Bites hands. Aggressive Barking. Territorial. Protective.

Frenchie bites handsBetty is another French Bulldog that barks loudly at anyone coming into her house. “Go Away!”

Sometimes she bites hands.

I have just looked back through my more recent stories of French Bulldogs. I am surprised how many cases have been about territorial and protective aggressive behaviours towards people coming into their home.

As a behaviourist, I only visit those Frenchies with problems. Of these problems, most have protectiveness and barking aggressively at people in common.
Continue reading…

Protective. Territorial Only When His Humans are Present

Percy didn’t like me!

At least, he didn’t like me in his house with the young man and woman present. It seems, had they been out somewhere, he would have been friendly and welcoming.

Protective Frenchie

See that look Percy is giving me!

Instead, he barked at me fiercely.

The man took Percy behind a gate where, despite still being able to see me, he seemed quite calm. The man led him back in again and Percy once more barked at me in a protective, angry tone from his position beside the man. Continue reading…

Unpredictable Aggression. New Baby, New Dog.

 

Unpredictable aggression?

Unpredictable only because they can’t see inside Banjo’s head. If they could, and if stress was visible, they might see a little pressure cooker in there; they would see how over the past five months or so things have simply become too much for him.

Unpredictable also because they don’t realise how small a final trigger has to be to make the pressure cooker blow.

Frenchie Banjo is eighteen months old. He has what sounds like the perfect life, full of people and action.

A new baby – and another dog.

Banjo lives with a young couple and their large family – three generations. There are two or three children. With the couple’s baby born five months ago, Banjo was now no longer their number-one baby.

Unpredictable due to stressShortly after this another family member moved back home with his one-year-old Labrador, Ellie. So now Banjo was no longer number-one dog either.

Life now became a lot more arousing with endless play. Banjo carries on long after Ellie would like to stop.

Then Ellie came into season. They were kept apart, causing Banjo great frustration.

Things now escalated with Banjo growling and flying at and grabbing the sleeve of a family member who was playing excitedly with one of the young children. He became aggressive when she was playing tug with Ellie.

Banjo had got on very well with the cat but now was going for him too.

He was becoming increasingly possessive around chews and food.

Banjo attacked the man’s foot.

It came to a head a few days ago when Banjo was on the floor by the grandfather. Beside him was a chew – a chew that Ellie had left. The man moved his foot towards it and Banjo flew at him.

At that moment this small act pushed him over the edge. He would have bitten repeatedly had the young lady owner not grabbed his collar.

Another contributing factor will be that with each show of aggression the little dog has been misunderstood. It’s understandably been met with a strong reaction. Meeting aggression with aggression can only make things worse.

The vet recommended they re-home Banjo. The thought of this upsets them greatly.

Vets only have what the owners tell them about a dog’s behaviour and what they can see in the unnatural environment of the surgery. A good behaviourist will go to the dog’s home and see the whole situation in context. It is impossible for owners to relay a clear picture of what is happening. They are too close to it.

Going to the little dog’s home and seeing him and the whole set-up for myself, I believe that his continually topped-up stress levels are the cause of his behaviour.

Reducing stress is the place to start.

Banjo won’t understand games like ‘Peep-Bo’ and ‘BOO!’. If someone is playing excitedly with one of the small children or Ellie, instinctively he may try to break up what he sees as ‘potential conflict’. Similarly, when someone dangles the baby he may become concerned. A third dog will split up worrying behaviour between two other dogs.

Banjo stares. Banjo watches.

Baby’s dad buries his face into the baby’s neck to kiss him and Banjo growls. After all, if a dog grabs another dog by the neck, this can be potential trouble. Is he intervening?

They will learn to understand Banjo better. This includes learning to read read him – though a Frenchie’s face may be a bit harder to read than some. Staring with hard eyes will be watched for. Stillness can be a warning.

Looking at things through Banjo’s eyes without our own human interpretation they can look quite different. He’s not an ‘aggressive’ dog at all. He is simply responding in an aggressive manner to things that confuse and upset him in some way.

Work to do! They will work on Banjo’s possessive behaviour around food and chews. They will be doing more to enrich his life. Getting his brain to work and letting him work for some of his meals by foraging and hunting will help him to adjust. They will control the play between the two dogs. 

Unpredictable?

