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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Help! Aggressive? or Protective?
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14 March 2012 - 9:09 am
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Hi, so Esee has been the BIGGEST sweetheart since we got her on friday and we thought she was the perfect dog for us. We still think she is an amazing dog but last night I saw some of her not so loved behaviors.. So I have two young children (4 and 2) and they are usually pretty good about sleeping through the night. And Esee has been sleeping on the foot of our bed. Well every morning Esee would wake up at about 6:45 and I would get up with her and take her potty. Well last night my 4 year old daughter woke up at about 2am and walked into our room. What woke me up with this terrible growling like Esee was about to attack my daughter like she was an intruder! I have never been so scared! We tried calming her down and telling her its ok but she kept on growling at her and she was trying to go towards my daughter and my fiance had to hold her back by her coller (I dont know if she was just trying to sniff her or what but it seemed to me she was NOT happy she was in our room.). I was scared so I told my fiance to take her downstairs and put the baby gate up so she cant get to my daughter. Well then the whining started! She whined for a good 10 minutes and my fiance finally decided to go lay with her downstairs to keep her quiet. And then this morning when i woke up I came downstairs and Esee started up that mean growling again when she heard me coming! Once she realized it was me she stopped but I am scared that she will hurt one of my kids in the middle of the night? Should I keep her in a crate at night? Is there a way to stop the growling? And the whining? I took her outside to potty this morning and she refused to go and was whining the whole time to be let back in.. Any thought on her behavior?? Thanks, Lanae.

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14 March 2012 - 11:08 am
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Lanae, i don't want to scare you, but this is a bad accident ready to happen. I am no dog behavior expert but I have spent a lot of time reading about dog behavior and what your dog is doing is showing dominance over you and your room. It's not protectiveness, she has asserted her ownership over you and your bedroom. Part of that is really due to letting her sleep on your bed and allowing the dog to be at your level, the other part is just training. In my opinion you should always be in a higher position than your dog to assert your leadership. I don't believe dogs should be allowed on furniture either but that is a post for a different time. I do believe that it would be the right thing to do to keep her in a crate at night. No matter how she howls, even if you have to put her in a different room so you can sleep, you need to use the crate. Next time your daughter walks in the room in the middle of the night, she may go through with the bite. When you take her outside to potty, give her time to go, if she does not, let her back in and crate her. Only let her outside to do her business and then right back in to the crate. Her freedom needs to be limited until she understands that you guys are the boss. Control her every movement until that time. You are going to have to start back with the basics until she learns her spot on the totem pole. If you give in, the whining will continue on and the growling will escalate. I have a couple of articles that may help you, especially since this dog is relatively new to the household. What is neat about this site is  that you can also do a search by keyword to pull up articles relevant to your issues. 





Cadence Faye: Born 10/30/04, stepped into our hearts 12/23/2004. Rear leg tumor found 7/24/11 by mom and dad, Xray on 7/25/11, Osteosarcoma suspected 7/26/11, amputation 7/29/11, Carboplatin started 8/23. Met free so far! 

Las Vegas, Nevada
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14 March 2012 - 11:33 am
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Oh dear!  I hate hearing this!


Being that I raised a 3 legged dog from a puppy - I have a different take on the situation.


Dogs with three legs lose their ability to fight or flight.  When startled, there may have been a sense of danger for her and being three legged, it's hard to "flight", so they "fight" (scare off the danger). 

Comet was a fight or flight dog because she had been traumatized as a puppy.  She felt 99% secure with us so she never got upset at us. And lucky for us, she mostly wanted to "flight" when truly scared.  But she growled at anyone outside of us who wanted to pet her.  Hence, no one ever petted her!

The one other thing that makes me wonder  - since you said she couldn't seem to identify your daughter is - can she have some night blindness?  I'm just guessing here - but it strikes me odd that she couldn't really identify her and needed to get close (perhaps needing to smell your daughter). 

As a temporary fix until you can figure out what is going on, I'd probably crate her in the bedroom with you at night.  It will give you peace of mind.  Make sure the crate is a special "den" for her.  Give her a treat when she goes in and make it extra comfy with toys and such.  That may hold down the whining.

