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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Overprotective Mastiff

Our dog, Rocky (22 month old Old English Mastiff), has already gone to the first couple sessions of Leadership Class at Manning Dog Training, but could not make the last couple because we had him neutered and he was 22 months old already, so it was a more serious healing process.

Rocky is very protective of family members and his yard. A couple weeks ago, I had some work done on my house. My wife had Rocky outside on a leash so he could relieve himself, as we were keeping him inside while the construction was going on. During this time, my wife and Rocky were facing opposite direction as 3 of the construction workers walked into the back yard and towards my wife and Rocky. When Rocky turned around, he saw the workers walking towards him and he pulled my wife while he walked up and nipped at the worker who was in the rear. The bite was a little larger than a silver dollar, and I don't believe it broke the skin, but the worker went to a clinic and had shots just in case.Rocky was put on quarantine for 10 days by the health department. Our family is very very close to Rocky and we don't want him to do anything that would get him into trouble again... is it true if he bites someone again, he will be put to sleep? Anyways, we need to get him through the obedience training, and any other training that will make him more friendly to outsiders.
Your help would be greatly appreciated,

First, it is NOT true that your dog will be mandatorily euthanized if he has bitten twice. I checked this out with Yakima Animal Control Officers a couple years back, because I'd heard the same thing. There's no law to validate this rumor. Reported bites do, however, require your dog to be quarantined, and you can look for your homeowners' insurance to go up (or disappear) if it's an ongoing problem. The insurance companies do find out about this stuff. I think many people CHOOSE to have their dogs euthanized if the biting is a continuing issue, because they feel it's the prudent thing to do from litigation and moral standpoints.

That said, let's make sure Rocky never bites again. You need to complete Leadership Class at Manning Dog Training, and then take it again. Your wife probably needs to come to class alone with Rocky so he learns to take direction from her. When she's a strong leader, Rocky will know that SHE (not he) is in charge of the back yard.

Last I checked, you could repeat Leadership Class as many times as you want or need, at no additional charge. We set it up that way for problems like yours. The behavior problems that most dogs have can be solved by simply improving the leader/dog relationship, and that's what Leadership Class does. Call Jane, the owners, at 574-4008, and find out when would be a good time for you to finish those missed classes. Better yet, tell her you want to start it all over again. You'll learn the most during the very first week of class.

After you've completed Leadership Class, consider Rally Obedience, which will expose him in a friendly way to lots more people and dogs. A rally class is not only fun, but invaluable in terms of learning very practical social skills.

Rocky was indeed neutered late, which could contribute to his "large and in charge" attitude. Nonetheless, it's a problem that can be fixed with Leadership training for your family members, and more socialization for Rocky. Do you take him lots of places? For walks in different locales? Shopping at stores that allow dogs? If control is a problem, try a prong collar or a Gentle Leader head halter. (Let the folks at Manning Dog Training outfit you and show you how to properly use it; do NOT go to Petsmart or Petco for this equipment!) Rocky needs to be exposed to EVERYTHING in the world while under your control. This will help build his trust in you, so that he knows you can and will handle any situation with backyard intruders.
You won't turn him into a wimp. But he'll learn it's not his job to START the fights. He is your backup. And a big Mastiff with a big, intimidating bark is not a bad tool to keep the bad guys at bay.

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