What should we do about our dog?

My fiancee and I have a Bedlington Terrier, actually the dog is more hers then mine. Lately, she has been showing some very strange signs, and we would like to get some ideas on what we should do with her.

Savanna, the dog, has been with Iris for around two years now, we have been together for just over a year. Iris get the dog and pretty much showered her with attention. After I came along the attention went down. At first the dog got along very well with me, she liked to play, go for walks, just like a normal dog.

However, with in the last couple of months Savanna has begun to act very strange. She has snapped at me a couple of times, twice she got me on the nose. Not enough to break the skin, but still a dog should not be snapping at me for any reason. She is a bit of a jumpy dog, but when she bit me on the nose she knew I was there because I was petting her.

If Iris is away on a trip, Savanna will not eat for days, she usually does not eat unless Iris is home even during the week. Recently she has also refused to go outside to go to the bathroom. We have a nice backyard that the dog before just loved, now the only way she wants to go to the bathroom is by being walked by Iris. Generally she will not go in the house, but sometimes she will because she has refused for more then twelve hours. She has been to the vet in the last couple of weeks and they have not seen any sign of her being sick.

Savanna will play with me, if Iris is around, though sometimes she will also play if I’m by myself but that is rare. She will sit with me sometimes, but usually she sits on the bed waiting for Iris to come home.

So the problem isn’t really with me, I can take or leave the dog. However, Savanna is very attached to Iris, and we are wondering what may happen when we have children. We already know Savanna is jealous of me because Iris gives me more attention. She snaps at me sometimes, of course I snap back, but a baby would have no protection against a dog. We also worry about the mental health of the dog, she always seems so depressed when Iris is not around, or when Iris is not giving her full attention.

We have been in contact with the rescue people, who put us in touch with a trainer who said Bedlingtons are not known for aggression. The trainer worried that Savanna might become even more aggressive towards me, and will more then likely do the same to a baby. She suggested that we get rid of Savanna, and soon so that she can adjust to being in a new place easier then after another year or two when we would be having kids.

Anyone else have some good incites as to what we can do? I know Iris is attached to Savanna, but we do want what’s best for everyone involved.

My $0.02…and if I were buying, I might negotiate that price.

Try having Iris ignore the dog. You feed/walk/play with the dog, she treats the dog like dirt. Maybe the dog will figure out that you like it too. Oh, and the dog can probably tell you are ambivalent of its existance…you might want to convince yourself you like the dog while convincing it that it should like you. Bad behavior like biting shouldn’t ever be ignored since the dog may try again more successfully.

And you probably shouldn’t be beating the dog…just in case you hadn’t figured that out on your own.

Some of this sounds like a dominance issue, although not all of it. Still, some dogs are very aware of their place in the pack and will jealously guard it. It may be that Savanna sees you as attempting to usurp “her” place in the #2 slot.

You might want to read a book like How to Speak Dog or The Other End of the Leash to try to understand what she’s doing.

As a general cure-all for behavioral issues I recommend two things:

  1. Exercise. A dog that’s tired is a happy dog. I prefer dog parks, myself.
  2. A dog class. For you, probably a general obedience class with just you and Savanna (no Iris). This will improve your bond with the dog and at the same time teach her that you’re higher in the hierarchy than she is.

I’m no dog expert, just a dog owner who’s done a lot of reading. Take it for what it’s worth.

I understand what you’re suggesting, but I don’t know if me treating the dog like dirt is the best idea. She’s already suffering enough with her separation anxiety and depression, the only joy she gets is when I give her attention (in her mind). Besides, I can’t exactly ignore my own dog. Edward does everything and more for Savanna. He plays with her, feeds her and shows lots of affection. It’s just that every now and then, she will snap at him out of the blue. This usually happens when I’m giving her attention and she probably feels that Edward is trying to take me away from her. As mentioned in the OP, we are really concerned if she’s going to snap when we have a baby.

As recommended by a trainer, I’ve been trying to ignore her when I get home and not make a big deal when I leave the house for work. So far this hasn’t helped matters.

If you are going to have kids, get rid of it. It’s the only responsible and intelligent thing to do. I continue to be amazed at people that would risk their own child’s well being because of their affection of a dog.

Iris, I saw your objection, but I have to agree with the above post. Maybe not “treat the dog like dirt,” but the dog needs to learn (at least for a while) that if she wants attention and other good things, she gets it from ETH. I guess you don’t have to totally ignore the dog, but really limit the amount of positive reinforcement she gets from you. It’s not forever. It’s just until she learns that ETH is a good source of love and fun.

