Friday, October 8, 2010

Update from the Duchess

I realized after reading your comments on our last post that I needed to give you more information.  So here is what led up to the bite and what we did afterwards.

Higgins sleeps in his crate in the kitchen. It is open so he can get out if he wishes, but he cannot get out of the kitchen.  We decided he was trustworthy enough to sleep with us so we let him stay on our bed when we went to sleep.  He didn't stay long but returned off and on during the night - usually with kisses to our faces.  The second night of this routine is when we had the bite incident.  Higgins had jumped on the bed and started his "kissing" about 2:30 am.  We both told him firmly to knock it off and lie down.  As soon as he obeyed, my husband reached down to pat him and say "good boy" - Wham!  Higgins bit him.  Needless to say the lights came on and we were wide awake.  My husband was furious and picked up Higgins by the scruff of his neck and carried him like that down the hall to the kitchen.  I'm pretty sure he yelled at him too but I don't remember.  He didn't strike him (although I'm sure he wanted too!).  We have always tried to train our dogs using positive methods.  Hitting isn't positive, but I realize sometimes a dog might deserve a swat. Carrying a dog by the scruff of their neck isn't too positive either, I know...

Anyway, back to the story....

The next morning I got up and went to the kitchen as usual and when I started to open the gate and say "good morning" Higgins started growling at me.  I knew if I tried to push it he would bite me.  I was certain of it.  So I ignored him and let the other dogs in the kitchen so everyone could go outside.  He did not growl at me again that day, but he would not come near me.  The next two mornings were a repeat of the first morning.  He would play ball with me but I had to really work to get him to bring the ball close enough for me to reach it.  During this time he never growled at my husband, although he acted reserved with him also.  He continued to play with Emma as if nothing had happened.

On the fourth morning he seemed almost normal.  It was almost as if he was tired of being ignored while the other dogs got "good morning loves".  I am just sure all of this has to do with his sleeping arrangements.  But I can't figure out why.  In the meantime, he is back to sleeping in the kitchen.  Maybe he feels safer in that confined space.  His part of the kitchen is about 10'x10'.  I have also "upped" his exercise time.   A tired dog is a good dog, right? 

The comments we got about NILIF and reinforcing his obedience commands are really helpful.  We are going to work on these things right away.  Higgins has been through twice the amount of obedience classes that most dogs go through.  And his sessions were private, one-on-one with the trainer because he does not like other dogs.  In that controlled environment we could introduce strange dogs.  He still doesn't like strange dogs, but he is much better now at ignoring them.

One last thing.  Higgins is due for a Vet visit soon and I will talk to them about this.  Of course if needed I will get him in sooner (if we have anymore problems with behaviour).

Thank you all so much for your thoughts, concern, and encouragement!

The Duchess


  1. Thanks for the additional information -

    I know we need to take care around Khyra when she's napping/sleeping/comfy in the chair. She needs to be approached directly so she knows someone is there - if she 'thinks' she's been surprised from the sides, she tends to get snarky -

    Good plan for the upcoming vet visit too -

    Please keep us posted!

    Khyra's Mom

  2. This could be an example of a dog who should not get to sleep on the bed. Some dogs do have issues with needing to be top dog. We think you are doing what is best for all of you right now. Our dogs are not allowed on the beds or even in the rooms. But they have their open crates and beds in the kitchen where they are gated. They are all quite content with this arrangement. TD and Phantom do get on the sofas for naps during the day, but only when a human is not on the sofa too. The NILIF plan is a great one. Nothing beats reinforcing his place. Lots of luck with getting this situation put behind you.

  3. I would agree too that Higgins is not a candidate for sleeping on the bed at this point. I would not be against him sleeping in the same room though, probably shut in his crate to start. After all, dogs like to be with their pack.
    After a bit you could open the crate door, but he is still required to sleep in it, or on the floor. Eventually he could get to the point of coming on the bed by invitation only, maybe when you wake in the morning. But he must get off when you tell him to. I wouldn't have him up there overnight. I would start that out by you sitting up on the bed at first, not laying down.
    I'm not a fan of dogs on the bed anyway during the night, I figure it would disturb my sleep too much as I am a light sleeper.
    I don't know how to interpret him biting on the bed, but the rest of what you say almost sounds like he was scared of you. Maybe hubby really scared him with his reaction to the bite.
    Good luck, I hope it is one of those odd things that happen, never to be repeated.

  4. Poor Mr. Higgins. I think it's a good idea to take him to the vet, he might have something go on that's bugging him. I recently had an incident with Kirby that startled me. He was laying on my bed in the morning (he sleeps on my bed at night, at the foot), well I bent down to give him a hug and he growled at me! I was so shocked I didn't know what to do. I stood up. I have had Kirby for 3 mos and he will now look me in the eyes most of the time, but doesn't always want to get close to my face, he usually will accept hugs however. So, if it happens next time, I will make him get off the bed. Wishing you the best with Mr. Higgins, let us know how it goes with the vet.

    Kirby's Mom

  5. I have a border collie who is a fear biter. Maybe Mr Higgins was frightened by the Duke's reaction to the nighttime licking and transferred his fear to you. I agree with the sleeping restrictions and vet check, following by some awake time and positive bedroom training.

  6. Since Border Collies are somewhat tempermental I think you were smart to approach Mr. Higgins carefully and with great care. I think the others who commented are correct that your brother may be trying to be the top dog or he may have something physically wrong with him and I'm glad he's going to the vet but I would also advice you talk to a dog trainer or a an animal behaviorist because Mr. Higgins may have some kind of issue that a vet couldn't figure out....keep us posted!

