Weimaraner Suddenly Biting - Please help!!!

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Barked: Wed Apr 3, '13 8:01pm PST 
We have a 2 month old newborn baby.

My 5 year old sweet weimaraner suddenly became very aggressive / perhaps over protective...?

On walks he started lunging at people, and actually bit a woman. frown Very very bad I know. It bruised and drew blood but she did not require medical attention. Now only my husband can walk him.

Before the bite incident we trusted the weim around the baby, now we are scared and taking every precaution to protect our child.

My weim was my first baby...Is he being overprotective or is their something else going on? Tonight he tried to bite the UPS man at the front door.

Please help. I don't want to rehome him, but I also can't live with my child at risk...he has shown some resource guarding issues with our Labrador (over toys / bones). He has no resource guarding issues with me (I can take his food / toys away without even a growl, I make him work for everything.) The resource guarding does scare me though when my child starts crawling / walking and has toys scattered all over the house.

We've tried to keep everything consistent after the baby arrived - his exercise routines have remained the same, he gets a long walk or run everyday and has a big yard to play in.

Appreciate your advice.
Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
Barked: Wed Apr 3, '13 8:51pm PST 
Firstly, the addition of a new little one can be quite daunting and stressful for our furry friends and could easily be the trigger for why he has started acting out. However, this sounds more like it's something that's been building up over time and you likely didn't notice the warning signs of such behaviors until it was too late.

I WOULD NOT call this over protective. In fact, I would go as far as to say this is more likely fear based and/or territorial response depending on where all of this is happening. I would recommend training him with a basket muzzle and walking him muzzled for the time being until you figure out an exact trigger and/or get a dog trainer involved.

Resource guarding with other dogs is NORMAL. If you can still take things away, and it's just that the other dog can't, I wouldn't be so concerned. HOWEVER, I WOULD recommend NOT leaving toys/bones scattered all over the house when baby starts crawling, but instead, giving them at intervals when baby is napping, or when baby is in a playpen, or when the dogs are kept separate from baby. Teaching baby from the get go to leave the dogs toys/bones/food alone should be done regardless of the dogs behavior - ANY dog, whether they resource guard or not, could nip at a child for trying to take something out of their mouths. It's safer to teach the child to respect the dogs space and give the child something else to play with. That said, if I was a dog, I certainly wouldn't allow another dog to take my bone either and would give a warning growl/snap for that too! I ALWAYS keep my dogs separate when feeding, or giving bones for this reason and supervise diligently.

What I would start doing is make EVERYTHING about the baby completely positive. If the baby cries and the dog checks on the baby and stays calm, or sits, REWARD with a treat! If baby touches the dog, give the dog a treat. If the dog kisses the baby, give the dog a treat. Anything associated with baby/dog interaction should illicit positive reinforcement from you and dad to reinforce that good things come from being around the baby, and that the baby is not taking away from the dogs or something to be upset by. You want them to associate everything baby as positive to help them ease into the new transition of a newborn baby. It's a stressful change for two adults, nevermind for dogs! smile

It doesn't surprise me that the new baby could have set off your dogs normal behavior. But it IS something you can work with, and it's something I would definitely recommend a positive reinforcement trainer or behaviorist to help you with, as they can help show you what behaviors to look for, how to keep the interactions safe between the baby and the dogs, and how to make everything easier on all of you, and help the dogs to adjust as well.
Shayne CGC,- RL2

Shayne- Disc Doggin in- the 'Burgh!
Barked: Thu Apr 4, '13 6:16am PST 
Although there seems to be a pretty obvious and likely trigger (new baby), any sudden behavior change makes me think of a medical issue. I would get the pup to the vet for a full work up including a CBC and full thyroid panel. Ruling out medical causes for behavior change is really helpful. Resolving behavior changes that are rooted in medical causes can be as simple as giving a pill twice a day to correct the thyroid's function.

As a precaution, I would probably teach him to LIKE wearing a muzzle so you have a tool (besides separating or crating) that you can use to keep everyone safe while you work on training or contacting a trainer.

My favorite muzzle for most dogs in most situations is the Baskerville Ultra and there's a great video on youtube about how to teach your dog to love their muzzle by Chirag Patel of Domesticated Manners Teach Your Dog To Wear a Muzzle

For an issue like this--where the safety of a baby, people in the world, and the dog himself is at risk-- I would suggest contacting a skilled and experienced positive trainer or behavior consultant to help you through the issues you are having. If you paw mail me the city/area you live, I'd be happy to see if I can find a trainer to suggest.

