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Old March 18th, 2006, 07:00 AM
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Advice re: dominant dogs

Hi all - I have been having some dominance issues with Toby, and I noticed a few other posts with similar issues. I have received fabulous advice and support here on pets.ca, and I have also found some other resources on the topic. I found this one to be particularily clear and concise. I hope others can find it useful as well!



Quote:
The DOMINANT DOG

Philosophy

A dominant dog is generally one that thinks it is the leader of the pack. Sometimes it will accept that it is not the leader, but the second in charge. So instead of dominating the entire household it might behave for one person (generally the "man of the house" or person who trains it the most), but run riot for other family members and usually visitors as well. This type of behaviour is more likely to occur in dogs than bitches and happens less frequently in the breeds that are bred for their desire to work with man (i.e. Golden Retrievers). However that does not mean to say that bitches in general and Goldens in particular do not ever have the problem. Just that it is seen less often than in other categories of dogs, Dominant dogs behave in a manner that we see as unacceptable, however from the dog's perspective it is only behaving as the pack leader should. What is required to turn your dog into an acceptable member of the household is for the dog to be relegated to the bottom of the pack and to behave according to it's new status.

How do 1 know if my dog is dominant?

Have a look at the following list:

The dog will not allow physical handling; i.e. brushing, bathing and veterinary visits are difficult. The dog will either actively avoid the situation (not allow itself to be caught, or constantly wriggle) or will act aggressively when placed in the situation (baring teeth, growling, staring you down, etc.)

The dog constantly jumps on people

The dog growls when in possession of toys, food bowl or other items it wishes to defend The dog acts aggressively when you approach it's sleeping area

The dog acts aggressively when you approach it when it’s sleeping anywhere.

There are times when you are scared of the dog (afraid to approach the dog, or remove a toy)

The dog growls (other than in play), stares you down, and bares its teeth, snaps (with or without contact). The dog constantly drags you along on the lead (other than a pup that hasn't learnt better).

You may recognise one or more of these items as applicable to your situation. It's conceivable that you are prepared to live with the behaviour, for instance if your dog only jumps, or only wriggles at bath time.

However if more than one item from this list is familiar or if you are ever scared to approach the dog, it's a fairly safe bet that you have a domination problem.

Resolution - Theory

Resolution revolves around the need to get the dog to accept its placement as bottom of the household pack. Note that there is generally no need for what are perceived as "violent" measures, it's purely a matter of retraining the dog to behave in a desirable manner once the underlying cause of dominance is understood.

There is no "quick fix" for this problem, the dog will no instantly accept that it has a new, lower, status and behave accordingly.

Everyone in the household must be prepared to reassess the way they interact with the dog and ensure that any behaviour that is likely to be perceived by the dog as strengthening it's position, is not indulged. Inconsistent behaviour from different household members will be detrimental to the long-term resolution of the problem.

Resolution - Practice

The following are some ways to get started with redefining your dogs (bottom of the) pack status:

DO: -

· Always feed the dog after all members of the family have eaten

· Ensure that the dog has a designated area in the house (do not allow it the freedom to roam around all rooms). Ensure that it stays in the area. 1 recommend that a mat is supplied and the dog is required to stay upon it. If it won't stay there, isolate it preferably outside. Eventually it will prefer to stay on the mat than be isolated.

. Ignore the dog when it solicits attention, give it attention only when you choose to

· Ensure that the dog is fed by the person that is most dominated by it

· Teach the dog to drop and command him into that position whenever he acts aggressively.

· Ensure he drops before being fed. Break his meal into smaller portions and make him drop before allowing him to cat each portion. If he won't drop, don't feed him (don't physically force him to drop). Wait an hour and try again. A hungry dog is more likely to want to please, and getting the dog to assume the position of its own volition is more effective (and less dangerous!) than forcing him down.

· Reward the dog for allowing its food to be removed by adding something extra nice to the removed bowl and immediately replacing it. The dog will learn that removing the bowl is not a threatening occurrence.

