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WONDERFUL update on Boy's food aggression!

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I should be going to bed now but I just had to tell ya!


Boy and Fynne shared a 4 lb pork roast tonight. They each got half and they ate it with their snouts within inches of eachother!!!!


It's too late to go into details but I am so THRILLED with his progress! No posturing, growling, snarling, or tension (on his part anyway, Fynne was a bit leary). He ate his portion then rested his chin on the floor next to her food, with his head turned away from it.


It was only something like two weeks ago that he attacked her crate while she was eating too!


Eek, I'm ecstatic!! :rolleyes:

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Only two weeks - WOW!!!!


Off you go to the FAQ section, "food aggression" hasn't been done yet I think. Tell us how you did it! :rolleyes: .

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Thanks guys! I'm really quite surprised at what was accomplished yesterday. I'm still saying "wow" to myself. :D


For some background, Boy had food aggression issues when I adopted him last January. He went after my cat, he went after a stray pup I kept overnight (both crated next to eachother) and he went after Fynne at first, but he never showed aggression towards me regarding food.


UNTIL last fall when he went through 8 weeks of HW treatment, then when he was "not himself", then me being quite sick for six weeks. Those three events happened over the months of August and September.


His food aggression intensified greatly and I had to carefully manage him during feeding times and even before that when I would get the food out of the freezer. It was not good.


I first started working with him in regards to me, then in regards to Fynne. I'd put on his prong collar (mostly for control since he's so big, but partly for correcting.) and attach the leash. These are some of the things I did:


Have hubby get food out and put it in his crate. I'd keep him next to me (where he couldn't even see the food) until he was relaxed, then let him go in his crate to eat. (This took a long time. He had become very, very anxious, nearly obsessive, over food.)


I'd have hubby put it on the floor a ways from us and wait til he was relaxed, then let him eat.


I'd have hubby put the food within reach of the leash, wait for him to relax, then let him eat.


Before I broke my ankle I would have hubby put food on the floor, then walk Boy past it until he was doing so and not pulling.


I would have Fynne eating outside and walk Boy past her and do the same (from decreasing distances).


I would feed both dogs outside. I'd put Boy on a 20' lead and slip the handle over a post outside. I'd place his food 19 feet from the post so that he used up all but one foot of the lead. Fynne would be about 10-15 feet further away in a down-stay. I'd give the dogs the ok to eat while I sat on the porch away from them.


Boy always finishes first because he's so anxious. He's bad about going after Fynne or the cat, unreasonably so. I don't mind so much if a dog wants another animal to let him eat in peace but what he would do was unreasonable and had to stop, and he was like this from day one.


Anyway, he got done eating then froze and glared at Fynne, then went after her, except he only had one foot of lead before he was stopped cold. The jerk was enough to snap him out of that frame of mind but not enough to hurt him, which was the goal. This was only needed once. I fed them in the same manner the next day or so but he didn't attempt that again.


I'd feed the dogs outside, Boy on the 20' lead, me holding the end and sitting on the porch. Fynne was within reaching distance of him, but not by much, and we formed a triangle between the three of us, with about 15 feet between each of us. Boy got done eating first then went after her, except he was stopped short. I called him to me and put him in a down-stay and would not let him stare at her while she finished.


I mixed up the way I did things but that's the general order.


I also have a long stick, more like a dried reed that's hollow in the middle, that's about 5' long. After I had good control of him on the leash I began working with him off leash, using the stick when needed.


For this I'd keep Fynne crated. I'd put the food on the floor with Boy in a down-stay and I'd stand back a bit. I'd use the stick to block him or tap him on his chest if he broke his stay. If he was determined to get the food then the stick would have been useless because it's not strong at all. It's dried out, light, and hollow and could easily break. It was just used as a reminder.


I did variations of him being off leash, outside and in, with different sizes of food, etc. until I had good control of him off leash.


This brought us to a point where he was again not at all concerned about me with regard to his food. I could call him away from food (sometimes suprising him with food I'd had hidden near me), have him wait with no attempts to break the stay, walk past food, etc.


Then 4 1/2 weeks ago I broke my ankle. The first 1 1/2 weeks I went back to managing feeding time because my ankle was really tender, but for the last 3 weeks or so I have been working with him again.


