Good morning, fellow Havanese lovers! I'm seeking advice about some biting issues we are having with our dog, Hudson. I know this is a long post, but I wanted to give you all the information.
A little background: We got Hudson last summer at 8 weeks old. He is now just over a year. He is the joy of our house and family! He is the sweetest, smartest, cutest dog ever (I know we all say that!) and we just love him. He has got that sweet Havanese temperament that I read so much about when researching breeds, and is very social... Great with adults, kids and other dogs.
After saying all that, though, we do have one problem with him. He has started to growl and snap or bite at certain times. The growling can get very ferocious (sounds like a wild animal) and the biting is painful (he hasn't broken the skin -- yet).
He shows this behavior at a few different times:
*When he is sitting with me (on my lap or next to me) and one of my sons (12 and 15) comes over to take him from me, he will give a low growl. If they leave him with me, he is fine -- tail wagging, lots of kisses for them -- but if they continue to pick him up after the growling, he will start thrashing and doing the ferocious growl, sometimes with biting. This happens probably half the time they try to take him from me. The rest of the time, he is happy to go with them. And, in general, he loves them -- I'm pretty sure it's not an issue with them, but rather that he doesn't want to leave me at that particular time.
*When any of us (me, kids, husband) try to take something out of his mouth -- something he's found on the floor, a bone or bully stick that's been chewed too small, someone's underwear -- he growls and often bites. I have to say he is less likely to bite me than the others, but I have been nipped in the past. If we can get the object quickly, things are ok, but if we have to work to open his jaws to remove something, that's when it gets bad.
*Sometimes, when my sons or husband are playing with him, he seems to get overexcited and can get nippy then, too. This doesn't seem like aggressive biting, but the snaps have been getting steadily stronger.
In any if these cases, he is his sweet self as soon as the moment has passed.
Of course, I am looking for advice from any of you on how to handle this behavior, but I took him to our trainer, and wanted to share her thoughts/advice with you. If you have any opinions, please let me have 'em.
My younger son went with Hudson and me, and she could see right away that Hudson wasn't happy when my son walked over to take him from my lap. She said she could see in the way he (Hud) moved his head and eyes that he was going to be aggressive toward my son.
She told us he was controlling, needs to be in charge, and doesn't know his place in our family. (She said this is a Havanese trait? I hadn't heard that). All this time I've thought it was so sweet that he sits in my lap, she says he does that to be on top of the person he sees as the leader (in addition to wanting to be close to me). The fact that he follows me everywhere is him trying to "herd" me.
I'm not sure I agree with those assessments, but we definitely have a problem that seems to be worsening, and I'm definitely on board with the idea that Hudson doesn't know his place in our family "pack."
She reviewed the "cradling" technique we learned in puppy class, in which we hold him on his back and don't let him down until he's calm. She said we need to be doing that very often during the day. In addition, she advised us to put him in his crate 3-4 times a day when we are just doing our normal things in the house, so that he sees that our lives go on without him in the middle of things (before this, he's really only gone in the crate when we leave the house). He's not supposed to sit on my lap anymore (he can sit next to me, but not on me), and he should only come up on the furniture when he's invited (when we're on it; if the couch is emoty, he can jump up anytime). She also wants us to leash him to us -- off and on during the day -- and go about our day in the house or yard so that he goes around with us. I guess then we're having him follow us, instead of it being his choice.
We are working on all these things, and they all seem to be going very well; it's only been about a week. He now relaxes right away when we out him on his back, and that is what we do with him when he gets growly or bites. She said in addition to this helping him learn to calm, it also teaches him that we can move him the way we want to, which he can't do to us. That should help with being able to get into his mouth when needed.
So, after all that (thanks to those of you who've stayed with me on this!), I'd love your advice and/or opinions. I'm not so much looking for opinions on the trainer (although I'm happy to hear that), but more on if you know of anything else we should be doing. We are worried he is going to hurt one of us, or worse, a friend or neighbor (although he doesn't show aggressiveness to anyone outside our family at this point).
Thank you in advance for your wisdom!
PS. the trainer also recommended we retake our Puppy 101 class, just to get back to some of the basics. We will be starting that next month.
Last edited by Ecf1216; 08-06-2013 at 12:30 PM.