ETH should walk her. You may have to take her for more frequent walks if she refuses to do her business when Iris isn’t there, but eventually she’ll have to go. Likewise, I saw that ETH feeds her now. That’s good, but if she doesn’t eat for a set period of time (try 20 minutes) when Iris is out, pick up her bowl and take the food away. She’ll get food again when ETH feeds her at her next normal feeding time. Eventually, she will eat. I had a dog sitter do this. My dogs wouldn’t eat with me gone. After having their meals removed twice, they gobbled it up the third time. They learned that to eat when their food is in front of them.

The snapping does sound like a dominance issue. The dog thinks that **Iris ** is hers, and here comes ETH to take her away.

How much obedience training does the dog have? One thing you can try that can help with the dominance issue and help the dog bond with ETH is to have the two of them take an obedience class together. If she’s already had a bunch, you can try a refresher or take a course designed for more advanced training (like those for obedience trials). It’s fun for the dog and human and really helps get the dogs to learn who is boss (and a really fun boss at that).

Even if she’s behaving very well, do test her (no matter how good she is) before bringing a baby into the house. You can have friends over to see how she interacts with them, how she handles them taking you away from her, how she handles you giving them a hug etc. You may find that once the dog learns that she is not Iris’s second in command, she will likely be a lot freindlier to others who vie for Iris’s attention.

One last thing, I know she went to the vet recently, but did he check her teeth and vision? My older dog went through a period of refusing her dry food. I discovered that a couple of her teeth (which get cleaned regularly) were really bothering her and had to be pulled. It was likely that eating was painful. Similarly, we had a dog when I was growing up that suddenly started snapping. It turns out she had lost a lot of her vision. We were scaring her by approaching her from her blind spot and she was snapping. It doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it did give us some insight into why it was happening.

I guess I should clarify. I meant no playtime, no snuggling or hugging or petting, no feeding or special treats, etc. from Iris. I do not condone mistreating animals and in retrospect, should not have used the phrase ‘treat like dirt’ to mean what I was trying to say. Imagine yourself busy with a shiny new baby and the level of time and energy you will have for Savanah and give that to her.

I agree with Unregistered Bull that if a child is pretty much a foregone conclusion, the dog should go if the agression can’t be stopped. I knew of a family that had a dog and then kids and the dog got a little agressive (mostly because the older kid tortured it) and it ended up picking up the younger kid by the face and nearly killing it. The kid was horribly, perminantly injured and the dog was put to sleep. Not a happy ending for anyone. YMMV

The Bedlington belongs to a group of terriers bred to hunt both game and vermin. Terriers as a breed group are intelligent and have a high prey drive. They also can be very stubborn.

How old is Savannah, and how long has she been Iris’ companion? Has there been any other significant men in her life? How long have you been involved with Iris and Savannah?

If you are going to keep Savanna you are going to both have to put her in her place in “the pack”. She acknowledges Iris as the alpha female, she needs to learn that you are the alpha male. She also needs to recognise that all humans are alpha to her. It can be done.

My first bit of advice is for Iris to take a bit of a step back from Savannah’s daily care. EtH should be providing for her daily needs. I heartily endorse two regular mealtimes; my dogs are fed at 7:00 am and 4:00 pm, they are given 10 - 20 minutes to eat what they want, and then the dishes go up. She won’t starve herself, and with regular mealtimes she should also have regular potty times. EtH should be the one who walks her, gives her treats, plays and pets her; anything which she loves, he should be the giver. I know from experience that this will work.

When and if unacceptable behavior occurs it has been my experience that disciplining the dog as an alpha dog would a subordinant in the pack would works the best. I scruff my dogs when they get out of line, which involves grasping them firmly by the scruff of the neck, flipping them (quickly but gently) onto their back, one hand on the chest, make eye contact and don’t break it until the dog has looked away, and growl. A dog which has nipped I nip back on the ear. It sounds a bit gross, but it isn’t something I have had to repeat very often. Iris needs to also reinforce this by not responding while EtH is working with Savannah, or Savannah will get the message that she and EtH are on the same level, and will in all likelihood continue her struggle for the upper hand. All of this needs to be done with confidence, if she senses that you are unsure of yourself, she will probably not submit.

Also, both Iris and EtH should bond with Savannah together. When Iris is home and Savannah wants loves from her, you both should pet, praise, and love on her. Teach her that three is not a crowd, it is just more available love and snuggles for her.