Possibly Banjo’s behaviour is, actually, quite predictable. Too much has changed in the Frenchie’s life. The baby. Another dog. Too much uncontrolled play. Ellie coming into season. Add to this people coming and going. Excited play. Excited homecomings. People winding him up before walks…..

Life has changed in another big way recently with poor Banjo no longer sharing their bed as he has done for the past eighteen months. Might he feel pushed out? He has never shown any aggression whatsoever with baby but they have done this on advice because the dog is ‘unpredictable’. It’s a shame because it was a good baby-bonding opportunity but it’s always best to err on the safe side.

My prescription? A big dose of much less excitement, more quiet and more calmness from all the humans around Banjo. Learn to read him for warning signs of stress – and stop what they are doing if it’s troubling him. Then work on getting him to feel differently about whatever it is.

A calmer dog is unlikely to show unpredictable aggression. A calmer dog will be a lot more tolerant. There are no guarantees, but with work and with the whole family pulling together, Banjo should hopefully get back to being his old self.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Banjo because neither the dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’, finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where aggression are concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Unpredictable Humans so Unpredictable Pup

Unpredictable pupSometimes, just sometimes, things don’t work out as we would like. This through absolutely no fault of our own.

It could be a mismatch or an environment not best suited for a puppy.

There can be all sort of reasons, including lack of company with people being out at work all day.

In the case of 7-month old French Bulldog Ezra, it’s not lack of company that is the problem. It’s too much. Too many people at times. Too unpredictable. Too noisy.

What puppies need more than anything else is predictability (like children). It makes them feel safe and allows them to learn self-control and to be predictable themselves.

Unpredictable. Too noisy, too much happening.

In Ezra’s case, it’s his exposure to unpredictability and occasional chaos that has led him to biting. It’s the only way he can get any control over things that are simply too much for him.

The family is large and extended. One of the younger children has issues that make him unpredictable and noisy.

The other day Ezra bit him on the lip. The ten-year-old was taken to A & E.

The boy himself explained the run-up to this and it included noise, people, loud TV which Ezra hates. The dog was already over-aroused. He had jumped onto the floor probably to get away and the child had slid off the sofa onto the floor beside him. He had pushed his face into the little dog’s and stared into his eyes. He has a sort of compulsion to do those things he knows will upset Ezra.

BITE

Another family member, a young man, had a couple of weeks previously been bitten on the nose quite badly. He said he was doing nothing, but questions revealed a sequence. The dog will undoubtedly have high stress levels to start with. The doorbell had rung, making him very excited. He had been chewing bones. He then jumped up on the young man’s lap (why do people always think this means the dog wants to be touched?). The TV may have been too loud. The man had his hand on Ezra’s back.

Then, for seemingly no reason at all, Ezra flew at his face.

Unpredictable? I’m sure there will have been warnings. Possibly Ezra will have frozen. He is now learning the only way to get away from unwanted attention is to bite.

A habit is forming which started with nipping. Each time he attacks it in effect gives him respite so the more of a learned behaviour it becomes – the more likely it is to happen again unless the various criteria that lead to the behaviour are changed.

Dogs need choice – a say in the matter.

Does he want to be touched just now? Does he want to be left alone just now?

In addition to altering these criteria which won’t be easy (creating calm, choice and predictability) the situation needs to be safety-managed.

A muzzle is good as a safety thing in emergency, but using it so that people can be free to do as they like around Ezra would be very wrong.

Since speaking to me on the phone the other day when Ezra had bitten the boy, the lady has had the pup in a crate in the dining room when the younger kids are about. She will be locking the doors to the room when she’s not in there – Ezra safely shut away with plenty to do.

(This sounds like Ezra is now shut away all the time but that isn’t the case. They are managing to juggle things so that he has plenty of attention and outings).

Dedication, kindness and patience.

The lady is treating Ezra with the same dedication, kindness and patience she treats all the family which includes several young people she has taken under her wing.

The younger family members will be changing their own behaviour where possible as will the older ones. We are looking at ways of using clicker and food to create a more useful relationship between Ezra and the boy.

It may be at the end of the day that they aren’t the right home for Ezra. This happens.

They will know that they’ve not left any stone unturned. Where you can’t fully control the humans and have to rely solely upon management there is always the risk that, in an unguarded moment, management falls down. A door can be left unlocked.

At the end of the day these kind people will be making the right decision for both Ezra and their family.

