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Young BC - possession aggression?


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My BC is 7 months old, a spayed female named Sweets. (Sometimes she's Sweets and sometimes she's Monster.) I am a new member here but have been reading the board for about a month. This has been a great help for dealing with noise sensitivity - my dog would jump at my arm and bite (sometimes tearing cloth) when I sneezed loudly, or sharpened a knife - unusual noises. After reading posts here, I've been working with her to desensitize with click and treat.

 

We are also working to desensitize for brushing. She was okay as a very young puppy (there wasn't much fur to brush, though) but it was like overnight (at about 5 months) she got very upset with the brush, or toweling her off.

 

However, I'm a baffled about her behaviour in several cases: if she tries to get into the cats' food (which I've sometimes forgotten to remove before she comes in the kitchen where they eat), she gets very aggressive with trying to bite my arm and growling. She also had her nose in a box of kindling today, and when I told her "No - out of there", she went after me in the same way. I've found that raising my voice with a louder "No" just makes her worse. She will stop after a few lunges at my arm, then I make her sit, stay for a minute and ignore her for half an hour. I can (and do) take away her food dish when she's eating with no problem. It seems to be things she shouldn't be doing that bring out the bad behaviour.

 

She did get very aggressive when my husband (after taking her collar off to add a short piece of pink line, to make it easier to find the loop for the leash hook) tried to put her collar back on. He started yelling No and Bad Dog at her, which really made things worse. I think she didn't like being approached from the front, maybe the pink line scared her too; in any event, it took a while to calm her down and I was able to get the collar back on by taking her to the door, showing her the ball and attaching the collar from behind her.

 

She went through puppy class and basic obedience, gets on very well with other dogs and people. She gets lots of exercise, playing ball, chasing sticks and long walks in the woods; she also plays almost daily with two labs next door (one her age, one older).

 

My concern is that this behaviour may escalate, or broaden if I don't deal with it now. The noise desensitization has been quite encouraging, but I'm not sure I'm dealing with the same sort of problem in the other cases.

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I know others here have more experience with reactive BCs than I do so you should get good advice. But I have one small suggestion: since she seems to be responding to click/treat, you could try to train her to accept the collar more peacefully. Whatever you do, do not raise your voice or get physical with her. Hopefully she can be trained to accept the collar and attaching a leash from the front.

 

Once you have desensitized her to accepting the collar and leash, another skill we were taught in puppy class was to desensitize our puppies to grabbing them around their neck. (It may take you several months to get to even wanting to try this since she seems quite reactive.) The theory behind this 'skill' was that if we ever needed to grab our dog to get it away from something, they shouldn't be scared off (and run away from us) by our sudden movement towards their neck/face area. Of course, it is always a great idea to have an excellent recall and a "leave it" command. [i like having a Plan A and a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C.)

 

Jovi

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Welcome!

Sorry to hear about your troubles with Sweets.

 

I have a reactive pup, with whom I've worked with since I got her. I still work with her, even if she is a perfect angel. Better to keep on top of things. My pup is fear reactive towards certain people. It's not a certain look or a man or a woman, this made it difficult to read her and her threshold for a long time.

Aggression is a learned behavior. The best advice I can give you is to not raise your voice or yell at her. It may make matters worse, and in doing so, it might momentarily suppress her fears making her aggression worse in the long run. I tried this with Seek when I was confused about what to do and it made matters worse and her outbursts would worsen. She would take it out on everyone in sight.

You have one up on me... you can clicker train. Definitely use that to your advantage. My pup is freaked out by the clicker! I've tried to desensitize her to it many times throughout 2.5 years! She is still afraid, even if she hears me clicker training my baby puppy in the next room.

Maybe you can get professional help, in the meantime a good book could help. I recommend Positive Dog Training (second edition) by Pamela Dennison. It covers all the topics on positive training with a clicker. It has good information on aggression, reaction, calming signals, body language, etc. I found it very useful in my progress with Seek. JMO. They have brand new copies for just $3 on Amazon.

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1592574831/ref=sr_1_1_olp?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295648648&sr=8-1&condition=new

 

Good luck and keep us updated on progress.

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Seek professional help now!

 

 

A couple of comments - but remember, do not do anything that may endanger you!

 

You say: "she will stop after a few lunges at my arm, then I make her sit, stay for a minute and ignore her for half an hour." To her, that may seem like a win. "I lunge and sit, then I get to do my own thing for half an hour."

If you can (you say she has done basic obedience), I would advise asking for a long down stay whenever her behaviour is less than optimal (The stay should last for at least five minutes but preferably longer... up to half an hour.) Take the time from your other activities to sit quietly near her. If she gets up, don't make a big issue of it; quietly repeat the down and stay commands. Keep the "emotional temperature" low.

If this is not possible, confine her to a crate or a neutral space for half an hour. However, this is a second-best option, as the time-out may be rewarding to her.

I would also advise that you (with on-the-spot professional guidance) start asking her to sit and be touched before she is fed, walked, etc.

Kerry

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You say: "she will stop after a few lunges at my arm, then I make her sit, stay for a minute and ignore her for half an hour." To her, that may seem like a win. "I lunge and sit, then I get to do my own thing for half an hour."

 

 

Dogs want to be involved and interact with their humans. Being ignored is not a reward. If you aren't ignoring bad behavior, you're rewarding it. Yes you can redirect the dog to a behavior you can then positively reinforce, such as the down command SouthOfSouth mentioned.

 

I think professional help is a great idea.

 

It would be helpful to know the precursors of Sweets. You can try to read the stress signals before she reaches her threshold and lunges. Its too late when she's lunging. Here's some info from my book...

