no repeats of the behavior) and the other on more than a few occasions, always when off-leash and defending territory. Both are generally well-disposed, however, and for each biting incident we've had at least a year of good behavior.

That doesn't mean you have a manageable problem; you might not. However, I do think the circumstances surrounding the bite drive whether or not the dog is a danger to you. Certainly I would be inclined to work towards a dog who will recognize you as alpha on their own (through your training and behavior) rather than trying to force submissive status with a back roll.
posted by davejay at 9:55 AM on November 1, 2007

Look at this from the point of view of your dog: 'Oh My God!--a new dog has been adopted into the pack, just as I was. Will I continue to be third in the the hierarchy, or will I be forced to the bottom again? OK! I've got one shot to subordinate this interloper, and I'm taking no prisoners! GRRRRRRR!'

The forbearance of Gandhi (pretty much standard issue in dogs, by the way) wouldn't have kept your dog from the throat of the one you agreed to sit (without thinking things through, in my opinion), in this extreme situation.
posted by jamjam at 9:55 AM on November 1, 2007

Oh, and my advice above is in no way intended to negate this:

your dog is now a perfect storm of liability. She's prone to attack dogs. She's prone to attack people. And you know this.
posted by davejay at 9:57 AM on November 1, 2007

Keep her away from children, far far away. Expect to be sued if you don't. Expect children to be maimed. Expect her to be "put-down" against your will. Expect pain and suffering. You get to chose who gets to suffer, you or innocent people.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:57 AM on November 1, 2007

If you haven't had a tetanus shot in the past decade, get one ASAP.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:59 AM on November 1, 2007

Talk to your vet about trying Prozac with your dog. No kidding. You'd be amazed at how much a benign antidepressant can minimize the fear biting and aggression that often emerges or worsens with age.

Dog Psychologist
posted by shrinkrap at 10:01 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, forget about trying to socialize her to be around other dogs. That day was probably past before you got her.
posted by shrinkrap at 10:03 AM on November 1, 2007

I have a very similar dog- an absolutely wonderful pet. Very very friendly, cuddly, loving dog. People that don't like dogs meet this dog and change their minds. But- it is dog aggressive as well and attacks any dog that is within striking distance.

Some interesting things that we have noticed- you might want to check if they are the same with your dog. If we are not around (his family) he is not aggressive. When we bring him to get a haircut we can leave him and pick him up and he doesn't have any issues with dogs. When we bring him to Petco to get shots, we put him in a shopping cart and he knows that other dogs can't get to him and he is fine.

Most importantly, we never purposely allow him to interact with other dogs. We keep him on a leash, and tried to get a muzzle (we could not figure out how to get him used to this. He hated it and ripped it off, no matter how tight it was). Now we occasionally have problems with other dogs that are off leash, but he tends to do ok if we pick him up.

Just don't ever allow your dog to interact with other dogs. Keep him in a fenced in back yard and your home. If you take him on walks and see other dogs on leashes go to the other side of the street. You're not the only person that has a dog-aggressive dog.
posted by ets960 at 10:06 AM on November 1, 2007

Can you be absolutely sure that other dogs will NEVER approach your dog when she's being walked? That children will NEVER approach your dog? That you can control unexpected situations perfectly EVERY time? That your dog will be happy living a circumscribed life with two constantly vigilant owners? If you're absolutely sure of all this, then you will probably keep all your fingers and all your assets. But under these conditions, you may not be getting much pleasure out of living with your dog, either.

If euthanasia is completely off the table, then the safest thing for you and your dog is to have her in an appropriately controlled environment with an experienced trainer who may be able to work with her. Let that experienced person assess the situation and take the risks.
posted by maudlin at 10:06 AM on November 1, 2007

I don't have good advice about whether or not to euthanize your dog, but I must say, I've been bitten by a few dogs over the years (a couple of them family dogs), and none of them were put down for it. The worst bite was from a grumpy, scared dog who was staying the weekend in a kennel at which I used to work. I never would have asked the owner to put their dog down, because it was obvious she was deeply afraid of her unfamiliar, uncomfortable, stinky circumstances - and also of me, the big scary stranger trying to put her on a leash. She also had a painful skin disease (which I didn't know about before she bit me), and all those factors seemed to make her flip.

