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 Food aggression vs. Fear Aggression

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MimiB
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PostSubject: Food aggression vs. Fear Aggression   Mon May 07, 2018 12:31 pm

We adopted our sweet Whiskey about a month ago from a family that was from Italy and traveled too much to keep him. They were his only family and appeared to have taken very good care of him. He is 15 months old and we feel like he has adjusted fairly well to his new home. We have another husky-Mercy- who is almost 8 months old and they get along well. We have two cats that he shows slight interest in but mostly ignores. He is a very calm and passive pup when he is alone with us. He followed our little 14 month old granddaughter around the house like she was his own baby being very protective and gentle with her. I am giving all this background to express that he is generally NOT an aggressive pup.

However, on two separate occasions he has gotten people food off of the counter/table and tried to hide somewhere to eat it. Both times when we tried to take the food away he got aggressive and tried to bite (obviously now we make sure that our food is not left in a place where he can reach it). We were not able to get the food away before he finished it but we scolded him and told him "NO" in a stern voice. We assumed he was "food aggressive" although he will share a food bowl with Mercy with no problem. Then we took him to the vet on Saturday for a check up and he tried to bite the vet during the exam. This is a new vet to him and he was in a strange place. They tried to muzzle him but couldn't and ended up taking him out of the room to do the very quick exam. We left with a prescription for Valium and was advised to enroll him in obedience training. Yesterday he managed to get out the front door and took off running. My husband was able to get him back in the house. I told him "no- bad boy" in a stern voice and he hid behind my chair and wouldn't come out. I tried putting his leash on him and he snarled and snipped at me.

I don't want to be afraid of him and I don't want him to be afraid of me. We are wondering if his food aggression was really more fear aggression because we were scolding him for being bad now that we have seen two other occasions where he is aggressive when he is scared or thinks he is in trouble. He doesn't act alpha in any other way...like I said...he is very sweet and gentle in all other aspects. Honestly, other than these few occasions, he is very well mannered.

Side note: fairly certain that previous owners spoke to him in Italian so that could be an issue as well. He knows his name but doesn't obey any other commands scratch

Thoughts? Thanks!!
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aljones
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PostSubject: Re: Food aggression vs. Fear Aggression   Mon May 07, 2018 12:58 pm

Hey Jodi, I think you've hit it right on the head. Even though it's been a month he's still learning about you and wondering, in his puppy mind, where his (previous) owners are.

While I normally recommend hand feeding for dogs with food aggression, it still amounts to letting the dog know that he has nothing to fear from you. It might be worth a try... I can see my kitchen counter from where I am at the computer so if one of my three is showing more than passing interest about something on the counter it's simply "you better not." Which is enough to break their interest.

I also think you're right when you said the his previous owners spoke to him in Italian ... and doesn't obey any other commands. Not only is he in a place that's new to him, he doesn't, literally, understand what you expect of him. Probably going back to the very basics will help you over that hurdle. Just start with "set" and work up from there. He'll soon adapt to his new surroundings and not be so afraid that he feels he has to act out.
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MimiB
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PostSubject: Re: Food aggression vs. Fear Aggression   Mon May 07, 2018 1:21 pm

Thanks Al!

He will eat out of our hand with no problem and is not aggressive in any other way. Him and Mercy play really rough but I know that is just the way Huskies play. I really think it is more fear related than anything else. I have read so many articles on making sure that your dog knows that you are the alpha and not to let them be the master but I really do not feel like these instances of him being aggressive are him trying to show dominance. We will continue to work on the trust issue...and teach him English Very Happy
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TwisterII
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PostSubject: Re: Food aggression vs. Fear Aggression   Mon May 07, 2018 4:26 pm

Sounds like he gets defensive when he knows he's been a bad dog. Previous owner may have also smacked him around a bit to reiterate when he was being bad so might be associating tone of voice with a soon to come whack for doing something he knows he shouldn't. Negative reinforcement works wonders for some but doesn't sound like it has worked so well for this one. Back to basics and a nothing in life is free approach to training will likely work better for him. You gotta set your rules and stick to them. Don't let him make you scared of him. That can give a dog who clearly can't handle it too much power. It's a time thing. Time and patience and you will get there.

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MimiB
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PostSubject: Re: Food aggression vs. Fear Aggression   Mon May 07, 2018 4:53 pm

Thanks Jenn!