· Teach the dog "give" and reward it's "giving" with something better than the original item ... a nicer toy, food, a retrieve etc.

. Leave a collar and long lead (say 12 feet) on the dog when it is supervised. If it misbehaves you are able to correct it without having to go too close and risking exacerbating the situation. For instance if the dog won't remain on its mat, you are able to grab the lead and drag the dog to the isolation area (preferably outside).

· Ensure that the dog always waits for people to go through doorways first

. regularly touch your dog all over or groom it. Reward any progress towards compliance.

DO NOT: -

· Never allow the dog to jump on anyone.

· Do not play "tug of war" games with the dog; the dominant dog sees this as a surreptitious way to gain supremacy. It's not a game, its warfare. If the dog wins he moves another rung up the pack hierarchy.

· Do not attempt to physically dominate the dog (i.e. rolling it over, taking it's toy, forcing it to be brushed) unless you are working under the supervision/instruction of an experienced problem dog instructor. There is every possibility that a dog that previously was content to warn you not to come closer, will decide that you are too much of a threat and launch a full blown attack. Never take the risk. If the dog behaves inappropriately, isolate it. As a pack animal isolation is one of the best tactics with dominant dogs. Do not allow the dog out of isolation until it is willing to drop on command.

· Do not, under any circumstances, allow the dog in your sleeping area

· Do not avoid it's sleeping area, make an effort to regularly walk through it's bedding even pick it up by day and put it somewhere out of reach

· Do not allow the dog to pull on the lead when walking. Whenever the dog pulls on the lead, stop. Do not allow forward progress until the dog decides to walk at your pace.

· Do not allow the dog to "own" property (i.e. toys). You may give it a toy when you choose, remove it when you consider that the play session has ended.

Many of these actions may seem draconian, however they are necessary for a truly dominant dog. Use your common sense and know your own dog, such strict measures may not be necessary with a pup that is just "testing the limits". However always be aware that any dog, even a pup, can be slowly climbing the pack hierarchy without your being aware of it. It is an easier problem to nip in the bud than resolve afterwards.

Further Information?

Many dog training and behaviour books have advice on dealing with dominant dogs. If at any time you are overly concerned about your dog's behaviour particularly regarding aggressive behaviour, do not hesitate to contact a professional problem dog trainer.
http://www.grcv.org.au/training/dominantdog.htm
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Old March 18th, 2006, 08:18 AM
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Thanks for sharing that Tracy! Always like to add resources to the collection.
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Old March 18th, 2006, 03:04 PM
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This is an article that in some ways bothers me, because it portrays dominant or alpha type dogs as be troublesome and a threat, to me there is a big difference between a dog that is simply dominant and one that is a determined social climber or alpha wanna be. And this type of dog may not necessarily have the leadership skills to be an alpha dog, and may bully junior members of the pack, to me they are basically two different types of dogs

My observation is that the dominant alpha dog rarily uses aggression as a way to deal with with things and treats lower ranking animals with fairness, they may correct occasionally with a quick nip, mostly they use eye contact to let the other dog know they are out of line, but they may find themselves is position where they are challenged by social climbers, but because they effective leaders they can often put the social climber in their place with one short battle with fairly little bloodshed, they are the peacekeepers and rarily show agressiveness.
The the dominant wanna-be/social climber is a different matter, and will look constantly for weakness, if there is not a strong leader to put them in their place they will cause friction and bully those who they percieve as lower ranking members, and often better placed as the only dog in the home as a result, if in a home where there is a dominant alpha dog, should the alpha become weak or ill, they take advantage and will attack in some cases attempting to kill, they make poor leaders and there will likely be a lot of fighting or bullying once they take over the pack and may at that point try to social climb even higher by challenging the humans who were previously protected from this by the alpha dog.