The Bedlington, in my research (I think they are an interesting breed) are good family dogs. Right now it sounds as if she is simply jealous and unsure as to her position in “the pack”. Both of those emotions will make the very best dog nervous. Just like children, dogs are most comfortable when they know their boundaries, even though they will test them on occasion just to make sure.

Also, I have a couple of dogs who give “love bites”. It is pure affection, they will lightly graze my nose with their teeth, but never to a point where it hurts or breaks the skin. A couple of my cats do the same thing.

If you do decide that she is resisting being integrated into a family, then, sadly, rescue is your last choice. Please place her with a breed rescue group, as opposed to the local shelter/Humane Society. You have my best wishes, please keep us updated!


(Not that I’m suggesting that the OP would risk his kid’s well being, yada yada.)

Plus you can always tell Savannah that when Mommy and Daddy make love it’s a beautiful beautiful thing.

Some rescue groups won’t take a dog who shows signs of aggression. Some of the shelters “test” the dogs to see how aggressive they are, and won’t take a dog that, say, growls when you try to take away its food.

Savannah is almost three, she has been with Iris for two years now, with me for one.

We never thought of taking the food away, we can try that tonight and see what happens. The problem is though that we don’t have a regular schedual, we swim a couple of times a week in the morning and are gone pretty early. We can still try though and see what happens.

She used to tell us when she wanted to go out though. We have a fenced in back yard that she used to love to just go out and play in. Now though she doesn’t want to do that, she will hide under the table when it’s time to go out. If I do happen to take her for walks she will poop, but refuses to pee for me at all. I can take her out for 30 minutes and she will not pee. So then she will pee on the carpet, with Iris she pees no problem. The only option we have is to put her in her crate.

I do walk her, play with her, more then Iris actually as she likes me to throw the toys for her. Though I can try more play time I guess.

I actually did nip her when she snapped at me the last time. I think she figured something was up after that because she has changed a bit it seems. I hadn’t thought about flipping her over though, I can try that.

We do actually do this, if we are on the couch and she comes up we will both pet her and play with her. Though she does want constant attention, if you stop petting her she will try and get under your hand. If you don’t then she sits on the floor with her head hanging down looking very depressed.

I know they are not love bites. She turns around and quickly bites at me, not comes up to me and nips me. I wouldn’t be worried at all if they were just love bites.

We have been in contact with the rescue group, we don’t want to put her in a shelter because we do want, if we decide to, have a good home for her.

There are other things, she does seem to like me. This morning Iris went for a run and we let Savanna out of her crate. She came up on the bed and laid down with me right away. She will bring me her toys to play as well. But then there are times when she looks so depressed, she sits there looking at the ground with her head down. She hides under the table if she thinks she has to go out.

We have had some training, she did ok with that, she does sit for the most part. She will also walk the proper way usually. She also knows she can not have a treat until she is told it is ok. She is for the most part a good dog, except for the last couple of weeks things have been going down hill, mostly the refusing to go to the bathroom. The snapping has happened a few times in the last year, though the time on the nose was the worst. She has had her eyes and ears checked so there shouldn’t be a problem there, plus she is only three.

We have been adsived once to take her to the rescue club because she will only get worse. We wanted to see what we could do before we resorted to that.

What did your vet check her for? One my my parents’ dogs had a thyroid problem which made her moody, anti-social, and more agressive than usual. She was almost manic before she was medicated for it - one day she was playful, then next she was moody and angry at everyone. She has to take pills for it every day, but it made a huge difference in her personality. She still has issues, but those are due to her upbringing before my parents got her (she was abandoned and has lived in several homes).

Even though she’s been checked, it could still be something physical. While she may be jealous of you, you’ve been around for a year and she wasn’t acting this way at first, just recently, right? If you’re positive it’s not physical, then I second some of the suggestions in the thread - you need to keep playing with her and even spoiling her a bit, to prove you’re not a threat and that she will still get attention. If she continues to show agression, you may have to get rid of her. It will be a lot easier for her to readjust to a new home now than it will be in a few years when you actually decide to have kids. She’s a young dog should be able to adapt well, even if she is depressed for awhile.

From my point of view, Savannah is not behaving in an aggressive manner. While not a canine behaviorist by trade, I am a hobby breeder, and have interacted with a large dog community for several years. I have also done a lot of research, and frequently ply my vererinarian with questions.

In addition to my previous post, it is my feeling that several things are occuring which are impacting Savannah’s world and causing her to act out.

