Until this point, my gangly little knucklehead seemed like your typical Malinois puppy with backbone. He was confident, mouthy and extremely prey driven. Yet still, I had not seen his true colors emerge.
Fast forward two or three days.
Shank began getting comfortable with his new lifestyle. While he practically lived in a crate with his former owners, with me, he never saw the inside of one unless we were taking a long road trip. He enjoyed regular park visits, walks, and outings to new places that had him completely enthralled. At night, he typically curled up next to me on the couch, or laid on the floor by my feet. He had it good…and now that he knew he had me hooked, it was time for him to unleash the beast.
The first time I met my Jekyll puppy’s Hyde, I was getting ready to vacuum the living room. In his typical fashion, Shank watched my every move curiously, cocking his head as I unraveled the cord and giving the machine a good sniff to better understand what it was all about. As I started the vacuum, he unleashed on it, wrapping his puppy arms around it and biting it with intensity. I was not phased in the least. He wasn’t the first Malinois I had seen attack a vacuum cleaner. As I had a mountain of chores to get done, I quickly decided now was not the time to work him through this issue, so I shut off the vacuum, planning to escort him outside.
As the machine quieted, Shank halted his tirade and looked at the vacuum inquisitively. I turned to escort him outside. As I stepped past him, his previously quieted tirade launched into overdrive and he suddenly redirected his fury on my leg and arm, biting me multiple times in his puppy fit of rage. As he bit into the flesh of my arm, I held steady, pushing into the bite until it became uncomfortable for him. He spit my arm and I calmly escorted him outside.
As I had things to get done, I didn’t dwell on the encounter. I simply stored it in my memory as something to address, tended to my bloodied arm, and went about my business. Crazy I know, but after raising dozens of Malinois, I am no stranger to a little bloodshed.
When I brought him back in, things had settled and he returned to his goofy, playful, mouthy puppy self.
The next day, after our walk, I was sitting on the couch, getting some work done on my laptop. Having realized he was NOT the center of attention, Shank began running back and forth over my lap, trotting his massive paws over my keyboard and at times sending the laptop flying. As I corrected the behavior, he altered it slightly, this time leaping over me as I was seated, clearing me and the laptop so that he was just out of my reach. Realizing he was under-exercised and simply looking for an outlet, I stuck him in the yard with a buddy so he could burn off some of his excess energy, and so I could get some work done.
When I finished my work, I brought him in and engaged in a game of tug. I felt that, after sitting around all morning while I worked, he deserved a good, focused play/training session. Regularly I let him win and each time, he’d shove the toy back into me, taunting me to play again. We continued in this manner for a good few minutes…until he decided he had enough. With my hand on the tug, my little Riot dog’s energy changed. I could see it in the intensity of his eyes and in the leveling of his earset. But I was too late to do anything about his cues. Within a moment, he had spit the toy, his teeth finding my already injured arm, and proceeded to clamp down and shake as if my limb was a prey item he had just maimed.
Score two for the Riot dog.
I replayed the event in my head over and over, searching for clues as to how my behavior had negatively affected his response. How did that friendly game go south so quickly? After racking my brain unsuccessfully, I shifted my focus to our evening exercise routine and loaded the Riot dog up into the truck for a park outing, some training and socialization.
As the park was right down the road, I let my unruly pup hang in the front seat as was typical for our routine. He was amped. He knew we were headed for somewhere fun and he couldn’t stand the anticipation. Alert, tail wagging, he stood in the front seat as I ran back inside to grab his tug. He maintained his excitement as I approached the truck and opened the door. He paid no mind as I pushed him out of the way, climbed into the driver’s seat and closed the door behind me.
Then I turned the key in the ignition and started the engine.
As the truck’s engine roared to a start, Shank went from cute, excited puppy to demon straight from hell. He barked and launched, this time grabbing my non injured arm and clenching down with a strength that I didn’t know a 4 month old puppy could possess. Blood ran down my arm as I pried him loose and put him in the crate in the backseat.
Three strikes and your out.
The Riot Dog was about to learn some very important lessons about rules and boundaries. The freedom he had once known had disintegrated in a matter of seconds. As his teeth made contact, I knew I was dealing with a bratty, pushy, driven, dominant pup who had learned in his former life that aggression was a tool that worked to help him get his way. I could no longer write off his behavior as “normal Malinois puppy” stuff. If left unchecked, these bratty explosions could evolve into something far more serious.