Dog talk with Uncle Matty: Assuring a place in the 95 percent

By From page C2 | March 30, 2012

The right professional dog training can solve 95 percent of dog problems — the majority of which might better be described as people problems. But there are some problems training can’t touch, and often that’s because people ignored the warning signs and put off getting help. Keep reading:

Last week, Seven, our 10-year-old German Shepherd, bit my 2-year-old daughter causing her to get stitches in her face. The incident was caused by a granola bar being left on the couch. Seven snatched the bar when I stepped out of the room for a minute. Our daughter either wanted to get it back or wanted to see what Seven had, and Seven attacked her. She required four stitches in her face and sustained a few other minor bites. Seven didn’t bite and thrash. Rather, he growled and nipped multiple times.

The positive about Seven: He is a very loving dog. He loves to play fetch and wrestle and to just cuddle up with you. He listens well and is trained to sit, stay and come. He is a great dog for car rides, and he sits still for baths, teeth brushing and coat brushing. He loves to run! He and my daughter get along all right. They don’t play a whole lot together, but Seven would come up to the couch where my daughter would be sitting and wait for a pet or a scratch.

The negative about Seven: He is overprotective and displays signs of food-aggression. He also has a barking issue that bark collars haven’t been able to solve. He doesn’t like small dogs or neighborhood cats.

These folks have a problem — and so does Seven. The wife wants to get rid of the dog; the husband wants to keep him. She has called local shelters, hoping to find someone who will take Seven and find him a new home. So far, no luck. The unfortunate reality is that Seven is old, he’s big, he’s untrained, and he now has a history of biting. The wife is losing hope and considering euthanasia; her husband refuses.

In my opinion, they are both wrong. Seven cannot live in a home with a small child — especially a child who is allowed to crawl and jump on the family dog, as this child is. It’s dangerous, and the mother is right to be afraid for her daughter’s safety.

But they do have a duty to Seven to find an appropriate home where he can live out the rest of his life comfortably. I advised contacting last-resort sanctuaries and German shepherd rescues, as well as stepping up their search for a new home without children.

Stories like this are exceptionally hard for me to hear because I know things didn’t have to get to this point. If I had received a call about Seven eight years ago, when his barking was a fresh nuisance and the food-aggression first surfaced, or even four or five years ago, when the baby was still an idea, you wouldn’t be reading this story today. Seven would have been among the 95 percent.

My hope is that, in reading this story, anyone who sees themselves heading down this path will find help now — when the issues are relatively small and solvable and the much larger problems that lie ahead are entirely avoidable.


Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is the co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and the host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at, and visit him at Send your questions to[email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at PO Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.

Copyright 2012

Matthew Margolis

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