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Removing a Denuncia from your Dog, a further case

Last week I went to see a five-year-old dog where excited children had been running round the pool and playing with the dog when it bit a child on the leg. The owners could not understand their dog doing this as it had never done anything like this before. Like any parent, they suggested that to be on the safe side the child should go to see their doctor. This was enough to start the process of the issuing of a Denuncia.

Certainly meeting the dog for the first time there was no sign of any aggression towards me. She was a very friendly dog and loved my fussing her. Like the dog in last week’s article, she was not dominant, as a much smaller and older dog had already taken on this role.

She played well with me and when I called her using bits of frankfurter, she came to me like a shot. It was then I found that the owners also used such titbits as her normal reward.

The owners were demonstrating to me just how obedient she was. She came back to the owner as soon as they called even out in the streets with lots of distractions. She did like meeting other dogs but would always come back when commanded to. I tried her with competition style heelwork while I held a bit of frankfurter and I believe I could have won a prize with her in any junior obedience competition.

Unlike the dog in last week’s article, this one did not need a crash course in obedience training so the importance was to find out why the dog bit the child when seemingly so out of character.

Whilst we were talking, the dog was lying in her basket and when I called her to me, I could not help notice her favouring her front left leg. When I commented on this, the reason for the bite was becoming obvious.

The dog had seen her owner on a Ride on Rotary Grass Mower and with the sound and the movement; she became excited and attacked a wheel. In doing so, the mower ran over her causing her considerable injuries. The owners spared no expense in having her put back together but they had to fuse her left wrist with a steel plate.

I noticed that when she jumped out of their 4X4 car, with the height to jump down it hurt her though she did not yelp. Never the less you could see she favoured her leg for a short while. I asked if in future they could lift her down instead. I did test her by touching her all over her body including her fused wrist but there was no sign of aggression towards my prodding so pain was not the reason.

To make sure of every other reason I had brought my remote controlled cat. Both dogs showed no sign of aggression or any interest to play or chase her. If they had done so they would find she would chase them and any unwarranted interest like any real cat she hisses and spits compressed air.

I also fired my toy cap gun and again neither dog reacted. On the other hand, a squeaky ball was found interesting but as the older dog did not play, the younger one never found any interest to chase a ball to retrieve it even though the owners had tried.

I smeared sausage meat onto the ball but this had no affect but tapping her muzzle with the ball got her to hold it and as I ran backwards, she fetched it for a reward. Tapping her muzzle with the ball made her open her jaws and this was another indicator as to why she bit.

I called her to me to get her excited and then I ran round the pool like the children shouting in excitement but she did not attempt to bite me.

Finally, I got down on my hands, knees mimicking dogs play bow, and then I started to play the normal canine tag game where I attempt to grab her legs with my hands. Immediately she became more excited and as I made my attempt to hold, her right leg she attempted to bite me, playfully, but giving me a small scratch from her tooth by accident. I kept playing the game but this time every attempt she made to hold me with her jaws she received a dose of compressed air until she would not play with me any more.

I say accident because in this game dogs do not normally actually bite. It is just to show that if they meant to they could have grabbed that leg or the other, or round the neck like some martial art demonstration. Survival rules require dogs to practice this for hunting but not to actually harm each other, as it is little use hunting if half of the pack is limping.

As the older dog did not play this game she never learn the correct rules to this game so she never gained the essential non-contact skills yet why did she feel she could bite the child.

Most young dogs mouth owner’s hands, arms legs, and feet. They will continue to do this unless owners stop them. It may initially seem funny and not hurt when they are puppies but when they are older; it is a different matter and a lot more difficult to stop.

With the owners seeing her go for my wrist they understood how she could become so excited and for her to think the noisy children were playing the same game. Just like the mower wheels, arms and legs, to a dog they are all the same.

It was then I found out how she learned to bite humans. It was meant to show me how soft she was that one of the members of the family took her out on the lawn and started playing with her so whilst she jumped up he tapped her on each side of her muzzle making her open her jaw as she did for the ball. She would then try to hold the persons hands or wrist but did not actually bite hard. This is what some people would call inhibited biting and some owners actually train their dogs to do this. Please do not do this.

The owners were aware she only had a light bite and meant no harm so they learnt there was never a need to remove their hands away whilst playing the game.

The dog had simply thought with all the excitement, the chasing, pushing shouting, that she was playing the normal tag game but because she thought it was all right to make contact with limbs the dog bit the child as part of the game.

The owners have seeing this and after explaining the reasons, I therefore recommended they stop playing the game or play it but they must watch for her trying to hold them with her jaws, they must suddenly stop the game, look angry, and walk away. She must learn that they will play rough games but any use of her teeth is unacceptable.

The owners agreed to train her not try to hold them and I suggested I would return in a week to see if she will play with me again and how she has progressed.

I appreciate she does not mean to harm but she cannot afford another accident that would start the process of having a Denuncia issued again that we may not be able to remove a second time.

Let’s be careful out there.

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