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eibbed
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I've been reading the boards for a while now but I've never needed to post before as all my questions are answered in other posts. It really is an amazing resource for BC owners. I have a 14 month old male split-face BC, he's a wonderful dog. We've had him since he was 12 weeks old so he's very much at home here. Recently though he's developed some odd behaviours which I have a feeling it might be the dreaded teenage phase but your opinions would be very helpful.

 

First thing in the morning he comes out of his crate has a 2 minute fuss before we go outside for a run around so he can empty his tanks. He gets a treat outside and everything is perfect until we come back into the house. Normally we come back inside he gets another treat (usually a couple of duck straps) something to drink and we're set for the day. Recently though that's changed. Currently he comes back into the house and growls when I give him his treat. His tail is down and his movements very stiff and slow. He takes his treats under the pool table to eat them or the far side of the room.

 

Unfortunately he's also started ignoring my wife or treating her warily which she finds upsetting as she loves the dog. He normally bounds up to her for a fuss when she comes in but currently he looks at her and walks away.

 

Mac has a lovely nature and is healthy, hairy and active. We do a lot of mileage outside, we fenced in 7 acres for him to run in and I work from home so we go out often. Our routines haven't changed in any way and we try to ignore this behaviour as we practice the positive reinforcement method for training which tells you to ignore bad behaviour completely and reinforce the good. Any thoughts ?

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Interesting.

 

Liz is correct - it is hard to really get a grip without seeing the behaviour happen. I've seen dogs at that age (it's late to start adolesence, but not crazy-late) develop behaviours of-a-sudden that defied understanding.

 

If nothing has happened - and this would include marital difficulties, an injury, an unusual disciplinary action, an illness, fights at home, a new dog in the neighbourhood, business problems you may be having, other stressors which are affecting the atmosphere and harmony in the home - which would *definitely* be problematic for a sensitive dog of that age then it is a part of his normal development.

 

Which could make it a number of things - sometimes dogs that age develop a resource guarding issue as part of their new sense of the broader world. Maybe he has put the pattern all together and a treat equals an end to his time with you for the day.

 

I would be interested in seeing his response: does it read like fear, anxiety or just a desire to have his treat all to himself.

 

Without knowing anything else I would really dig into "has something happened/changed" angle.

 

That all said, they can be the darndest creatures. I one had a BC become afraid of a certain pair of boots I had - from one day to the next - for no reason I could discern at all.

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You say he is healthy..However has his general body movement changed slightly?.. Is there a chance he could be in pain?

 

Also you note that he actually gets 2 sets of treats.. One outside and one in. Is the problem with all treats or just the one given in the house? how does he act when receiving the treat you say he gets given outside?

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Thanks for the advice guys. I didn't want to make my original post too long or wordy so let me see if I can give you a better picture of our little problem.

 

I can't think of a thing that's different in his environment although I did worm him a few days ago but that was to see if it made a difference to Mr morning growly pants. Unfortunately not. There is no difference in the way either my wife or myself are treating the dog I'm pointedly keeping things the same I understand that's important for the dog. I monitor his health very carefully and there has been no change, he's still running around outside like a loon, tail up happy comes when I call and is like most BC's ball obsessed. When he gets his morning treat outside he's just fine and happy doesn't growl or mind being touched while eating. Although he does sometimes run around a little with it in his mouth before eating it so I'm not always next to him when he settles and consumes it. I'll try stroking him in the morning see how we go.

 

The problem arises only with the initial treat and drink (he gets a cup of milk) in the house first thing in the morning after he's been outside. I've never owned a dog before so all of this is new to me and I'd be inclined to think the problem is mine and not the dog's but for the life of me I can't understand how. I assume dog's go through phases ?

 

When giving him his indoor treat he comes towards me very slowly ears down tail down. Not slinking but not standing up straight either a lot like he's prepared to make a break for it if he's spooked (I never do anything to spook him). He looks at me and not the treat as he very slowly reaches out for it and it's at this point he starts growling. I always talk in a very upbeat manner to him and completely ignore his odd behaviour. He will take his treat and move away from me to eat it, I never disturb him while he eats it as I'm usually starting to get my day organised by then and I'm pointedly ignoring the thing he's going through. For the rest of the day ( I work from home so I'm with him a lot) he's just fine. No issues with any other treats he gets or his meals.