Quote:
Dominance-related aggression. For years, behavioral experts blamed unstable or disordered dominance relationships within the home when dogs acted aggressively toward their families over resources or certain physical interventions. This is currently under dispute. Antagonists of this view point out that in wolf packs there is little overt aggression and that truly dominant wolves (and dogs) do not need to be blatantly aggressive. These folk say that in-home aggression of domestic dogs toward their owners is more correctly ascribed to fear and point out that other fear-based behaviors are common in such dogs.

Although classically “dominant aggressive” dogs do seem more anxious, the problem may still stem from confusion over pack hierarchy. Perhaps dogs that show aggression to their owners in typical dominance-type situations (over food, toys, favorite resting area, in response to postural interventions, or following threats) are somewhat confused about the family order and therefore a little anxious. A true alpha animal may not feel anxious because he is not challenged, but a beta dog tends to be aggressive to subordinates if certain limits are exceeded as they struggle to maintain their position.

They are, so to speak, dominant wannabes rather than those that have made the grade. This more correctly describes the situation within the home when a “dominant dog” is aggressive to human family members. Maybe we should call dominance aggression the “beta dog syndrome,” or maybe we should just keep the term we have used for years. After all, dominance issues are involved, even though the aggressive dog may not have the most supreme level of confidence.
Quote:
Beta dogs have a strong desire to lead but when their challenges are dealt with by a stronger leader, they will back down and follow another’s lead. If the individual that the Beta dog is testing or challenging does not show strong leadership, then the Beta dog will believe, in his mind, that he has won and is the leader. A Beta dog will test the leadership throughout its life. The Beta dog doesn’t have to be a large dog. A sorry example is the household that is ruled by a tough little dog.
This does not mean all Beta dogs possess this quality, most are very gentle and passive, but if you have a dog like this you have to be very consistent in your behaviour by keeping the upperhand, you dog will never be cured of its desire to challenge you, it is only kept at bay by you being a strong leader.
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Old March 18th, 2006, 08:16 PM
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I agree Ontariogreys... The article above applies especially to dogs who are testing you and trying to move up from a lower position. They tend to suck at being dominant and use tons of aggression and snaps to get their way (by instilling fear in the owners). Dogs who are dominant to everything but their owners are the opposite. They can live in harmony without any drastic measures after the heirarchy is well established, and they rarely show aggression and do with more skill and selectivity.
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Old March 18th, 2006, 08:38 PM
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I really felt that the article was referring to dogs who are beginning to show agression because they are trying to become dominant (like a bully in the schoolyard). In any case, that is how I took it.

If they were talking about a true alpha animal - like the ones you describe, Ontariogreys, then there would be no problem to deal with, right?

I appreciated the author's stress on MY behaviour, and how it might relate to un-balanced behaviour in my dog, that's why I posted it.

By the way, where did you get your quotes?
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Old March 18th, 2006, 09:57 PM
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I think we're all saying basically the same thing. If a dog is a really comfortably dominant dog, you still have to prove you are the leader, but you don't have to be as conscious of your every move to accomplish it. They don't seem to test as much. But you're right though- the rules certainly apply to your situation with Toby.
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Old March 19th, 2006, 03:02 PM
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The first came from this link, http://www.petplace.com/dogs/canine-...ure/page1.aspx There are ads in the middle, so you need to scroll down.

There is no doubt that the advice that was given on how to deal with dominance aggression is good in the link you posted, my point was made because so may people get the impression that dominant alpha-type dogs are agressive and bad news so when it comes to adopting they stay clear of them. But if you have multiple dogs having an alpha dog can be an absolute blessing.

. In many ways you can compare it to a business, you being the business owner(or dog owner), with a few employees, if you hire a good supervisor(alpha dog) it frees you up and allows you to focus on the day to day running of the business, the supervisor manages the employees, if with fair, the employees will respects and put in an effort to please and will want to follow his example, a social climber will be seen for what they are and put in their place and it will be made known to them that is not how you will get ahead here, so they understand they have nothing to gain and so they comply for now. So the business runs smoothly and prosperously because everyone knows there place they each can work effectively with no or very few conflicts and all are content. If don't have the supervisor( a dog to lead), then you are spending more time handling complaints disputes and organizing what each employee is doing day to day, it is not a bad situation, it simply ties you up more.