As for my family dogs, they probably were not put down because we knew dogs are animals, and that any dog can possibly bite. If you add suffering, terror, or provocation to the mix, you're making it much more likely the dog's going to do so.

If you decide not to euthanize her, you definitely had better stop antagonizing her by forcing her to "socialize". Your dog did do something kind of insane, there, you know. My grandparents had a dog kind of like yours once, though, and he did okay if they kept him away from his stressors (and he was NEEEEEVER free to roam around, and he never came in contact with other dogs).
posted by Coatlicue at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2007

On posting: ets960, you're having some success with controlling your dog-aggressive dog. But has your dog ever deliberately attacked you and drawn blood? That's relevant both to the perceived personal and legal risk the OP faces.
posted by maudlin at 10:09 AM on November 1, 2007

I have to second Xenophobe and hmsbeagle. The dog bites you regularly when in the presence of other dogs. I don't care about anything else, and neither will a jury if you are sued.

This dog is, sadly, unsafe at any speed. There is no truly safe way to take it out in public. Fences, leashes and muzzles will only reduce the risk to yourselves and others. And keeping it confined indefinitely is inhumane.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:09 AM on November 1, 2007

People, as a general rule: if you have a dog that is aggressive, seek professional help. Actual, qualified, certified by a training organization (which, by the way, Cesar Milan is not, at all) help. If you don't know how to handle your dog, putting him in a situation that he finds stressful and then alpha rolling him is a TERRIBLE idea. If you were afraid of snakes and I punched you ever time you were near one and acted scared, what would you do? Would your feelings about snakes change? What about your feelings towards me? Every time you alpha roll him, you've told him that violence is an appropriate response to violence. It reduces the trust your dog has of you. It can make him think that you go insane around other dogs, or other people, NOT that what he is doing is bad.

If you don't know how to read stress in your dog, if your timing is not good, if you don't know what you are doing, don't take it upon yourself. Don't practice training regimens you read about from the internet. It's not socialization if you put him in a place that he hates and punishes him for it. The goal in socialization is to make him LIKE other dogs. How does alpha rolling (which he sees as an attack) make him like other dogs?

Your dog has tried to tell you over and over again that he is uncomfortable and you keep putting him in that situation over and over again. This dog is not safe and has not been safe for a long time. This is not something that can be cured in a day with drugs, or watching a guy on TV. Your relationship with your dog is broken, and his relationship with other dogs is broken. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP.
posted by hindmost at 10:14 AM on November 1, 2007 [6 favorites]

Geez, the first decision definitely should not be euthanasia; if you really care about this dog (and it sounds like you do) you need to start working with a (legitimate) behaviorist. Note that most legitimate behaviorists don't like Milan's techniques; he relies on physically establishing that he is dominant over all the other dogs and uses other dogs to help establish that he is the "leader of the pack." Depending on the dog and the owner, this is often not going to be a good long-term solution.

Your behaviour is probably causing the situation more than it is doing anything to alleviate it. Talk to a professional.
posted by jcwagner at 10:16 AM on November 1, 2007

The animal shelter should never have let this dog be adopted. They are supposed to screen dogs for behavior problems before letting them go to families. At this age, she will not get any better. I have to echo what others have said; you should put her down. And get a nice dog as soon as you can. Good luck.
posted by Koko at 10:19 AM on November 1, 2007

The dog should not be dominant, you should be. It's your job as leader of the pack to make sure he's put in his place. Get a trained behaviorist to help you.

No Dog should ever bite it's owner, that's pretty serious. Also, no dog should be put down unless you've run out of any other options as nearly all bad behaviour in animals is down to poor training.

The way you seem to be trying to train her is completely wrong. rolling her on to her back is insane. Think about it. She sees a threat in the other dog and you put her in a vulnerable position?

