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Old 01-13-2009, 07:40 PM
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Default Dogs biting when startled from sleep?

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?
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Old 01-13-2009, 07:50 PM
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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.
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Old 01-13-2009, 07:54 PM
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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.
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Old 01-13-2009, 08:29 PM
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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.
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Old 01-13-2009, 08:49 PM
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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.
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Old 01-13-2009, 08:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sisco16 View Post
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.
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.
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Old 01-13-2009, 08:57 PM
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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 ............
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Old 01-13-2009, 09:03 PM
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How sad.

If that happened today, wouldn't they just put the dog in quarantine for 10 days?
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Old 01-13-2009, 09:11 PM
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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.
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Old 01-13-2009, 09:18 PM
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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?
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