 

Some signals may be:

 

1. The set of her ears and tail

2. Any creases on her face

3. The shape of her nose and muzzle, which often changes when a dog feels stressed

4. The look and shape of her eyes and pupils... Seek's get big

5. Foaming at the mouth (different than drooling)

6. Tightness of her mouth when taking food

7. Suppleness or tightness of her body and face

8. Puffing out of checks with short but explosive breaths

 

You may reduce this stress in many ways (before she lunges), see if one works for you:

 

1. Avert your eyes

2. Avert your face

3. Turn your back on the dog

4. Walk slowly away

5. Freeze in position

6. Yawn

7. Lick your lips

8. Sit

9. Lie down

10. Kneel on ground and pluck grass (if outside)

11. Turn sideways

12. Blink

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I can (and do) take away her food dish when she's eating with no problem.

 

I know you're trying to solve an issue here, but this is really counter productive. She may have learned that you come near = you take food. So when she comes across something that is high value to her, she guards it for you. I'd feed her in peace or hand feed her everything - no more taking her bowl away.

 

What kind of structure does this dog have? Rules, boundaries, schedule? You've given her plenty of stimulation, but have you taught her to chill? Does she have down time?

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I second (or third) looking for professional help. Also hand-feeding.

 

Another question I would ask is, you've done well with exercising and training, but what about structure at home? Does she have a crate she sleeps in? Have you always had rules for behaviors in the home that she must follow? (i.e. waiting to go out the door, sitting before getting her supper, etc.) Are there places or furniture where she's not allowed, and do you consistently enforce those prohibitions?

 

From your description, I'm uncertain if she's overly reactive, or if she's just been allowed to have a little too much leeway at home, and now she's old enough to object to being "challenged."

 

I'll apologise in advance if I've caused any offense! It's hard to discern a situation when one is not there to see it, as you are. :)

Cheers ~

 

Gloria

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Agreed. It's hard to tell if she is being reactive towards certain stimulus, or if she has been given too much freedom and is sort of correcting you for stepping out of line. It is almost like you are telling her "no" (even in a calm, non-threatening way) and she is counteracting with "excuse me?!" and giving you a correction. Sort of like a... who do you think you are?

 

I would seek advice of a local behaviorist who can come to your home to assess the situation. There could be things you are doing subconsciously that could be contributing to this behavior. Or, it could be that she is just an extremely reactive dog who doesn't express herself well. I would second the advice of look for behaviors/warnings that she may be giving you (or to situations), telling you to back off or that she has had enough.

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Thank you very much for all the advice. Some of it I can start immediately. The leeway idea makes sense to me, she does have structure in terms of a regular schedule; I make her sit and stay before eating, sit and stay at the door before going outside, never allowed on the bed. She sleeps in a crate - she offered some resistance at one point, but if I keep her on the leash, she goes right in. However, I can certainly add more, since I do let her get away with things like not bringing the ball back to me right away and pulling on the leash when she's excited to go somewhere.

 

I'll also try the hand feeding. It was such a battle to get her collar back on that I'm reluctant to try that again at this point, at least on my own. The behaviourist is certainly something I'll look for around here.

 

The "ignore her" approach was something I'd read in books; other people with dogs have mentioned it too. The long stay does make more sense, now that you explain it.

 

I'll try watching her for signs - it's happened so fast in the past I haven't seen anything predictive - and try some of those stress reducing moves.

 

I ordered that book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Positive Training. I already have Don't Shoot the Dog, and just got The Other End of the Leash and How Dogs Learn (started reading the latter two).

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Thank you very much for all the advice. Some of it I can start immediately. The leeway idea makes sense to me, she does have structure in terms of a regular schedule; I make her sit and stay before eating, sit and stay at the door before going outside, never allowed on the bed. She sleeps in a crate - she offered some resistance at one point, but if I keep her on the leash, she goes right in. However, I can certainly add more, since I do let her get away with things like not bringing the ball back to me right away and pulling on the leash when she's excited to go somewhere.

 

I'll also try the hand feeding. It was such a battle to get her collar back on that I'm reluctant to try that again at this point, at least on my own. The behaviourist is certainly something I'll look for around here.

 

The "ignore her" approach was something I'd read in books; other people with dogs have mentioned it too. The long stay does make more sense, now that you explain it.

 

I'll try watching her for signs - it's happened so fast in the past I haven't seen anything predictive - and try some of those stress reducing moves.

 

I ordered that book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Positive Training. I already have Don't Shoot the Dog, and just got The Other End of the Leash and How Dogs Learn (started reading the latter two).

 

 

You got some great advice, good luck with your pup!

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Lots of good advice here, and congrats on listening and learning. I definitely agree on hand-feeding your dog so she looks forward to seeing your hand near your food, instead of just tolerating you taking her dish away.

 

Re: crate training. Wouldn't it be nice to just say "crate up" or "crate" or "kennel up" and have your dog voluntarily and eagerly go into the crate? You can also teach this with clicker/treat technique. Susan Garrett has a DVD called "Crate Games" which a lot of people use for crate training (I have not seen it.). I know, I know - another thing to train, but I think you will appreciate putting this behavior on your pup. I still throw a few treats in my dog's crate most (not all) of the time to reinforce this behavior even though he is almost 4 years old.

 

Jovi

 

 

Thank you very much for all the advice. Some of it I can start immediately. The leeway idea makes sense to me, she does have structure in terms of a regular schedule; I make her sit and stay before eating, sit and stay at the door before going outside, never allowed on the bed. She sleeps in a crate - she offered some resistance at one point, but if I keep her on the leash, she goes right in. However, I can certainly add more, since I do let her get away with things like not bringing the ball back to me right away and pulling on the leash when she's excited to go somewhere.

 

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