Thursday, September 15, 2011

Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

Who, me? I'm not naughty.

We had an incident with Leo a couple of weeks ago. A friend came to the door one night--someone not known to Leo--and when I opened the door to let him in, my friend grabbed me in a bear hug. Leo's fierce protective instinct surfaced, and he bit my friend. He thought I was being attacked. It was terrifying because the only indication he was biting were my friend's yelps of fear and pain. The dog was silent with no snarling or growls indicating he was not happy with this type of greeting. It all took place in seconds and seemed surreal. For two days in a row preceding this kerfuffle, two Direct Energy people walking door to door had come to my home. When I told them I wasn't interested and to please not come again, they became loud, obnoxious and verbally aggressive toward me and this upset my dog, but that's a story for another day. I don't know if this had anything to do with why he was suddenly so anxious at the door or not, but I have to think that with as smart as he is, he had linked the presence of people at the door with a threat. This was new and never seen before behavior. If I had any qualms about my dog falling on a sword for me, I think he answered them. It's just that I'd have preferred he demonstrate his ability to protect if the threat had been real and not perceived.

I swear, it was that other dog in the mirror. He's the naughty one.

Of course I was horrified that he bit my friend, and can intellectualize this all I want, but the truth is, my 80 pound dog is not as well trained as he should be. I'm thankful the person he bit is a friend and not a pizza delivery guy or the mail carrier, because if it came down to carrying home owners insurance or having a dog, I'd be compelled to keep carrying the insurance. Or at least that's the position of my bank.

The morning after this event, we got on the phone to find a trainer. Enter Heather, who has now been to our home once to work with us and the dog. In one session, she gave us more insight into the beast who shares our home and into our own behaviors that have allowed him to lapse into being such a naughty boy. We've taken the path of least resistance with Leo, which I believe is human nature and we've lapsed into allowing him to be the alpha dog.

What makes you think I have a domineering mindset?

Well, no more. He gets worked with each and every day now, and in one week, I can see a difference in him already. Lucky for us, he's incredibly food oriented. He's doing much better on his sit-stays, and coming when he's called, instead of completely ignoring me. I've taken to carrying treats on me at all times to get this beastie boy to listen.

Someone needs to supervise my brother, the grillmeister.

Per Heather, we need to identify the treats that really entice him and differentiate the ones he'd consider beneath him. So far, I've been able to tell that he loves real meat, with cheese as a close second, but truthfully, he would be just as happy with a tiny piece of kibble. She calls them 1 star through 4 star treats. The dog is happy with any level, but was over the moon when I roasted meat and bones in the oven for beef stock. He adored the scraps, but really had to work hard to get them.

What? It was cold in Detroit this morning...about 46 degrees to be exact, and we're not talking celsius.

Leo, and more importantly, his humans, will be working with Heather once a week. She thinks he has fabulous potential and coming from someone who lives with Dobermans and understands their quirky nature, that's good news. She gave us hope that Leo is trainable and can fit into our community and home safely.

Oh, and the crate has resurfaced. Just in case.


SkippyMom said...

When I saw the title I thought "Yay, a Leo post." [you know how I feel about Leo]

I thought you were going to write about him unraveling a ball of yarn or something.

Oops! Sorry he bit your friend, but glad you are taking steps with him. He looks so cute curled up on the couch. Like an enormous Spot. :)

Brenda said...

Oh no...about biting your friend. Dogs do bite quickly. Our first dog was a biter and a couple of groomers would not groom him. He had training also...but not enough...I don't think. Sounds like you guys found a great person to work with. I have to laugh at the photo of him looking in the mirror...saying it was the other dog. My son used to "talk" for our dog Clifford. And when Clifford did something bad...Bobby used the "Bifford" the bad dog voice.
Looks like Leo is a little angel all wrapped up in knitted item in the last photo.

Anonymous said...

I was there. The friend bit Leo first. Case closed.

The Bug said...

He's such a sweetie, but we all need training to go out into society :)

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

oh bless his heart, i know he was just protecting you. when i played with my granddogs in podunk i'd give them a piece of regular food for a trick. they didn't care what it was, they'd do all their cute tricks for me!

smiles, bee

sapphireblue said...

Oh no! Hopefully, some training will do the trick.

Gail said...

I love these pictures!

I am guilty of the same thing. Ki rules me and she is a small dog!
I started so well with training her and then, sadly, dropped off.

I am glad your friend is understanding.

Gail said...

I love these pictures!

I am guilty of the same thing. Ki rules me and she is a small dog!
I started so well with training her and then, sadly, dropped off.

I am glad your friend is understanding.

Sandy said...

Wow, hope he can be trained to not be so aggressive. He is such a doll..

Denise said...

We had the same thing happen with our German Shepard, that looks quite a bit like Leo. No warning, just a level 3 bite. Our story ended sadly that we had to give the dog up.

Your brother looks just like our apartment manager from behind.

Alice said...

My 15 pound Scottie, Jack, also attacked (once) silently.

He is extremely well behaved and I already knew - that I only had to tell him someone was "OK" for them to be allowed in the house. For instance a repairman could go in and out once "verified."

I was to go out to lunch with a known friend, he knocked at the door, I called for him to "come on in." Then I suddenly realized I had not told Jack it was "OK."

He shot in, never growled, jumped, bit just south of the family jewels through Jeans, and shot away to glare.

My friend was actually, strangely, pleased and impressed that I was so well protected by this little black dog. He did not feel the need to show everyone the blood blister, but he did brag(?) to all about my little Jack.

Good luck, sounds like things are going better. You will be well trained!

NCmountainwoman said...

Hooray for helping Leo learn that he is not in charge. Glad it wasn't more serious. I'm sure things will be fine once he is no longer the alpha.

Ruth said...

We have the alpha dog but he is only 4 kilos so easy to manage.

Finding Pam said...

I was shocked to read that Leo bit your friend. Our dobbie would have licked you to death. She never barked or anything. We still miss her.

I love Leo so much. I glad that you are training him. He is a special dog with a big personality.

Kate B said...

I have been in your shoes - but it wasn't a friend that my dog bit, it was me. We went to the trainer and learned all the things we had been doing wrong. We were the first ones who needed to be trained. It works. It really works. You will enjoy your dog even more. Well, you might miss the cuddles on the couch, but otherwise, you will be happy.