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Old March 13th, 2006, 06:02 PM
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toby's tracy toby's tracy is offline
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Unhappy distressing change towards agression - sometimes!

My dog Toby (turned 1 on Feb. 27) has begun growling and barking at me when I feed him and this behaviour has now spread to when I go near him when he is with a toy (not always, just sometimes).

About 4 months ago, he began growling around his food. I received advice from the trainer at our obedience school to feed him by hand for a while. That worked at the time. We moved into a new apartment 2 weeks ago and this behaviour is back in full force. I have tried feeding him by hand, and now he growls at me even then.

He always eats at about the same time each day – 6:30 am and 6:30 pm. I do not leave his food or bowl on the floor all day. I ask him to sit and stay until I have placed the bowl on the floor. Often he will start to growl after I have put food in the bowl (bowl still on counter). Sometimes he begins growling and barking while he is eating – whether I am standing next to him or not, and other times he starts to growl/bark when he is waiting for me to release him from the sit/stay.

When he growls at me I make him (through verbal commands) move away from the food and go lie down in another area of the apartment – he does listen to me, but his hair is up and he growls and barks in protest. I do the same thing when he gets aggressive/possessive with his toys. The toy thing has actually only happened 3 times - but 3 times too many for me!


I have been doing this for the past 2 weeks. Not much seems to be changing. I am at a loss about what to do. He is generally a sweet, playful, responsive puppy. He has never shown any type of aggression towards another dog or anyone else. In fact, at the dog park he usually stays away from ‘play’ that is becoming too aggressive.

I have also become the only person he lives with. I have always had Toby (since he was 8 weeks old) and been his main care-giver, but we used to live with someone else, and then stayed with my parents, and are now on our own (for the past 2 weeks).

Thank you for any support you can give me about this! It is quite distressing.

Last edited by toby's tracy; March 13th, 2006 at 06:20 PM.
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Old March 13th, 2006, 06:34 PM
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technodoll technodoll is offline
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oh lordy this is an easy one your boy is climbing his way up the totem pole, establishing himself as alpha in your household, and you need to nip this problem in the bud before it escalates to nasty behavior (what if a child accidentally takes a cherished item away or gets to near or... you can see the ramifications!) Plus it's just not pleasant or right to be growled at by your own dog!

The Nothing In Life Is Free training method is awesome. it's simple & it works. time for boot camp!! the basic principles are:

http://www.k9deb.com/nilif.htm

extract:

The NILIF program is remarkable because it's effective for such a wide variety of problems. A shy, timid dog becomes more relaxed knowing that he has nothing to worry about, his owner is in charge of all things. A dog that's pushing too hard to become "top dog" learns that the position is not available and that his life is far more enjoyable without the title.

It is equally successful with dogs that fall anywhere between those two extremes. The program is not difficult to put into effect and it's not time consuming if the dog already knows a few basic obedience commands. I've never seen this technique fail to bring about a positive change in behavior, however, the change can be more profound in some dogs than others. Most owners use this program in conjunction with other behavior modification techniques such as coping with fear or treatment for aggression. It is a perfectly suitable technique for the dog with no major behavior problems that just needs some fine tuning.


good luck!
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Old March 13th, 2006, 06:37 PM
hounds003 hounds003 is offline
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I wonder if Toby might be going through a "who's the boss" phase now that it's just the two you. Have you tried using Nothing In Life Is Free with him? That along with hand feeding him but starting from scratch might help. Just incase, here's a link how to work through the hand feeding part. Good luck!

http://www.doglogic.com/possess.htm
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Old March 13th, 2006, 06:42 PM
hounds003 hounds003 is offline
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I posted a few minutes later and didn't see technodolls reply yet. Always a day late or a dollar short! LOL
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Old March 13th, 2006, 06:43 PM
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or rather, it must work since lots of people recommend it! works like a charm in our house!
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Old March 13th, 2006, 06:46 PM
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no free rides

Thanks for your reply!

The thing is that - Toby doesn't get anything for free. He has to sit/stay or down or just stand/stay for just about everything. I always walk through doors first and when we are out walking, as soon as he gets ahead of me I stop moving and he has to come back into a heel before we continue. This is a struggle at times - and often results in long walks going seemingly nowhere but that's life! Before we play (with a toy or not) he also has to sit before we start.

The only, only times he growls are with food (each and every meal for the past little while) and the 3 times with his toys. He doesn't ever growl for a treat (during training), just his food bowl.
and only with me :sad: . He was staying at his old house over the weekend while I had an intensive course and I was told he didn't growl at all.
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Old March 13th, 2006, 06:52 PM
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Thanks for the link about feeding, hounds003. It does seem like I have to start from ultra scratch. The last time this happened he was about 7 months old and just plain hand-feeding for about a week stopped the behaviour.