Dogs and cats will only show their stomachs when they are being subservient. You are forcing your dog into a position that leaves it vulnerable.

No wonder she bit you.
posted by twistedonion at 10:29 AM on November 1, 2007

At this age, she will not get any better.

What a load of crap.
posted by twistedonion at 10:29 AM on November 1, 2007

At this age, she will not get any better.

She will, however, respond differently to different stimuli from her owners -- I'm not convinced this is entirely a dog behavior problem. (I take full responsibility for causing my dog's bad behavior to escalate -- which I do -- it's really hard to be as consistent as a dog needs you to be.)

The alpha roll has been discredited. The Monks issued a new edition (of How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend, I think) that took it out completely and addresses the reasons why they did -- one main one being that it's too dangerous for the human.

I particularly like Patricia McConnell -- she does positive reinforcement training, which I have found to be effective with my somewhat hyper, semi-aggressive border collie mutt. I especially liked her book The Other End Of The Leash, though it's less about training methods and tips and more about the philosophy and methodology of living with canines.
posted by librarina at 10:35 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I do hope you've gone to see a doctor. If it was a penetrating bite, they'll want to test your dog for rabies, to make sure you are not infected. (I think that's a law.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:40 AM on November 1, 2007

my girlfriend or I will quickly try to control the situation by pulling our dog off of the other dog and rolling her on her back until she settles down.

Stop doing this. This is based on 30-year-old misinterpretations of captive wolf behaviour and (as you have discovered) it accomplishes nothing except making humans more likely to be bitten. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ALPHA ROLL IN THE DOG WORLD, it's the omega dog which rolls itself over. Stop rolling your dog, you are making things far worse than they need to be. Your dog is already aroused and you are then taking a dog in a heightened state of arousal and manhandling it into a position which makes it feel it needs to defend itself. As described, this is NOT truly human aggression, this is a combination of redirection aggression (the dog is aggressive toward another dog and redirects that aggression toward whatever is closer) and defensive aggression (because of the rolling).

If you intend to keep this dog, you need to educate yourself about modern, science-based, appropriate ways to deal with this dog (Feisty Fido, The Culture Clash, How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong, Fight!, to name a few). But you also need to get into training with a professional, look for someone who offers "Feisty Fido" or "Reactive Rover" classes (like this), or classes which specifically address dog-dog aggression with MODERN methods (NOT Cesar Millan's outdated dog whisperer bullying, this will make the problem worse, not better).

Many dogs can be rehabilitated, but not the way you're doing it, learn the right ways to deal with this problem from people whose approaches are based in modern scientific studies of dog behaviour modification. Your current methods have made your dog worse, you can't go back and change that, but you CAN learn how to start making things better. Many dogs can be rehabilitated to the point where they are manageable, your dog will never be a candidate for doggy daycare or dog parks, but I suspect that with enough time and effort and help from someone who actually knows what they are doing, your dog can be brought to the point where she is substantially better than she is now. Good luck.
posted by biscotti at 10:43 AM on November 1, 2007 [11 favorites]

Agreeing with the people who says that it sounds like your dog is not well trained, but that most of the real problems seem to be caused by how you're handling her. I'm not terribly surprised that you got bit, you keep cornering your dog in very bad situations, exacerbated by her not knowing wtf you want from her....

Specifically, it sounds like you didn't have enough (any?!) dog-dog socialization at a distance before you tried to introduce your dog to new dogs. Given your dog's age and unfamiliarity with other dogs, she needs to see other dogs pass by at a great distance, with rewards from you, regularly over the course of weeks (or more) before you start moving her closer to other dogs. When you do start progressing it needs to be tiny baby steps, with lots of rewards along the way.

Normal obedience training (sit, down, stay, heel) wouldn't go wrong here either.

If you don't have lots of time and patience to spend doing this, and you don't have the money for a professional, then your other options basically suck.
posted by anaelith at 10:46 AM on November 1, 2007

Our dog is animal aggressive but she loves people. We just keep her away from other animals.