in a different scenario you hire a supervisor who is agressive but who has no natural skills to lead (the social climber), you will have problems,the social climber has bullied their way up so has not learned fairness in the process and will mean harsh displinary with those under, and employees will have no respect so make little effort to try other than when if fear. Which means as the owner you are going to be dealing with lots of complaints from employees, and fighting amongst the employees will occur if the supervisor starts picking favorites and hard on those they don't like. The supervisor will always see room to climb further and may see company decision making as part of it and will challenge you to do things their way. So there is constant friction and nothing is running effectively and the business will decline, there may infighting which may lead to termination(getting rid of dogs due to fighting) or seperating employees as a way to handle, after a while you become tired and frustrated, you might it hard to keep up the daily operation(maintaining the home) and find yourself becoming irratible with the employees(other dogs) and family and to regain control may find yourself firing the supervisor(getting rid of the dog) the other choice is to demote the current supervisor and bring in ones with the skills to do the job.
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Old March 19th, 2006, 10:42 PM
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Quote:
The dog will not allow physical handling; i.e. brushing, bathing and veterinary visits are difficult. The dog will either actively avoid the situation (not allow itself to be caught, or constantly wriggle) or will act aggressively when placed in the situation (baring teeth, growling, staring you down, etc.)

The dog constantly jumps on people

The dog growls when in possession of toys, food bowl or other items it wishes to defend

The dog acts aggressively when you approach it's sleeping area

The dog acts aggressively when you approach it when it’s sleeping anywhere.

The dog growls (other than in play), stares you down, and bares its teeth, snaps (with or without contact).

The dog constantly drags you along on the lead (other than a pup that hasn't learnt better).
Intriguing. My dog displays many of those behaviours to a greater or lesser extent, mostly to other people or dogs. Unfortunatly, he is also quite timid and lacks confidence and would make a piss-poor leader. He would be what is referred to in this thread as a 'beta' dog or 'social climber'.

I have to admit I would not have picked a dog with this personality type if I had realized, but now that I have a handle on his issues, I'm quite pleased.

One good thing is that he is very well trained. He had to be for me to trust him around other people and dogs. He likes them but is scared very easily and confrontational.

And he is also a very good personal companion dog, I feel very safe with him. And he is a clingy dog so I don't have to worry about him up and leaving me.

It can be tiring having him test me all the time, but it forces me to keep him in line, rather than just let him run off and forget all his manners. And I am glad that I picked him, rather than someone who couldn't handle a dog like him lest they've sent him to the pound or put him down.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 06:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beetlecat
It can be tiring having him test me all the time, but it forces me to keep him in line, rather than just let him run off and forget all his manners. And I am glad that I picked him, rather than someone who couldn't handle a dog like him lest they've sent him to the pound or put him down.
Yes, I wonder how many dogs have been sent to the pound or put down because their owners did not know what they needed to do - or have the time and inclination to follow through on it!

Your dog is a lucky one!
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Old March 20th, 2006, 06:49 AM
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thanks for the link, OntarioGreys.
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 08:42 AM
Cymba's friend Cymba's friend is offline
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dominance versus aggression

I would truly like to recommend the book by Jan Fennell, the dog listener. She has many years of experience in dog psychology, dog language, training, dominance and hierarchy issues and the results of a mis-match between the actual position of the dog versus their natural profile within the hierarchy. The book is prefaced and encouraged by Monty Roberts, who initiated the new approach to horse training using the horse's own language, and she has taken the same approach to dogs, observing both wolves and dogs in their language to establish hierarchy. She does NOT insinuate that alpha dogs who dominate are automatically aggressive, she DOES however show through years of examples, how mis-communication in this area can result in either behavioral problems, or even high stress in the dog if they feel they must be the leader and are not up to it. She also shows how establishing this hierarchy using dog language and not human thinking, is an essential ground work to all subsequent training, respect and affection.

