Friday, 27 February 2015

Where does that leave Ozzy?

The other day I was Ozzy’s third bite victim. 
In the summer, Ozzy had pinched a piece of wood and took it under the table.  When my husband went to retrieve it, Ozzy snapped.  He did not draw blood.  There were tooth marks and a bruise.  The friend who came to stay had put her handbag on the floor by the table leg.  When she went to get something out of it, Ozzy snapped.  He did not draw blood.  Tooth marks and bruising. His ball was close to the bag. After these two incidents we were advised to have Ozzy castrated.  We did and his behaviour changed.  He has become more placid, less agitated, less macho, less "doggy", less amorous towards male visitors. 

A few days ago, Ozzy went to pinch something unsavoury out of the rubbish bin.  I went up to him to take it out of his mouth.  He bit my hand.  

So where does that leave Ozzy? 

I know what my vet would say. He should be put down.  Some caring friends who have no experience with dogs, say the same and I understand their arguments.

When Ozzy steals something and takes it under the table, it’s his.  When he steals food or food related items such as oven gloves or tea towels, he is a liability when you want to take it out of his mouth.  This is the only time he shows aggressive behaviour.  And of course he is not a Chihuahua.  He is  big dog and can therefore potentially do more harm.

How can a family pet who is generally obedient behave like this?  He never growls, does not threaten.  I can take his food bowl away when he eats.  He obeys to the commands he has been thought.  Comes back in the forest when called.   He is not aggressive towards other dogs or towards humans although he has to check out strangers before befriending them.  He is not a dangerous dog.  He does not get upset if another dog takes his ball or his stick.  He does not attack other dogs or humans.  He is clever and smart.  Wants cuddles. 

It’s a known fact that Australian shepherds have a nervous disposition.   

My friend, Jules, who is 85 years old and knows all there is to know about dogs, says it’s our fault for not being strong pack leaders.  We are too soft and lenient with Ozzy. He thinks that we will succeed with boot camp type training and attitude change on our behalf.   

I want to give Ozzy another chance but will we succeed? 

I am reading all my books of wisdom for help. 

I feel we have to seek advice from people who know about dog behaviour.

How do you go about finding somebody who is not a charlatan?  Anybody can call himself a behaviourist in Belgium.  Better still “professional behaviourist”.   You can read a book, put a plaque on your door and cash in the Euros.  What do they know, I do not know myself?

As a qualified dog trainer, I feel this is a real challenge. 




Whispering Walls said...

Was it a savage bite, ED? Sorry i can't offer any advice.

Trisha E said...

You might try books by the Dog Whisper (I'm not sure if you got his program in the UK, but he was excellent. It's off the air now, but he did several books as well.)

Eurodog said...

I am sorry too,WW.
Trisha E: I think you mean Cesar Millan. I have some of his books and I subcribe to his newsletter. He is big into: "pack leadership". He has good advice. Thank you for bringing him to my attention.

Deborah Stull said...

As a stock dog/ obedience trainer with experience with a number of strong willed breeds, a dog bite, to me, is just an indication of a dog trying to be in control. It is the same as a child slapping at a parent, or back talking. Ozzie is being very rude, and saying in dog terms "MINE". It would be different if the bites were unprovoked, and by unprovoked I mean there was no obvious trigger. He bites when he thinks something of his is going to be taken away. It would be silly to kill a dog simply for being rude. Try calling him away from something before reaching for it. Give him a command he knows, such as "drop it", or 'no", or even "sit".

Eurodog said...

Yes Deborah I agree with you. Unfortunately it is too late to give him a command when he has something which he considers to be his. His message in his eyes and body language is :"Back off"
He growls and barks aggressively. But as I said in my post, it's only food related or with something he has stolen.

Angus said...

Poor you. What a difficult decision. He certainly should not be put down. If there were young children around it might be different'. It would seem that he's just a very dominant, lively, character trying to come to terms with this role in the pack.Is he aggressive with strangers ? We had one who went through a similar stage. We went back to puppy training days speaking sharply and turning our backs on him when he growled. After a difficult six months he turned out to be the gentlest dog imaginable. The great thing about dogs is that if they forget house rules they soon relearn them again. He's a sheepdog isn't he ?

