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Old 02-02-2014, 03:15 PM
19 posts, read 32,164 times
Reputation: 37


Ugh. I feel sick. Today my 6 year old neutered male lab mix bit a 2 year old neutered male chihuahua mix. There was one very shallow puncture from one tooth on the top of his head (the other tooth didn't break skin). The real problem was that the bottom teeth hit the chihuahua in the eye. Vet's not sure how bad the damage is yet. But the pup will almost certainly have some vision loss in this eye, probably almost all of it. And he may even have to lose his eye.

I don't know how dangerous this situation is. Here's the background info. I'd like any thoughts/advice. And thanks in advance for reading through:

1) Lab has never had a bite history before today. He does get a little nervous playing off leash with big pushy dogs, so I normally just keep him away. He's had fewer than five "fights" ever, and never broke skin or was biten himself in those fights. He's lived with another dog for four years when I moved in with my ex with no incidents.

2) My friend found out she had to move out of the country on short notice. We decided I'd take her pup (sweet, very submissive guy) for at least the year she was gone. We'd see when she got back what made sense.

3) I've had the pup for three weeks. For the first few days it was clear my big dog was avoiding the other. He did it peaceably. He'd look away when the chihuahua approached, or give a hard stare, or once or twice, a low growl. But he's given that growl several times to other dogs, and it normally means little. If the pup would have kept bothering him, I would have expected him to growl more intensely, then snarl, then maybe snap. But the pup paid lots of attention to these signals and gave plenty of space. I kept the dogs apart unless closely supervised and I walked them together.

4) After the first week, they started playing together. Play bows, playing tug of war, etc. Lab started being happy to greet chi when I brought him home from a walk. There was never a fight, never any snapping. I did keep them separate during feedings to be safe. But no possessiveness over food or indication of problems.

5) Today for the very first time, I left the chi out of the crate when I left the house. I was gone a maximum of 20 minutes. When I came back, I instantly knew something was wrong because neither dog came to the door. I called the lab and he came, then I noticed the chihuahua in the corner, facing the wall, trembling. I called him over and was aghast to see his entire eye completely red in color (not dripping down his face, but behind the eye). I also saw the one puncture on the head.

6) I rushed him to the opthamologist who says there are too options: either there was an incision by a tooth, in which case he may regain some or all his vision depending on where/how deep/ etc. Or the blood vessels of the eye burst due to pressure, not a laceration, and the eye will likely need to be removed. There was too much trauma/swelling to tell. So we're in a holding pattern for a few days.

7) I came back and my other dog acted like nothing was wrong. Of course I kept him away from the other dog, but he seemed happy to see him and tail waggy. Other dog is still on heavy pain meds, but also so far doesn't seem overcome with fear or anything. I also noticed for the first time that he was limping. The quick on one of his nails is completely exposed and painful. Not for sure that this happened before the bite, because I only noticed it after returning from the doctor.

But my theory is that lab had a hurt paw I missed, and when chi tried to play with him, which hurt his paw, and he bit. Only once. But hard enough to do some real damage, which I've heard isn't good for bite inhibition. What I don't know is what that means for now. I don't think I'm up for a lifetime of making sure these dogs are never alone together. And I feel devastated that this dog, which isn't even exactly mine, is probably going to be (at least) partially blind because of me. And this really was the first time I left them alone. THE FIRST TIME. Was he just waiting for me to not be around so he could be a big terrible bully?

What did I do wrong? Is three weeks too short to leave them alone? What do I do going forward? Once dogs bite each other, is it likely to happen more often? I am not going through this again, and the little chihuahua guy is definitely not. I could use any feedback/advice/people who have been through anything similar.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-02-2014, 03:33 PM
Location: Simmering in DFW
6,948 posts, read 19,481,919 times
Reputation: 7208
They could have bee playing when the injury occurred and there was never a bad intention. Since you were not there, don't assume anything negative. All you know is one dog was injured and the lesson learned is not to have both dogs loose and to keep them separated when you cannot monitor them. Just keep the little guy in a crate. Just do that forever. Or keep the little guy loose in a bedroom.

Now stop beating yourself up.
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Old 02-02-2014, 03:42 PM
Location: North Western NJ
6,591 posts, read 20,832,828 times
Reputation: 9586
what did you do wrong?
nothing realy, accidents happen and dogs communicate with their mouths when looks and growls don't work...
trying to figure out what happened will drive you batty, it could have been an owie, it could have been resource guarding, it could have simply been a game get too intense...

if the lab had realy meant to hurt the little guy, hed be dead...

what to do now:
move on...dogs don't dwell, but they will feel tension from you which can cause tension between them, so don't dwell on it.
NEVER EVER EVER EVER leave 2 dogs of such a huge size difference together, accidents happen and the greater the size difference the greater the risk...

my 2 little guys get put in the bedroom when i go out if my 65lb dobe isn't coming with me, they all get along great, but all it takes is 1 game get a little too rough and things can go south very quickly. so separate for safety when your not able to watch closely.
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Old 02-02-2014, 03:49 PM
4,787 posts, read 9,312,878 times
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Separate dogs forever when you are gone. Either crate one or the other or use a closed bedroom door. Don't trust a baby gate. One neck grab and shake and the Chi is dead.

You'll drive yourself crazy trying to figure out why this happened. All you have to be aware of is that it can't happen again. There is too much difference in size to risk it .

Don't make a big deal over separating the dogs. It takes just a couple of seconds to put one in a crate.
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Old 02-03-2014, 07:14 AM
10,604 posts, read 14,217,570 times
Reputation: 17203
You are right to consider this a permanently SERIOUS situation. I personally think this Chi needs a different home based on your Lab's personality and your relationship with him and acceptance of those personality traits.

but he seemed happy to see him and tail waggy
NO. Tail wagging is excitement AND ANXIETY.