She also provides ample examples of dogs who were "put down" due to such mis-understandings that resulted in behavioral problems, where they could have been resolved by her methods. In fact she also provides examples of her intervention and training in this area that saved many dogs from such fate, and resulted in good family-dog-pack harmony.

It would be hard for me to try to reflect an entire book in a note on this board, but I would really recommend her books as very important and also very interesting reading!
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 06:40 PM
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new pack members

I recently acquired a new pack member. I purposely chose a small male, as my larger female is usually dominant, and reactive to challenges. They are both from pounds. I have implemented some of the dominance rules for my beloved bitch, as she was getting too sassy with strangers, and it became necessary to hire professional help. So now I have a younger, smaller, cuter male who she dominates. Sometimes we give her heck for being to rough with him. She sometimes gives him jabs, like a boxer - with her paws, just like a bully. They race around the yard, and he, being a bit silly tries to bite onto her tail, and chases her when she plays fetch. She's so focused on the balls, she tolerates quite a bit of crap. But every so often she growls and snaps, tells him to back away from her balls, and her body.
I'm still wondering, trying to figure out how much I should scold her for bullying him, to enforce my own leadership, or allow her to set her own limits and teach him to respect them.
I figured you might have some comments to make regarding the dominance issues here and how to apply them.
They do sleep in our room, on a mat, and they even have one couch they are allowed on. Should they be disallowed?
Opinions welcome and appreciated.
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 07:12 PM
Cymba's friend Cymba's friend is offline
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dominance with 2 dogs

Re your question about your 2 dogs where now your more dominant dog has a "subordinate" to dominate - my suggestion would be that if the younger one who is currently being dominated during play, if she does not hurt him and he does not seem miserable or unhappy with his "position", that there would be no harm done. I assume that they both respect you as their pack leader?

As for being allowed in the bedroom or on the couch - I know that there is a lot of controversy on this subject. But I did hear 2 respected trainers recently say that as long as they are there because you allowed it, and should you ask them to move, they will move with respect and not growl at you, then it is OK. I know that some people are against this all together - but I admit my dog also sleeps in my bedroom on his dog-bed and is allowed on a couch, but has never abused this. If however the dog starts growling if asked to move, then there is a lack of respect and the roles must be corrected.

By the way, I had mentioned Jan Fennell and her books in 2 items I posted, so I thought I would get the URL to her website: http://www.janfennellthedoglistener.com/
In her Dog Listener book she actually goes into descriptions of situations with several dogs (she has several) and the whole interaction between them and her (or her clients). It is interesting and touches on some of your points.
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 08:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toby's tracy
I really felt that the article was referring to dogs who are beginning to show agression because they are trying to become dominant (like a bully in the schoolyard). In any case, that is how I took it.

If they were talking about a true alpha animal - like the ones you describe, Ontariogreys, then there would be no problem to deal with, right?

I appreciated the author's stress on MY behaviour, and how it might relate to un-balanced behaviour in my dog, that's why I posted it.

By the way, where did you get your quotes?
I had a mal that was a truely alpha female. you know how in a pack there is an alpha male and a alpha bitch...and she is the only one allowed to breed? well our mal figured my hubby was the male and SHE was the alpha female...she was sweet and gentle to the kids as she saw them as the pups in the pack. But her and I had an ongoing problem. when hubby wasn't home all was well, we could get along just fine and had some great walks etc. when hubby was present...oh boy!...she never once snapped or bit me...never even tried. but she would always try to be between hubby and I and would be quite upset if he was paying attention to me instead of her. We did all we could, I was the one who fed and groomed her, hubby would make a point of greeting me BEFORE her and she never allowed on the bed.
nothing ever changed her behavior and we were always careful to remain consistant in recognizing me as the alpha bitch, but we had many great years with her and will always miss her and her beautiful singing voice.