In the mean time, I would be extra cautious and keep the pup separated during times when he's shown the biting/growing behavior (so if you know when the UPS guy is coming, crate/gate him or just leave the door closed and let the UPS guy drop off the package on your porch). Charlie gave good advice about pairing all things baby with good stuff.

Member Since
Barked: Thu Apr 4, '13 10:28am PST 
Thank you both for your quick replies.

I agree it's more fear-based aggression... My husband was trying to dismiss it as overprotective. Also very good advice about positive reinforcement around the baby. He seems to like her and will kiss her legs and act happy so I don't think it's a jealousy issue.

I just fear she might startle him in someway and trigger him... Especially now that I know he's capable of biting without warning. He didn't bark at the lady he just lunged and bit before I knew what had happened.

A bit more background that also has me concerned about the future - He has always acted timid around neighborhood children...I know it's our fault for not socializing him more though we didn't have any children to 'practice' with once we realized it was an issue. He goes to doggy daycare about twice per week since he was a puppy and gets along with the staff and other dogs fine.

Thank you also for the muzzle advice. Sometimes you are too close to a situation to see the best way to manage it. We could work on socializing now with the muzzle on?

I found a good behaviorist on the other side of town I want to take him to....quite pricey....however I think we need professional help if there's any chance in maintaining a safe environment for the baby.

My last question - Can you see a positive outcome with him staying with us? Or should I focused on finding him up an excellent home with no kids? I don't want him to spend the rest of his life locked in his kennel or outside because he can't be trusted to walk around as part of the family. He's a huge baby with the sweetest disposition (aside from the biting). My heart is broken over this. Before I had this newborn I would have never ever thought I'd be considering this.

Thanks much.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Thu Apr 4, '13 11:56am PST 
What you need to do is stay positive but SAFE! If you do need to rehome, you really want to do that knowing in your heart you did everything you could. Second, in rehoming you will have to report incidents to be ethical, so if from this point there are not any....that is so much better in terms of finding a good potential home.

Really good advice to acclimate to a muzzle, have him vetted and then seek a behaviorist, and in the meantime control scenarios where he has shown this behavior for the short term. Weims can be very sensitive are are inclined to bite.

What's the long term prognosis? That's hard to say as you have layered on this concern about your baby, who months down the road you know will be crawling. My personal advice is to aggressively pursue this as in *yesterday* in terms of the vet and then the behavioral assessment, keep him out of trouble in the meanwhile. If there isn't some very fluid answer coming fairly promptly, though, you need to think long and hard.

I co-run a rescue and am pretty judgmental when it comes to rehoming. However, in cases like this where a dog may face a hyper managed and restricted life while his issues are addressed....that's not always the right answer. Sometimes, rehoming is the thing to do. So see the vet, consult with a behaviorist and then you will have a better feel for what you're looking at. hug

There is plenty of potential to get this back to somewhere better, but it is the immediacy of concern given your baby that would be the concern. Dealing with professionals (true professionals....you want a veterinary behaviorist) and the vet workup besides should give you a good first view at what you are looking at truly.

Edited by author Thu Apr 4, '13 11:58am PST

Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
Barked: Thu Apr 4, '13 2:55pm PST 
Agree with everything Tiller said.

I'd definitely give the Vet checkup and the behaviorist a go. Behaviorists can be pricey, but they are SO worth it with these situations.

You want to capture and prevent anything before it becomes a problem or escalates and that's ultimately what you're doing right now. It could very well be that your dog views the baby as part of the family and doesn't have the same reaction to her, as he does to strangers. But it could go either way.

That said, usually there are other warning signs that are more subtle, and it's likely that you didn't pick up on them. Posture, facial expressions, whale eye, etc are all just small parts of the big puzzle when it comes to canine body language, and it takes many small things to create a big picture for us. Often, we don't even notice there's a problem until the dog growls, barks, or bites and then we believe it was more sudden than it actually was. A behaviorist can ultimately help you in establishing WHAT his warning signals are, subtle ones included.

My own dog is incredibly tolerant with young children, however, if his muscles get tense, if he keeps turning his head away from them, looks away, licks his lips, or shies off when they come near him, I know instantly with any of these behaviors that they're making him uncomfortable and it's time to call off the tots. That said, I've had him for five years and have studied dog behavior diligently the entire time.

This CAN be something that can be worked through to safely have him in your home, and happily, and cohabiting with your family and the new baby. However, it DOES take time, training, management, positive reinforcement, AND teaching baby what is and isn't allowed with the dogs too. A behaviorist will be able to assess the situation better, and give you a better idea of what the likelihood will be of him being able to work past these issues with you, so that he can live safely and comfortably in your home. Best case scenario, they can help and you can keep your dog without issue. Worst case scenario, the behaviorist gives an assessment, and you and the behaviorist decide together that it would be better to rehome him somewhere without children.