I received this email out of the blue nine months later: Life is good we have had a long journey with **** & Ezra but we have found some compromise & middle ground. Zones, gates, time out for all & listening to the ladder of communication mean that we are living together peaceful most of the time. Thank you for all your help to find a solution that has enabled us to care for everyone safely & has meant that Ezra can remain with us.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ezra and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Older Dog and New Puppy. Aggression to Puppy.

Older dog and new puppy don't get on

Pepe

Older dog and new puppy can’t be together.

Frenchie Pepe, now four years old, is not getting on with the new puppy. This isn’t so surprising seeing as he doesn’t like dogs in general. The only dog he’s okay with is their Shitzu, Daisy, who is now eleven years old and was already in the household before Pepe arrived as a puppy himself.

He was fine until he had a heart operation that has left him unable to go for walks. He’s become increasingly hostile to dogs on the few occasions he has been out, and spends hours each day chasing them away from his house from an upstairs window by barking.

Not a good lesson for a puppy.

Poor little Zeeva, a Boston Terrier now twelve weeks old, is getting some very negative behaviour from both older dogs. Older Daisy just wants to be left alone and shows her teeth whenever she is close. Pepe gets fierce with her, jumps on her and pins her down by the neck.

This sort of thing is likely to lead to Zeeva herself becoming a dog that doesn’t trust other dogs.

So the puppy is now mostly kept the other side of a closed door.

It’s an active household. People come and go all the time and three generations of family members live there including children. Pepe is very chilled with humans. They are a lovely family all working together for the best for their three dogs and the children have been taught to treat them with respect which is wonderful to see.

It’s just such a shame that the older dog and new puppy have to be kept apart.

Jealous.

Another problem for Pepe is that puppy Zeeva usurps his position on the lady’s lap in the evening! This is the only way they can have Zeeva in the same room as Pepe.

Zeeva

Jealousy is a horrible feeling and dogs I’m sure feel it too. It can’t help Pepe’s antagonism towards her at all. Now if Pepe comes to the lady and Zeeva is on her lap, she will try either feeding him to build up some good associations or passing Zeeva to someone else.

The first job is to make Pepe as ‘fit’ as possible for the job – lowering his stress levels, optimising his diet and giving his life more enrichment.

Unable to go for walks, his days lack interest despite having so many humans around him. He needs to sniff, do dog things and see the wider world. They will now be taking him out the front on a longish lead and allow him to watch the world go by. This will be an opportunity to sniff where other dogs have peed. They can begin to change his behaviour towards passing dogs near the bolthole of an open front door.

For a dog that does very little he undoubtedly eats too much and some of it is the wrong stuff for the best mental state. He can now start working for food by foraging for it around the garden or getting it from a Kong Wobbler.

So, work involves getting Pepe to feel better about dogs in general and most particularly to ‘like’ Zeeva. We have a plan that can be modified if necessary as we go along.

Playing safe and preventing further rehearsal.

The most important thing when you have an older dog showing aggression towards a puppy is to play safe. In every way to prevent further rehearsal. It’s harder to come back from things once they have happened as they are likely to happen again. The three dogs had been out together briefly when supervised in the garden, but now Zeeva will be on lead. Currently they are relying upon calling her to them but that’s risky. With no leash they have no reliable control.

Many people would have the older dog on lead, but I feel it should be the puppy. She is the one, after all, who needs to be prevented from annoying the older dogs and the one who may need to be scooped up quickly.

For a few days they will keep bars of the dog gate or puppy pen between the Zeeva and Pepe. They had been shutting the door but this removes any safe, supervised opportunity for them to get to know each other.

Older dog and new puppy with bars between them.

Sitting down on the floor with the older dog and new puppy in the puppy pen, they will do two things, using a clicker. They will reinforce Pepe for looking towards the puppy in a soft or interested way – with chicken. If he’s ‘eyeballing’ in a harder kind of way (they understand!) they will wait for Pepe to look away briefly and immediately reinforce. To begin with they may need to make a small distracting sound to achieve this.

Daisy

Zeeva should be fed also in order to feel Pepe isn’t so bad after all.

I feel that we humans need to keep ourselves out of the picture in these situations. It’s about the dogs, their emotions and the food. If we bombard them with words it confuses things.

The time should come when they don’t need bars between them. Keeva on lead and other dogs loose, they can be together in the sitting room. It would be best when puppy Keeva is tired! They need two people, one to hold the lead and the other to work on Pepe.