But I would personaly disagree that there are no problems with a true alpha...you just have to learn to deal with it in a way that everyone can be happy.
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 10:25 PM
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I think we are all basically saying the same thing. I believe that OntarioGreys was referring to Alpha animals who are confident with their positions and so do not have 'issues' with humans. That's what I was referring to as well...
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 10:30 PM
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thanks for the great resources everyone - I will be sure to look for that book, Cymba's friend!

In another thread I wrote about Toby's aggressive behaviour around food. Well, it has extended to treats (big ones like bones, stuffed kongs). This evening he actually scared me and all I did was walk by him just after I gave him a stuffed kong.

Someone recommended a behaviour counsellor here in Montreal for us, but I have left a message and sent an email and still have not heard from her. Does anyone know of a good trainer or counsellor to help me out with this? I feel it has gone beyond what I can get on my own from the Internet or books.

Thanks!
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 08:45 AM
littlesister littlesister is offline
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food possession

Hi Toby's Tracy,
I reread your situation - and it sounds like you're describing a dog that you have dominance over, but is just food possessive. I've read that it can arise from being a puppy that gets last pick on the mom's feedings, and thus develops an insecurity around food. In that case he would be food possessive, and not have a dominance problem.
However, I've also noticed that you've described moving around lately; lots of change. Perhaps it's just that insecurity that he's reacting to, and it's just chanelling through food possession. I have recently moved, with dog, back to Montreal from Toronto. My dog got lots of attention, regular feeding, etc. But I did notice some changes in her personality. While she had been getting pretty good on the leash meeting other dogs in Toronto, as soon as we moved here, she totally regressed. She became leash aggressive, maybe even more than before. As I've noticed the change coincided perfectly with the move, I'm thinking that it's the instability she's reacting to and chanelling through the behavior that was previously weakest.
I figure maybe, given lots of time to settle in, plus the consistent dominant role on my part, she will relax more again and we can make some progress. Maybe both our situations will resolve this way.
What do you think of that?
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlesister
I figure maybe, given lots of time to settle in, plus the consistent dominant role on my part, she will relax more again and we can make some progress. Maybe both our situations will resolve this way.
What do you think of that?
Hi Little Sister - that is what I have been thinking and hoping. However, with Toby's little episode last night (he was snarling from under the couch when I walked by him and his stuffed kong) I do not just want to hope it will go away. I want to ensure that I am acting appropriately and in a way that will help alleviate his need to defend his food. Plus - it just isn't a nice feeling having him act like this!

That is why I am looking for someone to consult with on this.

I hope things progress with your girl - keep us posted!
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 12:43 PM
Beetlecat Beetlecat is offline
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Just some quick advice, if he has started growling around treats, and you are not confident in your ability to get it back from him (ie through telling him 'drop it') then, until you find a trainer, do not give him anything he might become possessive over, excepting meals as you are present when feeding.

IME, if he growls and you leave (or even if you ignore him), then he figures it works and he'll do it again. And again, and again, until it becomes habit. And then you'll begin correcting him and he'll up the stakes, figuring he just needs to growl louder now, be more aggressive etc.

It's the dog logic of my car keys keeping away giraffes, since I've never seen a giraffee while holding them...

If my dog ever growls, I make sure to keep doing whatever set him off so he never makes the connection. He is not possessive over anything around me, but his is around strangers or other dogs.
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 12:50 PM
Cymba's friend Cymba's friend is offline
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good trainer

You asked for a good trainer and mentioned that you had not had any response from the one you called. There is Julie who owns Guides Canins, and who is actually one of the professional advisers of this bulletin board and web site. You can look her up on the senior members for professional help. She is great, I took Cymba on his first training course with her and I would recommend her highly. Let me know if you cannot find her contact via this board (I know I have seen it).
p.s. I just found it and have added it here:
Julie Sansregret - AHT - Dog trainer - St-Lazare QC., CA Tel: 450-424-1469

Last edited by Cymba's friend; March 23rd, 2006 at 01:15 PM.
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 01:18 PM
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Julie is fabulous! We did some obedience training there, though St. Lazare is quite far from where we are now. It would take over an hour to get there!

thanks, Cymba's friend.
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