Monday, April 19, 2010

Copper bit Kevin

So it has been one week since the bite. I needed time to process and get my game plan adjusted. Copper was doing well and we let up on our management. Big mistake.
Here is an excerpt from an email sent to those involved in Toller rescue and professional trainers and Behaviorist.

We had an incident today that really disheartens me.
I will tell it like I remember, there is a bit of background over the weekend to read on my Blog if you have not.
We had Copper in the house with his drag lead on, he was trying to get into things he was not supposed to and we kept distracting him from those, he finally got a Squeaky toy and was busy with it.
He was under the grooming table, about 3 feet from Kevin on his right. Kevin was sitting at the Desk working on something, I was across the room to Kevin's left. Copper squeaked the toy and Nitt jumped out of my lap.
Copper started to growl, I got up and was trying to assess the situation, at the same time trying to grab Nitt, in case it was him he was growling at. Nitt was closer to me.
Kevin turned in his chair and leaned over, put his hand down to block Copper, and said drop it (Copper did not have anything in his mouth). Copper then lunged about three feet at Kevin's hand and bit him.
We have tightened our management program and I have a printed list of Copper's core Management program.
Below is an email from Kristen in answer to my original email.


How bad was the bite? Was there bruising, swelling, punctures, or just a red mark? Dog under bed, table… and human hand reaching down is a pretty hot spot for a dog bite from a guarder. Bones that the dog has been chewing on for awhile may be more valuable than a bone that has just been given to a dog. We will need to re-create that situation in a level at which the dog is comfortable, break it down into pieces, and train for the appropriate response. Lots of work.

Regarding the Bluetooth: Interesting that Cooper is still getting into things that he shouldn’t and choosing to chew on them rather than bringing them to you so that you ask him to drop and he gets a treat. Most dogs with a strong reinforcement history for dropping still pick things up that we don’t want them to have but they just bring them to their people instead of chewing them up.

I read your blog. Please keep Cooper off of furniture. Resource guarders are more likely to bite and do damage if they’re on furniture. And he’s more likely to guard it as a location as well. Also, foster dogs are more adoptable if they don’t have furniture habits and once adopted should not be allowed on furniture for a few months anyway.

Beef up your management. There were too many variables present (Nitt, Kevin busy, toys, bones) at once while both of you were busy. Crate him when you’re not actively training and the other dogs/toys/bones are around. Have Kevin work to fix his relationship with Cooper. Force/intimidation does not work on hard wired resource guarders or anxious dogs. It only makes them more anxious.

Add up the # of bites that Cooper has had. How many bites are acceptable for your rescue to adopt him out?

It has been a week now and no major problems. He went to the show in Indy with me and did very well. First time in the building he was pretty stressed at first but settled with lots of reinforcement. Copper loves riding in the car!! He seemed to prefer staying in the car rather in my friend's house at night. Seems to be like Splash in finding the car to be a safe zone.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Copper, aha or learning opportunity

I was tired last night and did not put two and two together. I now know why Copper did what he did last night.
Yesterday when I was cleaning, Kevin was sitting in his chair, Copper stole his bluetooth off of the table. I told Kevin he had his bluetooth, and Kevin flew out of his chair and pinned Copper on the couch and took the bluetooth from him. He did growl at the time but was not able to snap.
I was getting up quickly to go to distract Copper, and he felt threatened after the situation earlier.
So Kevin has learned that no matter how precious, what ever Copper has, he needs to give the drop it signal calmly. This morning Copper got hold of my raincoat bag, I calmly gave him the signal, and he dropped it immediately. I have a container of food and rewarded him. He does want to be a good boy, just does not take pressure well.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Well, we had a good couple of days that did not end well. Copper has been doing good with giving things up, and last night he got to lounge on the couch, cause he was being good.
Today, I actually trimmed three nails!! He then got to try to swim, well he really wants the bumper, but was afraid to swim out. I had the long line on him but did not really need it. He would give the bumper up with no problems, even with Edan around. No growling on Copper's part.
He was outdoors most of the day, as I was inside spring cleaning.
This evening I tried to let him stay out, but he was trying to find something to grab and as I went to try to distract him to go somewhere else, he growled and snapped. He now is in his kennel contemplating his loss of freedom.
I wonder if today was too much for him, a lot of activity. I thought he would crash like yesterday, but we may have over done and needed to kennel him sooner. He did not growl at me when I put him in the kennel which surprised me.
We go to class tomorrow. I will have to ask Kristen what she thinks. I still need to work up to taking him to the vet for a Thyroid test. Also, I was too tired tonight to make him work for his dinner. I just let him eat out of the bowl while I held it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


This weekend I had an agility show Fri-Sun in Crystal Lake About 1 hour away. I took Copper up with me Sunday and was able get him out and go into the building to socialize. He showed no aggression but was very busy looking at a lot of noises. One time we got a bit close to a BC that was barking a lot, he seemed a bit distressed by it but I was able to easily distract him and get him past to quieter area.
He wants to lunge at and play with the other dogs. But with getting his attention and rewarding him for giving me attention, he can easily be distracted from any dog he was focused on.
He really loves going with and starts to whine when I go to the car. He just jumps right into the kennel in the back of the car.
Copper has been progressing well with his grooming. Tonight I filled a food tube and Kevin slowly metered out the food as I groomed his ears and tail. He tolerated that really well, and we were the one who needed to take breaks, he was just ready to keep eating while I groomed. I got a lot off his ears, but need to do just a little bit more. He had a few mats on the right side that took a bit of time.
Just need to pluck a bit more from his ear flaps. and move onto his feet. After feet we will start to try to do nails.
We have very few instances of his resource guarding with toys. He usually responds well to our release signal, and gets rewarded every time.
He still growls or barks when he is in the kennel at feeding time. I still have a few instances when he goes into the kennel and growls when I shut the door. But most times he goes right in and gets a reward after I have latched the door.
He is still a very busy Puppy and seems easily distracted and sometimes distressed by noises.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Copper, almost 2 weeks

Copper is doing well. I have not had a lot of time this week to work with him, so his meals have been getting up on the grooming table to eat his meal, if he jumps off, okay, the food is still on the table. He has to get back on, with my help to finish eating. He progressed to me massaging and now even able to comb his coat a bit!! Tonight I used the furminator on him as well and he did not jump off. Through all of this I have not held him on the table, if he wants off, so be it, no more food. If he gets back on he can continue eating while I groom. He has not growled one time through all this.
He stresses easily and gives up on things if it stresses him too much. He is learning that he can walk away, so seems he does not growl as much. The only consequence of him walking away is no reward till he re-engages. If he comes back to work, then he gets more reward.
Kevin took him to class this last Sunday. And brought back some god stuff.
He did state that when he came back from a walk, Copper found a toy and started to growl, he doid not have the toy in his mouth, so Kevin told him to get it then gave him the release signal and he gave it right up. What a good boy!!!