Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dog Behaving Badly

You all know that I'm an animal lover and a dog owner, but Joey being my first dog, I don't know squat about how to train them or how their minds work. The other day, I had a bit of an incident that has me concerned about Joey's behavior.

A few days ago, he was playing in the yard, when a baby bunny ran out from out of the bushes and dashed away. It's not the first time that bunnies have played in our yard, as there seem to be a few bunny nests (or whatever bunny homes are calls) on our property. Normally, when a bunny runs out, Joey chases him/her, but the bunny is faster and hides before Joey could get to him/her.

Not this time.

Nope. This time, Joey caught the bunny. Joey killed the bunny. And he wouldn't give back the dead animal until I hosed him down with water.

I am not a happy doggy mamma right now, as it's the first time Joey has actually killed another animal. And now I'm concerned. I had a few people tell me now that he's tasted blood, he will have a craving for it, so he'll be on the look out for bunnies, sniffing out there hiding places and killing them all. Also, I'm afraid he might turn aggressive.

For those of you who have/or had dogs, has your dog ever killed anything? Has their behavior changed since?


  1. What is Joey's breed? It might have a lot to do with it. If that is Joey in the photo, he looks like a retriever type, so it's natural for him to want to run after and catch the fast moving object. Unless he viciously shook the bunny, he may not have meant to kill it at all, he may have simply been fetching it.

    I'm not sure what advice to give without more info. Feel free to e-mail me or pm on Facebook and I'll do what I can to help. Just remember, no matter what, it wasn't malicious intent on his part. It was either hunting instinct or fetching instinct, but not a cruelly devised plan for murder.

  2. Don't know much about dogs. I have cats ... not that I'm privvy to how their minds work either. Hope you figure it out.

  3. First, don't be mad at him. He's not craving blood. Most dogs have a natural instinct to chase. Some bite down. Some merely put a paw on the critters to hold them in place.

    The breed is inconsequential. I've had huskies who are known to kill and eat prey that were as gentle as lambs. And I've had "gentle" dogs who will kill varmints and think they're doing a good thing for you.

    In your circumstance, you will have to keep an eye on Joey when he's outside. He'll hunt for bunnies because it was fun, not because he wants to murder them. Reprimand him when he gives chase to reinforce the idea that it is inappropriate behavior in your pack. You are the alpha. He has to listen to you.

    He'll never be cured of his instinct to chase, but he will learn to rein his enthusiasm if he knows it upsets you.

    One command that has always been useful to me is the command: Drop it.

    It's the first thing I teach all my dogs. Be consistent with your training, and I'll bet Joey will drop his prize the next time he gets one.

  4. Joey needs to learn the leave it command even though it will only work if you are out there with him. It's a complete myth that once dogs have tasted blood, they will crave it. You've got a dog with a high prey drive. No big deal. Tons of dogs have them. This isn't aggression at all (and even if this were a chihuahua that he had done it to, dog aggression and human aggression are two totally separate issues).

    Maria's suggestion about the Drop It command (I use "release") is good as well.

    But you really need to get into a GOOD positive reinforcement training class with him. You need to learn how to teach him and only a certified trainer can teach you that. But beware - there are a ton of "trainers" out there who have no clue what they are doing. If they aren't certified, run. If they want you to use corrections on a dog you haven't even trained yet, run. No jerking of collars. No "domination". No alpha crap (because that's what it is - crap). You want science based, proven results training that will BOND you to your dog, not create a fear based relationship that will foster aggression. I'm perfectly happy to help you find a trainer in your area to work with. Here is a good place to start:

    A few hours a week now will pay off in spades later on. Look at Lily. :-)

    Email me if you have any questions. I'm always here to help with dog issues!!