Who knows how long it will take before all three dogs to be freely together? I’m sure they will get there if they take it slowly enough and help Pepe in a positive way, never scolding.

A photo received about five weeks later:

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Pepe, Zeeva and Daisy. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where aggression of any kind is involved. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

 

Panic. Separation Anxiety. Left Alone

This is very sad. It all started off so well for the first few months of their Frenchie puppy’s life. They could happily leave her to go to work, coming home at lunch time.

Then they had to go away for a couple of weeks and Margot was left with friends. She seemed perfectly happy whilst there.

But, when she got home, everything changed. The couple went out to work the next day and they came home to toilet mess all over the floor. She had chewed the door they had departed from.

Poor Margot was in a state of complete panic.

Since then things have got worse. At my suggestion, they have just filmed her to find that she runs about in a panic from the moment the leave, defecating as she goes. She pees all over the place. She is constantly pacing, running back and forth and jumping at the door. It seems she does this the whole time that they are absent.

A nine-month-old pup should be sleeping at least seventeen hours a day. Instead, she’s spending most of it in major state of panic. Her humans are distraught. Coming home to such a mess each time as she paces and treads in her mess shows just how much of a panic she is in.

Margot is beautiful, friendly and polite. She is just so biddable and amenable. It’s heartbreaking for them to see how unhappy their precious little dog gets.

Chewing.

For much of the time while I was there, Margo was totally engaged in chewing at something – calming herself down. De-stressing.

Panic attack when left aloneWhat is particularly tricky in a case like this is that it’s impossible to take things gradually, one thing at a time, because their work necessitates continuing to leave her for four hours at a time, twice a day.

It seems that the distress comes most particularly at being separated from one person. He is the one who feeds her and is at home one day a week. He, however, works for the emergency services and when he’s on call his bleeper will suddenly go off. He has to drop everything and run.

This can’t help.

What can they do?

Firstly I have given them fairly mechanical exercises to build up Margot’s resilience to their comings and goings. This starts with doors shutting on her and opening immediately, many times, food dropped as the door shuts. Gradually there will be delay before the door opens. Over time, the time left alone will increase. It’s vital for these exercises that the door opens before Margot feels anxiety.

They will start on easy inside doors before going to the outside door that throws Margot into such a panic.

The next part of our programme is to work on each trigger, like picking up keys, the bleeper and putting on boots

They have to go out to work.

Then there is the big problem of going out for real when Margot simply won’t be ready. But it has to happen.

They will optimise the environment including frosting the glass door from which she can see them depart. Cutting down on the area will mean there is less floor to clean. They have tried a crate, but she was so frantic she bent the bars.

Amongst other things, they will leave a plug-in, special calming music and a large cuddly toy wearing the man’s T-shirt smelling of him.

Their routine when leaving will be overhauled.

Instead of their own panic when leaving as they try to get ready and to get out with an increasingly frantic dog trying to push through the door with them, they will do something else.

They can get ready to go. But, instead of leaving, they will then go back and sit down . They will spend five minutes just being with Margot, sitting very still and contemplating on calmness. This may sound very New Age but I’m sure it will help.

Then, slowly and calmly, they can get up and leave.

Unfortunately, because they have to go to work, each time Margot is left before she is sufficiently prepared is going to set her back again.

I just hope that the speed of progress outstrips the unavoidable backsliding and probable breakdown in trust each time they leave for too long.

Medication may be necessary.

If these protocols and exercises don’t result in any improvement in the next couple of weeks, I believe Margot will need the back-up of meds and we will be in touch with their vet. They may also need to look into daycare, if only to give themselves the few months probably necessary to work on the problem slowly, in tiny increments.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Margot. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear of any kind is involved. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Guarding Human Resource is Stressful Work

Hector sees her as his human resource

Hector guards his human resourceThe lady hadn’t seen this as the cause of his growling.

She has two adorable and adored French Bulldogs, brother and sister aged nine months, Hector and Annie.

As is often the case with siblings, their nature and behaviour is entirely different.  As one may grow more overbearing, the other goes in the opposite direction.

Like many people, the lady shares her bed with her dogs. I have nothing against this at all – so long as no aggression is involved.

I would usually say that if a dog growls at the person in their own bed, then the dog should sleep elsewhere. It’s the same if the dog growls at another dog on the human’s bed.