 

I'm totally lost on this one and I'm wondering if it's time to consult a behaviourist, we do have one around here somewhere who specialises in BC's.

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Thanks for the additional info.

 

To me your description doesn't sound as if he is acting dominant , rather that he is more fearful and uncertain about approaching you at this one particular time of day. Are you using a different soap/deodorant/washing powder etc so that you smell a bit different in the morning?

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I wonder about health issues. As others have said at that age there are behavioural changes and it could be related to his 'growing up' in which case, training will help. However, it would be a good idea to check his health, physically, is he in pain some way? And don't leave off the eyes.

 

As for the training, either seek a good trainer used to dealing with behavior issues using positive methods ( that is no choke chains, pinch collars or especially shock collars). Start with having him 'earn' his treats by sitting, doing some simple obedience or even doing some tricks-these work his mind.

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All good suggestions above.

 

One thing that caught my eye - you give him a cup of milk. A particular reason for that? IMHO, dogs (and cats) do not need milk after the adolescent stage (due to less lactase enzyme for digesting milk). A little milk here and there is no biggie, but a cup every day? Again, just curious if there is a reason.

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If you continue to offer treats in a situation where your dog is growling at you, you are reinforcing a behavior, growling, that you do not want. I'd suggest changing up the whole routine and taking him for a long walk on leash off your property and cutting out the walk-time treats, at least for now. Leaving your property, he gets to explore, feel more comfortable in the larger world away from home and is also more dependent upon you, especially if you go in a different direction each day. This should increase his confidence and increase the bond he shares with you. He can surely run to heart's content later in the day on your fenced land. I also wonder about that cup of milk which could be causing stomach upsets.

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Yeah, the milk could very well be an issue. As dogs age their ability to digest/absorb lactose is compromised. A cup a day represents a fairly large "dose" and could well be the source of the problem.

 

Personally, I would start by eliminating that. I might start the elimination by watering down the milk - starting with 2/3 water and 1/3 milk to retain the consistency and flavour (if he has been getting this his whole life it has become an expectation/habit and may well be a daily marker for him - something that without which his day becomes confused and he becomes a little disorientated).

 

Actually, I think what I would do (salt shaker should be handy, of course, this is just a musing) would be to try the treat before the milk and see if the response is the same. Just because the milk rings, with the small bit of info available, as the largest potential cause of the problem. Certainly the easiest fix :)

 

And as the poster above says, you are, in fact, rewarding his behaviour by continuing to give him the treat.

 

Another good suggestion was to ask for something - a sit, a down-stay, a speak, a nose touch, etc. before handing out the treat - this should give you some more data to add to the list of information and might provide help in solving the problem.

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Again thanks for the advice I appreciate it a lot. This morning I checked his outside treat behaviour and it was perfectly normal made him work for his treat and broke it up into small sections with a sit or a down and a pat for each piece. Seems perfectly normal I'm pleased to say. Although he did find a goose in one of the fields this morning chasing that got him excited :) (the goose comfortably made his noisy escape).

 

I'm not using any new deodorants or body washes unfortunately I think I'm a creature of habit too, much as I might like to think otherwise. I think more training is an absolute must and it's a good point about the milk I'll thin it then stop it. I also did a decent health check, checked his eyes both bright and shiny his ears, tongue, gums all healthy and pink and I ran my hands all over him with no problem at all no wincing or growling or shying away. He thought it was a game :)

 

I didn't give him the usual indoor treat this morning I substituted it with a handful of dry dog food and while he did turn into Mr growlypants it didn't last as long as normal. I'll try switching out his morning routines although I'm aware they need routine so slowly is better I guess. I do take the point that I maybe reinforcing this behaviour by continuing to give him a treat I figure the fault is mine here.

 

Walking him away from the property is also a good idea we have a load of trails through the woods around here so I'll use that as my excuse for more lead training. This information really gives me something to work on - thank you all.

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I'd be inclined to stop the treats when he comes in altogether. Switching from the duck jerky to kibble is just substituting a lower value treat for a higher value one. He's not growling as much because it doesn't mean as much to him, but he's still growling, so don't give him anything to growl over -- and, as a result, keep rewarding him for growling.

