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Marissa in Wisconsin asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger

Marissa from Wisconsin writes about her 2 year old Aussie/Sheltie mix named Rocky I've been having a problem with him being aggressive over his food. I've tried a technique I was told about by someone. I would stand by his bowl, but when I moved closer he attacked my foot. I was then told to try a broom b/c the broom is a part of me and he should know not to attack me. did it a few days without results, then yesterday got a good result and then did it again this morning and he attacked the broom again. I have fed him from my hand and that is fine. It's anytime I go near the food that he gets defensive. I can take any toy out of his mouth, no problem. we can go on walks with a loose leash and no problem - occasionally when another dog comes along he'll get jumpy. This mainly occurs when the other dog gets defensive. a majority of the time I can break him of it. I've been more assertive at home with not letting him jump on the furniture and not jumping in the bed at night. I don't know what else to do with the food situation?

G’day Marissa,
It sounds as though you have a pretty good relationship in all aspects with Rocky other than around food.
There are a number of reasons for dogs to show aggression around food. Quite often it is because they were fed from the same bowl as their siblings and learned at an early age that they had to fight for their food. Other times it could be the fact that we take away their bowl before they are done and they are unsure as to when their next meal is coming.
A couple of suggestions: Don’t stand near him when he’s eating; don’t use a broom, he could have a negative association with it and feel threatened by it; if you continue to feed him in his bowl, put half his regular amount of food in and add more to his bowl when he’s done eating so he sees you as adding instead of taking food away. You may also consider scattering his food in your back yard if it is fenced. This can be a four-fold exercise, dogs love to forage for their food, this can be a great mental and physical exercise as he finds every last piece of kibble and it’s impossible for him to worry about protecting each and every last piece as it is spread all over the place. Also, dogs typically don’t like to go potty where they eat so you can reduce the area that he toilets in.
If you are still having issues, please contact your local Bark Busters trainer.

Fern asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger

Hershey: 5-month-old male poodle

How do I get Hershey to stop growling and biting. He needs to be muzzled just to cut his toenails. It took 2 days off and on to groom him! It is difficult to get things out his mouth, like stones or other trash items.

G’day Fern,

Thank you for this week’s question.

Firstly, the good news. Hershey is still a puppy and displaying some normal puppy behavior. Now is the right time, however, to correct these issues before they manifest into worse behaviors.

Sometimes we may find it easier to deal with a situation by simply picking up our pup. However, the danger here is that dogs don’t typically pick up each other. If they were to attempt this with another dog, a fight could ensue. Dogs don’t have hands or use the same social cues we use, so Hershey may be communicating by his growling and mouthing that he is not comfortable with being picked up.

So, how do we deal with the situations you are currently experiencing?

When Hershey has something in his mouth he shouldn’t, you need to teach him either to give the item to you or to stop him from taking the item in the first place. “Puppy proof” your house and yard as best you can. Remove toxic substances, hide or cover cords, pick up shoes and other forbidden items lying about, and prevent access to trash containers. In Hershey’s case, it would be helpful if you could restrict his access to the stones.

To teach Hershey not to bite or grab certain items, try a taste-deterrent product, such as Bitter Apple. Spray the product on your hands and on the items he likes to grab so that Hershey will experience an unpleasant taste in his mouth when he goes to grab them.

To teach Hershey to drop items, put him on a leash (for added control) and give him something such as his toy. Let him play with it for a little while. Then ask Hershey to “give” or “drop” the item. Do not try to grab the item and be careful not to bend down ( a sign of you submitting to him). If Hershey does not release the item, you can give him the command again and this time add a growl afterwards (BAHHHH, said gutturally). If he releases the item, give him lots of praise and tell him he’s a good boy. Repeat this with him for five times a day until he knows what the give/drop command is.

To teach Hershey to accept clipping and grooming, let’s start from scratch.

Put Hershey on the leash. If he is a small dog, put him on a table so you don’t have to bend over him. Lift his paw and touch his toenail and foot, giving him a small treat each time he allows you to touch his nail without growling. Be very gentle, slow and deliberate with your movements. Praise him as you give him the treat. After a few days of repeating this process, stop giving the treats and just praise him when he allows you to touch his feet. This procedure will get him used to the process before you begin to actually clip his toenails. Once you are ready to clip, be prepared to praise him for the right reaction and BAH! if he growls. Take it slowly so he becomes accustomed to the process and learns you are not going to hurt him. You can follow the same process to get him used to being groomed. If done correctly, you should achieve success in a week or so.

If you are still experiencing issues, contact your local Bark Busters trainer for professional assistance.

Gina asks...

This question is about: Barking at people, dogs, animals, birds or where the dog barks for attention or at the slightest noise Jumping up at visitors or the dog jumps up at people on walks

We got Bella ( a 12-week-old English springer spaniel) a few weeks ago for our 5-year-old twins (birthday present). Bella's puppy behavior is kicking into high gear. She obeys me and my husband okay, but the kids are beginning to not enjoy playing with Bella. Every time they attempt to pet her or play toss with her, she begins play biting, barking and jumping. She won't stop nipping at them until my husband or I step in. Now, I'm not saying all of this is Bella's fault, but kids will be kids, and "training" them seems harder than training Bella. The kids think their dog likes mom and dad better than them. How can I bring peace into the family where Bella can be played with and the kids can continue playing whether they include Bella or not?

G’day Gina,

Just about every child dreams of owning and caring for a pet. Caring for a pet is a great way to learn responsibility while having a good friend for many years to come.

