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New addition troubles -Ponza snapped at my daughter...

Discussion in 'Behavioral Issues' started by cama, Apr 30, 2006.

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  1. cama

    cama Boxer Booster

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    I'm just beside myself upset. We added a Pug puppy a week ago Thursday. She is the sweetest thing. Ponza has growled at her a bit, and mostly avoided her. In the last few days, the Pug (Tiki) has been nipping at his feet and he mostly moves out of her way, though he has looked like he wants to take her head off, and he has growled a few times. But then, he'll look like he wants to play with her, so I thought things were settling down.

    Well, 2 nights ago, my daughter went to give Ponza a hug good night and he growled. This upset her very much (me too) and I told her that we need to be sure we give Ponza lots of extra attention, which we have been. Tonight, I had Tiki on one side on my lap on the sofa and Ponza came and lay his head on the other leg. When Tiki moved closer to him, he growled but didn't snap. Right after this, my daughter came over to hug him, and he snapped at her, knicking her nose a tad with his teeth. Needless to say, he was put in his crate and reprimanded severely. In the process of my husband fussing and placing him in the crate, he snapped at my husband (very defensive) but didn't make contact. Prior to this, he once snapped at my daughter. I had been boiling and deboning chicken and he had been getting the fruits of the remains and she walked over and hugged him right in the middle of that. I could understand the "animal instinct" of this and made sure the kids understood that when food was around, they were not to bother Ponza.

    So, now after tonight, we are all concerned about this. My husband had made the comment before we got the puppy that Ponza is very sensitive and this situation would be problematic. I asked a question about this a while back (maybe 3 months) and was so reassured by your answers that it would all work out in the end. I knew there would be an adjustment period, but figured, if anything, Ponza would take it out on the puppy (my feeling was that we would just not allow that). I never imagined this reaction in a million years. My kids are crying; I am crying and I'm just not sure where we should go from here. I know so many of you are knowledgeable about Boxers and owning multiple dogs. Please give me some guidance if you can.

    Thanks in advance!

    Charlene
     
  2. Shakira's Ma

    Shakira's Ma Banned

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    First of all Ponza should be allowed to "discipline" the puppy. An older dog will growl and let the puppy know when they have had enough. Usually the older dog will do this until that puppy reaches adult years and then it will be a different ballgame if you have a puppy that will not bow down to the alpha (the older dog). As far as you daughter is concerned, I see several reasons why Ponza snapped at her, first of all most dogs, not all of them, do not like to be hugged especially by a child, they feel threatened and since you have added a puppy to the mix, Ponza might be feeling more threatened then usual. Also, and you already know this, when a dog is eating it is best that a child stay away. I know that you should be able to take food from a dog without fear of being snapped but that is not always the case and sometimes dogs will feel threatened by small children more then a larger person. Ponza is experiencing a new change, that being the puppy, and this has probably put him in a mood. I sure hope when you say you disciplined him severly that this did not mean that you spanked him or used physical punishment. This is absolutely not the way to solve a problem. Please try to see things from a dog's point of view, his whole world has been changed, he is probably on edge because of the puppy constantly biting at him. If the pup doesn't quit when Ponza tells him to, or if Ponza is not telling him to and just ignoring him then it is up to you to make this puppy stop and go lay down somewhere, it is a good thing that the puppy learn he is not the alpha and it sounds like he is trying this with the older dog. Good Luck with this and please talk to your daughter about hugging Ponza, maybe she is hugging too tightly.
     
  3. garvinsmum

    garvinsmum Completely Boxer Crazy

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    Firstly stop the kids from hugging the dog.

    Bringing a new dog into the house upsets the order of things and it seems to me Ponzo is unsure about his place in things.

    Be aware about your interaction and attention giving to the dogs. Even though you are trying to give attention to Ponzo, make sure that doesn't mean you give the puppy a cuddle then go over and cuddle Ponzo. That is sending the message that Ponzo is below the pup and Ponzo won't wear that.
    Then the pup was on the couch and he wasn't, then your daughter came over and hugged him (which requires a lot of submission by the dog) then he was put in his crate whilst the puppy presumabley ran around free.

    So Ponzo will try to improve his position in the scheme of things by being aggressive to the puppy.

    I think you would be better making sure Ponzo gets the special treatment, fed first, attention and pets first so that he is not worried about the puppy taking his position.

