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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all. I need an outside point of reference as out dog bit our son last week.

Some history. When he was five'ish there was an incident where I was bitten. On the hand and it involved a bit of a shake. The circumstances were that it happened in a large group and some group members were nervous of the dog and as he was trying to welcome them I grabbed his collar and her snapped. Vet gave him a checkup and said perhaps castration would help. I didn't think so but went along with it.

Last week (about 4 years later) my 17 year old was assigned to shower Fiver after he found a huge pile of poop in the woods and rolled in it. He tried "come" and the dog did not want to go in the shower, so he grabbed the collar and tried to tug him in. Fiver broke the skin above and below the forearm with puncture marks. We sort of blamed the boy for perhaps being too rough in our mind but were concerned as it was still unacceptable.

Yesterday we had a get together and were playing badminton. Fiver wanted the birdie. So chaos ensues with everyone yelling and I told him no and used my leg to bar him from grabbing the toy. He started snapping at the air and had my hand been there it would have been bitten.

None of the instances involved what I would call 'resource guarding'. Almost all involved telling him loudly no and then trying to control him.

Fiver is BY FAR the best dog I have ever owned. The most loving dog for the family. Clicker trained. Went through the teen years and has settled in nicely. Now he is graying. His snout is gray and his paws are showing gray. He is becoming more growly (I do not mind growls FWIW) but still lives a pretty good life once he limbers up in the morning. We have an appointment Friday with the vet for a full workup. Our vet is preparing us for the fact that the workup may be negative. In her words, a difficult decision may have to be made if the tests are all negative. So euthanasia is on the table. This is heartbreaking.

The issue is that our household is getting more busy every week with strangers based on our situation. We cannot affort for him to bite anyone else. At the same time he will not tolerate being placed in a room when company is here. We have a 2 acre property where he can run but he prefers to be around people. He has bitten me, then my son. If he were to bite a stranger/friend I would be responsible. The vet seems to think this will only get worse as he gets older. Has anyone been in a similar situation? Is there any advice?
 

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You mentioned still has a pretty good life once he limbers up in the morning.
That is a sign he has pain. I could not be certain, but a good guess is arthritis is settling in some of his joints. While more painful when we first get up, it’s not like it totally leaves during the day. People and dogs just learn to live with it.

You didn’t say why you had more strangers, and friends in your home. I would start him on some arthritis meds, and limit other people in my home. If it meant I could save my dog.
 

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Really support you seeking veterinary advice. I’d be tempted to also get a clinical or normal behaviourist involved to help assess if the dog is in any pain and to generally help to identify the triggers/cause of the behaviours.

Seems that in any situation this dog does not do well with hands-on handling at all - whether it’s fear based, I don’t know, but not all dogs will cope with a hand on their neck or raised voices and when feeling threatened can mirror aggravated behaviour. If a dog is backed into a corner, whether showing behavioural signs of being uncomfortable or not, what else can it do other than escalate things to tell you it’s not happy or protect itself? Especially in a situation that is high value or tense/high-arousal. It may be worth you having a look at “The canine ladder of aggression”, which granted not all dogs follow to a T but it explains the more subtle signals dogs show to us when they’re feeling uncomfortable. All dogs are different and have different tolerance levels, and handling/punishment isn’t any different. You may be missing more subtle behavioural signals where he’s telling you he’s not OK with something and so he feels he needs to escalate his behaviour to make you understand.

I really don’t know the full circumstances but it seems that this primarily happens when the dog is manually handled in some way - and in some situations I understand that this is needed for safety of the dog or people around it. Personally I’d be working on the following;
-Continue with veterinary and behaviourist assessments
  • Making a close note of what exactly is triggering any form of negative response ie snarls, growls, turning/moving away from you, lip-licks etc to know the exact cause of the behaviour (especially if nothing veterinary is found)
  • Training the dog (positively) to accept handling for times when it’s absolutely needed, and maybe be looking at him wearing a harness so you’re not grabbing by his neck (especially in the interim while he learns that sometimes handling is necessary but that you won’t hurt him)
-Working on being in another room or crated when you have company if you can’t trust him, there are lots of resources for this online

Bottom line is they won’t bite for no reason. The three instances you have described are very high-arousal and intensity situations for a dog to cope with no matter how well trained. Something is the cause whether behavioural or veterinary and it seems like you’re pursuing avenues to get to the bottom of it so don’t give up hope. No dog is perfect and it really is difficult when you know the majority of the time they’re your sweet baby. Just have to help them work through it
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Pupmum99 and texasred. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Life is busy and the fact that you set time aside to help us out is greatly appreciated.

