Mindy Lou bit my daughter's hand!!!!

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Postby juniper8204 » January 31st, 2010, 10:35 am

For picture reference, Mindy is my avatar.

First, a little history on Mindy Lou. She'll be 4 years old around September of this year. I adopted her from the pound in May '07. She's spayed. No known health problems. Up to date on vaccines, hw prevention, neg. on hw test and fecal. She's been through obedience classes, has her AKC CGC, and we started her on agility and also dabbled in weight pull. This dog is my heart dog. I've got a bond with her that I've never had with any other animal.

As far as behavior goes, she rarely gets into trouble. She can be food aggressive with other dogs, but people could put their hands in her bowl all day long, and just get kisses. She doesn't tolerate puppies much and has bitten a couple puppies on the nose that got too boisterous...she did get reprimanded for those stunts. I run a pretty tight ship as far as my dogs go; they know that nobody deals out punishment except me.

I've noticed lately that she doesn't listen to my nearly four year old daughter, and will steal her food when she gets a chance.

Last night, I went to bed before anyone; Mikayla (daughter) and Joel (husband) decided to stay up late playing video games and to watch tv. So, I didn't actually see the bite, but my husband told me about it when he came to bed, and needless to say I was up till about 2 or 3 worrying that I was going to have to euthanize Mindy because I have ZERO tolerance for a biting dog, especially when my daughter is concerned. Apparently Mindy was on the couch with my daughter, which isn't uncommon at all, and my daugter put her head against Mindy's shoulder and went to give her a pat on the head, which she does all the time and Mindy's never had an issue with it, and Mindy snapped and got Mikayla's fingers. She didn't draw blood, so I'm taking it as a warning, but STILL, a warning to what? And why is this dog giving warnings to a little human???? Maybe she views my daughter as a puppy? Maybe she thinks Mikayla is "lower on the totem pole" than she is? I dunno. I think she's gotten too big for her britches.

So starting this morning, we are reminding Mindy that she isn't in control. No couch privilegs, no bed privileges, not as much freedom around the house, making her sit for everything, and tonight she will NOT be sleeping in the bed.

I do not want to put her to sleep; it would kill me. But it would kill me even worse if something were to happen to my daughter knowing I had the warning from Mindy and I could have done something about it.

Any advice is welcome.
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Postby LMM » January 31st, 2010, 11:43 am

Many dogs do not like hugs in any form (i.e. your daughter putting her head on her shoulder). It could be she just chose this time to "correct" your daughter for it. I think implementing strict NILF and suspending all privileges is a good start. Beyond that, I hope someone has some solid advice for you.

I'm really glad it wasn't a serious bite. I have a young child (6) and I can totally understand your worry. When I first brought Mama girl in the house, she growled at my daughter once or twice when *drumroll* Mia tried to hug her. When you have young kids and dogs, training becomes a necessity for BOTH. My daughter is pretty appropriate with all dogs but she's a kid, she does need reminders. Having said that, Mama growled, she didn't bite. Her warning was appropriate.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » January 31st, 2010, 1:33 pm

Has Mindy ever shown any other warning behaviors when Mikayla hugs her? Freezing, stares, lip curls, or even calming signals like tongue flicks or yawns? It could be that she's been warning and warning and warning and nobody has noticed (not blaming anybody!) and last night she got tired of warnings. And remember, if she had wanted to hurt Mikayla, she would have.

For now I would say Mikayla needs to have some rules, too, as to how to act around Mindy - no hugs, no getting in her face, no patting on the head, etc. I'm not big on the whole "pack totem pole ranking" thing so I probably wouldn't say that she is trying to dominate Mikayla. I have a feeling she's probably given a bunch of very small, barely noticeable warnings.

That being said, dogs whose behavior changes quickly should have a vet visit and bloodwork done. I know I've read that thyroid issues can sometimes cause major temperament changes. So if you can honestly say you've never seen any other warnings, I would take her to the vet for a checkup.

Good luck and keep us updated!
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Postby juniper8204 » January 31st, 2010, 2:33 pm

Liz, now that I think of it, there's been a couple times when Mikayla hugged Mindy, and she froze, her head went down, her eyes got kind of wide, ears back, and she licked her nose a couple of times...nothing aggressive at all (more submissive or kinda freaked out), but I hadn't even connected it :doh: Maybe that was her way of saying "I'm really uncomfortable with this...but I'm trying to be good about it." Thank you for mentioning the tongue flicks...that's what jogged my memory. The only time Mindy has ever EVER tried to bite a person was when some stranger at the park tried to grab her (his dog was loose, and the dog picked a fight with Mindy; he couldn't grab his dog, so he grabbed Mindy, and he about drew back a nub...can't say as I blame her. I was busy trying to put myself between Mindy and the attacking dog.) She has always been a model ambassador for the pit bull breed, and I've always been proud to boast that. This situation has me all shaken up though.