    It's important to spend some one one one time with Ponzo and you can also use that time as training time. And I wouldn't have either of the dogs on the couch at present.

    Thats my humble opinion anyway and I am interested to see what others have to say.
     
  4. RoxysMum

    RoxysMum Super Boxer

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    I would not assume that this probelem will work itself out on its own, because it won't. I would also not assume that people here on BW know what's going on in your dog's mind because none of us are there nor have we ever met your dogs much less witnessed these occurances. Your dogs need to be able to live with your kids amicably and accept things like hugs from them without the fear of having them snap, it's one of the tolls to be paid to live in a loving family. I would strongly suggest getting a behaviorist, not a trainer but a behaviorist, to come in and do an evaluation before it escalates. You know that your dog is sensitive and that there could be issues. Just because advice here on the board made it seem like it wouldn't be so bad doesn't mean that it wouldn't be. In retrospect it may have behooved your family to have brought in a behaviorist from the begining but hind site is always 20/20. I don't think (only an opinion here) that the situatiuon is impossible by any means but biting children is something that needs to be addressed immediately by a professional.
     
  5. SandyHG55654

    SandyHG55654 Banned

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    We got a new pup 3 weeks ago and we had a very hard first few days with the pup being over agressive to my older boy. The only agression I say from my older pup was he growled and snapped at the pup when it was meal time but we said NO! and it never happened again. The pup ran Dozer ragged for quite a few days and he did growl at the puppy a few times but the pup deserved it. Things have calmed down and they are now pals. At no time did Dozer get grumpy to us or our children in any way. I am sure you are concerned with their safety so I think you should call in a behaviorist to access the situation. Hopefully things will calm down in the next few days and it will work out. I'm sure your other dog is stressed by the situation but snapping at you and your kids is a pretty scary thing and it wouldn't be tollerated here new dog or not! Good luck.
     
  6. gmacleod

    gmacleod Elusive Moderator Staff Member

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    I would second the call for getting yourself a behaviourist in to help you. Primarily because you've got very little idea of dog behaviour, social rankings and behaviour cues there. That's not intended to be a criticism, btw - it's just a statement of fact. So get someone who knows what they're doing in to help you instead of trying to sort it yourself without a clue how. They'll be able to show you what you're looking at there.

    In the meantime here, I've got a few suggstions:
    • If your dog is giving you warnings that he doesn't like something - be it being bothered right now, or having a nuisance puppy usurping his place or biting his feet, then LISTEN to the warning you're being given. The dog has already given multiple body language indicators that he is not comfortable, and has had to elevate that signal to growling because the others are being ignored. Well, if you ignore growling too, he's got no other option but to snap. So stop ignoring his warnings and listen to them instead. A dog that gives warnings is a GOOD thing. If you punish or ignore the warnings, the dog will stop giving them. Then what? You get a "surprise" bite, that's what.
    • Never ask/allow a child to run up and hug a dog who is already giving extreme warnings (ie. growling) that he is not comfortable in a situation. Hugging dogs frankly is something that should be discouraged at the best of times. Sure, it's a natural primate urge to wrap our arms around others as a sign of affection and it gives us people warm fuzzies. It does NOT give the dog warm fuzzies though - in fact it's an extremely aggressive gesture in dog language. So the fact that you've got a dog who puts up with that without fuss most of the time suggests a great natured animal (remember that - you've got a good dog here!). But for goodness sake, when he's feeling threatened and is giving growling warnings, don't push him over the edge with a dominant gesture like a hug. Give him space instead. It would be far better, for example, if your child called Ponzo over to give him treats and a few pats (preferably avoiding the head, or arms over the shoulders unless the dog is relaxed and comfortable with it). That's still lots of attention - but it's the sort the dog can respond far more positively to, and does not (further)threaten him.

      It is idiotic to take the view, as has been suggested, that "the dog has to learn to accept whatever we humans want to do to him, no matter how uncomfortable or threatened he is - because that's the price of a nice warm home". The dog has a learning capacity of approximately a 3 year old child - without any language skills. It's far more sensible to teach the people how to behave appropriately with dogs instead - they're the ones with the big brains ;) Besides which, he's not the only dog in the world. If a child runs up and hugs a strange dog (especially one that's already warned with a growl), because they've been taught they can do that to Fido at home whatever his protestations, they're liable to end up with the sort of facial injuries requiring surgery. And they'd be deserved. Sadly, it's the dog who'd end up destroyed.
    • Give the dog some space. If he's growling at the puppy, don't put the puppy up on the couch with him - irrespective that you're in the middle (which may actually be worse). Dogs are hierarchical animals - and doing that simply elevates the puppy to higher status. It also takes away any escape routes for Ponzo... Give him plenty of attention away from the puppy, but if he's giving warnings that he's uncomfortable in a situation, then give him space - that means encouraging everyone (the puppy especially) to let him alone for a bit. Chances are he'll come around within a fairly short space of time. But in order to do that, he needs to be given enough space to assess the situation and relax a bit.
     
