cont. from page 21 guards the owner’s lap, then the owner should uncer- emoniously stand up and dump the dog on the floor every time it growls or raises a lip. When the dog learns that aggressive behavior causes it to lose what it wants, the dog will stop doing it. if the dog is larger, and is on the floor and guarding the owner’s imme- diate area, the owner can keep a broom handy, and goose the dog out of its position when it displays this behavior. Sometimes water squirt bottles, citronella sprays, or noisemakers applied by the owner (not the person approaching) are effective in making the dog abandon the area he is guarding. if the dog bites when sleeping in the owner’s bed, then it should get a bed or a crate of its own on the floor. If a dog only bites visitors, then a crate or gate can be situated near the front door, and when the doorbell rings, the dog can be put in the crate or behind a gate in another room before the owner opens the door, and the dog further kept confined while any visitors are present.
in other words, many of these types of biting situa- tions can be managed so as to leave the dog in the home, or the dog can be re-homed with owners willing to make needed changes.
The problem with dogs that defend their owner’s lap or general area is that many people think it is cute in a small dog, or those people lacking in self esteem think it an admirable trait in a dog. They don’t real- ize that this is probably one of the single most com- mon causes of dogs developing into biters. When the dog first growls, the owner tends to say “That’s okay,” and pet the dog, reinforcing and strengthening the be- havior. When the dog is successful in backing away unwanted approachers with growling, snapping or bit- ing, he often generalizes the behavior to other times then he wants to be left alone, such as when someone tries to pick him up, take him outside, or put a leash on. a dominant dog guarding its owner—i call the owner “the big bone” in these cases—is also the big- gest cause of dog fights in multi-dog households.
with good temperaments, and the fact that poodles are generally known for their amiable and biddable dis- positions, sometimes a puppy is born that is just not “right” in the head. They are characterized by unpro- voked, “out of the blue,” biting. The following ex- ample was just such a dog. an older woman called to say that she had gone to sleep lying on the couch with her small dog asleep on her lap. When she awoke and started to get up, the dog bit her in the face, and nearly removed her nose. It was not the first time the dog had bitten her, but it was the most serious, requiring her getting her nose re-attached by a plastic surgeon. To my surprise, she still had the dog, and wanted to bring it to obedience classes!! i told her that she could not bring the dog to our obedience classes, as all our volunteer instructors were very satisfied with their noses and fingers, and wanted to keep them. There is not enough liability insurance in the world to put a dog like this in an obedience class. i told her that this was not normal behavior in a dog; that the dog had a “screw loose,” and that i would advise having the dog euthanized by her veterinarian. She responded (as they always do!) that the dog was very sweet and affection- ate, and that she would feel bad “putting him down.” i told her that most serial killers are very charming. That is how they get their victims close enough to strangle them. dogs which growl, bare their teeth, and take menacing stances—in other words, dogs that give warning—rarely bite someone, because people leave them alone. The really dangerous ones are the ones that wag and fawn over people, or that simply stand or lay quietly, drawing someone in, then they lunge and bite. Then (as is always the case) the woman said that she would like to find another home for the dog. (most picture a nice “home in the country,” where the dog will romp and play and live happily ever after, or they suggest that the dog would make a great “watch dog” for someone. it is true that the new owner would constantly have to “watch the dog” to keep from get- ting attacked.) at this point, i do a little preaching. “do you think so little of other people that you would give them a dog that has done you serious injury?
People often wonder that I have five dogs that sleep with me with nary a raised lip or a growl, or that they walk all over each other in my lap and never get into a scuffle. My dogs know that a growl or a raised lip in my vicinity will get them a flying lesson, so their patience with each other is endless.
The biter that cannot be managed is the “psycho dog.”
Why would you want to put someone else, possibly a child, in a position to get hurt?”
many people cannot make the hard decision to eutha- nize a dog like this. like abused women, they blame themselves and dream that the situation will spontane- ously improve. They keep the dog and tiptoe around it, or they give it away without mentioning the attacks, or they drop it on a country road near a nice farm-
in spite of the pride a breeder takes in producing dogs The Poodle Papers
cont. on page 22 /Winter Edition