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 The dominant/aggressive dog?

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Atlas
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Male Join date : 2012-12-22
Location : Fayetteville, NC

PostSubject: The dominant/aggressive dog?   Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:33 pm

I have been at a loss for what to do. I have been practicing NILF with Atlas, hand feeding him fairly often until we switched to raw feeding (and even sometimes then), deciding when playtime begins/ends, eating before him, not letting him enter or exit places before us or others - basically my husband and I have been showing him that we are in charge since we brought him home at 8 weeks old. He is 7 months now. Despite this we have been having issues with him, and I'm not sure whether to attribute that to dominance issues or aggression issues.

Until we started raw feeding I could take his food away and he did not really react except for giving me some quizzical looks. Now, he growls and snaps if you get too close to him while he eats. I figure that raw meat is better than kibble to him so he doesn't want to give it up, which is not the problem; I don't think I should be messing with his food and he should be allowed to eat in peace. The only time this is an issue is when he decides he'd like to take his meal onto the couch or into the living room I'd rather not have raw meat rubbed all over carpeted surfaces! But if you try to take it away or even attempt to slide a bowl underneath his face when eating the growling starts and he will bite, hard.

The same thing happens if he steals food off the counter while I am cooking (his last score was an entire stick of butter), and there is no way I can get it back unless it's a vegetable or something he'd gladly give up for a high reward treat. Seems that if it's dairy or meat there is no way I can get it back. He also does this with shoes, socks, and generally anything else he shouldn't have but WILL give it up for a treat for the most part, just not after a lot of noise and snapping. There have been times where even after I get the object back after trading him a treat for it, he will bite me. He has broken skin a few times.

Other than this he is a sweetheart. We taught him basic commands and he listens well. He plays well with other dogs of any size, is fine with cats, very gentle with small children - there is a long list of positives. I love him so much and it breaks my heart that he does this to me and my husband. I don't fully trust him because of the fact he's hurt me that few times, and it scares me that he might get worse as he gets older and larger. I'm not so much worried about the fact that he would hurt me, but that he might bite someone else. We have always been firm and kind to him. I don't know why he guards things, as he hasn't grown up with us taking things away for no reason without always offering a replacement toy or a treat.

My husband and I are looking into having a behavioralist come to our home and work with him but I was wondering if anyone could offer insight to our situation/give advice, or even share their experience if they have dealt with these same problems.
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Ghost
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Female Join date : 2011-09-20
Location : Vancouver, BC

PostSubject: Re: The dominant/aggressive dog?   Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:27 am

He sounds like a real sweetheart apart from the food guarding. You are absolutely right that the raw food is a very high value item for him and that's why he is so reluctant to give it up. Is it possible to shut the kitchen door or put a pet gate in so that there is no risk of him taking the food into other parts of the house? When he puts it on the sofa and you try to get it off him, there's a very good reason from your perspective but it's not one that he appreciates! (He'd probably even like it if the sofa smells of raw meat!). So if you can prevent it from happening in the first place, that's an important part of your strategy.

It sounds like you are already doing 'swaps' with him which is excellent. It's important to build up from easy items to the harder ones. Sometimes you might have to make a replacement toy seem really exciting by making a fuss of it yourself first, to make him want it.

Another thing you can do is teach a leave it command and/or a drop command, if you haven't already. Again, start with something easy and make it simple for him at the beginning - show him a treat in your hand and say 'leave it' and close your hand before he even had a time to take it. Then reward him with a different kind of treat from your other hand. You can gradually build up the length of time that you leave the item, and the difficulty of where you place it.

Don't worry about making him wait to eat until after you've eaten, or wait to go through doors, in terms of showing leadership, as dogs don't really care about that kind of thing. It's a question of manners - if that's what you want to train him to do, then it's fine, but if you don't mind then just feed him at the time that suits you best. I am like you and think a dog should be left to eat in peace, but I've had to teach a good 'drop' and 'leave it' to Ghost because he is always disappearing into a bush and coming back with a dead mole or something.

A behaviourist will be able to help you with this. It's a common problem and can be solved although like anything in dog training it can take a bit of time and effort. Good luck and let us know how you get on.
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mbarnard0429
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Female Join date : 2011-08-07
Location : Michigan

PostSubject: Re: The dominant/aggressive dog?   Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:32 am

In terms of the raw, I just leave mine gated in the kitchen. No reason to grab the food. I had a choking incident and in panic Delilah gladly let me grab her mouth. Just gate the pup off and let the, finish the meal with supervision.
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Ghost
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Female Join date : 2011-09-20
Location : Vancouver, BC

PostSubject: Re: The dominant/aggressive dog?   Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:38 am

Or if you're using a crate, you could feed in the crate.
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mbarnard0429
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PostSubject: Re: The dominant/aggressive dog?   Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:44 am

Very true!
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Tika
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Male Join date : 2011-08-11
Location : Montreal, QC

PostSubject: Re: The dominant/aggressive dog?   Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:10 am

Quote :
So if you can prevent it from happening in the first place, that's an important part of your strategy.

I agree.

I'm a big believer in boundaries, so when Kelly or I are cooking the pups have to be completely out of the kitchen at all times. This includes preparing their bones or anything else. This doesn't mean they aren't allow in ever, just not when I'm cooking or preparing food.

If they do come in We stop what we are doing and simply walk into or towards them saying OUT. Once they get to an acceptable location we stop moving but stand there until we get a sit or lay down. Once they relax and are outside we continue.

When we first got Ripley she was terrible and would routinely come into the kitchen and even counter surf food. She now has her boundaries and rules, and I think the last tie I caught her surfing was in the summer.

Quote :
Don't worry about making him wait to eat until after you've eaten, or wait to go through doors, in terms of showing leadership, as dogs don't really care about that kind of thing. It's a question of manners - if that's what you want to train him to do, then it's fine, but if you don't mind then just feed him at the time that suits you best.

Couldn't have said it any better.

Solid advice here Wink
Just keep at it and work on your leave it and drop its every day.

~Chris~

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