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Hi all, I have a big problem with a crested and was looking for some help. I googled it and it came back to this site every time, but nothing I found here was quite like my particular situation.
First, I'll start by introducing the dog. He's a 6 year old HHL crested who was rescued by my girlfriend at about a year old. When Mullett was taken from his previous home by the authorities, he was found tied to a tree with cigarette burns on his belly, abrasions, bruises and the like. Suspected backyard breeders or possible puppy mill, he was wanted for a stud but his testicles were inside of him, making him no good for breeding. He has since been neutered. He was rehabilitated for a couple of months prior to being adopted by my GF.
He's an absolute "velcro dog" when it comes to her, she's had him for about 5 years now and hasn't really lived with anyone else, only her. He has separation anxiety in that he will poop or pee in the house when she's not home. But he's very eager to please her, is fairly well trained for her and well behaved when in her presence.
He's absolutely terrified of me, and for that there's a long story.
She's military, moves around for different postings. Her other dog is a mantled blue merle great dane. The two dogs live in harmony, but rarely interact with each other. She sometimes has to keep them at boarding kennels or get friends to look after them when she's gone for work.
I'm a civil servant whose job is very directly and closely related to animals, both wild and domestic. I love animals, I have a cat myself and can't stand the thought of an animal being in distress. However, I do have to make tough decisions sometimes regarding animals in the interest of public safety or for humane reasons.
She and I started dating back in July and our relationship has been like a house on fire. The only problem is Mullett and I.
She went away for a week in August, and I dog/house-sat for her. Keep in mind I haven't really looked after a dog since I was a kid about 20 years ago. And I never dealt with a rescue dog before at all. A lot has changed since then in terms of how dogs are trained, cared for and I didn't even know what a Crested was until I met her. Mullett displayed his separation anxiety (I wasn't warned this could happen) by pooping on the carpet several times in one evening. I showed him his mess at first, gave him a stern "NO! BAD DOG!" and put him outside. The discipline progressed each time until I rubbed his nose in it (it was always an accepted practice back when I had dogs years ago, I know people strongly disapprove now and knowing what I know now about Cresteds I realize it was a mistake) and put him outside for a longer period of time. He managed to escape from the back yard the last time, and when he was returned by a neighbour he proceeded to hide under the shed for an hour.
I felt like crap for what had happened, got over the poop on the floor and tried to clean the poop from his hair by wetting my rubber gloved hands with water from a garden hose and then gently massaging it out. That was successful in making him scared of the hose. Though my GF can still bathe him in the tub same as always.
She came home again, life went back to normal and Mullett and I seemed to be cool again, like he forgave me for my mistakes. He'd cuddle with me on the couch, lay down for treats and come when called.
The dogs are crated when they are home alone (such as when we're at work) and one day I was last to leave the house, so I proceeded to put the boys in their crates, which are in the basement. Mullett decided he wasn't going downstairs that day, and cowered in the corner at the top of the stairs. I gave him a gentle root with my foot in the direction of the stairs. He ran the three steps to the top of the steep stairs, leaped off the top step, hit the third step on the way down and fell the rest of the way down, pee and screeching coming from him all the way down. Now he's afraid of stairs, too. I ran down after him, and the closer I got to him to see if he was OK, the louder he screamed at me. I checked him over, he was fine, albeit full of pee. Crated him and went to work as per normal. Told her what happened at the first opportunity. He seemed on edge around me after that but still OK, not aggressive at all.
A couple weeks later, she went to a night class for a couple hours. Mullett disappeared for a little bit, lo and behold he pooped on the floor again in the spare bedroom. I yelled out his name, and he ran to the door to be let out (on his own accord). My back yard wasn't fenced at the time, he had to be hooked on to a tether. When I bent down to hook the tether onto his collar, he snapped around and bit me between my fingers, only once but drawing blood. I finished hooking him on and scolded him as he went out the door. It was raining, so I let him in after only a few minutes. He didn't bite again on entry to the house, but was cowering and hiding from me the rest of the night. I left him alone and told her what happened again.
