Yesterday, Lacey attacked Violet the cat – twice. Violet was minding her own business, enjoying being outdoors, and before anyone could blink, Lacey was on top of Violet and biting at her. Violet fought back and I was able to get to her in time to prevent Lacey from doing any damage. Lacey was removed from Violet and given a quick correction. But, no sooner was Lacey back on her feet, than she went for Violet a second time – and the attack was much more intense, with Violet fighting, biting, and trying to scratch Lacey, and Lacey trying to bite into Violet’s belly. The correction was to take Lacey by the scruff, get her off of Violet, and put her in the house. Once she was inside, I immediately checked Violet to make sure she wasn’t injured.
Remaining calm in that situation was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I did it, but it was difficult; when my animals are being attacked, it’s hard not to allow emotions to interfere with the corrections process.
Lacey is no longer allowed to freely interact with Violet and Glimmer. Instead, she is now on a leash at all times, and she is only allowed to be near them when she is offering them respect and politeness. The second she attempts to nip at or jump at them, she is given a gentle but firm tug on the leash and told “no”, and then she is prevented from getting close to them. She can be in the same room with them, but unless she is exhibiting polite behavior, she is not allowed any contact with them. When she shows the correct behavior, she is rewarded for that.
The more time I spend with this little pup and observe her behavior, the more convinced I become that she was separated from her siblings and her mother very early. Because, she has absolutely no understanding at all of correct social behavior. Puppies learn etiquette and proper social interaction from their mother and siblings, but Lacey does not appear to have had that opportunity. At only 10 weeks of age, this little girl just seems to have no clue about anything. Why else would she have attacked Violet? Why else would she be jumping at Glimmer instead of using a play-bow to invite play? And why on earth would Lacey be so afraid of that play-bow position?
It infuriates me to no end that people allow their dogs to breed and then they sell off the puppies before they have a chance to learn important social skills. When I asked the seller if he was going to have his dogs spayed and neutered, he shrugged and said, “Nope. If she gets pregnant, she gets pregnant.” This kind of irresponsibility really frosts my cookies. He isn’t running a puppy mill, exactly, but he also isn’t behaving responsibly and we feel very strongly that he should be reported to Animal Control Services. Lacey was sick when she was purchased, and we suspect the other puppies were probably sick, too…
Proper social etiquette is critical for puppies to learn before they are adopted out. Failing to allow them to learn these things from their siblings and their mother can lead to all kinds of behavioral problems as they get older and stronger. The attack on Violet, yesterday, is just one example. If this behavior is not corrected, Lacey’s chances of becoming a certified Support Dog will be lost. She will have to be treated as a possible red-zone case, instead – and that involves rehabilitation, not training.
At this point, only time will tell how Lacey is going to progress. I will continue working with her, of course, but after yesterday, our work is going to be focused more on teaching her correct social behavior than on basic obedience. It seems to me this is the only way to make progress.