This dog is literally like my other daughter. My husband says there must be a difference in the love I feel for my daughter and for Mindy, but if there is a difference, it's not much of one! If something were to happen to either of them, it would completely crush me!

If I see anymore weird behavior, I will be taking her in for bloodwork and an exam. Or hell, I may just take her in for the heck of it. And I will be monitoring Mikayla's behavior around the dogs too. She's a very affectionate child, so it's hard for her to understand that hugs aren't always a friendly gesture for dogs.
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Postby mnp13 » January 31st, 2010, 2:54 pm

How old is your daughter?
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Postby LMM » January 31st, 2010, 4:36 pm

She posted this:

First, a little history on Mindy Lou. She'll be 4 years old around September of this year


I've noticed lately that she doesn't listen to my nearly four year old daughter





Liz good call on previous calming signals.
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Postby BullyLady » January 31st, 2010, 5:59 pm

Now, not saying you should tolerate a biting dog if you truly aren't comfortable, but I think you need to first deal with the issue of how your daughter treats the dogs. Little kids LOVE to hug and love on dogs, but not every dog likes this behavior. Patting a dog on the head can be an intimidating thing for the dog, think about it, an open hand coming straight at their head, usually at a fairly high speed. It can look like a smack is coming. And hugging them is SUCH a huge invasion of space. Put the dog on NILIF, it will help you feel like you are accomplishing something, and NILIF never hurt anybody, but also talk to your daughter about appropriate ways to show affection for dogs.
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Postby tiva » January 31st, 2010, 6:13 pm

Patricia McConnell, in her book For the Love of a Dog, has fascinating things to say about why people love to hug, and why dogs mostly HATE being hugged, and why every trainer has dealt with cases of dogs that bite family children when the kids try to hug the dog. (see pg 227, and the entire chapter has helpful insights). Essentially, she argues that we're primates, and primates evolved to enjoy full frontal contact (hugs). Dogs, on the other hand, never hug each other, and they perceive it as a restraint, which can make them frightened, tense, stressed, etc. So training your child to stop any sort of hugging is really important. And it's also helpful to countercondition your dog to relax around your child's touches. Feed your dog lots and lots of treats when she's near the child, and then slowly move up toward more and more touching from the child with a treat to the dog each time, until your dog begins to associate the child's particular touches with very good things again. Of course, it would be ideal to do this under the guidance of a professional trainer! Or at least read McConnell first.

Good luck.
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Postby mnp13 » January 31st, 2010, 11:11 pm

Thanks Jen :)

My first comment would be to second the thought that if your dog had wanted to injure your daughter she would have. The first thing I always say to people when they say they got "bit" by a dog is to ask about a hospital trip and/or stitches. If at least one of the above didn't happen, I personally don't consider it to be a bite. That's not to say that this is not a serious issue, but I wanted to start with that.

juniper8204 wrote:She doesn't tolerate puppies much and has bitten a couple puppies on the nose that got too boisterous...she did get reprimanded for those stunts. I run a pretty tight ship as far as my dogs go; they know that nobody deals out punishment except me.

I don't really understand this. You have allowed puppies to annoy her to the point where she corrects them, but then you correct her for it?

juniper8204 wrote:She didn't draw blood, so I'm taking it as a warning, but STILL, a warning to what?

I'd guess that it's a warning to the child, and you, that she does not want to be handled that way. I have long taken the (generally unpopular) stance that dogs should be allowed to have personal space - and if their previous communications have not been heeded then it is not their fault that they feel it necessary to escalate their messages.

pitbullmamaliz wrote:Has Mindy ever shown any other warning behaviors when Mikayla hugs her? Freezing, stares, lip curls, or even calming signals like tongue flicks or yawns? It could be that she's been warning and warning and warning and nobody has noticed (not blaming anybody!) and last night she got tired of warnings.

EXCELLENT CALL LIZ.

pitbullmamaliz wrote:For now I would say Mikayla needs to have some rules, too, as to how to act around Mindy - no hugs, no getting in her face, no patting on the head, etc. I'm not big on the whole "pack totem pole ranking" thing so I probably wouldn't say that she is trying to dominate Mikayla. I have a feeling she's probably given a bunch of very small, barely noticeable warnings.

juniper8204 wrote:So starting this morning, we are reminding Mindy that she isn't in control. No couch privilegs, no bed privileges, not as much freedom around the house, making her sit for everything, and tonight she will NOT be sleeping in the bed.

I think NILIF will be good... for BOTH kids - two and four legged. :wink:
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Postby amazincc » February 1st, 2010, 12:50 am

She can be food aggressive with other dogs, but people could put their hands in her bowl all day long, and just get kisses.