 

I'm with the others on the milk. May not be part of the problem, but it could be, so a good idea to take that out of the equation, too.

 

I'd suggest having a veterinarian do a thorough check see if she or he can spot something you're missing. Dunno if he's old enough to be developing thyroid problems, so might be good to ask about that.

 

I also agree about being very careful about whomever you might choose to help you with this issues. Don't choose a trainer (or a self styled "behaviorist) who's suing punitive methods. Too much risk that could come back to bite you in the butt (pun intended).

 

I suppose some dogs do better with routines, but honestly, I think the whole dogs-need-routine thing is way overrated. There's very little routine in my home. I don't even feed at set times and my schedule is very erratic. My dogs thrive and aren't any worse because of it. The downside of too strict a routine is that when something unforeseen happens -- and it inevitably does -- some dogs don't cope with the disruption well at all.

 

And in this case, since there have been no problems at other times, maybe breaking the routine and eliminating the trigger may be just the ticket.

 

Best wishes figuring this out.

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The others give sound advice.

 

I agree with GentleLake that the idea of routine is overrated. My dogs also have to fit round my lifestyle, not the other way round. It's just not possible for me to have a rigid schedule, but my dogs still thrive.

 

Also agree with the others be very careful about self styled behaviouralists.. even those claiming to have lots of qualifications,...many of these can be bought or else seem to mean that the person has attended a course that often includes little or no actual practical work with a dog (or at least that seems to be the case in the UK).

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Yeah, routine, schmoutine. I know a lot of experts say without a routine a puppy will not thrive - but I feel as long as they have consistency (in handling, environment and food) then routine is not so very important.

 

I live a Zen life - I sleep when I am tired, I eat when I am hungry, I walk when I feel like I need exercise and I read books when I need to relax. I more or less let my dogs do the same.

 

We do have some "routines" - such as the nightly grooming, the morning line up for vitamins or whatever pill/medication they take or just a treat, the order in which dogs get into the vehicle, stuff like that ... but our lives have a VERY broad intrepertation of the word "routine".

 

I think routines are maybe for dogs like they are for people - you want the basic routine in place because it provides a sense of stability - but you want it not to be a blueprint from which every day must be lived.

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I'm really pleased to hear this about routines I keep Mac's routines up because it seemed to be the accepted way to raise a pup, this is my first ever pup. I'm actually much happier not having a routine for the dog as such just maintain consistency with Mac. I know he expects his routines now so I'll be easing him out of them.

 

I did swap out his milk with a 90% water milk mix I'll do that for a few days then go to water completely and we didn't have Mr. Growly pants this morning either there was no indoor treat I let him run around outside and made him work for his outdoor treat. I'd like to say it worked a treat but the pun is too much :)

 

Generally Mac gets a few bits through the day and his main meal after ours in the evening but the vet did say dogs like most of us like a few treats or some food first thing in the morning to get everything working. I guess it makes sense after all I like breakfast. Any thoughts ?

 

Incidentally the behaviourist is a follower of the positive reinforcement method of training so no punitive training methods at all.She also does agility and obedience with her own BC's so I'm pretty confident if I have to involve her I'll get good advice.

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Glad things seem to be improving for you.

 

Food wise, I tend to give my adult dogs a small handful of kibble in the morning to line their stomachs and then the majority of their food mid - late afternoon ( time of this varies as it depends on what time I get in).

 

I only give a relatively small amount in the morning because my dogs will probably need to work later in the morning. When I kept my dogs purely as pets, I used to give 2 meals per day of equal size. (Obviously pups get a different meal regime).

 

I tend not to treat my dogs through the day, though they do get the odd additional bone.

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Good to hear!

 

Things are improving.

 

Yeah, I might split his meal into 1/4 - 3/4 or some such. They need something to get the gears going.

 

Maybe you don't really need a behavourist? Just a thought. Doesn't sound to me like its anywhere near that - but then again, farm girl here, and I think a dog mught need to be singing a song, dancing a jig and exposing himself to the neighbours through the window before I would consider such a move. So that's JUST ME.

 

Anyway - excellent to hear that things are improving.

