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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
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Biting questions

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!
Ellen

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.
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 01:03 PM
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Wow, as a new Hav parent, I will be watching to see what the experienced Hav parents have to say. I have read much about pack order on here. And with that goes the myth about being alpha and not putting a pup on its back! I have 2 of the same issues as you. My Hav is only 7 months, but out of now where she gets what I see as aggressive with my dh while he is just sitting in his chair. She also is possessive (resource guarding) about items she finds dropped on the floor and/or outdoors. I can usually swap them out wiyh a high value treat if it is something potentially harmful. She will let me retrieve clothing items by putting gently pressure on her lower jar. She does growl sometimes, but it is different then the one that comes with a bite. That happened to me only once and I remember the growl well.
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 01:46 PM
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I'm curious to read what others have to say.

Regarding his "Resource Guarding" (biting and nipping when you try to remove something from his mouth or around him). - I don't recommend taking anything directly from his mouth, especially by force. Try teaching him "Leave It" or "Drop It". Ideally they should be two separate commands, but Gibbs started to drop whatever was in his mouth when we said "Leave It", so we just rolled with it.


"Leave It" was simple. He let Gibbs watch as we put a treat in our closed hand and let him sniff. We would cue "Leave It" when he gave up sniffing and started to walk away, at which point we would give it to him. He quickly learned that walking away was how he got his reward. Unfortunately, he has also learned that all he has to do to get a treat is pick up a piece of mulch.

John





Last edited by Gibbs Mom and Dad; 08-06-2013 at 01:59 PM.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 01:47 PM
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Good for you for seeking help in the form of a trainer. Unfortunately this trainer is not correct in half of what she is recommending. I won't go there but I would recommend another trainer. I won't make any recommendations other than that. If you'd like help finding one. Let me know.

Dave and Molly
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 01:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibbs Mom and Dad View Post
I'm curious to read what others have to say.

Regarding his "Resource Guarding" (biting and nipping when you try to remove something from his mouth). - I don't recommend taking anything directly from his mouth, especially by force. Try teaching him "Leave It" or "Drop It". Ideally they should be two separate commands, but Gibbs started to drop whatever was in his mouth when we said "Leave It", so we just rolled with it.


"Leave It" was simple. He let Gibbs watch as we put a treat in our closed hand and let him sniff. We would cue "Leave It" when he gave up sniffing and started to walk away, at which point we would give it to him. He quickly learned that walking away was how he got his reward. Unfortunately, he has also learned that all he has to do to get a treat is pick up a piece of mulch.
is it John or Dana? I think you mentioned mulch before? Just be aware , cocoa mulch is toxic to dogs.

Dave and Molly
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 02:01 PM
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Ellen, had a question for you. what does Hudson do when you take him off your lap?

I too agree with Dave, your current trainer is half right. also, I personally am not a fan of put a dog on their back till they calm down. that's me though.

My 1/2 hav has resource guarding issues, and also the lap thing, but not the biting, just the growl.

ok things in the mouth that should be there: yes Hudson needs to learn 'drop it'. 'leave it', is when it's on the ground and they want to get something ,but then you say leave it so they don't go for item. or that's my understanding.

find a treat that he really likes, cheese, cooked real chicken, something really good, that he can't resist. and then even with items you don't mind him having in his mouth (easier to teach the trick with), when he has something in his mouth, offer the awesome treat, he'll drop it, you give him the treat (every time). then when he's consistent, behavior wise, you can add a hand signal. then when he's consistent with the hand signal add the word 'drop it'.

good luck.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 02:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davetgabby View Post
is it John or Dana? I think you mentioned mulch before? Just be aware , cocoa mulch is toxic to dogs.
John

We know. Gibbs doesn't eat the mulch. He takes it in his mouth and looks at us until we say "Leave It", at which point he drops it and runs up to us wagging his tail. He's obviously doing a good job training us.

Dana and I keep a solid watch on him when we're outside. One a scale of 1-10, the mulch issue has us concerned at about a 7 level. We've already talked about replacing it with stone, but our trainer suggested it probably wouldn't be necessary. Gibbs listens well and she thinks he'll outgrow the mulch. We're going to let it ride the rest of this year and decide before we spread mulch next year.

John




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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by sprorchid View Post
yes Hudson needs to learn 'drop it'. 'leave it', is when it's on the ground and they want to get something ,but then you say leave it so they don't go for item. or that's my understanding.

find a treat that he really likes, cheese, cooked real chicken, something really good, that he can't resist. and then even with items you don't mind him having in his mouth (easier to teach the trick with), when he has something in his mouth, offer the awesome treat, he'll drop it, you give him the treat (every time). then when he's consistent, behavior wise, you can add a hand signal. then when he's consistent with the hand signal add the word 'drop it'.

good luck.
great explanation for "Drop It".

Your understanding of the difference between "Leave It" and "Drop It" is correct, but Gibbs somehow learned "Leave It" means both leave it if it's on the ground or drop it if it's already in his mouth (i.e. - Dana and I don't see it until it's in his mouth). We saw no reason to try and teach "Drop It" after that.

John




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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 03:04 PM
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Ellen, Hudson's behavior sounds exactly like Riley's when I adopted him. He is the sweetest dog and he would have "episodes" like you are describing and then be perfectly sweet and cuddly 10 seconds later. I was obviously very concerned like you are that someone would get hurt. My first Havanese Piper is a sweet, sensitive and submissive dog so I had no idea what to do.
I have had a trainer coming to the house for the past three months and things are greatly improved (but not perfect). She compared it to a temper tantrum and that seems accurate. He wants what he wants when he wants it. Even just the basic training seems to help because he is learning to listen, trust and respect me (my trainer uses positive clicker training methods). We are also using BAT (Behaviour Adjustment Training) . There is a great book, by Grisha Stewart that we are using and I think you will find really helpful. The nipping and biting is decreased dramatically and most importantly I think he feels more secure. We are a work in progress but he is a sweet, awesome boy and I am willing to do the work to help him and it sounds like you are too.

The book is "Behavior Adjustment Training BAT for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs" by Grisha Stewart

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Last edited by Pipersmom; 08-06-2013 at 03:22 PM.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 03:09 PM
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Ellen, Hudson's behavior sounds exactly like Riley's when I adopted him. He is the sweetest dog and he would have "episodes" like you are describing and then be perfectly sweet and cuddly 10 seconds later. I was obviously very concerned like you are that someone would get hurt. My first Havanese Piper is a sweet, sensitive and submissive dog so I had no idea what to do.
I have had a trainer coming to the house for the past three months and things are greatly improved (but not perfect). She compared it to a temper tantrum and that seems accurate. He wants what he wants when he wants it. Even just the basic training seems to help because he is learning to listen, trust and respect me (my trainer uses positive clicker training methods). We are also using BAT (Behaviour Adjustment Training) . There is a great book, by Grisha Stewart that we are using and I think you will find really helpful. The nipping and biting is decreased dramatically and most importantly I think he feels more secure. We are a work in progress but he is a sweet, awesome boy and I am willing to do the work to help him and it sounds like you are too.
you're on the right track with BAT

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