Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sam... HELP!!!

Dear Sam,


My husband and I were looking forward to getting a new family pet. We previously owned two large dogs; a Viszla and a white German Shepherd Dog. (Both dogs had died of old age). Both were trained by us. Both were great family dogs. The Viszla went hunting often with my husband. The German Shepherd played wonderfully with our children and was "sweet" to visitors after a proper introduction. My husband and I and our three children were very sad about our two dogs passing away. We also know that is just a part of life. And we all looked forward to experiencing the joy of making a new dog a part of our family.

We did our research and were very excited about bringing home a German Shorthair Pointer! Our new puppy’s name is "Sid" and he is now 9 months old.

My husband and I felt confident and positive about choosing this breed. We had good experiences with our other dogs and felt that we could provide this new puppy what it needed. We have three children, ages 15, 8 and 6. Before bringing the puppy home we talked with the kids about proper behavior around a new puppy. We had a 'plan' for everything! And we included our children in on each part of the plan. Everyone in our family was looking forward to the day that Sid would come join our family. Everyone was excited about being a part of the training process of our new puppy.

That was 7 months ago. And we have some real concerns. Our kids are not bonding with Sid. Part of the problem is the "biting/mouthing" that puppies do. Our girls understood that this is a natural part of puppies - but now Sid is nearly full grown (probably close to 60 lbs). He still jumps up on all of us, but especially the kids. He knocks them down and bites at their head and faces. There isn't any growling involved. It appears to me that Sid thinks this is appropriate playful behavior. But my kids come away pretty beaten up at times. When their friends come over we have to keep Sid away from the kids because he tends to jump up at the friends faces and bite! No blood has been drawn - but huge welts are left where his teeth met their flesh! I have to be honest, if I were a stranger and happened to witness this large dog jump at a child's face and "bite or mouth" the way Sid does, I would think this dog needed to be shot. I DO NOT think my dog really needs to be shot --- but I think we need to do something soon!

The kids DO NOT yell and scream in high pitch voices around Sid. They DO NOT run and flail their arms around wildly. I cannot figure out why Sid wants to chew on the kids like he would a chew toy.

How can we get Sid to stop jumping on the kids? And how can we get him to understand that using his mouth to play is not acceptable when it comes to humans? We have a few other concerns with Sid as well:

1. He doesn't respond to "Come"

2. We're not able to engage him in a good game of "fetch"

3. He seems more interested in birds, squirrels, other dogs, etc....than in bonding with our family.

We are committed to this dog. Even though our relationship with him is not how we envisioned it would be - we want to work with him and understand what he is thinking. But, I don't think it is smart to keep a dog if we must keep him separated from our children. I don't think that would be fair to our children to own a dog that is a threat to them - I don't think it would be fair to the dog either. It's really sad when our young girls come in from playing in the backyard in tears and tell us "I hate that dog!" because he just got through knocking them down and chewing on their head. I know it is not fun for them to be "mouthed" as aggressively as Sid does. And I know it hurts too.

I really don't think Sid is a vicious dog. I've seen vicious dogs - Sid does not seem like one of them. But the problem is still here and I don't know what to do.


Hi Elizabeth,

You need to start from scratch and get all the way through a good basic obedience training program. Private lessons would be best, since it would go faster. You are just dealing with an untrained, not a dangerous, dog.

Sam Basso

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