Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dog Training Advice Sought

The Cattle Dog (CD) nipped Brian.

CD (six to ten years -- she was a rescue) has been getting grumpier recently. The Shih Tzu (15 months) tries her patience. He (the Shih Tzu) is the epitome of the annoying little brother. He likes to grab whatever he thinks someone wants and run off with it so you will chase him. It drives CD nuts.

CD is also a control freak. She has always understood that she is way down in the pack order. She will sit and stay for anyone of us. She polices all the other animals though. Before my cat died she would periodically hold down the kitten so that the cat could get away without being attacked. Now CD regularly stops the Shih Tzu from tackling the kitten (now an adult, but still mildly spastic).

So, like I said, CD has been grumpy recently. A couple of times I have bumped into her or tripped over her and she has snapped at me -- and then been very, very sorry because I am the alpha momma and she knows it.

So tonight Brian was trying to play with the Shih Tzu. Brian was tossing a ball, the Shih Tzu was chasing it, and CD was trying to get in the middle. CD didn't want to play; she just didn't want anyone else to play either. Anyway, at one point she snapped at Brian and one of her teeth made contact with his cheek.

It was the sort of thing that CD does to the Shih Tzu all the time. She grabs the puppy's face and holds him down. Of course CD didn't go through with it. She realized quickly that she had made a mistake. She has spent all evening apologizing. Brian put her on a down-stay for a while. I put her on a down-stay. Roland did too. All in all, she has been thoroughly reminded that she is on the bottom rung (well, maybe just above the Shih Tzu and the spastic cat) in a benevolent, well-run pack.

But Brian was very upset, which I do understand.

So this is what I know to do: put CD in a separate room when Brian plays with the Shih Tzu; make sure CD gets lots of exercise to tire her out; and have Brian put CD on down-stays regularly.

Anyone have any other ideas?


  1. I don't have any advice other than to think what you've listed is good. Not only for CD but for Brian as well. Making him work with her will help him avert any fears of her biting by reasserting to him that he is higher up the pack than she is. Sometimes we all need reminders.

    Exercising her may take out some of her frustrations and energy. Does she have a space that is her own to run away too if she wanted? We have to do this with our cats. One has to have a space that is all hers to escape to.

  2. Get him checked out at the vet. This kind of thing is often triggered when an animal is in pain.. And then it sure is the easiest to rectify. I don't jknow if Cd still plays himself then I would have Brian lead a game too with a toy that Brian keeps not the dog..

    Good luck it is a hard situation!

  3. Mijk,
    We did take her to the vet. Twice in the past month or so. Once was specifically for her foot, the other was for our concern about her teeth (the vet wasn't worried) and for her general health.

    If the behavior continues then we may go again and just ask the vet to figure out if anything is wrong anywhere.

  4. I don't know what you should do, other than NOT send her to Maine. :)

  5. A vet check up isn't a bad thing, talking about what happened - they might be able to give you some ideas too.
    Other wise it sounds to me that you are doing the right things.

  6. One thing to remember is she is a cattle dog; they have that innate sense of herding. When her emotions get all riled up, it probably kicks into high gear. (Not that you didn't know any of that.)

  7. Mary,

    I do think that is a big part of it. And it isn't just the herding. If she thinks that two of the other animals are playing too roughly she always breaks it up. Yesterday I thought she was just jealous of the play, but now I wonder if she was confused by it and thought that she had to put an end to their rough-housing.

  8. I would definitely follow this up with a vet, just like others have suggested. If a dog that's normally not known to snap at family members starts snapping, there's probably a reason for it.

    Look at medical issues first.

  9. I am no dog trainer by any stretch, but it sounds like you have done all you can.
    Do you think you can figure out the root cause of CD's nip?

  10. First thing is it sounds like she may be in pain. Have the vet check her very thoroughly. Secondly, if she is a dominant herding personality like many CD's are, you may have to "retrain" her to realize that EVERYONE in the household are above her. She may feel like she can "get away" with the behavior. It might make sense to read some of the articles that Cesar Millan has written. But my hunch is that she's hurting.


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