It really sounds like she is just being protective of herself since she feels vulnerable while sleeping.  I'd maybe have a vet check her eyesight also.

Regardless, I sure wish you the best.  You have to have your little ones safe and that should come first!

Her Retired AvatarComet - 1999 to 2011

She departed us unexpectedly  January 23, 2011 at the age of 12 1/2.

She was born with a deformed front leg and a tripawd all of her life.

Edmond, Oklahoma
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14 March 2012 - 1:22 pm
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Oh no, I am so sorry to hear about this.  I have three kids under 9 myself who make the rounds at night.

I think cometdog makes a good point about getting her eyes checked-- Aussies do have a problem with blindness, and the merles in particular (merle and merle breeding produces a "lethal white"-- nearly always blind and/or deaf I believe-- the lethal is because they are killed, not because anything is wrong with them other than being hearing/sight impared)-- I believe Essie is a merle, isn't she?  Something to check into anyway.

Scout: January 31, 2002 to November 7, 2011

Scout's diagnosis was "poorly differentiated sarcoma"; amputation 1/11/2011.  Scout enjoyed 9 fantastic years on 4 legs and 9 glorious months on 3 legs.  If love alone could have saved you…

Leicester, NY
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11 February 2011
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14 March 2012 - 5:31 pm
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Well here's my 2 cents- it sounds like Esse is claiming you and the bedroom space and feels that the kids may be intruding into her new territory. I would consult a dog trainer, or depending on where you adopted her from, see if the shelter has a trainer on site. (Our local shelter has free dog behavior specialist on call when you adopt a dog).

Think like a dog- she sleeps with you in your "den", therefore you are her pack...the kids sleep away from the main "den" so they must be lower in the pack order. She may perceive them not as the children they are but as rivals trying to demote her standing in her new pack and she is simply trying to maintain her new position. I'm not sure how to solve this- perhaps the crate would work but I would really seek advice from a pro. 

Spirit Samson was Spirit Tripawd Daisys four legged "brother" and ruled as the self proclaimed head of the Monkeybutt Federations East Coast Division. Lady Chunky Monkey stayed from Oct 2011 and left for the bridge in Apr 2012. Miss Perdy is left and has some big pawprints to fill.
Do you have what it takes to be a Monkeybutt? Find out more at the Monkeybutt Federation

New Zealand
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6 November 2011
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14 March 2012 - 6:00 pm
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Yikes I can undestand why you are woried we have two young kids too. everyone else has come up with some good ideas the crate, showing your dominance etc but I would definatley recommend that you see a professional trainer it will probably be easy fixed if it is done properly now. But for now definately crate her at night time its better to be safe than risk her biting or scaring your kids.

Good luck and please let us know how you get on.


knoxville, tn
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14 March 2012 - 6:02 pm
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we agree with samson, get a professional evaluation.  we got one on one training with melanie and it was worth it's weight in gold....  also, i just finished reading a book, 'the other end of the leash', which really helps explain the dog - human connection.  good luck, hoping for the best.


charon & spirit gayle

Life is good, so very, very good!!! Gayle enjoyed each and every moment of each and every wonderful day (naps included).  She left this world December 12, 2011 – off on a new adventure.

Love Never Ends


14 March 2012 - 7:41 pm
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Thank you all for the great suggestions! I went out and bought a crate today for her and im hoping this helps. She has been her totally sweet normal self all day so we will see what tonight brings! So should I keep it by the bed or across the room? Im really hope she doesn't whine all night! 🙂 And if the problem persists I will look into a trainer. I was just wondering though how a trainer would be able to help if she is totally sweet during the day? Would they basically just give me a better understanding of the situation and so forth? Thanks guys for your wisdom!

On The Road

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24 September 2009
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14 March 2012 - 7:56 pm
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I think you definitely need to work with a behaviorist on this and you can start by visiting my friend Sarah Wilson of MySmartPuppy. Her discussion forums are staffed with trainers and a GREAT place to help address situations like this quickly. A crate will help but I would absolutely talk to Sarah and her trainers/behaviorists right away. 