Since EtH has been involved in her life for a year and aggression has not been a problem, along with several other indicators, this leads me to believe that this is not an agressive dog. She has not bitten in the past, correct? In fact, she hasn’t bitten, but snipped. It is not, IMHO, time to look to placing the dog elsewhere, but to attempt to determine her underlying cause of misbehavior and modify it. Please do not misunderstand me, I do not tolerate snipping, snapping, growling, or any other show of dominance from my dogs toward humans in particular, and any other animal in general. This also includes a dog staring, putting a front foot up on me, trying to stand taller than I am, etc. Once one has learned “dog speak” it is clear when a dog is attempting to dominate.

I agree that there may be an underlying medical condition, a thorough vet checkup, with the vet being aware of her recent behaviors, would be helpful in eliminating any organic dysfunction which might be causing her personality to shift.

Concerning her eating, what type/brand of food is she given? Do you feed her the recommended daily allotment, broken down into two meals? If you are free feeding, she may be eating more than you realise. Is she allowed table scraps, people food, lots of dog treats? My dogs will forgo their premium kibble if they think they might get a bite off my plate, or a cookie or chewie. If you are able to feel her ribs under a slight padding of fat, she is not going hungry. As for regular feeding times, I am not a morning person, and I have a busy household with a great deal of comings and goings. The dogs are ready to eat breakfast when the alarm goes off at 7:00 am when the kids and I get up on school days. I feed them supper an hour before we eat, as I don’t care to have hungry dogs staring at every bite which goes into my mouth! Dogs generally potty within an hour after a feed. The time does not need to be exact every day (weekends my dogs have breakfast a bit later in the morning, afternoon outings mean a later supper for all, but the time frame is fairly regular) but a reasonable schedual is good for everyone. In addition, I am able to take even the most desireable morsel of food from my dogs mouths without a worry of being bitten. This is, IMHO, very important. The dog needs to learn that A: you are the giver of all things good and B: you are the boss. After Savannah has settled down in her problem areas, this is done by giving her a piece of food, then gently taking it away. Give the Wait command, and give her the food again. It doesn’t take a smart dog long to understand that you will give her the morsel back.

I have two dogs in particular, my oldest and my youngest, who have some fairly serious separation anxiety issues. These include not eating as much as usual, sulking, potty accidents-on-purpose, and general irritability. I do need to reinforce their training on occasion, especially with the older male, Mischa, but at this point they recognise me as the alpha and back down fairly quickly. In fact, I just now needed to stare Mischa down until he looked away. He is my dog, but he adores my husband (who is the person who walks him and gives him too many treats) who is out fishing. (My husband is a commercial fisherman, he’s not just out in the sticks playing!) Mischa gets a big case of the sulks whenever my husband is gone, and if I allowed it, he could very easily become a problem, including biting. I simply don’t allow it. However, he has been trained since a very young puppy as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. The youngest, Satine, is terribly attached to me. As I am to her!) I went off island for a week in March for my daughter’s wedding, and Satine was a depressed little girl, she didn’t eat much, didn’t play, and just plainly wasn’t herself until I came back home. Savannah obviously looks to Iris as her primary human, but since she has accepted EtH up to this point I, again, do not feel this is an aggression issue.

Allow me to reiterate, she is a terrier. They have their own particular personality type. My oldest daughter, the newlywed, has a miniature pinscher, which is also a terrier. We call her Zoey the Psycho Min Pin, and we expect her to freak out on occasion. We do not tolerate it, she is disciplined immediately for each infraction, and she really is a nice little dog. When the husband-to-be first entered the picture Zoey was two years old, and my daughter had been in a relationship prior to this one when she acquired Zoey. Zoey was not amenable to a new man, and my son-in-law-to-be had to learn how to discipline her. There were some battles, but she now submits to him very nicely. This is the number one reason to research breeds and their functions before acquiring a new dog!

Her age may be a factor. She is still maturing, you basically have a teenage dog in your house. Teenagers push the limits to see how far they can go. Boundaries need to be set and reinforced consistantly. Having teenage kids as well as dogs, I cannot emphasize this enough, consistency is key!

Potty time. Does she sleep in a crate? Most dogs will not soil their bedding. Immediately upon waking, take her outside. If she hides under the table or wherever, physically put her outside. This need not be forceful, just not an option. Watch her when you are home, and if she does the sniff-the-floor-and-circle dance, put her out quickly. Does she potty in one particular place in the house? You might want to save aggravation all around by also using disposable potty pads. There are also some excellent products on the market which contain enzymes that truly eliminate stains and odors from that kind of accident. It helps with the human frustration factor over the carpet smelling of urine.

Not all dog trainers are created equal! Get a second opinion. Get a third if you feel the need.

