Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A boy and his dog

A couple of weeks ago, we had an incident where Rico seemlingly bit Ian, our five year old, in the face after Ian woke him up from a sleep. This happened the day before we were supposed to leave for a week's vacation, with Rico in tow. Thankfully, a friend was able to watch Rico instead while we were gone, which gave us some time to sort our thoughts and come up with a game plan. The initial reaction was that we needed to give Rico away (Matt wanted to put him down). But with some thought and guidance, we have decided to go in another direction.

I know everyone has their own opinions and ideas about dogs that have bitten someone, especially a child... and most of them likely differ from mine. Here is how I see it... and this isn't just because Rico happens to be our dog and one that I especially love... 

We have not invested an ounce of training into Rico. I am not talking about formal professional training. We have taught the dog how to sit, and that is it.  Sitting. Helpful. In about three situations I can think of. We have treated Rico as a furry human for the past three years and not as a dog. And, unfortunately, because he is an animal, a couple weeks ago, he was pushed to get as agressive as he could to get Ian to take his cues. And, because of how Ian was wounded, it is likely Rico didn't actually bite him. Which is good news, but I will get  to this later.

Whether you can relate (I use relate vs "agree" on purpose) or not, Rico is a part of our family.  We have created this little monster, and I will not have him put down for acting like a dog. I also will not give him away before trying to reverse the behavior because he is our responsibility. I will not pawn the problem off to someone else, untrained, to have him do it again... and then be put down. He is a great, smart, and loving dog, and as his family, we need to find the time and energy to go through the steps to correct the triggers of his aggression and curb his response.

On the day that the incident happened, we immediately called the vet for guidance, and she gave us the name of a trainer. The trainer and I finally connected yesterday, and the first question she asked me was, "Did Rico actually draw blood and create a true bite where medical attention needed to be sought?"... he drew blood, but did not create a true bite. While he did have a couple scratches on the side of his nose, the actual "wound" was on the inside of Ian's mouth. It looked like he had been punched in the kisser. Per the trainer, this likely was not a bite, which shows that Rico can control his bite. Why is it important or why make the differentiation? Because it shows that Rico has likely done all that he can do without actually biting. { Believe me when I say that Ian has agitated this dog to no end over the years, and he has put up with it for a very long time. } Apparently, if a dog is going to bite, it is a BITE... no confusion about how the wound was created. While I understand the severity of the situation, it also shows that Rico likely has the good control needed to reverse the problem.

The trainer will be coming to our house on Friday to get the ball rolling. I will keep you posted on how it goes... I have a feeling, in the end, it is going to be five humans with our tails between the legs.


  1. I think it sounds very mature of you and a good lesson for other pet owners who treat their animals like humans. The next person who compares their dog to my baby is going to get an ear full! It is a dog...not a human baby.
    It sounds like Rico and Ian will be just fine. Good luck with the trainer!

  2. Anne - the white wordsAugust 17, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    Thanks Mary... Sometimes I think pets fill the void where humans have let us down... But certainly not to be compared to a sweet baby.

  3. Anne - the white wordsJune 20, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Thanks Mary... Sometimes I think pets fill the void where humans have let us down... But certainly not to be compared to a sweet baby.