It was then that Boy attacked Fynne's crate. She was in there finishing up her meal. Boy had just finished eating and I had him on the leash the entire time. I got in the wheelchair to take him outside and while I was reaching for the doorknob he went after her. I didn't see that coming because he was being so obedient but he did do that once last fall, so I should have been more careful. (I understand now why that happened. Obedience is not enough. See further below for an explanation.)


Here are some things I did after I broke my ankle:


With me lying on the couch with my foot propped up and Boy on the leash I would have hubby bring food out and have Fynne eat it in the same room as us. Boy would be made to lay there in a down-stay.


Or I would get in the wheelchair, lock the wheels (that's important! :rolleyes: ), have hubby put food on the floor, have Fynne out but not allowed too close to the food, and I'd hold Boy's leash until he was obedient to me.


I did variations within the house with both dogs, Boy always on the leash. The first goal was to keep him from dragging me off the couch. The second goal was to keep him in a down-stay and obey any command I gave. The third and final goal was to remove any trace of anxiety so that he was completely calm and relaxed and not at all concerned about her or the food.


This last goal was influenced by Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer) and is what brought us so quickly to the point we got to last night.


Prior to watching all of those shows I was satisfied with Boy remaining in a down-stay, or walking past food with me, or whatever. After that I wanted more. I wanted him to be completely relaxed with no trace of anxiety.


So, with Boy on leash, me on the couch, Fynne in the room and food on the floor, I would put Boy in a down-stay on the floor next to me. I'd take up all the slack in the leash and have him facing me and not the food or Fynne. If he was looking towards me then I lowered my leash holding hand so that there was a bit of slack. If he turned his head or body towards Fynne or the food then I would bring his attention back towards me.


It was harder to accomplish complete and total relaxation at first because he'd try to get up so he was was facing the food or Fynne. Once he realized that he wasn't going to be allowed to do that it was ridiculously easy! Any time his ears went up or he showed any interest at all in the food or Fynne, I'd use my forefinger to gently tug on the leash, and his ears would go back down and he'd just lay there with his chin on the floor and even shut his eyes and take a nap!


This was a lightbulb moment for me! :D


That became the goal from that point on, and forever will be with any dog I have, regardless of what the behavioral issue is.


That lightbulb moment was less than a week ago.


The next day I had their entire meal in two seperate dishes on my lap while in the wheelchair. It wasn't one big lump, but cut up chunks, and for a reason. I had both dogs sit in front of me, Boy on leash, and snapped him out of any signs of anxiety. Only when he was completely calm would I give him a chunk of meat.


We did the same thing for a few more days, all those chunks equaled an entire meal for each.


The next day was last night. I was on the couch, Boy was on the leash on the floor beside me. I had hubby put Fynne's food on the floor about 6 feet from Boy, and Boy's food was placed about a foot away from him. I didn't give the ok for either dog to eat until Boy was completely relaxed. Then I had hubby attach the leash to Fynne also so that she wouldn't run away from Boy in fear. I brought Fynne closer, snapping Boy out of any sign of anxiety.


Closer, closer, closer, until they were literally eating their RMB within inches of eachother. Boy finished first and I kept him from getting anxious about anything. He rested his chin on the floor, nose pointed away from Fynne, and just relaxed!


Fynne was a bit leery (leary?) but not too bad at all, not enough to struggle to get away or anything. Boy's calm composure helped trememdously with that! She's pretty scared of him when it comes to food.


All that was left was a tiny marrow bone and that could take forever, so I took it from her and with my finger, shared the marrow between them.


And that was it!!!


I realize now that obedience is not enough. I need Boy to completely relax, what Cesar refers to as "calm submission".


I forgot to mention something. Earlier in the day yesterday I had a small power struggle with Boy. I told him to go in the crate for whatever reason and he refused, so I got into the wheelchair to make him. I had to wheel all around the house while the little brat avoided me! I finally got him in a part of the room where he couldn't get past me, then herded him towards and into the crate. I did not shut the door but told him to stay. He made attempts to leave but I'd just roll back towards him. He finally gave up and stayed there, even when I went to the bathroom and came back. Then I told him it was ok for him to get out and he came to me, head lowered and ears back, and sat in front of me. That's deference! I didn't call him to me or tell him to sit. So it was then that I decided to feed them, while he was still in that deferent mood, and I kept him in that mood throughout, all the way to the last glob of marrow! :D


My whole philosophy is changing right now. I'm realizing that obedience does not necessarily equal deference. My goal from now on will be to eliminate any trace of anxiety so that I have a dog that is completely, 100% relaxed in mind and body.


