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Mary Ann asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger Barking at people, dogs, animals, birds or where the dog barks for attention or at the slightest noise

Roman Mixed-Australian Shepherd/Lab, 4 years old male Please help me! I have two dogs, four-year-old Australian shepherd/lab mixes, not related. The younger one (Roman) has bitten a 12-year-old neighbor boy twice. I love my dogs. They are like family and I do not want to get rid of the aggressive one. He is very loving with our family. We want to be able to have children around and strangers in the house without Roman being aggressive. We have been lazy when it comes to exercising the dogs, but I am ready and willing to change my behavior and do what it takes to fix this situation. How do you work with two dogs with different personalities? They are always distracting each other, but hard to separate. We also work long hours. It gets hot so fast in Phoenix, that it's hard to spend much time outside with them. We did initial group puppy classes, so they do listen to some commands, but they mainly ignore us when we tell them to stay, settle down, or not jump on people. The older one is also neurotic and barks at flashlights, noises, reflections, shadows, or just about anything new or unusual! Any help or advice is truly appreciated. Thank you.

G’day Mary Ann,

Yes, there is hope. The first thing we must understand about canine aggression is that it is a behavior strategy, not personality or temperament. Dogs that respond aggressively usually learn the strategy of aggressive behavior as a way to resolve conflict or out of self-defense. This behavior strategy can be quite effective for the dog: the dog’s need for safety is satisfied when the other party backs off or submits.

Depending upon the level of stress associated with the source of the aggressive response, retraining a dog that chooses to respond aggressively can take some time. Even after the dog has been retrained to make a different behavioral response to the triggers for its previously aggressive responses, there is never a guarantee that the dog will not choose to respond aggressively in the future.

In such cases, safety must always be the priority. Removing the dog from the environment in which it is choosing to respond aggressively, or helping prevent injury by using a muzzle or keeping the dog in a safe place (like a crate) until he can be rehabilitated are two actions that could be required.

Aggression that results in a bite severe enough to break the skin is usually not an issue that can be resolved without professional help, and I would urge you to contact your local Bark Busters trainer and behavioral therapist for professional advice in this case. Together you and your Bark Busters trainer can develop a rehabilitation plan to address Roman’s aggression and they will also be able to work with your older dog and his barking issues.

Julie asks...

This question is about: Other

Presley [two-year-old male West Highland White terrier] is a rescue dog whom we have had for 1 1/2 years. He is perfect. However, the little guy is literally terrified of trucks. If we walk outside and he sees a truck of any kind, he drags us back home and wants to hide under the bed, the desk, or anything he can find. It makes no difference what size of truck, but noisy trucks are especially scary for him. Why?

G’day Julie,

Presley may have had a bad experience in the past with a truck or something that makes a similar noise. When he hears that loud sound, he wants to go where he feels safest—and that is home. This is in your favor because he sees his home as a safe haven

Presley now needs to learn that you would not put him in danger and that you are a safe haven or guardian for him.

The first steps will be to do some exercises in your backyard where Presley must focus on only you. Put him on the leash and walk him around the yard changing direction as soon as his attention moves away from you. Change the speed of your pace to catch him off guard. Make sure his focus is on you, and he is not just watching your legs to make adjustments to his own pace or direction. Do this for about 5–10 minutes daily.

Once Presley’s focus is on you, you can then add a distraction that would cause him to look away from you: this could be a ball, another person or food. Once again, the idea here is to change direction on him as soon as he focuses on another object.

You can also correct him when he looks at that other object by making a low, guttural growled “BAH!” When he looks back at you, give him lots of praise and a “Good boy!”

Once you can keep his focus on you even with distractions, you can try going for a walk outside. As soon as his focus is on the sound of the truck, change direction. When Presley’s focus is on you, encourage him by telling him he is a good boy.

Do not sit him by the side of the road with many trucks passing by because this will be too much for him. Start by desensitizing him little by little. When you see his ears or tail show you signs that he has heard that sound, correct him (basically telling Presley there is no need to react to that noise because he is safe with you), then praise him when his focus is back on you.

This training may take 3–4 weeks, but if you put the effort in now, you will have many years of enjoyable walks with Presley. Timing is crucial using this method. Your local trainer can show this technique firsthand with ongoing assistance through our guaranteed lifetime support program.