Is there any evidence that your dog would ever bite someone else in the absence of another animal? Just because she'd go after another dog does not mean that she'd do the same to another human.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:05 AM on November 1, 2007

My father's side of the family has raised prized hunting dogs for generations, dogs worth $500 to more than $1000. Still, if a dog ever, ever bit anyone my grandfather would take it out and shoot it in front of the other dogs. He loves his dogs, but a dog that attacks people once can never be trusted again.

What in the world does shooting it in front of the other dogs accomplish? They do not have the ability to reason "Oh, Rover bit Grandpa and got shot for his trouble. Better keep my teeth to myself." This is just plain sadistic, IMHO. Why not take it to the vet and have it euthanized humanely? Or does that cost too much money (for these $500+ dogs)?
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:15 AM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]

DieHipsterDie, has your dog ever been so aggressive -- and scared -- around other animals that she bit you? This dog has been handled around other dogs in such a way as to make it both more frightened and more aggressive. This is no longer just another dog-aggressive dog: this is a dog-aggressive dog who has been repeatedly aggressive towards humans and who most recently drew blood and could have inflicted serious damage.

I have to agree with biscotti and the other experienced pet owners here. This dog needs a professional. Please take her to one.
posted by maudlin at 11:24 AM on November 1, 2007

Maudlin, there's a difference between being bit by your dog while trying to break up a dog fight and your dog biting a human who just happens to pass by.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:28 AM on November 1, 2007

Sure, there is a difference between those kinds of dogs. And I don't think this dog is now going to sneak outside at 2 AM to hunt babies. But she has behaved aggressively towards humans when she was dealing with other dogs, which not all dog-aggressive dogs do. Her behaviour has escalated over time, from submission upon correction, to submission mixed with "warning bites", to this most recent bite. She's crossed a line putting her owner at greater personal risk, as well as greater legal risk.

If she attacks another dog again, and that dog's owner tries to separate them and gets badly bitten, I don't think that owner -- or their lawyer -- is going to make the same fine distinction. This dog has a history. This dog needs help.
posted by maudlin at 11:43 AM on November 1, 2007

What in the world does shooting it in front of the other dogs accomplish?

It might desensitize the dogs towards gunshots.

And it lets the dogs know that scary, awful things happen randomly whenever Grandpa is around.

I'm not sure that either of those are worth accomplishing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:45 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Agreed maudlin that this dog needs help. I believe that it's not too late yet.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:51 AM on November 1, 2007

Just because she'd go after another dog does not mean that she'd do the same to another human.

The reasonable nightmare vision isn't that Shiba is going to go apeshit and kill the neighbors for no reason.

The reasonable nightmare scenario is more like this:

You're walking Shiba and she sees some other dog being walked by a kid. In spite of everything, she gets loose and attacks the other dog. The kid reacts like many would and tries to break up the dog fight, at which point Shiba bites him instead, just like she's done before. And in the nightmare, the kid loses the use of a finger. Or, because he's kid-sized and kid-stupid, he bends over to break up the fight and loses an eye.

The probability of even the "reasonable" nightmare scenario is low, but this is deep, dark, powerful juju. Y'all need to think Real. Fucking. Hard. and Right. The. Fuck. Now. about how you're going to make that risk as close to zero as you possibly can.

This is especially true because if, god forbid, the shit does hit the fan, you are actually on record here at metafilter worrying about just how dangerous your dog is.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:56 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've been going through a problem with my dog recently. When I rescued her, she LOVED all people. I was actually training her to be an animal assisted therapy dog because she was so loving.

Then some neighborhood kids took to taunting her from the window when I wasn't home. Every day. Suddenly, she started barking at all kids. I didn't know why. Problem being, kids LOVE her and always want to pet her. I decided to try socializing her and bringing her to places kids would go, on the perimeter. It seemed to help, but then I made some huge mistakes.

I went to visit my father's place and he has an Australian Blue Heeler that kept trying to herd my little dog by biting at her. I wasn't happy about it, but rather than keep the dogs apart, I figured I would let the dog pack work out the problems themselves. My dog gives very clear signals, but my father's dog didn't listen to any of them and kept cornering her. So suddenly she felt trapped by the dog and that was when I saw her be aggressive for the first time to another animal. She was pretty vicious trying to get this dog to back off, actually. And although he totally deserved it, I shouldn't have ever put her in the position to defend herself that way.