I'll clarify a few points that I made. I think you are right about a bit of arthritis setting in Texasred. With that said, the first bite happened when he was five. Pre-stiffness unfortunately. Also, his stiffness seems to be early morning and after lying for a while. In all incidents the biting did happen midday after he was out and about doing Vizsla stuff. Could that have contributed...possibly. I will not rule it out.

Pupmum99. You mentioned, 'very high-arousal and intensity situations for a dog to cope with no matter how well trained'. This is my read on things. All incidents involved loud volume, multiple people correcting the dog at the same time, and the person who physically restrains the dog, gets bitten. My concern is that those situations seem difficult to simulate. He doesnt shrink back from collar touching/tugging normally. Although he CLEARLY prefers being sweet talked. That is just not always possible.

Lastly. He does get grumpy. This is not our main concern. For years if he is uncomfortable with a situation he will growl and we know to respect his boundaries. Usually it is temporary and transient. A bite has never happened with growling first. The incidents described have always been where he starts playing, gets excited, yelling intensifies excitement, he doesnt listen, restraint, bite.

We have arranges a facetime conference this afternoon to discuss things with a behavior specialist. Friday he has a vet appointment. So we will see what comes from all of this.
 

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V's from my limited experience and knowledge don't respond well to loud yelling / Drill Sargent type expressive commands. You seem to recognize this. It can cause frustration to us when they don't want to listen. It seems like he's being pushed into a fight/flight response with all the energy directed at him. Similar with grabbing a collar with a hand, etc, for dogs that have a propensity to quickly escalate to fight/flight fear response, I suggest using a leash. Even if you have to pause for a minute to go get one. If there is a snap, it will be directed to the leash most of the time especially if its a fear response. There are plenty of other benefits as well, the dog will not learn that your hands are bad things, e.g. This is why when training dogs out of bad behaviors, trainers frequently say to let them drag a short leash around the house. You use the leash to communicate physically with the dog, not your hands.

Not blaming you or your son, just trying to rationalize why your dog may have done what he did. If it was really a full fledged aggression problem I think you would have known by now. Best of luck with the behaviorist. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on a regular vet's opinion unless I knew them to be very specialised in behavior problems. Most are focused on the physical aspects of keeping pets healthy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
V's from my limited experience and knowledge don't respond well to loud yelling / Drill Sargent type expressive commands. You seem to recognize this. It can cause frustration to us when they don't want to listen. It seems like he's being pushed into a fight/flight response with all the energy directed at him. Similar with grabbing a collar with a hand, etc, for dogs that have a propensity to quickly escalate to fight/flight fear response, I suggest using a leash. Even if you have to pause for a minute to go get one. If there is a snap, it will be directed to the leash most of the time especially if its a fear response. There are plenty of other benefits as well, the dog will not learn that your hands are bad things, e.g. This is why when training dogs out of bad behaviors, trainers frequently say to let them drag a short leash around the house. You use the leash to communicate physically with the dog, not your hands.

Not blaming you or your son, just trying to rationalize why your dog may have done what he did. If it was really a full fledged aggression problem I think you would have known by now. Best of luck with the behaviorist. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on a regular vet's opinion unless I knew them to be very specialised in behavior problems. Most are focused on the physical aspects of keeping pets healthy.
Behaviorist mirored a lot of your points Dan_A. Thank you so much. She mentioned the dragging of a leash. Exactly on point. Especially in groups when outside.

There was a point I didnt realize. The last incident with the badminton birdie was 'trigger stacking'. I didn't know about this. Five was digging out a ground hornet's nest. Was stung multiple times. Immediately came in and wanted to play with us. Was running around then everyone started yelling at him. She pretty much said that episode was totally understandable once the facts were presented and sort of a non-issue.

She is recommending collar training where rewards are given as we play with collar so he is desensitized.

Lastly. This I need to roll around. She said that my dog can go from mellow to overstimulated very quickly. This is true. But she suggested not playing with him till exhaustion. Not allowing him to 'zoom' himself until he calms down. Play for a while, allow him to get excited, then pause and let him rest. Then play again. Rest. Don't let him get all the way Vizsla'd up where he is just running in circles and spazzing. He needs to learn to modulate his excitement.

So there is some hope. Now lets get the little man a checkup. That's Friday.
 

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I agree with Texas Red. He is likely in pain. My 9 year old does not "limber up in the morning"
 

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We have an appointment Friday with the vet for a full workup. Our vet is preparing us for the fact that the workup may be negative. In her words, a difficult decision may have to be made if the tests are all negative. So euthanasia is on the table. ...
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Veterinary workups are physiology/chemistry oriented, but Fiver's problem appears to be a behavior one. Behavior problems can be chemically based, but not usually. Be very skeptical if the vet concludes that euthanasia is in order.
 
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