Just when I thought all was well in the land of Toby...yeesh!
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Old March 13th, 2006, 07:15 PM
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Tracy, don't feel sad because he did not do it over the weekend with whom he was with. Dogs won't test if they are out of their comfort zone. This will pass with time and patience. It may take until he is 18 months - 2 years to fully stop trying to test his level on the totem pole but don't think for one minute that you are the reason that he tests. He would do it no matter whom he lived with... it's just part of him. Chin up and you go girl!
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Old March 13th, 2006, 09:15 PM
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I'd make him work harder and vary the things you ask often. My dad's dog fakes being submissive to get what he wants. You have to ask him to do a bunch of things in a row to get your point across. I do the same with Boo. He gets his cookie if he waves, whispers, lies down and puts his head down (all in a row). And I mix it up. That way, he has to be listening and it puts you back in control. When there is a routine, like sit and get a cookie, the dog learns how to bypass it quickly to get what he wants without actually listening to you. That's just my take on it...
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Old March 14th, 2006, 07:39 PM
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some improvement

hi all - thanks, BMDLuver for the kind thoughts.

So, I've been dropping food into Toby's bowl for breakfast and supper and the growling has definitely subsided - though not 100%.

I began this evening by cutting up some brocolli I was eating and putting it in his bowl and then prepared the scoops of kibble to feed him with. I put him in a sit/stay and there was the slightest under the breath noise, but he stayed and looked at me until I put some food in his bowl and said go. I stuck by the side of the bowl, showing him I wasn't going away.

Then I stayed by his bowl and kept adding food - no more noises at all.

Much better than it's been!

A question:
When he was making the slight noise, should I have taken the food away completely? Or is best to just stay in his face like - get used to it buddy, this is how it is!

I have found in the past that taking it away completely brings on weirdo behaviour - growling, pacing, then hiding under the couch and refusing to come to me. When he has done this he just doesn't get fed and I go about my business, but I'm wondering if this was the best way to handle it.

In any case, I am going to continue with feeding him in dribs and drabs that I drop into the bowl for a while - the website hounds003 recommended suggests doing it for 10-14 days!
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Old March 15th, 2006, 06:04 AM
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I think the way you handled it makes sense... you just kept doing what you were doing and he just had to keep waiting and accepting that you were there controlling how much food and when. I figure you can't get perfection immediately so a minimal groan is acceptable.
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Old March 15th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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Sorry I am stepping in late. You have already gotten a lot of great advice so I don't have to much more to offer.
I want you to think about your relationshp with this dog. This is not just about feeding & toys - this is about who you are with him 24/7. Since he only does this with you it is clearly a sign of lack of respect for you. You don't just earn respect at dinner time - you earn it in all aspects of your relationship. We say its about the big picture and the problems are just the symptoms. If you start to change who you are with him 24/7 then the problems will often take care of themselves.
Also - great that you see changes in a weeks time. But I would truely insist on changes TODAY. If you observe dogs they make their point and then respect is earned and things change quickly. Rarely do dogs negotiate over the long haul. You are his leader NOW and he needs to respect that NOW. I am not saying to get rough, but to be impressive with your attitude and energy. Respect is not demanded but commanded.
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Old March 15th, 2006, 09:04 PM
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Somewhat long...trying to figure this out!

Quote:
Originally Posted by tenderfoot
I am not saying to get rough, but to be impressive with your attitude and energy. Respect is not demanded but commanded.
Thanks for your great advice, Tenderfoot and everyone else.
Tenderfoot, in the situation that I described earlier:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tracy
I've been dropping food into Toby's bowl for breakfast and supper and the growling has definitely subsided - though not 100%.

I began this evening by cutting up some brocolli I was eating and putting it in his bowl and then prepared the scoops of kibble to feed him with. I put him in a sit/stay and there was the slightest under the breath noise, but he stayed and looked at me until I put some food in his bowl and said go. I stuck by the side of the bowl, showing him I wasn't going away.

Then I stayed by his bowl and kept adding food - no more noises at all.

Much better than it's been!

A question:
When he was making the slight noise, should I have taken the food away completely? Or is best to just stay in his face like - get used to it buddy, this is how it is!
What would 'not getting rough, but being impressive with my attitude and energy' look like?

Also, to clarify - I have been Toby's only care taker for just over 2 weeks and it has been during this time that his behaviour has become aggressive, mainly around food. Prior to that my parents, who were fabulous to take us in, were always around and before them there were 2 of us looking after Toby. Last weekend Toby stayed at our old house, with my ex-boyfriend, who used to own Toby together with me, and I was told that no growling at all happened.

Could Toby be reacting to a new home with a single owner? I don't really see that my behaviour with him has changed all that much to warrant the disrespect. Then again, I have had to adjust and get used to it being just me and Toby and perhaps I haven't noticed my behaviour...lots to think about!
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Old March 15th, 2006, 10:55 PM
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Being impressive can simply be the tone of your voice, the fact that you don't show fear when he growls, the fact that you boss him around a lot. etc. It's attitude.
I think you are doing fine in the scenario you described. So long as he is improving we are happy. Lots of changes have occured for him and with each change he lost a relationship. So with the loss of each potential leader in his life he decided he must not have a leader. If someone doesn't lead him then he must lead himself and everyone else around - YOU. So the rapid changes just mean that you have to show him you can handle the job even more than you did before. Also perhaps your X and your parents provided leadership that you didn't even think about. Now you have to do it all. But it ceratinly sounds like you are up for the job.
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 12:15 PM
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Thanks for the words of encouragement, Tenderfoot!
Sorry so long for the reply, somehow I missed your post.
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