Dogs biting when startled from sleep?

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by Sweet72947, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. Sweet72947

    Sweet72947 Squishy face

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    My dogs don't do this, but I've always wondered about it. Why will some dogs jump up and snap at or bite you if startled from sleep? Is it bad temperament, or is like some people who will reflexively punch you in the face if you startle them awake? I have heard several stories about this type of thing. One was somebody who had a male doberman when she was a kid for several years, and then her dad went to pet the dog while he was laying down (like he had done lots of times) and the dog happened to be asleep and startled awake and bit the crap out of the dad, and the dad took him out back and put him down right then and there.

    Somebody else spoke about it being something that happens with some greyhounds, she has her own greyhound that will snap if startled awake. With rescued greyhounds I might understand that, because they weren't raised in a house, they were raised in a kennel where people aren't going to be petting them often or tripping over them, etc. so they wouldn't have been socialized to that sort of thing.

    I've always wondered if snapping/biting when startled awake was an uncommon behavior, if it means the dog is unsafe, and if there are ways to deal with it. Thoughts?
     
  2. sisco16

    sisco16 koda bear

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    One of my sibes is very jumpy and uses his mouth more than i would like he does it in his sleep to. on walks and at the dog park but i can calm him down in a few seconds. My other sibe isent like this at all. But kio uses his mouth quite often to get things across.
     
  3. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    I haven't dealt with it, so I don't think it's all that common. Dogs tend to sleep a bit differently from we do - there's still some sort of awareness, even while they're in REM sleep (just from my own observations).

    I would think it's a bit of a reflexive thing and a bit of a guardy issue. Plus it may be medical, especially loss of hearing. Maybe it's just not so common in herding breeds, as that's pretty much all I've owned.

    The best way to deal with it IMO would be to give the dog a safe place to sleep - his own bed or a crate - where he's not going to be accidentally disturbed and if you must touch him when he's asleep to wake him up first by talking to him.

    All that is through limited observations and suppositions based on that, so I'd be interested in hearing if anyone has more experience in this area.
     
  4. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    I don't have any firsthand experience either, but I do consider it like, as you said, "people who will reflexively punch you in the face if you startle them awake." I can understand if the problem is severe enough and if you have small kids that are difficult to manage around the dog, why a person would decide to euthanize the dog because of this, but of course I'd rather that dog rehomed to a home that could manage the problem.
     
  5. sisco16

    sisco16 koda bear

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    my sibe thats like this has actually made me bleed more than once but it hasent been his fault hes only 8 months but he uses his mouth as his option when he feels insecure. or awaken from sleep my 3 year old sibe would never bite if i would her.
     
  6. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    You might want to do a search here for a thread about teaching your dog bite inhibition. That way you'll teach him how hard is too hard of a bite, so that when he feels like he needs to bite at least he won't bite hard enough to make you bleed. You should also work on exercises to help raise his confidence. Clicker training is a great way to do this.
     
  7. bubbatd

    bubbatd Moderator

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    My old neighbor had a beautiful Collie . We lived in the country and all the neighbor kids were playing ball in a field . He was always nearby and was asleep in the shade . One of the kids ran for a ball and landed full force on the dog , who jumped up and bit him on his cheek . Because their was no proof of rabies ... the dog had to be put down as the deep cut was so close to the dog's brain . I cried for days ............
     
  8. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    How sad.

    If that happened today, wouldn't they just put the dog in quarantine for 10 days?
     
  9. CaliTerp07

    CaliTerp07 New Member

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    We had a yellow lab growing up. He was the friendliest dog in the whole world. When he got really old though (17 when he died), he would snap if you woke him up from sleep. I think it's because he was so senile and defenseless (he could barely get up and move at the end). As soon as he realized it was someone he knew though, he'd lick your hand and settle down again.

    I've never experienced it with young'ns though.
     
  10. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    That's probably where that expression came from..."let sleeping dogs lie." When animals feel threatened, they may snap. And some dogs may feel more uneasy when they're startled from sleep and don't mean to bite. I've never had a dog that reacted that way. But I wouldn't think it's a temperament problem if they're fine all the rest of the time. I think I'd just be careful and wake them carefully without getting too close until they come to or have their coffee.

    That's such a sad story. I'll never understand humans. They're so ridiculous sometimes. How can a defense response be the dog's fault when the kid runs or falls full force into the dog...whether asleep or awake?
     
  11. bubbatd

    bubbatd Moderator

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    Maybe Lizzy . Then they said that the boy would have to start painful shots right away ....which the boy's parents didn't want .
     
  12. Vintage Boxers

    Vintage Boxers Boxer Buddy

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    Well whether someone agrees or not..I would NOT house a dog that BIT when startled even if they were sleeping!

    Yes dogs are startled, and they may jump and look sharply back at you, but a dog that turns and snaps...in my book, NOT SAFE with anyone.

    But even believing that...DO NOT let children mess with the dog when it is having "alone" time or eating. That is a recipe for trouble as children don't always know when to stop!

    I have heard of it though...

    S
     
  13. Romy

    Romy Taxiderpy

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    This was one of the big reasons none of the greyhound rescues would adopt to us, since they didn't think we'd be able to manage a small child and a dog together. One lady kept lobbying for us though, as she had her children after she had owned her greys for 5 years and it worked out fine.

    The lady lobbying for us said that some greys will snap when awakened suddenly, and some won't. The thing is they have slept in crates their whole lives, and so from the time they are separated from littermates they have never experienced being touched while sleeping. This combined with the fact that greys will sleep with their eyes open and don't look like they're asleep can get dicey.