Anonymous asks...

This question is about: Barking at people, dogs, animals, birds or where the dog barks for attention or at the slightest noise

Taffi (15-month-old Maltese-Poodle) is a nuisance barker. She barks at everything, is scared around strangers, gets into everything when left alone. I can't brush her because she tries to bite me. I don't know what to do anymore.

Dogs that bark at everything can definitely be annoying! Dogs bark for a variety of reasons: to call the pack, to warn off a potential threat, or due to fear, anxiety or aggression.

Based on your description of Taffi’s behavior, she is barking because she is fearful. One of the first things you need to do is communicate to her in a way she understands that she has no reason to be afraid. Try clapping your hands to get her attention, and then praise her immediately when she stops the barking. Ideally, you would stop her before she barks (as soon as she displays the body language telling you she is about to bark) because she will learn more quickly.

When visitors come to the house, ask them to drop a treat on the ground near Taffi as a way to reduce her fear of them and to change her mind-set of visitors to a more positive experience. Ask them to avoid eye contact with Taffi so she doesn’t view them as a threat. Additionally, carry her favorite treats with you when you take her on a walk and occasionally have someone drop a treat for her.

To desensitize Taffi to brushing, bring out the brush on a number of occasions and have her associate it with a pleasant experience (you could use treats here again). Gradually bring the brush closer to her with the flat side against her fur so it doesn’t catch her fur, and gently move it across her back. If Taffi tries to snap, freeze your action until she stops (fight your instinct to quickly pull away your hand). Then proceed slowly and calmly. If you take your time and change her association to a more positive experience, you should find that grooming is a great time for bonding.

If you have additional questions or would like further assistance, please feel free to contact your local trainer.

Anonymous asks...

This question is about: Toileting

How do you stop a dog that is for the most part housebroken from urinating when it gets nervous or scolded?

This is an important area to discuss because many people might consider it a toilet-training problem. House soiling can come in several different forms—from poor initial toilet training, marking, excitement peeing, submissive peeing, toileting related to stress and separation anxiety, as well as bladder or bowel control related to aging, injury or illness.
When a dog urinates when he is nervous or after being scolded, it is called submissive urination—he is submitting to the other party, be it canine or human. In this case, it appears your dog sees the scolding (or correction) as too harsh for his indiscretion, resulting in the submissive urination.
We suggest you use your body language and voice tones in such a way as to allow the dog to be more comfortable with your intentions and not be so worried about you as his human pack mate. So, how do you do that?
Greet your dog without excitement or noise. Squat down at an angle so as not to directly face him. Good body language and a calm voice will usually keep a submissive urinating dog from losing bladder control.
Additionally, allow your dog to approach people on his own schedule when he is comfortable enough to approach. (You may consider having him greet your guests outside of the house so cleanup is simplified.) Use a firm, calm voice when correcting him, and make sure you are not too demonstrative with your body language; keep your movements to a minimum.

If you have additional questions or would like further assistance, please feel free to contact your local trainer.

Judy asks...

This question is about: Toileting

Mobie (10 months old) has been doing very well with his potty training until just recently. All of a sudden he has been urinating on things in the house as if he is marking his territory. Is there a reason for the this, and what can I do to discourage him from doing this? Does it have anything to do with him not being neutered yet? Thank you.

G’day Judy,
You may be right about Mobie’s not being neutered contributing to the reason he is marking his territory, but that may not be the only reason. Sometimes potty training regresses due to some inconsistencies on our part or by allowing too much free reign too soon. We also see marking occur when the dog starts to mature and tests his place within his territory and with the people or animals the dog lives with. I suggest you discuss neutering with your veterinarian. I also suggest you modify where the dog is allowed within your home until he realizes that this behavior is unacceptable. Marking usually accompanies other behaviors, and it sounds like he is testing all of your house rules.
You did not mention if there were any other animals or any changes in the home, which can also affect why a dog will choose to mark.
To help manage Mobie’s behavior, (1) take him outside to toilet every hour or so, (2) avoid leaving food down all the time, and (3) keep him with you so he cannot sneak off and toilet in the house.
If you have other behavioral issues in which you would like help, I suggest contacting your local Bark Busters trainer.

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