Tuesday, August 10, 2010


All dachshund owners will tell you, that owning a dachshund is a noisy affair. So when we brought Texas home, hearing him bark at everything walking past our house, strangers in our yard, people in our house was all part of the "joys" of dachshund ownership. Or so week thought.

It wasn't long before, we realized what we were seeing, was not your typical dachshund behavior.
  • First was watching him tear from the back of our (at the time) half acre yard, too chase some kids walking past our house. When they asked if he would bite was when some flags were raised in my mind. But I knew Bubbles had done the same thing in younger years, with no intention of harming anyone..but this...something was different. 
  • Next was at work. At the time I was working at a doggie daycare and in the evening we'd let the "staff dogs" into the office while we waited for the remaining few to be picked up. Texas was quickly banned from the office during this time, for shrieking at new customers and snapping at people who were trying to pet him. (Though why anyone continues to try and pet a barking dog is beyond me.)
  • Then in the car, we noticed that he would continually bark and snarl at people "approaching" my car. On the weekends, my job gave us a two hour break so Texas and I would go grab some lunch and sit in my car for a while. I soon began to leave him crated in the building as he was so stressed and overwrought with sitting in the car with me.
This behavior had me completely mystified, as he was only a 4-5 month old puppy! Why is this dog reacting like this at this age?! I tried to talk to my boss, who was a "trainer" but she had absolutely no advice for me. So I kind of let it drop as me just overacting, but for the life of me I could never remember Bubbles acting this badly.

Life went on, we moved to TN, I got a job working service dogs, and began to enter deeper the wide world of dog training.  I began to learn more about the positive methods of dog training and realizing what I was doing was not working (dominating etc..), and we started to see a little bit of progress, in Texas...as he had other issues as well.  I started clicker training with Texas and soon realized how smart he really was. Alas it wasn't until he actually did bite someone before we started realizing how serious his behavior was. 

But when I mentioned it, a lot people had many anecdotal stories about their dachshunds doing the same etc..that Did NOT help me, but just sunk me into a funk, of trying to figure out if Texas was really a dog I should keep, could keep or even could work with. 

Thankfully I follow a ton of trainers on Twitter, and when I posted my panicked "OMG MY DOG JUST BIT SOMEONE" message, they responded with lots of helpful advice. I began studying up on aggressive dogs, causes of aggression, and  soon realized that's not what he was, but "reactive". 

A reactive dog, is a dog that reacts in a fearfully defensive or "aggressive" manner, when faced with certain triggers.  
Looks like: Barking, Growling, Lunging, Snapping, Snarling, wants trigger to go away generally. 
Triggers: Other dogs, strangers, situations and prey
I quickly realized that Texas reacts fearfully in any situation where he feels he can't escape. Examples include: Behind a door, or fence, on leash on in my car.When he'd get in the "zone" there was not stopping him, unless he was removed from the situation completely. The bite occurred, at the door...when he slipped out behind me, and nipped the first foot he saw.

Once I realized this all of his outings stopped. He did not leave my property. He spent a lot of time inside, unless I was positive there was no one outside. Our yard maintenance guys  were also HUGE triggers, and I had to wait until they'd been gone for at least 30 minutes before going outside with him. Let's not even bring in strange loose dogs. Dogs that we intro'd in a controlled situations were fine, but random dogs? No so much.It was tough, he had to be crated when I had strangers in my home, and my stress levels were extremely heighten if we decided to venture out to a park or somewhere.

Between YouTube and Twitter I found some great resources and began working with Texas to help change his emotional reaction to these "fearful" things. We learned how to introduce Texas to new people; He doesn't feel threatened if he's allowed to approach the situation, rather than someone approaching him. I also learned to teach people a "new" way of approaching dogs. "No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact." This was quite difficult since people have it ingrained in their heads, that you must "make friends" with the dog, by sticking your hand in their face.

But Like this, Texas was able to make many new friends, and realize the world was not such a "scary" place after all.
Now you can understand a little bit more, why we had such a hard time, during the 4th of July Holiday. Basically Texas we were in the worst situation possible, for a reactive dog, but we all made it out alive, and un scarred. But I think my family will now believe me when I tell them why I don't take Texas out of town.
So anyway I said all of that to intro you into today's situation. Today was our annual church clean up, and we had people all over the place for about 7-8 hours. The dogs were of course in the house as they would have just been in the way, and I wouldn't have gotten anything done.

Last year, I really couldn't have let Texas outside period, until EVERYONE was gone. He wouldn't have been able to focus on doing anything but letting the "intruders" know they needed to be gone. 

Today this is what we get:  

Video Description: Texas, Bubbles, Pompei and Lacy are in the "left side" of my yard, across the parking lot are people, cars, kids on bikes roaming around. Texas is wandering around the yard sniffing, his body language is very relaxed. He does bark as one child whizzes by on a bike, but is quickly redirected by me.

To all of you, this is normal dog behavior, for me this is hUGe...as I keep saying in the video. We've made a lot of progress, but still have a very. long.way to go still. But at this point any progress is awesome. Will he ever be "completely" normal? I don't know, I have my doubts but we're working hard to make his day to day life as pleasant and stress free as possible.

Erin &

P.S. (What I want everyone to take away from this is: SOCIALIZE, SOCIALIZE, and SOCIALIZE.  As early as possible. Your dog will thank you, and so will everyone who comes in contact with him.)


JackDaddy said...

What a treat!!! You should be very proud of both Texas and yourself!

Do you do home visits? :)

Frankie Furter said...

Oh Texas I am soooooo very much Proud of you!!! I am sure you are proud of your mom too for finding out how to help you.
I give your BOTH Two Paws Up!

houndstooth said...

You're right, socialization is so important!

Elizabeth said...


As someone who is tackling similar problems I know how important it is to celebrate every success no matter how small it might seem to others. I too once had a six month old dachshund puppy who couldn't be in the same room with strangers without screaming bloody murder. And I am darn sure he would have bitten someone if I had let it go on much longer.

It's a hard issue to deal with and it takes more patience than I think a lot of people are capable of. I have the utmost respect for anyone that has met the challenge head on, the way you have, instead of discarding it or pretending it doesn't exist. You are Texas' guardian angel and everyday you help make his life a little more peaceful.

Because of you he'll get to live more fully and have more experiences than he would with someone ignored the problem. It can only get better from here. Gaius and I are very proud of you and Texas. :)

3 doxies said...

Yep, sissy Whitney is just like dat too BUT, I am PERFECT! Anyways, Whitney has progressed tremendously and mum is always going around saying, "oh Whitney I am so proud of you!"...makes me want to gag.
Thanks fur posting such wonderful blackmail...er, I mean information.

Puddles...da beautiful

Kari in WeHo said...

I am so glad he is in a house with someone like you who will continue to work with him and see such amazing progress.

Don't forget, we moved to http://dogisgodinreverse.com/