    Anyway, she said that the way she childproofed her dogs was to begin by laying a light blanket on them while sleeping, and progressively work up to things like pillows, stuffed animals, etc. and the moment they woke up she would stuff a hotdog in their mouths. She gradually built up to where she would nudge them awake using a toddler sized doll, and they were both cured of the snapping. She still managed them carefully to prevent accidents, but felt that the desensitization was important because with kids and dogs, anything can happen no matter how well you manage.

    We did the same thing with Strider beginning when he was a puppy, and he's pretty bombproof. He wakes up drooling and trying to lick people's hands, lol.
     
  14. darkchild16

    darkchild16 We are Home.

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    What Romy said about the greys. Our organization actually tests for this when a person wth kids is interested in a dog.

    Weve had Scirracco about 5 years now and obviously never thought about kids and him. Well he does this (snaps in his sleep) and we have had only one issue with it.
    It was about 3-4 years ago when my god sister moved into the house the first time. (theres actually a thread about it on here). She had a 6 mth old or so that crawled and we told her NOT to let the baby near Scirracco when he is sleeping which in our house is very easy. We have a baby gate and our family room where he spends most of his time can be closed off competely by glass doors. Well she didnt watch the baby and she went to crawl on him (im geussing i was at school) and he snapped at Payton. All he did was scratch her because as soon as he relized it was a human he stopped. NONE of them I have dealt with ACTUALLY BITE.

    He hasnt done this sense because as long as you call his name or make sure hes awake she can do ANYTHNG to him. She LOVES to crawl across him like a speed bump and he just lays there and trys to lick her. That baby can do ANYTHING to him when he is awake but asleep no. It is like waking a little kid up when they dont expect anybody to wake them up it scares the carp outta them.
     
  15. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Yup, that would be pretty scary. I've never had a dog do that. Just in case...to try and condition my puppies to being startled, I would pat them, stroke their feet, ears etc and talk to them while they were sleeping and they must have been having wonderful dreams and woke up all cheerful. Mine never wake up as though they're startled. They just open one eye and then a tail usually wags once or twice.

    But I can see how those retired greyhounds, so unused to all that might be reactive that way.
     
  16. ihartgonzo

    ihartgonzo and Fozzie B!

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    Honestly, I wouldn't feel that I could trust a dog who would snap at me or others while sleeping. Maybe an initial shocked reaction... but I'm not a fan of dogs who bite first and ask questions later, even while sleeping. D=

    I have never worried about it with my two, because well, Gonzo ALWAYS sleeps with one eye open and knows what is going on at all times. He can be dead asleep, and if I get up, he's up in a heartbeat. This is why I can never, ever get a single picture of him sleeping. Fozzie on the other hand could sleep through a hurricane/tornado/vortex/earthquake/volcanic explosion... he will fall asleep in any position, on anyone's lap, and doesn't even bat an eye when people mess with him, poke him, or dress him up while he's napping.
     
  17. BostonBanker

    BostonBanker Active Member

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    A very different side of it - we had that issue with our Bedlington later in life, and a good friend of mine is currently having it with her mixed-breed who is towards the end of a battle with cancer. I think that often, our pets will tolerate a LOT when they are awake and can prepare themselves. I think with both our dog and my friend's, pain was a big factor. Whereas Medley could be pretty stoic and tolerate any handling when he was awake, if someone suddenly bumped into him when he was sleeping, he'd wake up quickly and hurting, and more than ready to protect himself. If someone had a dog that was doing this, I'd look long and hard at any physical issues the dog had, and get them to a vet for a full check-up.
     
  18. sisco16

    sisco16 koda bear

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    thanks lizzybeth. Maybe insecure wasent the best choice of a word he only has drawn blood when he gets worked up and im holding him trying to keep him from a confrontation with another dog so maybe aroused is a better word but he definatly uses his mouth when i wake him he wont draw blood then just grip my arm. Could the confrontations with the other dogs be because hes not neuteured yet it only seems to be other male dogs and i hold him back and he uses his mouth on me.
     
  19. tessa_s212

    tessa_s212 Guest

    Never had my own dog bite me. No matter how old, how much in pain, how deeply asleep, how deaf, or how blind. In fact, as they became older, blind, and deaf, they became less reactive. Especially when Ginger was still alive, she was both deaf and blind, and we'd have to shake her liberally to wake her up.

    Concerning my circumstances now, I'd likely have very little tolerance for such behavior. If for old age/pain related reasons, we could likely cope with it with more tolerance, but if it was just a snappy, rude dog, then no.
     
  20. dr2little

    dr2little Moderator

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    Sleep startle reflex can be desensitized effectively and safely by way of the olfactory bulb.:D This is a very common problem that I encounter quite often.
    Approaching a dog with something really smelly and wonderful placed just in front of the nose (using an extension *assess-a-hand* or something similar if risk is high) and allowing the dog to wake to the smell at first and gradually desensitizing to touch as time and progress allows. It is important to gradually work into the deeper periods of sleep, which of course happens far quicker in dogs sleep cycles than in humans.

    I was with a Corso client last night with this sensitivity and she lives with five children ranging in age from 3 - 10.(if Saje is reading this, she was really a doll;)). Though she attempted to sleep throughout the last 75 minutes of the session, we were able to make quite a bit of progress in a very short time.

    By about the fifth arousal, she woke looking for something yummy, very unlike her previous history, and this was after allowing her to reach full twitch.;)

    Practiced often, the sleep startle can and in most cases does disappear.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2009

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