  7. cama

    cama Boxer Booster

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    I appreciate your responses...

    It has been one hell of a roller coaster weekend, which ended with my deciding to give the puppy back to the breeder yesterday afternoon. I didn't mention that there was an incident a month ago at my daughter's birthday party where he snapped at a little girl who was hugging him. In any case, I had never felt *any* fear for my children in the past. I could understand Ponza's reasoning for snapping with the chicken; I even understand him being nervous and snapping at the girl at the birthday party. He is 3.5 years old and prior to these things, he has not shown any tendency to snap or growl at us at all. As a matter of fact, he's been very sensitive where children are concerned. He was recently vet-checked with a clean bill of health FYI.

    When I got home from returning the puppy, I thought, "Okay, this will take a while, but all will be okay." Last night, however, I found myself anxious and worried. At one point, my daughter, who is newly 7, approached Ponza quickly to pet him. I stepped in between them as he was looking at her oddly (maybe just my perception). I cried myself to sleep last night and woke up throughout the night. It is quite upsetting to realize that you do not trust a dog you have loved and nurtured since he was 7 weeks old. My daughter adores him and has no fear of him at all, which she shouldn't. But I cannot trust her at her age to totally respect his space and his needs.

    This all has led me to the very difficult decision to find a new home for Ponza. I cannot have a 90# dog snapping at my children, and myself being totally fearful every time they approach him. I really don't think Ponza intended to touch her, but he has shown on more than one ocassion, even prior to the puppy, that he is capable of snapping. Even if a Behavorist came in, I don't know that I can ever truly trust Ponza again with my babies. And the next time, even if Ponza wouldn't intend it, the damage might be severe and I cannot take that risk with my children. I don't want to chance this and instead hope to find him a home with adults only or older children. I have already contacted our vet as they run an adoption site as well. I am waiting for a call now from the lady who runs the adoption aspect as she knows people who may be interested.

    As anyone who loves a Boxer can imagine, I am just feeling devastated today. I believe that it is the right thing for us or I wouldn't do it, and I have to put my wants and feelings aside for the good of my children. I just appreciated the responses that you gave to me and wanted to let you know the outcome.
     
  8. lafsalot

    lafsalot Boxer Insane

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    Did Ponza snap or growl prior to the arrival of your pug? Introducing a new addition to the family can be very stressful for the resident dog, and although I am in no way condoning his behavior, I would at least consult with a behaviorist before making any rash decisions. Keep us posted ~ Cathy
     
  9. cama

    cama Boxer Booster

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    Answers...

    Yes, the other 2 occasions were prior to the arrival of the Pug - once with my daughter over the chicken and the other with one of her friends. I KNOW Ponza is a wonderful dog and I love him like you would not imagine. I cannot say how difficult this is for me. It is not so much Ponza. I do not believe he is suddenly aggressive or an animal to be feared. What I do know is that he has shown that he can and will snap if he is in a stressful situation. And I also know that my children have always jumped on him, hugged him, etc. and sometimes I can tell he's just tolerating it. I now realize that Ponza is showing he needs his space. He deserves that. As an adult, I can respect that. My young children (9 and 7) know that they have always been able to hang all over him, and they *are* going to forget, and I'm not going to be right there to remind them. Ponza may continue to tolerate it. He loves my children (my son, especially) - no doubt about it. It's what happens if he decides to warn one of them again (I have no doubt that Ponza wanted to warn my daughter, not leave a mark on her nose) and misses in a worse way this time. That's why. It's among the hardest decisions I have ever made. You really can't imagine unless you've been here.
     
  10. lafsalot

    lafsalot Boxer Insane

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    I am so sorry that you are going through this - I wasn't aware that you had ongoing problems with Ponza and know that you must have thought long and hard before making this difficult decision. I am sure a boxer rescue will be able to help find him a home with much older children. ~ Cathy
     
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