Today, I have made the decision to stop allowing my personal dog, Nelly, around anyone but my immediate family.
Nelly has always wanted her personal space from both people and dogs, and has always been great about giving warning signals such as growling and teeth showing. Warning signals such as these are a GOOD thing, but that is something I will dedicate a post to in the very near future, maybe even my next one.
Nelly has always communicated very well with people and dogs, letting them know when she was uncomfortable with the situation she is in. She has never liked people getting in her face, hugging her, or making her feel trapped in any way; it is considered rude to do this to a dog and she has very little tolerance for it. She also has an especially low tolerance for people doing this when she’s herding something. However, she has always given warning signals, so I am able to immediately remove her from a situation that she is uncomfortable with.
Lately, though, we’ve been having problems. She has been biting without giving any warning – or if there is a warning, it is way too fast for me to notice. I don’t know why she suddenly stopped, I have never corrected warning signals. As I said before, warning signals are a good thing!
Twice in the past few months she nipped someone who got into her personal space while she was herding – the solution to that was easy enough, I simply stopped letting people be around her while she was herding. Problem solved, no more nipping. But then the a couple weeks ago she nipped a person that was in my house. He was simply walking by her and she turned and nipped. And today she was having her belly rubbed by someone I know well(this was after she begged to be pet, she was very happy about getting her belly rubbed), he went to gently push her just a little bit, to scoot her away, and she immediately turned and nipped his arm.
None of these nips have drawn blood or left a puncture mark, but that does not make it okay. It is extremely concerning to me – not only that she’s nipping, but that she’s not giving noticeable warnings. Warnings are such an important part of canine communication and if she’s not giving me any chance to remove her from a situation she doesn’t like, what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to prevent bites when they’re so sudden and unpredictable?
I don’t know.
And that is why I have decided that I will no longer allow anyone except immediate family to touch or be near her. I am not going to risk having her bite someone that will then sue to have her euthanized for it.
I feel like a failure, as her owner, handler and trainer. So, until I work with a professional trainer, there will be no more contact with people for Nelly.
It saddens me to have to do this, because Nelly loves people so much. Every time we’re with a group of people, she goes from person to person with a happy smile on her face, begging to be pet. Sometimes when we’re in public, if there’s a person she can reach while on her leash, she’ll scoot up to them, sit, and give them her best “pet me?” face. Being around people makes her so happy!
I just can’t believe it’s come to this. Of all the dogs I’ve fostered(22 at this point) I have never had a dog with as many problems as Nelly did the day that I adopted her. I’ve been able to fix most of her issues, but it seems like it’s just one thing after another. There’s no end to her problems. I don’t what could have caused her to be so neurotic and crazy that nobody but me wanted to keep her.
When I imagined my first dog, it was one that liked kids and other dogs, one that would play fetch with me, one that I didn’t have to worry about biting. But of all the dogs in the world, I fell in love with this one. And all I want to do now is cry, because I can’t even trust my best friend to be around people.