A few days later I was at a park and little kids ran up, screaming, wanting to grab her. I saw her get the same look on her face that she had with the Blue Heeler, that trapped, scared look. And even though I knew she was somewhat uncomfortable with kids, I remembered she used to like them so I said, "Here, let me hold her, she might let you." Well, my dog began to shake, and start to growl and then tried to nip one of the kids. I couldn't believe it, it wasn't her personality before. I decided, "Wow. My dog hates kids. This is scary. Where did this come from?" Even worse, the other day I was at a cafe and she actually LUNGED at a kid walking by. I was horrified and scared that my dog was becoming dangerous or something.

I called my dog's trainer immediately and she basically told me that I needed to shift my thinking. She said that the problem was entirely my fault. And she was right. I was putting my dog into situations that terrified her, and as her owner I should've protected her and kept her out of them instead of pushing her. I was just too in denial to accept that my dog isn't always a cuddle bug for everyone she meets any more.

My trainer also said that I shouldn't reprimand her when she gives signals that she's uncomfortable because it's IMPORTANT that she gives those signals and that I listen to them.

Last night was one of the first nights I really started to just accept that my dog has these issues. With Halloween, there were kids everywhere. Last year I tried to hold my dog as the kids all said "Awwwww." I now know that was absolutely cruel of me. So I put my dog in her crate. She barked as kids showed up and I gave them candy, she didn't want them here. But she was safe and the kids were safe. And maybe in time she will mellow out, but I'm not going to force her to be a dog she isn't. Maybe when she's a bit older she'll mellow out and I can work on this more, but in the meantime I need to just accept the problem for what it is and not be in denial about it. I need to just avoid the triggers for it.

Moral of the story... watch some Dog Whisperer, he tackles this issue a lot. But in the meantime, don't push your dog into situations that it isn't comfortable with.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:48 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why not take it to the vet and have it euthanized humanely?

Let's not get too hysterical. Shooting an animal properly is no less humane than having a vet execute it, and it's de rigeur out in the country in most places.
posted by 6550 at 12:49 PM on November 1, 2007

And by the way, it's a good sign that you're concerned about this. My dad, as previously mentioned, is not a good dog owner. And he loves these blue heelers, which is a horrible thing because as mentioned they are herding dogs. Unless properly trained and exercised, they are out of control. Blue heelers want so much to be guiding sheep around a field that they will bite and nip the back of people's heels instinctively, same as they nipped my dog. His last blue heeler was declared a dangerous dog by the city of San Diego. My dad lives near a lot of retirement homes and he'd let his dog out to the bathroom and it would run through the neighborhood trying to herd old people by biting them on their heels. Funny mental picture, yeah, but needless to say, it was not a good thing. Old people have enough of a problem with gravity without some dog herding them down the street.

My dad went to court for it, it was a big deal. They didn't put the dog down but it had to have a special tag and it cost my father a lot of money. He's clueless though. When I asked him about it, his response was, "It's stupid. It's not like the dog was drawing blood or something." Sigh.

So, that you wrote this is a good sign that you are not clueless like my dad. Facing this problem and accepting it for what it is, that's a very positive thing. By talking about it, you have shown that you clearly care about this dog and also about people and you want to prevent future injury to anyone. That's good and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I hope you find a good answer to this problem.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:58 PM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

it would run through the neighborhood trying to herd old people by biting them on their heels

Now that's funny. As long as no one gets hurt or emotionally freaked out that is.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:33 PM on November 1, 2007

Don't give up on your dog just yet.

What she (most likely, can't tell for sure without meeting the dog) thinks: She sees other dogs as a threat, and she thinks that you and she should have driven off the other dog together. Your 'defense' of the strange dog confuses her and she feels betrayed. Are you sure she has a dominant personality? Your description of her cowering at raised hands and rolling over submissively indicates that she is anxious and fearful. Dominating people and other dogs involves different behaviors from attacking them; a lot of things that dogs do as dominance and submission behaviors aren't violent, and can go unnoticed by their owners.