Fast forward another two weeks or so, I went into the room where his crate is at lunch time (I went home for lunch that day, we were both working) because there is a fridge with leftovers in the same room. He used to be kept in a rodent's or bird cage, the type that has a plastic pan on the bottom and wire on the top and sides, with the access door in the top. This day he got really mad and nasty inside the cage, growling, barking, screaming, scratching and charging the cage in my direction to the point where the cage came apart in two pieces. It was like he had rabies (except for the froth at the mouth part). I knew he would need to be removed in order to fix the cage or transfer him to another crate (we have another traditional end-loading plastic crate as well) and I also knew he was pissed. So I put on frisk gloves to protect myself against potential bites, and sure enough he bit. He full on attacked my hands when I tried to get him out and hook a leash onto his collar. I ended up having to pick him up by paws and around his little body to get him out. No injuries to me this time as I had PPE on, but he peed, pooped, screamed, bit, thrashed and really caused a scene while I was hooking him up. I brought him outside and hooked his leash onto his long tether, he was at the end of the tether away from me until I had to put him back inside after the crate was ready. I unhooked the leash from the tether and brought him inside without much issue, except he was crying a lot and cowering, tail between his legs. Once back at the crate, he would not let me unhook the leash or put my hands anywhere near his neck. He fought, bit and squirmed like a cat while I was trying to unhook the leash, and after some time I was getting frustrated with his lack of co-operation. Finally I smacked his head, open hand but fairly hard until he gave up fighting long enough to unhook the leash and put him back in the cage. Probably 3 or 4 times. I was disgusted with myself for hurting Mullett, but I felt I had no other choice in the matter as I needed him to stop attacking my hands long enough to put him back in the crate.
He healed up, we decided that some changes needed to happen and that he would now use the smaller, traditional end-loading crate covered in a blanket to keep him calm. Also, he would be muzzled when in my presence alone (except for feeding) and he would wear a harness so I didn't have to go as close to his neck with my hands.
All well and good, except he takes the muzzle off within five minutes every time. I also committed to building a fence so as the dogs could be let in and out without need for tethers. While I was home from work one day (building the fence for them) I left to go to the hardware store for lumber. When I got home, both dogs were in the their crates in the basement howling, loud enough to be heard outside by the neighbours. I went in and let the dane out in the hopes Mullett would calm down on his own, but that only made him worse. He screamed worse than when he's getting his nails cut! I took the chance, put on the frisk gloves, let him out and attempted to hook on the leash. He was actually somewhat OK, just licking his lips, showing teeth a little but not biting. While he was outside, I absent-mindedly picked up the garden hose for something and the terror struck Mullett like a freight train. He cowered away at the end of the tether, and I thought 'uh-oh'. Sure enough, when it was time to go back in the crate he caused such as fuss, despite wearing a harness and my hands not going anywhere near his neck. In order to get him to stop viciously attacking my hands, this time I tried the 'pin him to the floor on his side until he calms' method. That didn't work, in order to get him to stop the screaming, biting, peeing, pooping, etc. I had to grab the harness and twist it in such a way as he was rendered immobile. I managed to get the leash off of him and get him back into the crate before while he was still stunned from the squeeze.
The fence is done now at the cost of several days of labour and a few hundred dollars. No big deal to me as I want Mullett, the dane, my GF and I to be safe and happy.
She is currently house-sitting for her (also military) friend who has three non-Crested dogs and has Mullett there with them to keep him away from me as we can't have issues when we're not around one another, unsupervised. I go to visit and Mullett hides behind her, but will not attack where she is. Thank God she's understanding (she routinely refers to him as a "little f*cktard" in jest, but still loves him unconditionally yet understands what he can be like).
I feel guilty for hurting him, but I don't see any good being done by backing off and leaving him alone (giving him what he wants) when he's being very aggressive. We're not talking about a little nip here or a growl there...he's being full on savage when faced with me alone.
I know I have made mistakes in this situation (ie: rubbing his nose in the poop back in August) but I can't understand why time is making him worse with me instead of better? There was no need for him to lose his shit in the crate that day when I went to the fridge to get some lunch. I accept responsibility for my actions, and she knows this.
We live an a remote area where there are no dog behaviour specialists (Dog Whisperers).
Does anyone have any ideas as to what, if anything, can be done to fix this situation we find ourselves in? Has anyone else ever encountered anything similar to this with a Crested before? I want to make it right for all of us. I have patience for most anything, except being bitten. I just want it to stop so we can at least have a functional relationship.
Thanks for taking the time to read and provide input. I know how easy it can be to judge sometimes, and what was written looks bad, but believe me, this is not a case of senseless cruelty.