Sometimes however we have to work our way around things if the obvious solution isn’t an option.

What happens is that Hector climbs up the little steps onto her bed, put there especially for the dogs. He has to be first up. Annie will climb up and Hector growls at her.

Hector will lie right on top of the lady, on her neck, during the night. He will growl at her if she manually tries to move him. He will growl at Annie if she comes near the lady so she has to lie down the end.

Everything points to Hector regarding the lady as his human resource. She sleeps in room with a glass roof. Small things dropping onto it make a noise and lights reflect. Hector stares upwards. He barks at sounds. He is on alert at night time

What a difficult job it must be to be the owner a wayward human!

No wonder Hector is stressed.

AnnieIn order to keep the dogs on her bed without Hector’s guarding of his human resource getting worse, she needs a plan.

During the day she will play ‘bed training games’ with the dogs.

She will teach them ‘up’ and ‘down’ the steps individually using rewards. Fortunately she has a very wide bed against a wall and can put two dog beds on it.

She will teach Hector ‘Bed’ to go into his own bed and reward him. The same with Annie. With lots of daytime repetition they will go up the steps and into their beds when asked.

At bedtime Annie should go up first.

The dogs may not stay in their beds but Hector will be sent back to his bed any time he growls. It’s not punishment and will be done kindly with rewards. He’s not being naughty after all. He is doing his best to do the impossible job that he’s unintentionally been given. If he lies on top of the lady’s neck she can roll over or sit up to tip him off (he growls if manhandled). She can send him to his bed and he should take himself there happily if properly trained using food reinforcement.

It will be hard work but the necessary price she must pay if she wants to keep him on her bed.

It will surely ultimately be a great relief to Hector.

The lady behaves like his slave. He regards her as his human resource.

As I’m always saying, you get back what you give.

This is the only shadow on their otherwise perfect life.

She takes them both to work with her where they spend a lot of time outside having fun. The two little dogs sit on the seat beside her in her van. Hector is always lifted in first and growls at Annie when she is put in.

The same human resource guarding also happens here. She gives the man who works with her a lift. Hector is between him and the lady. He growls at the man as he gets in and goes for him every time he so much as moves his arm or hand.

The lady is adamant that she doesn’t want the dogs crated in the back, so again we have to work around the obvious solution by being more creative.

Hector will be put in the foot well where he seems to be more relaxed and further away from the lady. Annie should be lifted into the van first.

As the man gets in, to help Hector to feel good about him he will drop a piece of food.

If he still growls when the man gets in, the lady will need to lift her little dog out and let the man get in first.

In other aspects of his life we have discussed how the lady can to stop Hector regarding her as his human resource.

Resource guarding isn’t always food and bones of course. It can be over a person, a place or even the dog’s own personal space.

Guarding his human resource is a big job for a little dog! Hector will be a lot happier when relieved of it.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Hector and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where aggression of any kind is concerned. EVerything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Food Aggression and Parading Bones

We all know what Pugnacious means!

Frank is a delightful, friendly and playful ten-month-old Pug French Bulldog mix. He is a typical teenager in that he likes to play his family up – he is a clever boy!

What I was called for is Frank’s behaviour around dropped food, bones and other edible resources. 

Food aggression can start with the breeder

From the moment they first got him Frank wolfed his food down as though in total panic – even faster if someone was nearby, like he was afraid they may steal it from him. Consequently they were advised to put the food on a plate which, because it slides around the floor, slows him down.

The breeder fed the litter all together from one bowl which we know can lead to competition Frank has some food aggressionover the food. It does not encourage eating confidently in the knowledge that the puppy can take his time with no fear of losing the food. This is where food aggression can start.

Food aggression is then unintentionally encouraged by owners who, thinking they are doing the right thing, force things off the puppy, either because it may be dangerous or maybe to make a point about who is boss. They don’t realise that even some of the games they play are nurturing guarding behaviour in certain dogs that may be that way inclined anyway due to either genetics or early life with litter-mates.

From the start, savvy dog owners actively encourage give and swap.

Frank has now snapped about five times at a hand that has got too near to dropped food or his bone. Once the little girl dropped something on the floor and when mum went to remove it Frank, who had his eye on it also, went for mum’s hand.

Like many people they felt they should be able just to take a bone off the dog. The young lady was snapped at so she withdrew. Because, to quote her, she ‘was not having that’, the next time she wore an oven glove and forcibly removed the bone from him, resulting in what would have been a much more severe bite had it not been for the glove.