What to do: Confine the two dogs away from one another. Find another sitter ASAP for the second dog, who you shouldn't have offered to sit in the first place. Don't do that again if you can avoid it. Socializing her to another dog will take days, even weeks, of work and it's not worth doing unless the other dog is going to be around often.

See your vet about putting her on a calmative such as Prozac (dosage is adjusted for weight, so it will be a lot lower than human dosages). Talk about what you're feeding her. Change pet food brands and meat types around a bit, see if she's calmer with different foods - if her present diet is mostly beef, try her on half chicken, or half lamb, and add some vegetables (dogs are only mostly carnivorous; in nature, they eat the stomach and contents of their prey as well as the meat).

Dog training is pretty straightforward, but time-consuming. You need to work out what she likes most in all the world, and reward her with that. Punishment should be limited to a stern "NO", withdrawing attention, etc. Get a clicker, or similar device - the purpose of this is to instantly tell the dog that what they did was good, and that even if you have to fish around in your pockets for it, they are getting a reward for the good thing.

Train her to obey the command "leave it" (as a combination of "drop it" and "come here"), and reinforce this a lot. For a dog with a biting history, "leave it" is the most important command possible, and must be trained to the point where it is instantly obeyed. Train her to put up with wearing a muzzle (don't just buckle it on her and punish her for trying to remove it). If you must take her out where other dogs or people are, put the muzzle on her. Get a "beware of the dog" sign for your gate, and a bell for it so strangers don't have to walk up to your door. Train her to be introduced to guests (it's a lot easier to do this with humans than with other dogs, since humans can be told what to do); when guests become a pleasurable experience for her, that she associates with treats and play, you will have succeeded in that training. Involve the gate-bell in this process in some way; ideally if it rings, she should come straight to you. (Start by carrying it around and ringing it when you call, then ring instead of calling, then have someone stand near you and ring it and reward her only when she comes to you, then increase the distance, until eventually as soon as that bell rings, she comes to you, wherever you are.)

An important principle of dog training is substitution of bad behaviors with good ones. Normally this is done by "overwhelming" the bad impulses with positive reinforcement (treats, pats, praise, play) for good impulses.

Now it is always possible that her behavior is due to something far more serious than anything you can train her out of, but it's not likely and nothing in your description indicates that. You can cross that bridge when you come to it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:37 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Scrolling through and skipping a few to say: please, please, please check your homeowner's insurance policy to be sure you have sufficient coverage.

Many years ago, we had a chow who bit the child of a friend of ours. It wasn't a vicious attack, more of a misunderstanding, but the child required stitches. Because the dog had bitten someone before (less severe bite - torn pants) and we revealed this during an insurance deposition, the friend sued us - in spite of the fact that we had the dog put down after he bit the child - and received $250,000 from the insurance co. It was a horrible experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

If you are going to keep this dog, get an umbrella liability policy and lawyer up now.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:16 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also adding - check to be sure that your insurance co doesn't have "dangerous dog" exclusions for certain breeds. We were told quite emphatically the breeds we were not allowed to own going forward.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:17 AM on November 2, 2007

...the friend sued us - in spite of the fact that we had the dog put down after he bit the child - and received $250,000 from the insurance co.

With friends like those...
posted by chundo at 9:45 AM on November 2, 2007

Yeah, no kidding chundo. Part of it was an insurance technicality - the medical portion of our HO coverage topped out at $10,000 so they said they "had" to sue us to cover the hospital bills. Another reason I now say it's SO important to have that umbrella coverage.

But beyond that, they got swayed by some greedy relatives. The money was supposed to have been put in a trust for the little girl, but her parents have gone on a very sad downward spiral (think Winehouse + Doherty) so I'm sure that money was long gone before she had a chance to get it. Needless to say, we stopped being friends the day I got served with the lawsuit.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:16 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

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