Please keep us posted, we want to make sure nothing bad happens here. I'm sure that Essee is a great dog, she just needs to get back to the basics.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

New Zealand
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6 November 2011
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14 March 2012 - 9:21 pm
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I haven't personnally used a crate before so can't really help with where to put it - i'm sure someone else will help out with this.

A trainer will be able to give you professional advise to use and may be able to understand why she is doing what she is and how to stop it. Esse might be insecure, night blinded, dominairing or just a pain in the bum, but until you talk to someone who really knows what they are doing you wont know what the problem is and you don't want to treat the wrong issue. You want to stop the behaviour before something happens and the only way to do that is to find out why she is behaving this way.

let us know how thing work out


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14 March 2012 - 10:17 pm
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It does sound as though she might see herself as high in rank since she sleeps in your bedroom, and the kids as lower in rank (or as rivals). Some dogs can have a combo protective yet dominant that needs to be sorted out, and Esse's sounds a bit extreme at this point. But it is something you can address, although you might have to draw more rules than you'd like (for example, maybe no sleeping in the bed or even your bedroom). 


I had a dog (#1) (and now have a dog, #3) where such dominance issues were not issues. Then I had a dog, #2, that had hints of protective/dominant behaviour (but not as bad as you describe). I don't think crates or other techniques of establishing dominance is needed for all dogs, but it is needed for some and perhaps Esee needs a bit of that. You definitely need her to respect and be completely trustworthy with the children. In your photos, she obviously has made herself at home (sleeping on the back of the couch, etc). You may need to draw more boundaries - keep her on the floor and things until these things are worked out. They can be adorably loving while also dominant to us or family members.


Tazzie's regular dog school trainer had a wonderful technique of just holding down the dog (nothing mean, just holding) to establish dominance. It worked like a charm. If there were kids, they also laid their hands on the dog when I was holding him. Our dominance issues were minor and ambiguous but it quickly resolved those. Like the others, I think what you describe sounds serious enough to get particularly informed assistance.

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15 March 2012 - 4:42 am
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My 2 cents... Gandalf was a rescue, and he had some "difficult" behaviours. First off, I actually don't trust him around children--but not because of what he might do, rather, how he might react if startled. And kids do startle dogs sometimes. Kids do weird things. And at weird times.

When I first moved back here with Gandalf (4 years ago), anytime there were kids around, I put Gandalf in his soft-sided crate. He felt safe in there, and I ensured that the kids knew not to try and get in etc. Gradually, I would leave the crate open, but he always knows he can retreat to the crate if he wants. He now is just fine around the kids--it's just getting used to them.

Do you do the "feeding hierarchy" routine? Always feed everyone else in the hierarchy first (ie kids, adults) THEN the dog. It sounds cruel-ish, but it works.


The bottom line with kids and dogs, in my opinion, is NEVER trust any dog at all, no matter how loved--because they have a limited range of negative responses, and these can do a lot of damage to a small child.

Just as an aside, my brother stays regularly at my place, and though he loves Pete, he NEVER allows him into my bedroom (if I'm there). I'm ok with that. 🙂 So the other thing is working out what is ok with you.

oh, and like kids, dogs like to have an alpha person to look up to. They then feel safe and protected. So don't think about this all as stopping dominance behaviours, but rather, that you're wanting to create a safe and protected place for the dog where they don't have to worry about looking after the pack they dominate...

all the best

Meg and Gandalf

Greater Western Washington area
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25 August 2010
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15 March 2012 - 5:04 am
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Hi Lanae,

It sounds like you also reinforced this behavior (accidently) by petting the dog and saying "it's okay when she was growling.  What I believe should have happened was you should have taken the dog out of the room and not comforted her when she was doing this behavior.

Another great program is NILIF.  It stands for "nothing in life is free" and it is wonderful for establishing pack order.  If you are dealing with a 'soft' dog, you won't normally have these issues.  It sounds like your dog is just trying to establish pack order.