  7. i am not at all familiar with border collies, but i was wondering if perhaps mr. higgins was startled by the duke reaching out his hand to pet him in the dark...especially since he was in non-familiar sleeping territory?
    at any rate, i agree that he is better off sleeping in his kitchen space for now.

    the booker man and asa's mama

  8. I agree with the other people on letting Mister Higgins sleep in the other room. Also on seeing the vet to see if any medical problem might be present causing this outburst. I cannot let Holly sleep with me. I let my other dog, the Cocker Spaniel, Alex, have the run of the house but he was so very laid back. Holly is not and will jump and snap sometimes. She has the downstairs at night, a couch and a crate if she wants. I hope Mister Higgins is okay and that was just a flute thing that night because we know how much he loves you and the Duke and how much you both love him! Lots of love, Debbie and Holly

  9. I would start with a vet visit and rule out things like low thyroid first. After that, I'd be strict about NILIF and I wouldn't let him sleep on the bed. I have a friend who had to have some serious plastic surgery after one of her dogs bit her in the face while she was asleep. There were signs leading up to it that should have been heeded, which is why I bring the story up. He's telling you that something's not right or that he just can't handle being on the bed with you.

  10. momma said we will be cute stuffies if we bite (not really)
    Benny & Lily

  11. Hi there!

    I think Mr. Higgins did not really mean to harm. He might have been startled and that is why he reacted violently. Definitely, the Dr. V.E.T would have a better explanation and how to handle him. Sleeping in kitchen is a good move.

    We hope all will be ok there with you and Mr. Higgins. Hope the Duke is ok too.

    Piappies Mom with
    Piappies Fudgie, Princess, Frappie, Mocha, Sugar, Wai-Pai & Wai-Max

  12. Higgens is just being a turd..his nose was out of joint from not being allowed to stay on the bed..he was gonna show the Duke. And then because he ended up back in the kitchen he was going to show the Duchess too..I think it is a Alpha Dog power struggle..between you and him..the turd. Nothing is free..and everything comes through you..he just need to be reminded of his place in the pack. It will be ok..and I don't blame the Duke for grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and hollering..I would have reacted the same way. It is a good idea to mention this behavior to the Vet on your next visit:)

  13. Hmmmm again....great that you have private trainings! SR has had lots of classes, and private sessions whenever possible too.
    Sounds like Higgins perhaps didn't understand that he had hurt the Duke and why the Duke reacted. Higgins loves you and wants to make the correct choices.

    Keep us posted! Thinking that Higgins, as Sierra Rose, are both well intentioned growing puppies...our love and training will guide them... All should sort out :)

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  14. You're such a good mom. Reading this I was struck with all of the good things you did- you gave him time and space, you reintroduced the routine that was working previously... You rock.

    (oh...and I hope Mr. Higgins gets it together, too!:P)

  15. My guess, he was being brat and you are seeing the subsequent power struggle & spoiled little fit.

    Under no circumstances are my dogs allowed to growl at me, or each other. I do not react in fear or anger, I react in disgust - and let them know I am not pleased. By taking their ground, space, entering their bubble and making them back up. Then I drop it and turn away, but DO NOT LEAVE. I do not try to touch them, or reach out to them. When the stress has passed I pat the side of my leg (body turned away from them) and say "here" (extend an invitation to suck up) and wait patiently for them to come to me. I will only touch them after they have touched my hand with a nose, or lick. Until they approach me I ignore them. You did the right thing by walking away from Mr. Brattin's when he was being a shit. However I would scornfully shout "NO" at him the next time he gets that look on his face. Catch it as it is building - not after it is already there. Make sense?

    No more bed time for Higgens. I would let him sleep in his crate permanently. Why change it if it is working for him? All of my dogs (except Brynn) sleep in their crates in my room. They do not have the choice to leave the crate in the night - it is their bed and my bed is MINE. Brynn is the only one who is allowed to sleep on the bed and that is only because she has earned it. If Beth works hard or has won a trail (or something like that) she gets to sleep on the bed. But she is so annoying I usually make her leave around 3 am. Brynn gets to sleep up there because she is quiet as a church mouse and cuddles up in a little ball. She also outgrew her crate and I havent bought her a new one yet.

    Good grief I am yammering...okay, done now!

    It will all work out. Ranger bit me and John one day, seriously mauled our hands. He has NEVER done it again. Hang in there, just change some behaviours and things will work out.

  16. I agree with the other comments about Higgins not being a good candidate for sleeping on the bed. My best advice would be to do what you have already been doing "post bite"; ignore the bad behavior and reinforce the good, especially when your other dogs behave well. Dogs learn by example. Seems like he's coming back around, at least!

    The one thing that I would caution you to NOT do is to treat him with kid gloves. Don't act like you're afraid of him or think he will bite. A lot of times that turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy :)

    Good luck...

  17. No problem with who is top dog in our pack! Its me... ;-)


  18. Oh my, I missed this incident. It must have been so upsetting and mystifying for you. I like your idea of the vet visit... but I might also call my trainer in your shoes. However, you know best, that's for sure!

    I hope that it all straightens out soon. Most bites are out of fear... remembering that might help you to empathize with Higgins.

  19. The Master's bed can be a problem area for some dogs. Our Monty felt he should sleep there and would growl at my husband when he came to bed. Monty had to be banished from the bed for a period of time until he learned his rank in the household. Fudge wants desperately to advance in the pack and would like to sleep on the bed. I have to be firm with him about getting off when he jumps up there.

    It's tiresome to have to go thru this over an over, but that's how they learn to accept their position in the family. Good luck with your boy.


We would love to hear from you! We have had to disable Anonymous comments because of spam. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

Related Posts with Thumbnails