I've noticed lately that she doesn't listen to my nearly four year old daughter, and will steal her food when she gets a chance.


I would remove all those chances ASAP, either by strictly supervising or by crating Mindy Lou when you can't...

And NILIF is an excellent idea. :)
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Postby TheRedQueen » February 1st, 2010, 10:42 am

Great advice from everyone...the only thing I'd add is to NOT correct for any "aggressive" behaviors towards anyone...puppy, kid, adult, etc. Because that tends to hide the behavior for the future...the dog learns that warnings get corrected...so they stop warning. THEN the big bite happens.

So I'll just add that. :)
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Postby amandacschr » February 6th, 2010, 10:21 pm

could she not feel good? i know that if my rottie doesnt feel good (ex. and ear infection or UTI) she acts off towards the people shes grown up with. she always tolerates the kids well but if she doest feel good she doesnt want to be bothered.
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Postby juniper8204 » February 7th, 2010, 9:22 am

Well, over the past week, we've been working with my daughter and Mindy (emphasis on daughter :smileUp:) Things are going great! No repeats of last week, and Mikayla has stopped with the hugging/leaning in altogether!

I did take her in for an exam/bloodwork, and the doc said she's in perfect condition and health and couldn't find anything wrong. The whole time she was getting smacked on the shins by Mindy's wagging tail. She said Mindy was the friendliest dog she's had the pleasure of meeting. :D

Thanks everyone for all the great advice.
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Postby ttio » February 8th, 2010, 3:42 pm

That's awesome news!!

It can definitely be scary when dogs and kids are involved in that type of situation. Especially because with kids, even though you tell them not to do something, it's likely they will try to do it anyway. My best friends 4.5 year old comes over frequently and i had to do a lot of work with HIM (not the dog) to learn how to act with dogs. and it basically boils down to "if you follow the rules, we can train Roxy together before you leave." so if he doesn't try to chase or hug her, or bother her while she's in her bed or crate, before he leaves we spend a few minutes having him give commands and treat her for doing what he's asking while I'm standing right there. It's helped Roxy associate little people with treats and learn to accept commands from them, and helped the child learn how to interact with dogs because trying to explain "dogs don't like hugs or being chased by a child" to a 4 year old boy is like talking to a wall :shock: it's just like overload for most of them.

I know it's a little different in the sense that this child doesn't live with me -- Mikayla lives with you so obviously you have to be careful but I've found, just like we teach our dogs what we want them to do, we have to show kids "THIS is what we do with dogs" and "THISis how we give dogs attention" Image i think you get what i'm saying :)

Keep us updated on how things are going, I'd love to hear how you guys are doing with this!
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Postby chako » February 8th, 2010, 5:29 pm

tiva wrote:Patricia McConnell, in her book For the Love of a Dog, has fascinating things to say about why people love to hug, and why dogs mostly HATE being hugged, and why every trainer has dealt with cases of dogs that bite family children when the kids try to hug the dog. (see pg 227, and the entire chapter has helpful insights). Good luck.


Your call -- but certainly sounds like you need to reinforce your daughter's position to the dog. Is she old enough to start "training" the dog and "feeding" the dog? (with supervision of course). ;)

As for dogs mostly hate being hugged... you know, in my experience, I've not had a dog that actually hated being hugged. Granted, there ARE many dogs that don't, but i think it's more an "individual" dog thing than a species generalization.

Savvy, for example, loves hugs. He'll even go UP to me on the couch and actually hug me (tuck his head into my shoulder and lean and sometimes even put his paw on my shoulder....but NOt in a "I'm trying to be dominating" sort of way). I even have a video of him doing this to a friend :)

That's just one example. But I've found -- some dogs like it, some dogs, not so much, but I can't really say that liking or not liking to be hugged it's a trait that can in any way be generalized to 'dogs' one way or the other. Though, personally, again -- in all the dogs I've known, I've known few that actually hated to be hugged. Some just weren't cuddle muffins and anytime you tried to make physical (or eye) contact with them, they interpreted that to mean it was time to go find a toy and play fetch til they dropped. I have known a couple that didn't really like it much but tolerated it just fine (versus hating it). of course, one can only go by a dog's body language as they can't say "this sucks! get your icky human self off me" :)
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Postby TheRedQueen » February 8th, 2010, 6:07 pm

It is a species thing...dogs don't HUG. They learn to tolerate or enjoy hugs, but they don't HUG each other, and don't tend to do the same to us, unless we reinforce that behavior because we enjoy it.