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Hi Eibbed, I have worked at home before too. My "kids" came to recognize that after their basic needs were met 1st thing in the morning MY attention and attitude shifted. I wonder if your boy sees the last treat indoors, (right before you become "Serious Inattentive Dad"), as the catalyst to this mysterious change in you, (and therefore, his world). In other words, it could be the thing that happens right before, (or in his mind causes), a bad thing to happen to you. When we work outside of the home they don't see us all stressed, hurrying, inattentive to them, we're simply gone. When we reappear, we are all theirs again, we take them out, play, get whatever they need. Just a thought.

 

When his ears are down when this happens, are they also "stiff" and slightly rear of usually position, tight against the head? Ever seen any "tongue flicking" going on at the same time? Like just the tip of the tongue out of mouth, licking his nose? Both are usually a cue that he's in conflict as doesn't know what to think or how to behave. IE "I'm getting a treat, BUT, you are going to change on me in a minute". Could be that simple. Might try saving the last treat for a different time later in the morning after you have started to work. Just an impromptu break at random times, "hey, want a treat?", then go back to your work, and see what happens.

 

Sorry about situation with change towards wife. That's hard, mine always gravitate to me and I know it hurts DH's feelings. Have you tried thinking of a few special things that can be given to him by just her? Walk, short ride to pick something up, game? Mine pick right up when "Daddy" does special things with/for them one on one without me, but we have to remember to have him do it a time or two a week or they fall right back to being "mine".

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Yep your quite right we are exploring ways for my wife to interact with Mac that don't include me although that's complicated slightly by looming knee surgery so a lot of activity is out for awhile or at least will be through recuperation. I'm completely mixing his routine up now. He seems a little puzzled but extremely willing to go along with things. As we're coming into summer we got the tennis racquet and squeeky tennis balls out to use outside. He's a complete ball maniac :) He's spread out on the floor in the sun currently he's so tired all he can move are his ears :)

 

I'm still sticking my hand into his food at night so we don't get an evening Mr. Growlypants instead of the morning one. However for the last two mornings we've been clear of the morning one too. A big thanks to all of you for helping I appreciate the advice and help.

 

Incidentally while I'm asking for help, what does everybody do about the knots they develop behind the ears ? Mac has one on each side smallish currently but too big to put a comb or brush through. I'd like to deal with them and come up with a way to get him to hold still while I do it.

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.

 

Incidentally while I'm asking for help, what does everybody do about the knots they develop behind the ears ? Mac has one on each side smallish currently but too big to put a comb or brush through. I'd like to deal with them and come up with a way to get him to hold still while I do it.

Cut them out with scissors. You could make it a 2-person 'operation' by asking your wife to give Mac some treats or lick peanut butter off a spoon while you go in with small scissors to remove the mat. You could give the treats, but in the interest of helping Mac connect more with your wife, this would be a good opportunity for her to give him treats.

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I'm still sticking my hand into his food at night so we don't get an evening Mr. Growlypants instead of the morning one. However for the last two mornings we've been clear of the morning one too. A big thanks to all of you for helping I appreciate the advice and help.

 

If the growling is resource guarding, sticking your hand in his bowl can often make things worse. It's simpler to work on it by letting him alone most of the time to eat and 1-3 times a week come up to his bowl while he's eating and drop something tasty in it. Enough repetitions and he should make the association that you coming up to him while he has something means he'll get something even better, and you should see things like growling or bolting the food when you come close fade away.

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Great that you are getting things settled down. I got some plain old fashioned bubbles and a bubble wand in the toy section at Walmart for playing with my pup when she needs to play and I am tired. I had spinal surgery a year ago, sometimes the leg nerves that were compressed too long don't cooperate and I can't run and play as she needs. Someone here suggested bubbles for play time, she goes nuts for them. Easy to sit on lawn chair outside, blow them, watch her chase. I think they even have them for dogs specifically in liver flavor, etc. Might be an easy/fun event for just Mac and Mamma. Been a while since we've had a longer haired foster, but they used to make pet razor combs for matts in tight places. Easy to use, just like combing, might look at Pet's Mart, Foster's Smith, see if they still have them. They were pretty inexpensive if I remember right. Take Care!

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