Deborah Stull said...

I did not realize he also gave warnings, LOL! So hard to give advice for a behavior I can't see in person. I still say he is just being rude. What is his punishment for being a brat? Does he end up winning? Keeping his "treasure"? If so, the snapping will just get worse. He isn't biting to hurt, just to make you leave it. Ozzie is in charge at that moment! Whatever his punishment is, the crime he commits is worth it to him. The trick now, is to find something that convinces him that you will not tolerate the behavior! Maybe a drag line, and set him up for a correction?

Eurodog said...

Angus, thank you for your reassuring words. Ozzy is climbing up the ladder and ends up winning all the time because I am now scared to be bitten.

Eurodog said...

Deborah, yes he is being rude and yes he ends up winning because I am afraid to be bitten.
yesterday he took teatowels in his basket and I ignored him and turned my back on him. I am also no feeding him when he pesters me to be fed.
I agree with you but how to convince him that he cannot get away with it. I will try the drag line and I am starting training from scratch again just to establish who is in charge.

Deborah Stull said...

Dog aggression is so hard to deal with, for us humans! I always ask myself.. how would a canine pack mate react in the same situation. A less assured dog, a submissive dog, would back away. So, by backing away, you have reinforced his decision to keep his treasure for himself.

Personally, in a similar situation, I am not afraid of a bite. It just hurts, but then, I am in a position to be aggressive back, with cause. This I would not recommend, since it has worked for him in the past, and he might not back down too readily.

I think you are on the right track!! Start from scratch, letting him earn privileges, and remembering who has the thumbs, and the can opener!!

Eurodog said...

Deborah, I had a serious bite which required a hospital visit. Hence my reluctance. But I firmly believe that the intensity or the seriousness of the bite is not the issue here. It's the fact it happened in the first place.

Deborah Stull said...

Oh, I agree! The fact that he'd bite at all is the issue. No excuse! Just me rambling. I did not mean to say you are wrong to be reluctant to getting bit, as a bite is a bite, and they can be bad! It does seem to me that what you are now doing is the absolute right way to go. Best of luck to you and Ozzy! Bet he will be a changed boy soon.

Charlotte said...

Hi Deborah, I think you are very wise and agree that Ozzy is the pack leader in the household. I also believe that this as involves as much training for the owners that it does for the dog. The human owner needs to be strong and assertive and not give in to this behaviour.

Having seen Ozzy in 'person' myself - he is a very good natured dog and children have played with him without a problem. However, as a little puppy he was not properly trained, and handed over to new owners (Eurodogtraining and family) when he was a little older than 1. Even with the new owners, he did not have sufficient training and is treated like the pride and joy. Who wouldn't bask in that glory?!

Perhaps you could give some useful day to day tips about pack leadership for the owners? I remember that Ozzy barks when Eurodogtraining & husband are on the phone to get attention. He also steals napkins from the dinner table & socks from wellies and subsequently thinks they are his, then hides under a table effectively giving himself his own 'territory'.

Also, he is locked up in the kitchen where he eats and sleeps. He starts pinching things when he is let out of the kitchen. He gets excited when he goes upstairs and thinks everything is his toy.

Any advice welcome, although I appreciate it's hard if you haven't met the dog.

Eurodog said...

Thank you, Charlotte. Of course we love Ozzy.

Deborah Stull said...

Actually Charlotte, Ozzy sounds like a delightful dog! Like people, dogs have their own little quirks, and it just sounds to me that Ozzy has found a way to feel important, and he is delighting in it. Mine are also spoiled, and there are a few things they get away with, that I shouldn't let happen. Jumping up being the most annoying. I know how to fix it, but I find myself letting them do it to me. The first thing needed to fix a problem in behavior, is knowing there is a problem! Eurodog knows now, and with a little work, he should have better manners soon.

My dogs are all taught the "drop it" command, and the "leave it" command. The last one is very important to some of my herding dogs who might otherwise try to herd a flushed bunny. I spend a lot of time with puppies taking things from their mouths with the "drop it" command, and then giving them something nice that they can have. Lots of exchanges, so the command can often mean I have something better, not a negative.