I also suggest a GOOD dog trainer, some can really sound good but aren't.  Check them out well.  I would make sure she doesn't sleep in your room, you and your kids eat first, your kids be the one to feed her and make her work for the food before she eats.  Example: "have her sit, lay down, move" they should command her and when she has done the correct behavior, then she gets her meal.  Never pet her or try to calm her when she is upset.  She probably picked up on your fear and mistook it for you being afraid of the kids, which just reinforced her growling.  Correct her with a sharp no, direct her to where you want her to be, "crate", and ignore her for a few minutes until she is calm.  She needs to know you will protect everyone, you are pack leader, and her correcting people in the family is unacceptable. 

Best of luck,

Elizabeth, Sammy's mom 

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in the right front leg 8/23/10,

leg fractured 8/27/10,

leg amputated 8/30/10


I couldn't begin to say how special Sammy is to us.  Living and laughing with and loving this wonderful boy is priceless.

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15 March 2012 - 8:01 am
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Lanae, I would put the crate out of the room. We do not have kids so the entire pack sleeps together. We have the puppy in his crate and Cadence has her own dog bed on the floor. The crate is not next to me. It is across the room and covered with a blanket 3/4 of the way at night. Cadence stayed in her crate unless she was being supervised, out for walks, playtime, etc until she was one year old. Then we felt we could trust her in the house bathroom wise and trust her in the house alone with not bothering anything. All dogs are different but I don't see how anyone could function without a crate. Even if you never close it, sometimes a dog needs a den to hunker down in and a crate provides that. It also provides a good place when the dog needs a nap or a time out for a while. 

I agree with Sammy's mom about the NILF. Both of the dogs must sit now before they get their meals. They are not allowed to rush the bowl. They must perform some action before getting a treat too: shake, sit, roll, etc. I don't think this is cruel at all or sounds cruel. Dogs are more comfortable when there is a leader established.

Dogs naturally are pack animals and they will also instinctly establish hierarchy. If no one asserts themselves as leader in a household, the dog will just naturally do it. I hope I didn't sound too harsh in my first post, but those behaviors must be corrected swiftly so it doesn't get worse. Just my two cents. 


Cadence's Mom

Cadence Faye: Born 10/30/04, stepped into our hearts 12/23/2004. Rear leg tumor found 7/24/11 by mom and dad, Xray on 7/25/11, Osteosarcoma suspected 7/26/11, amputation 7/29/11, Carboplatin started 8/23. Met free so far! 

15 March 2012 - 9:11 am
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Ok so last night using the crate was very successful! She whined for about 5-10 minutes off and on but I'm sure that's normal for her first time. Then she finally just went to sleep and slept all night! She woke me up by whining and I took her potty and now she is currently warming up my feet while I drink my tea. I thank you guys for all your great advise. I really think that night she was scared and we didn't give her the chance to get close enough to my daughter Rylee to see that she was just Rylee. I watched her behavior very carefully all day yesterday and she didn't show any more aggressive behavior at all. My kids (mostly my youngest) will lay her head on Esee and she just lays there and will occasionally give a lick. And yesterday when I had to leave I left through the front door and I realized I forgot something and I was in a hurry so I came back in the house through the garage and she didn't bark when I was opening the door she just looked at me. And we had a friend over yesterday and they rang the doorbell and esee didn't do anything until I got up to get the door and she happily greeted our guest. And last night I took esee on a walk before bed (because she won't hardly go potty in the backyard) and it was really dark and when I was at the end of our long driveway my fiancé started running tward us to catch up and he was wearing a black hoodie and Essie perked her ears up and watched while he ran tward us but never growled. So basically in all the situations I thought she might show aggression she was perfectly fine. Oh and my daughter just came downstairs and esee didn't get up from laying down and rylee petted her and told her good morning. So she really is a good dog I think she just had a rough night the other night. I will continue to keep a close eye on her but I don't think I have much to worry about. And I will definitley keep using the crate at night! Thanks everyone for your support!! 🙂

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