Look at photos of dogs being hugged...you see the same expression on MOST dogs (again, unless they have learned to tolerate/enjoy hugging). I have tons of pics of me hugging my dogs, and for the most part, they look tolerant...not enthused. ;)

Kids get bitten often because they want to hug dogs...I can't tell you how many times kids have come rushing up to hug MY Inara...who is fear aggressive. She leans into my hugs, she loves to cuddle...but not from just anyone...especially strange kids! lol

I highly recommend you read the book that was cited in the former posts..."The Other End of the Leash" by Dr. Patricia McConnell...so you'll know where we are coming from in the "dogs don't like to be hugged" talk. She didn't just pull this out of thin air...this book is researched and has studies and such to back it up.
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Postby amazincc » February 8th, 2010, 6:24 pm

I agree w/Erin. :)

I had a dog who tolerated anything from me... and I mean - anything. Other people, not so much.
This particular dog also learned to associate "being hugged" w/being restrained while having rather unpleasant things happening to him at the vet. So, anyone trying to hug him (or touch him, period) was potential "lunch", if you get my drift. :wink:

My boys right now will tolerate a forced hug from me, but they'd much rather be the ones to initiate cuddle time... and then they actually enjoy it.
As far as affection goes... they grumble at each other, play-bite, lick each others ears and other
dubious places, sleep on top of each other, etc. - hugging they don't do, ever.

I have seen them semi-hug when they wrestle and it seems to be an invitation to (play) fight, if anything.
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Postby chako » February 8th, 2010, 7:43 pm

Dogs don't hug one another, but they also don't scratch or pat each other's rumps, scratch underneath chins, or do a lot of things we do. But the domestic dog has been with humans for quite some time, and there are so many studies that show significant differences between domestic dogs and other canines (including but not limited to wolves). In fact, dogs react to other dogs differently than they react to humans in many ways. They can react aggressively when they see another dog across the street, but be lovey dovie with all people. They may seek out eye contact with their humans, but NOT make eye contact with other dogs.

While I'm not saying a hug is in a dog's vocabulary of body language... I don't find that the VAST majority of dogs dislike hugging. Most dogs seems to like any attention from their people.... Petting, hugs, even eye contact (Generally, dogs don't maintain eye contact with one another, but many dogs sustain eye contact with people for various reasons that have nothing to do with trying to be aggressive, dominant, or any of the other things some people associate with 'eye contact" and dogs). Sometimes the eye contact is taught. Sometimes it's not. Some dogs just do it because they find it works to get them what they want (treats, attention, etc.) or because they're taking cues. In fact, the domestic dog is way ahead of both chimpanzees and wolves (even those raised with humans) in correctly interpreting human body language. I have that study somewhere on my hard drive. I can dig it up upon request.... I hope! :)

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Postby TheRedQueen » February 8th, 2010, 8:14 pm

chako wrote:Dogs don't hug one another, but they also don't scratch or pat each other's rumps, scratch underneath chins, or do a lot of things we do. But the domestic dog has been with humans for quite some time, and there are so many studies that show significant differences between domestic dogs and other canines (including but not limited to wolves). In fact, dogs react to other dogs differently than they react to humans in many ways. They can react aggressively when they see another dog across the street, but be lovey dovie with all people. They may seek out eye contact with their humans, but NOT make eye contact with other dogs.

While I'm not saying a hug is in a dog's vocabulary of body language... I don't find that the VAST majority of dogs dislike hugging. Most dogs seems to like any attention from their people.... Petting, hugs, even eye contact (Generally, dogs don't maintain eye contact with one another, but many dogs sustain eye contact with people for various reasons that have nothing to do with trying to be aggressive, dominant, or any of the other things some people associate with 'eye contact" and dogs). Sometimes the eye contact is taught. Sometimes it's not. Some dogs just do it because they find it works to get them what they want (treats, attention, etc.) or because they're taking cues. In fact, the domestic dog is way ahead of both chimpanzees and wolves (even those raised with humans) in correctly interpreting human body language. I have that study somewhere on my hard drive. I can dig it up upon request.... I hope! :)

-Dawn-


I actually agree with you on everything but the hugging part. Have you read the books in question? Just curious...

Have you also ever really, really looked at dogs' faces when they're being hugged? I was just explaining this to John and my friend, and hugged two of MY dogs (who tolerate and even enjoy hugging to some extent). Ripley looked away as I was hugging him, and licked his lips repeatedly (both calming signals)....Inara looked away too...even though she LOVES to cuddle.
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Postby amazincc » February 8th, 2010, 8:40 pm

All I can say is that I find "hugs-by-strangers" (actually by most people, really) very uncomfortable... talk about having your space invaded with no way out. :shock:

If you're patting/petting/scratching a dog they can remove themselves pretty easily, most of the time... to me that's the equivelant of a hand shake, and I'm okay w/that.
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