I agree with Tiller, that with any of my dogs, if I had to rehome, I would only do so after having done everything I knew, in my heart, that I could to keep from having to do that. But, like you, I view them as family and it would break my heart to be put in that situation.

Whether he's comfortable with baby right now, or not, and whether or not he shows any jealousy, I would still make a huge effort to make all good behavior around the baby a positive thing to reinforce the idea that behaving around baby = great stuff! Charlie is incredibly comfortable around children and babies, and very tolerant, but I still make every effort to reinforce that consistently, every day to make sure he keeps up the good tolerance and positive associations. It helps, a lot. Especially if you want to start properly socializing a dog that otherwise, didn't have much in the way of children.

Another thing someone on here suggested to me(I believe it was Trigger), because I'm expecting as well, was to lay baby blankets on the floor in various places, and train the dogs NOT to step foot on the blankets, no matter what. Make a game of it, make it fun for the dogs, make obstacle courses out of baby blankets(if they smell like a baby, all the better!) and teach them that these places are for baby ONLY, no exceptions and reward for avoiding the blankets. This is something I'm working on with Ria, my puppy of the two most, because she's very bouncy and isn't always aware that running into a child can send them flying and can HURT. So, I've been working on this with her most, because she's very hyper active and all over the place and needs to become more aware of her surroundings anyway. Just an idea for something to do as well to help with the process. smile

If you do decide that it's safest and best to rehome him, you will only receive support here. Being honest about what you can and cannot handle, and what you are and are not willing to try to work through, is ultimately best for you and your family. If you're willing to try to work through it, that's awesome! And if you can't or don't feel it's safe, we will understand too. It's a very, very difficult decision to have to make.

Have a consultation with the behaviorist, and a Vet check up done, and go from there. hug

Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 9:25am PST 
What you describe is pretty typical for the breed.

Many individuals can hang onto some semblance of sanity for awhile but the additions of new family members often push this breed over the edge. It's exactly why they're not typically referred to as good with kids.

If I were you OP, I'd consult the dogs breeder. If he dog was a rescue or from shoddy breeding I'd seek breed/hunt club help. I hate to be the debbie downer here but Weims are fractious and it's just how they are. The dog may never learn to settle with the child around so keeping it segregated or rehoming may be your only alternative.

Play hard, sleep- well.
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 12:31pm PST 
Well, first of all remember the 4 "P"s of training (from PETA):
1. Praise
2. Practice
3. Prevention
4. Patience
The one "P" that doesn't belong is:
I don't personally think that it is a jealousy issue, or that he is being over protective. I recommend that you take him to a vet. There may be something bothering him that you don't notice.
Woof! dog
Toto, CD, RN, CGC

We don't do- doodles!!!
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 12:52pm PST 
I have to agree with Trigger on this one. Did you ever wonder why there are so few Weims in pet homes???? They are pretty much geared for working and doing something and being house pets don't really stimulate them enough, IMO. We have two clients with Weims... one, a rescue, does well in the home with the husband and wife and lots of activity but must be boarded anytime grandchildren are around.
The other is a ten months old puppy, in our daycare, and is off the wall insane and in serious danger of being rehome already. This breeder told them weims were excellent, calm, obedience house dogs. And, the people didn't ask her why NONE of hers lived in HER house???????

Member Since
Barked: Fri Apr 5, '13 7:48pm PST 
OP here...Sorry I need to create a profile and load a picture.

I really appreciate everyone's advice. We called the behaviorist today, unfortunately the first available appointment is a few weeks off. I'm starting to think we may have to rehome him regardless, living with the anxiety of 'what if' and never fully trusting him may prove too much. However I think consulting with the professional first is the way to go, and we owe it to him to get him the help he needs. He's my baby and I really feel awful about this.

We got him from a backyard breeder (soo many lessons learned)...so I don't think they'll be any help. I could never leave him at a shelter or give him to a rescue so I may have a big job ahead to find him the right home given this bite history and the structure / exercise he needs to have a happy life.

In the meantime I'm going to continue to keep the baby / dog separated when she isn't being held - if she's in her swing or bouncy chair I'm making sure the dog is in his kennel or outside. (As she's as needy newborn I'm holding her quite a bit and allow the weim to roam the house as usual, help me change her diaper, etc.) I think I have a few months to figure this out until she starts crawling, and then the situation will get harder to manage once she's mobile.

We have quite a bit of family visiting in the next few weeks so I'm going to have to make sure we keep them safe.

I know now without serious help it's not a question of if he'll bite again, but when (after I watched him try to get the UPS man)... frown

Thanks again for all your replies.
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