Sorry it was too much to read all at once and reply to and I'll read it later but you need to re-evaluate EVERYTHING you're doing.

You have ALOT OF RED FLAGS in your post about your acceptance/interpretation of your Lab's behaviors. Especially since you posted you're a dog trainer in another thread.

Last edited by runswithscissors; 02-03-2014 at 07:25 AM..
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Old 02-03-2014, 09:04 AM
19 posts, read 32,164 times
Reputation: 37
Oy, thanks to all the serious and kind-hearted responses here. I'll definitely be more careful with the situation.

That thanks does not extend to runswithscissors. What a jerk. And worse, uninformed, self-satisfied and cruel. I feel awful about what happened. But I am a dog trainer. I graduated Karen Pryor Academy last year and have been working as a part-time dog trainer since. Of course, that means I have limited experience- I'm a baby dog trainer who does puppy raising, basic obedience and rally classes. I wouldn't hold myself out as any sort of behavior consultant, and, as here, am happy to reach out when I need help. Fortunately, I am also a supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, where I've posted a similar thread and gotten over 20 responses.

In that thread, I got a very different take. Most professionals were convinced that this style of bite was not serious or life threatening, but a very clear, "Go away" bark that was probably caused by pain or resource guarding. We'll never know exactly what happened. But the fact that only one top tooth penetrated the skin, and very superficially, means that the lab exercised fairly high bite inhibition. There's a bite hierarchy that evaluates the deepness of the bite, whether there are multiple bites, whether skin is torn, etc, to determine how serious a dog's bite because evidence shows that in a similar situation, the dog is likely to bite as hard. They classified the lab's bite as a Level 2 out of 6 on Cara Shannon's bite hierarchy http://raisingcanine.com/Bite_Hierarchy_Charts.pdf, which means that his intent was most likely to warn and not to gravely injure. The fact that placement of the bottom teeth hit the eye and that the other dog didn't have his eyelid closed (which would probably have prevented most eye damage) was likely no more than very rotten luck, and not a sign of particular viciousness. As others have said, if he really wanted to hurt the other dog, he had plenty of opportunity.

That said, of course I won't leave them alone together in future. And of course I have more to learn. But your asserting that "Tail wagging is excitement AND ANXIETY" is just as oversimplified and potentially wrong as the new dog owner asserting that "Tail wagging is a happy dog!". There are a million different types of tail wags, and I'm pretty confident that the one he gave and still gives to the chi is a happy one. It's the same one I get when he's happy to see me and very different from the low, close to the body fast one, he gives when he's nervous or the high, stiff, more dominant challenging one that suggests he's uncomfortable/challenging another dog. It's a whole body, loose body posture wag. Not only that, but those wags were followed by play bows, by play that never got too intense and by just hanging out comfortably near each other after the first few days.

The fact that I take the lab on two off leash walks per day where there are plenty of off leash dogs (legally), and in six years he's had only 4-5 fights I've had to break up, none of which resulted in bites to any dogs involved, and none at all in over two years, the fact that he's lived with dogs successfully before without incident, and the fact that he was reacting very positively to this dog- they had been curling up to sleep together, playing tug and gently wrestling for two weeks, is what led me to leave them alone when I went to grab breakfast at a deli.

I now know that that was too early. I know now I'll keep them separate when I'm gone indefinitely and monitor their reactions when I'm there carefully for the foreseeable future. But these are required not because my dog was exhibiting a million red flags I didn't see and not because I "accept" problematic personality traits from him. Also not because of people who are, frankly, bastards, and can't help but make someone who already feels rotten, just a little extra terrible.
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Old 02-03-2014, 10:05 AM
Location: zone 5
7,330 posts, read 13,252,205 times
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It sounds like you've got a good handle on things. I know how horrible you must feel, but I believe you and the dogs can move on, with proper precautions taken of course. Please keep us updated on how things are going!
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Old 02-03-2014, 10:24 AM
Location: North Western NJ
6,591 posts, read 20,832,828 times
Reputation: 9586
ive had similar issues myself, 1: its easy to train other peoples dogs, harder to train our own (just like kids I think lol)
sometimes its just hard to take a step back form the personal situation and see whats going on...

but the biggest issues comes in here not due to the event, but simply the risk of size diference, ive got a 5lb crestie (who thinks hes 500lbs) and as much as he gets along great with my 65 lb Doberman, the size difference is enough for me to think, hey, not worth the risk...heck she could kill him accidentally laying on him LOL!.
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Old 02-03-2014, 10:45 AM
161 posts, read 135,960 times
Reputation: 322
I have 2 females who can be best buds but also have to keep a very close eye on. A few years ago they got into a full blown fight in my yard and it took everything I had to separate them. (2 100+ lb Cane Corso) The damage wasn't bad, but my youngest did need vet care. Like you, I felt horrible, but we have to go on from there. Anyway, I watch them very closely, and they are always separated when not supervised. No fights since, but I am very careful.

I agree that it sounds like you have a good handle on things. And congrats on your KPA graduation!
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:30 AM
Location: South Carolina
13,824 posts, read 18,811,674 times
Reputation: 24505
well here is one solution fix the injuries on the little guy and find a home for him . To be fair the big dog was there first and he might feel threatened about his territory .I would find a home for the little guy and be honest with his new home that his vision might be altered . Please do this before the big dog kills the little dog and it will happen if you dont find a new home .
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