Unfortunately, as a rule, dogs don’t respect children until they are around 12 years of age. As a result, the dog will usually treat children like siblings and ignore the children’s attempts to provide leadership.

Remember also that Bella will be a fully grown adult in a year or so, and the kids will still be kids. What this means for us parents is that we must supervise any interaction between our kids and dogs to ensure that both are showing the right amount of respect for each other.

We have a great free program for kids on our website called the Bach and Buster Buddy Program. It is designed specifically to educate children in a fun and way on how to interact with dogs. I would suggest you show this to your children.

I also encourage you to teach Bella the type of behavior you expect from her when the children are present. With the help of a leash for control, teach Bella to sit before she receives a pat or before the ball is thrown for her. Also teach her to sit before she is fed her meal. The kids can help out with this and through you Bella will see that she needs to be respectful of them.

You will also want to provide Bella with a place where she can feel safe, such as a crate or a spot in the laundry room. Teach the children that when Bella goes to her safe haven, they are to leave her alone.

Finally, one of the most important things the children can do is to be calm around Bella. Being calm teaches Bella that members of your family -- or pack -- are calm, and she will fit in more easily if she mimics this calm behavior.

If you need further help, please don’t hesitate to contact your local Bark Busters trainer.

Anonymous asks...

This question is about: Sibling Rivalry - aggression or fighting between dogs in the same household

How do we introduce our 7-month-old golden retriever pup to our daughter's 3-year-old male German shepherd. The shepherd is aggressive to other dogs and I don't want my pup hurt. The shepherd does not live with us, but our families are constantly together. The shepherd's aggression has made it nearly impossible to be together. Is there any hope of getting Charlie to accept Bear?

Some dogs choose to respond aggressively to unfamiliar dogs because they consider them rivals for food, attention, breeding rights or any other resources important to the dog. It is important to recognize that Charlie has a reason for behaving in the manner he has chosen. Generally, the root of a dog’s aggressive response is fear. That fear can come from a remembered trauma, a past experience that resulted in pain, or merely that the dog is generally fearful and has learned that an aggressive response is an effective strategy to keep the perceived threat to stay away.

When forced into a threatening environment, dogs generally recognize two primary options: fight or flight. If the dog is unable to run away, he will choose to fight because it’s the only remaining option. Whatever the reason, as humans we cannot accept this response from our dogs; therefore, we must look beyond the response to identify the reason the dog feels it must respond aggressively.

One of the keys to resolving a dog’s choice of aggression is for owner and dog to have developed a relationship based upon mutual trust and respect. Without having demonstrated that you have earned the right to be the authority figure in your relationship with the dog, there is little reason for the dog to change the responses he has chosen with a new behavior more suited to earning your approval. Once you have achieved a relationship in which the dog understands to not engage in behaviors that create conflict between you and the dog, then you can begin to teach a new pattern of response to formerly threatening events or environments.

In this particular case, we are dealing with a 3-year-old German shepherd and a 7-month-old golden retriever. There is little to suggest that the German shepherd is in any danger from the golden retriever puppy. Puppies’ physical features naturally provide calming signals to adult dogs that, in general, would preclude an aggressive response from the adult dog. Some call this “puppy license,” where the puppy is given the opportunity to explore behavior boundaries normally off limits to mature dogs.

While care must be taken whenever introducing unfamiliar dogs, without having established authority with either dog, there is little that can be done to prevent or end inappropriate behavior by either dog. Both dogs must be trained to respond to their human guardian and to understand they must respect the human’s instruction. Once the dogs have been trained to respond to their human’s instruction, a meeting can be arranged. The meeting should be on neutral territory, and neither dog should be allowed to show any aggressive response. Safety for the dogs and the humans must be the first concern. Having muzzles available and supervising the introduction can go a long way towards starting the relationship between the dogs in the right direction.

If you are uncomfortable doing any of this relationship building or physical introduction yourself, please contact your nearest Bark Busters trainer to help.

Emily asks...

This question is about: Other

Lu Lu is an albino dachshund that is deaf. She is an angel; however, I think she has low self-esteem. She is very passive and gets anxious. Often, when someone comes up to say hi to her, especially men, she can't help but urinate. How do I make her feel more comfortable and less nervous so she doesn't feel the need to squat every time she gets attention?

G’day Emily,

Lu Lu sounds like a sweet girl. My guess is that she is feeling overwhelmed when she meets new people. Being so small, she may feel threatened by the sheer height of her human “friends.”

Dogs learn by association, so we need her to start to associate us with a pleasant experience. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use her favorite treats as a way for her to be more accepting. When you first try this, conduct the exercise in a location where Lu Lu feels most comfortable, typically your home. Have the guests avoid eye contact with her when they arrive and ask them to drop some treats near Lu Lu so she can begin to realize she is safe and to associate your guests with a pleasant experience—that is, her favorite treat.

If Lu Lu is still having issues with the submissive urination, have her greet the guests outside. Make sure that the friends you enlist to help you with the exercise don’t make eye contact or attempt to pat Lu Lu until she is comfortable enough to approach them. You will need to conduct the exercise approximately 20-30 times over a four-to-six-week period before venturing out to more difficult situations. At that time, make sure you have treats with you. Conduct a similar process where you have people—ideally men—drop treats for Lu Lu and  keep walking without interacting with her initially.

As always, if you are in the need of further assistance please contact your nearest Bark Busters trainer.

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