An interesting display of minor guarding behaviour

I gave Frank a Stagbar (piece of reindeer antler) to chew and it was so interesting to watch him. For several minutes he paraded it, flaunting it around all the people there (there were seven of us including a little girl). “Look what I’ve got and you can’t have it” sort of thing! He then would drop it, as though tempting someone to try and pick it up.

Next he started rolling around the floor on top of the Stagbar. Sarah Whitehead would say that this is to spread his scent over it – to mark it as his possession.

Then he got down to some serious chewing.

They asked can they touch him or stroke him while he’s chewing?  NO! They must leave him strictly alone. He must be ignored. When he parades something they should look the other way. He can’t flaunt something if nobody is looking, can he.

From now onwards he will have a very different relationship with his family around food. They will no longer be seen as ‘takers’ but as ‘givers’.

They will get him a heavier slow bowl feeder so it won’t slide around the kitchen floor like the plate; it has bumps in it to sow him down whilst making eating less of a chase and race, less frustrating.

A thing I personally feel that dogs must find so frustrating is the common practice of being made to sit, wait and maybe do tricks before they can eat start to eat. It’s not natural. In the wild an animal wouldn’t sit back, wait and do tricks, giving other animals opportunity to get there first.

I prefer to hold the bowl and wait before putting it down, getting the dog’s attention in order to emphasise my role as ‘giver’. Then I put the food down. It’s his. I walk away and leave the dog to eat in peace.

Although Frank so far shows no food aggression when someone walks past while he’s eating his meals (if they bent down and put their hands near it would be a different matter), they can still help by silently chucking a bit of something better than his food – cooked chicken perhaps – in the direction of his bowl.

When I was there the little girl had an ice cream and dropped a bit on the floor – almost the same situation as one of the ‘incidents’. This time Frank was more interested in my Stagbar fortunately. Recently the lady was eating crisps on the sofa with Frank beside her, watching. She pushed him onto the floor and he snapped at her.

This needs to be taken very seriously, particularly when little children are about. They should not tempt fate by giving him any further opportunity to rehearse the behaviour again. A dog that has any hint of food aggression should be in another room when anyone is eating anything at all, even ice cream or crisps (due to the food aggression they do put him in his crate when they eat their meals).

Frank rolling on the Stagbar

Frank rolling on the Stagbar

Now there is some hard work to do so that should a situation accidentally arise Frank can be trusted not to attack a hand.

If he’s chewing a bone they must ignore him. He needs to build up trust that it won’t be taken from him and then he will have nothing to be protective about.

Preferably they should wait until he loses interest before taking the bone away. Alternatively they can swap it for a Kong stuffed with something tasty which they can remove when it’s empty and he’s lost interest. I wanted my Stagbar back before I left and dropped food on and beside it a couple of times, watching his body language carefully, and he let me pick it up – I rewarded him again with a little jackpot.

Teaching Frank to ‘Give’ can start with Tug of War. Tuggy done properly teaches a dog to ‘give’ as well as to avoid teeth on human flesh.

Frank’s humans will be Givers, not Takers.

Teaching him that his humans aren’t interested in stealing from him is one thing, teaching him to actively and happily give things up is another and needs working on.

I suggest they lift his toys. They can issue them one at a time, using the ‘exchange game’: offer it, don’t let go, say ‘Give’ and exchange for food. Do this a couple of times, then without food, ending in letting him keep it. The rule is that they never take anything off him unless he gets it back or its exchanged for something better than what he already has (better to him that is).

Another good teaching game is to have a range of objects and food in ascending order of value to Frank, and teach exchange starting with the lowest in value. They can leave him to keep the final most valuable item.

Food should also be used as payment – rewards for doing as asked. This will make him a lot more cooperative in general and again emphasise that his people are ‘givers’ and that he has to give something in return.

Our human instinct when met with food aggression or aggression of any sort from our dog is to respond in kind – we are aggressive back. We’re ‘not having that’. He mustn’t get away with it.  Its hard, but the very opposite approach is needed. Any growling or air snapping should not be met with punishment or anger. We need to look at the cause of the aggression and deal with that, not the snapping itself.

The snapping is, still, fortunately only a warning. Teach him not to give a warning and it can only escalate into real biting.