Has Iris’ schedual changed? Is she not home as often? In my experience, dogs enjoy routine, and variations often precipitate behavior changes.

Babies have been mentioned, is one imminent? Something else which can affect a dog’s behavior. I placed a male puppy with a couple who then became pregnant. Neo (the dog) is closely bonded with the adults. My council was to let him sniff the crib, bassinette, etc. before the baby came. After the baby was born they took home an item of clothing which had the baby’s as well as the parent’s scents on it and let Neo “meet” the new family member. When the baby is asleep, Neo gets tons of attention, so there are no jealousy issues. It has been a totally positive experience for humans and dog alike. Well, Neo does occasionally defecate in the baby’s room, which has been solved by putting a baby gate in the doorway so he cannot enter the room.

Another training method is to leash her, and attach the leash to your belt. She is then obligated to be with you at all times. Lots of praise and petting and playing and loving reinforces that you are also her human.

Has she been spayed? If not, this too could be a factor. Also, female canines, altered or not, are called bitches because they can be, well, bitchy. (Actually, that’s why women are referred to as bitches, as we sometimes display the female canine’s attitude!) No excuse for bad manners, but an insight as to some attitudes.

Oh, and by submitting/submissive, I do not mean a cowering, fearful dog, which is the type which frequently bites. I mean a dog who is confidant in her self, her home, and with people and other animals.

It seems to me that Savannah is well loved, and so I do offer my sincere hopes that you are able to work out her behavior issues. I will look up some links, er, cites, today which may be of help. Please feel free to email me as well.

The very best of luck in resolving Savannah’s behavior!

That sounds like great advice, kaiwik. Ed, is there any doubt in your mind about your place over Savannah in the house? Cause if there is, she will be sensing it. When I moved in with my husband, he had (and has) a cat that thought she ruled the place. There was no doubt in my mind that I am the only alpha female in this house, and both of our girl cats acknowledge this (Jim’s cat reluctantly, and over time).

I realize that cats and dogs are different, but it sounds like they are fairly similar in this, and part of your job is to treat Savannah with all kinds of loving affection, and firmly and consistently let her know you’re the boss and there are boundaries. Oh, Jim always backed me up with the cats, too - when I disciplined her, he never interfered. He didn’t actually think she could be as disciplined as she is now.

Edward The Head, I apologize for hijacking your thread, but I’d like to ask my own question (and spare the board the tedium of yet another thread about my puppy. :smiley: )

Polaris is five months old, and the trainer says she is a very dominant puppy, and also has a few signs of aggression. (She’s a pound rescue who was taken away from her litter at five weeks.) I’m working on having her socialized at doggy day-care and we’re going through Puppy Kindergarten together.

A few nights ago, my husband and I gave her a bath, which she hates. As we were toweling her dry, she began to growl-- and I’m talking viscious sounds coming from that pup! We told her NO! sharply, turned her onto her back and kept toweling. She snapped at the towel a couple of times and continued to growl, but we persisted, repeating NO! Afterwards, she licked us, and didn’t seem aggressive, but it was sort of a wake-up call that work needs to be done.

The trainer, when I asked her, said just to continue the Nothing In Life Is Free method and said to be careful about turning her onto her back as she may bite.

Any advice?

Edward The Head

Here are a couple of sites with a whole lot of information on each.



Look at behavior, separation anxiety, aggression, crate training, and house breaking specifically. There are tons of other pages to read on these sites as well. I hope that you are able to find some tips you can use with Savannah, and the best of luck to the three of you!


I vaguely remember a previous post about Polaris, is she a Lab? A Golden? My memory fails me. I did look up the program Nothing in Life is Free, and it seems very sound, from what I read. I would follow your trainers advice, praise and reward good behavior lavishly, and I believe that she will become a well mannered dog. She is still a baby, and is trying her boundaries. Even though she showed her displeasure and had a tantrum, you continued with the task until you were done. You won. Next time she is bathed it will be interesting to see how she reacts. If she were my dog, she would be getting plenty of baths until she had it down! You, and Edward The Head seem to be well informed and willing to “learn dog”, and that is half the battle. The best of luck to you also!

Again, feel free to email me.

We’re really not sure. Here’s some pics.

There’s most likely some Golden in there just from the general look of her face, but what else is a mystery. Her tail is curly, and after she’s been bathed, her hair looks “crimped” like it wants to curl but there isn’t enough of that gene. She’s about 25 lbs now, and her growth rate is slowing. Everyone thinks she’ll be maybe 40 pounds, full-grown.

She’s gotten a lot better about bath time. She used to scream like I’d set her on fire.