I'm anxious to get this cast off so I can take Fynne back to the field next to the dog park and work on her dog aggression. Who knows? Maybe she will be in there with the other doggies within a week! Why not? Boy turned her around even quicker than that! :D

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That's funny, I've been thinking along the same lines after reading the Cesar Millan discussions here.


Kessie is one brave girl but she's still scared of a lot of things. Now, when I see her going stiff and getting "hard eyes", staring at something, I get between her and the "something", block her view of it, make her concentrate on me and lie down.

It actually works! She does relax. It's still too early to see if her fear of certain sounds will get better that way, but it's a start.

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Hmm, that's a lot to think about, Miz. I've been having the same sort of lightbulb moments about Zeeke. I'm not nearly as active as you are in training, though, unfortunately.... I need to do more. But even my hubby is surprized at how Zeeke is deferring to me and doing what I ask, when I ask.


Luckily with Zeeke, he doesn't have food aggression issues... I'm able to grab his dish from him and take it away if I wanted to. Thank dog. I don't think I could have handled any more. :rolleyes: But I'm still following my trainer's suggestion of randomly walking over and putting in something *really good*, taking the bowl away and putting the treat in and giving it back. The goal is to get the dog *eager* to have you take his food away. I think it will help him with his object guarding issues too.


I think the worst part about all this dog training is that you look back and realize all the mistakes you made along the way.

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Interesting, eh? My dog, MY dog, eating calmly within inches of another animal. Who'da thunk?


I thought of another way to test this theory. From day one Boy had a major problem having his ears medicated. His very first day with me he tucked tail and ran when he saw the earwash bottle. The vet the next day was unable to medicate his ears and advised me to bond with him for a few days before attempting it again. They reckon whoever owned him before was probably rough with him (he always used to have ear infections).


I did bond with him, but it's the one thing that could cause him to bite out of fear. He HATES it and completely freezes.


Tonight I sat on the floor and called him to me. I had no treats or toys so he knew something was up. He doesn't care to be groomed and likes having his toenails clipped even less, so probably thought that or the ear thing was coming.


He didn't want to come but he did. I put him on his side and pet him and though he made no attempt to move out of position, he was tense.


I laid down on the floor with him and simply loved all over him until his eyes closed and he completely relaxed. Then I reached for the earwash bottle that was hidden and set it on the floor about a foot in front of his head.


Then I laid back down and loved on him some more until he was completely relaxed. I sat up, then he got up and looked at me like "here it comes", but all I did was put the bottle on the table and left. He kept looking at me funny because it wasn't what he expected. :rolleyes:


We'll see how this theory works with the earwash bottle issue.


Thanks for reading my horribly long post and sharing in my happiness guys! I've got nothing but good things to report from this house lately!


Except Fynne's linebacker moment. :D

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It was no fluke because we did it again tonight!


Tonight it was lungs. Again I leashed both dogs, just a couple feet from eachother next to the couch, and let Fynne work on the big chunk first. It was so much easier with Boy this time! He had his head turned looking at me the entire time she ate her portion, which took several minutes. Then I took it from her and gave it to Boy to finish off.


The entire process went incredibly smoothly as far as he goes, as if he never had any food issues. She's still not too happy about the idea and ate her food anxiously instead of calmly. I can understand her anxiety but I think that will fade once she realizes that she's not going to get jumped.


If Boy can keep this calm attitude up over the next few feedings or so then I think I'll attach the end of his leash to something on the other side of the room, bring out two very large RMB's, and work on Fynne's anxiety. That way Boy would be calmly busy eating and I could focus on relaxing her.


Who knows? Maybe next time we butcher a cow they'll be able to happily work on the same big part at the same time out in the yard! I've seen pictures of many dogs doing just that, so it's very possible. We're on our way!


Did I mention that this is amazing? :rolleyes:

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