The very achievable goal is that when the adorable Frank has a bone or is near food, he should be relaxed and happy. He won’t need to immediately going onto the defensive lest someone should nick his bone or get to dropped food first.

An email two months later: Our main worry and concern was the food aggression. We have seen NO aggressions since our meeting and not even a slight indication of it. Frank happily bring bones to us all, will Give things he shouldn’t have if we have a treat in our hand to reward him handing it over etc. He seems all round a happier dog 🙂 

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Frank and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Seven Little Dogs and Lots of Barking

Barking and bedlam from seven very small dogsI sat down, the gate in the kitchen doorway was opened and the seven little dogs barking behind it flew out.

Some were jumping all over me and climbing behind me, there were a few potential spats between three of them (I had treats in my pocket) and two – Snowy, the little white one in the photo and Chihuahua Rudi on the right, stood back whilst continuing to bark at me fearfully.

There was so much barking and bedlam it was a while before we could chat. Temporarily settling somewhat, the dogs all started tearing about again at the slightest sound or if I stood up.  There were frequent near spats, all involving French Bulldog Boycie. The lady in particular was constantly on edge in order to pre-empt trouble.

I suggested they put Boycie on lead and the dynamics changed completely.

First they had Rolo, a Chihuahua Yorkie cross, now five. He was a happy dog and they got Honey, a Chihuahua Pug cross. Snowy soon arrived followed by Rudi. A relative bred Frenchies and they decided to add Boysie to the group, not realising that Honey was already pregnant with Rudi’s puppies (they kept two). They sent me this photo – an achievement with five of them including Boycie in one place, lying still and quiet!

Frenchie Boycie is the fly in the ointment. He is now ten months old and increasingly over the past three months has been challenging Rolo in particular, but also Rudi.

There are many other dynamics going on as you can imagine and a fair bit of conflict.  Rolo is constantly pacing and snaps when another dog comes near him, and others pick on Rudi.

At the slightest noise the whole lot immediately charge outside into the garden, barking, then back through house.

There are three family members – a couple and their teenage son. Their main concern is the increasing conflict between the dogs.

At the moment, before we can do anything else, ways have to be found to calm everything down. The spats mostly occur when the dogs are aroused which is much of the time. There is a crate in the sitting room and any of the three main male protagonists is happy to be in it – more relaxed crated than out in fact. I suggest ‘zones’ for the dogs and they rotate with two crates in the sitting room, one on top of the other and Rolo (the oldest) in the top crate where he won’t feel the need to growl at other dogs that get too close. Boycie can go in the bottom crate and the third male freely with the other dogs either in the sitting room or behind the kitchen gate. The boys can be regularly rotated. One boy can be released from the crate and another put in – so none are away for too long, and so no two boys are out together.

This simple strategy alone will calm things down enormously.  Food rewards have been impossible because food starts fights – even a crumb on the floor – but with the dogs in their zones some rewards can now be used. With food they can get much more control of their dogs and the barking. Crates can be ‘special places’, the only places with chews or bones.

There needs to be no shouting (difficult) and family members need to encourage calm and quiet by walking slowly when doing something like letting the dogs out or feeding them. The humans should simply wait for some semblance of calm before doing anything the dogs want.  The dogs need over time to learn some self-control. We have worked out strategies for when someone rings the doorbell, for when people come into the house and for when family members come home.

When I got up to leave we saw a good example of how organising things better – quietly and calmly – could work.  I stood up and the dogs, by then seemingly quiet and relaxed, immediately started flying around and barking, so I sat down again. I asked them to put Boycie in the crate, to pick up the most scared little barker Snowy as this helps her, and to put the others into the kitchen behind the gate.

I then stood up to go again – silence!

Three weeks after my visit: ‘We have been getting on REALLY well! Boycie is a changed dog….a joy to have around, no aggression in sight, such a relief as I was really contemplating rehoming him. He has stopped guarding things, chewing has calmed down, overall a completely different dog. He has a daily car ride and daily walks, such a different dog 🙂 Currently working on “come” and again, this is working really well, puppies responding nearly all the time. Rudi also changed, so much calmer and happier. Rolo calmer also, all three males have adapted to their crate routines, so no problems here.’
Six months later a lovley photo and message on Facebook: ‘Who would have thought these two boys would be lying together like this Theo !11083668_10152670294781175_8441389294347107715_n

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for these little dogs, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).