Shayne on You: Making nice with man's best friend

Dear Maggie,

I have a new boyfriend, and he has a dog. Things have been great between us Ė except for the dog. Itís so jealous it barely lets us hug. And the other night, it jumped up at me in bed and bit me in the face!

My guy then told me it did the same thing to his last girlfriend and, in fact, was the reason they broke up. And then I found out it had also bitten his young nephew. I suggested a muzzle, but he refuses. He just adores this dog. I donít know what to do. Youíre a dog person. Any suggestions to solve this before the dog ruins our relationship?


Me or the Dog

Dear MOTD,

No muzzle. That would be cruel. First, donít hate the dog for this. Itís the boyfriendís fault. You cannot let a dog feel free to bite anyone, especially children. So for him, I suggest the following. The dog should be shut in a separate room whenever a child is visiting. Thatís a must. And the dog should learn that the bed is not his place. (Sometimes itís fine, but in this case, no.) Get him a nice dog bed, place it outside the bedroom, close the bedroom door, and donít give in. One night of plaintive whining, maybe two, and the dog will be just fine. The boyfriend will probably fight you on this. He should resist the urge to go out and comfort him when he whines, too. Doing that will make the whole adjustment period take way longer. (And teach the dog that whining means he gets attention, which is not the goal.)

For you, I suggest treats. Every time you see that dog, you should praise him and give him a treat. He needs to start associating you with good things. Play with him, once heís willing. Bring him a new toy now and then. And always have a pocket full of really yummy treats. Any time he bites or snarls at you, he should be removed from the room, and from the two of you. Just for a couple of minutes. Then let him back in to try again. One growl, heís gone. Five minutes, heís back. No growls, he lets you pet him, he gets a treat. Any growls, out he goes. A couple of hours of this could do the trick. But you need to be consistent, even after he starts behaving. And it should be the boyfriend who administers the ďpunishmentĒ (removing him from the room) or heíll just go back to associating you with bad stuff. He adores the guy, he wonít hate him for it, I promise.

Be sure the repercussion is immediate, too. You canít wait a moment between the bad behavior and the removal from the room, or the dog wonít know why heís being banished.

Soon, heíll love you, greet you at the door with a wagging tail, and biting you will be the furthest thing from his mind.

Stick with it Ė be consistent, and the results will amaze you both. Itís not about what the dog does. Itís about how the owners react to what the dog does. React the same way to the same behavior, every time, and youíll have a relaxed, happy dog, who understands what you want from him. Itíll be better for the dog, and for both of you. You all win!

Good luck!


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