My husband and I rescued a male Bichon/Poodle mix that we named Trace. He’s 13 months old and we’ve had him for about 6 months. I know he was neglected and abused. I am starting to see bad behavior in him. I have another dog that is very gentle and so sweet. We take her to a nursing home and she just loves everyone and behaves wonderfully. We tried taking Trace with us and now he is not allowed to go as he nipped someone going onto the elevator. We did not see it, but I am sure he did as he nips at pant legs. For the first time since we had him he nipped at my father and my sister and she is already afraid of dogs. My heart just aches over this. I have small children in my family and we had to use a muzzle on him because he was lunging and snarling at them. The big one happened yesterday, my girlfriend put her hand into the car and let Trace sniff her hand. All was good, then she proceeded to rub his head and he attacked the sleeve of her jacket. Thank God it was not her skin. I need to nip this in the bud now. This is putting stress on us. Trace is 13 months old.
Most people would think the “nipping it in the bud” boat sailed a while back. Back when he was grabbing at your pant legs might have been nipping it in the bud. Once you start needing a muzzle and using words like “attacked” and “thank God” you’re not talking about a bud you’re talking about the full bloom or near full bloom of a bad weed about to go to seed and more in need of a scythe rather than snips to cut it back to a more manageable size.
He’s awfully young to be confident enough to be throwing his weight around like that. It always worries me when I hear of a dog this age “lunging and snarling”. Sometimes it means they have a screw loose but there is a hint in your letter that it might be something else.
Sometimes when people with another dog in the household or have owned in the past other dogs that have been gentle and sweet by nature get a dog with a little more spunk they create a monster by raising them the same way. Sticking with the gardening theme some plants naturally grow straight and true. Not many though, most need a little pruning and straightening out once in a while. You may have cultivated your own bad weed without realizing it.
One way to find out is to expose him to a balanced trainer. Anyone with experience will be able to tell you in short order whether he has an attitude problem or has some wires crossed. Even if it’s the former you’ll have your work cut out for you for two reasons. The first is your not going to undo the last 6 months overnight which means your family and friends are going to be at risk for some time and the second and perhaps the most significant is learning the gardening skills needed to turn a fallow field into a cultivated one and when it comes to aggressive dogs not everyone has a green thumb.