I know it probably sounds crazy but right now I am trying to learn some dog training terms in Italian to see if that helps. I don't know why we didn't think of it sooner but I am positive that the previous owners spoke to him in Italian (her son came with her to drop him off and translated for her because she didn't speak ANY English!). So not only was he in a new environment with strangers, but these strangers were talking to him in a way he didn't understand. I am hoping that if we can at least use a few words that he recognizes that maybe that will alleviate some of his fear while he learns our words. Because of the language barrier with the previous owner, we were not able to ask as many questions and get as many details about how they were raising him (did they give him table food and that is why he thinks its ok? were they heavy handed with him? did he have any formal training? etc).

He could be getting defensive when he knows he is being bad....or he could be reacting to the tone of our voice if he doesn't understand what we are saying to him. We will work on figuring that out Very Happy Very Happy
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Kaliska
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PostSubject: Re: Food aggression vs. Fear Aggression   Wed May 09, 2018 4:16 am

It sounds like he is extra sensitive to reprimand. Whether they were too rough with him in the past or not doesn't really matter. Either way he has to learn to trust you and what your tone of voice is going to result in. I would greatly tone down scolding or punishment rather than getting after him for the behavior and then only further getting upset at his response. Especially in situations like the vet office. Try to regain control by asking him to do something he can obey with a fairly neutral but forceful voice and then praising him for that to turn it back positive again. Keep things on hand to trade him for what he shouldn't have instead of demanding it until he understands what you are asking. If he gets confused about how to make the humans less unhappy and is unsure exactly how serious your threat is he is likely to quit listening and get defensive so you want to make a way for him to accomplish something good for every negative. When he learns to give things you will then have not only a way to stop him and make him obey but also to praise him for doing it instead of only creating a negative event. When a very sensitive dog does something wrong I give a very short reprimand, ask them to do something they know or just call them to come with me to another room because even a completely untrained dog can comprehend you want them to follow, and then praise lightly for doing something I wanted. I might then be able to go back to try to recover an object if they still have it with less of the defensive response remaining.

If I want a stronger, longer lasting reprimand we use banishment. They go to the other side of the gate from us or get tied somewhere visible but not where they want to be. When they are waiting calmly I go get them, ask them to do something basic even if they don't do it well yet (good time to work on sitting), and then praise and release to be around us again. All my dogs are very pack oriented despite being independent minded and stubborn so being stuck away from other people and dogs is far worse than being yelled at but there is nothing to get defensive about provided they are relocated or blocked off from everyone without using too much physical force. Some just try to take it out on the barrier or rope at first before they learn to wait and I will come back for them. They are usually far more eager to figure out what I want and do it in order to stay with the pack than if I had just continued to act upset with them or force them into obeying. Particularly true with easily defensive akitas that are not motivated by food or toys. At least I can win over huskies with the right treat.

The only one I've truly had to rely on trading objects was my malamute x husky because her brain seems to blow up around food and she has jaws of steel. My others are fairly soft mouthed and will drop things when startled but not her. If it goes in it did not come back out by any means and her definition of what is food has led to lots of vomiting events and concern it would turn into a vet trip. Even when nothing was left out she has eaten the 1800s hardwood anywhere it no longer meets evenly and kitchen linoleum in front of the gate to the front door. We kept treats, toys, filled kongs, and other chewies around so when she grabbed something or started to rip apart the house itself we could simply go "Aiko, no", and then happier "You want this?", "Come on", wait for her to approach, "drop it", and wave other enticing object in front of her until accomplished. Then tell her "good" and the incident is over without scolding while showing her that listening results in better things than stealing or destroying what she is told she shouldn't. We also would play using 2 toys to swap back and forth so throw one for fetch or tug until she wins it and then tell her to "drop it" while pulling out the other to then play with until she gets that one and won't return it. We could recover the same toy an increasing number of times before having to swap to get it back. She now gives up pretty much anything for even just praise and we avoid negative incidents of lots of orders not to eat something or trying to forcefully take it away. She also quickly learned to listen to the humans unhappy voice even if she doesn't recognize a command in it and not just run away because if you do figure out what the humans want they often ask you to do something that ends up with treats, play, or happy voices again. When bored she brings things to us for entertainment rather than eat the house and occasionally offers up objects for food. Usually they are rather pitiful items like a destuffed hedgehog toy but I was offered a raw bone for ham once. Laughing
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MimiB
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PostSubject: Re: Food aggression vs. Fear Aggression   Wed May 09, 2018 10:36 am

Thanks for all the great advice Kaliska!

He really is a good boy so I believe that he has had some training of some sort. We have only had him for a month so I am sure he still adjusting to his new home. He also came from a home where he was the only dog and now he has a Husky sister that torments him relentlessly (she is almost 8 months old and wants to play ALL the time!). I am sure it is overwhelming for him.
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