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Friday, July 26, 2013

Dogs and Sibling Rivalry

My two dogs have been fine for years and all of a sudden they have become aggressive and possessive between each other.  I have heard this could be caused by sibling rivalry. I know I had this with my sister and brother, but can this happen with dogs?

aggressive dogs with sibling rivalry

The answer is "yes", dogs do have the ability to display sibling rivalry.  This might a simple snap and growl from time to time to a full out brawl almost every time they get close to each other.  The important thing is to try and correct this as soon as possible or you may have to rehouse one or both of your dogs.

Here are some tips that we have developed over the years:
  • Keep your dogs separated until you are comfortable that they no longer act on aggressive tenancies or display dominance posturing.   
  • Before you begin, you must clearly understand that the most important relationship that needs to be reestablished and strengthened is the relationship between you and each of your dogs.  Remember that sibling rivalry is often caused because the owner has not demonstrated enough leadership.
  • Distance control is a very important exercise that you must practice with each dog on an individual basis.  Put the dog on a long lead and then throw something he will run after.  Gain his attention and have him come back to you.  If you can't easily get your dog's attention, give the lead a slight tug to get your dog's attention.  If you can't get their attention when they are going after a toy or bone, you will never get their attention if they start to go at each other.
  • Sibling rivalry is also caused because one of the dogs feels that there has been a special alliance established between you and the other dog.  Make sure that you treat each dog equally. 
  • Always have leashes on the dogs when they are together.  This will allow you and another family member to always be in control.  If you see too much staring or posturing between one or both of the dogs, redirect them back to you and have them do something on your terms.  A good idea is to have them sit in front of you and give you focus for a few moments.  After that, release them and continue to observe.
  • If your dogs don't become aggressive when you are with them, always make sure that they are crated when you are gone.  As the leader, you can create any environment you wish.  You have decided that they are crated when you are gone and will take the opportunity for aggression away.  This helps to diminish the inappropriate behavior.
  • As stated earlier, you need to build up respect between you and your dogs.  The term that I like to use is that you must be resolute.  Signs of respect that you should look for are:
    • Head down
    • ears back
    • quick licking of the lips
    • complete focus
The important thing here is to go slow and stay consistent.  Never put the dogs in a situation where you are not in complete control.  As the boss, you are in charge.  If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to contact your local Bark Buster Trainer at Great Dog Training in South Florida.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wolfie is Protective of His Food and a Little Aggressive

It is kind of strange.  Wolfie is normally a great dog, but sometimes he gets protective and aggressive with his food.  I don't want this to continue because I don't want anyone go get hurt by mistake.  What can I do to help Wolfie over this?

Aggression with any animal is not a great thing.  The good news that we can offer with canine food aggression is that we have a clear set of actions that can be taken to minimize or eliminate this issue.  We first have to think about the reasons Wolfie might be food aggressive and/or possessive.  

If Wolfie was a stray or a rescue, that could naturally cause possessive aggressive actions regarding food.  In this case, his food was a limited resource that was critical to his safety and health.  Naturally, he would act in such a manner to protect such an asset.  If Wolfie was starved intentionally or through neglect, that could also be a cause for his aggressive and/or possessive attitude towards food.  In this instance, the root cause could stem from poor nutrition.  

So what can we do to alleviate Wolfie's food aggression?  There are several actions that you can immediately perform.  Let's discuss some of them now:

  • Be sure you are the one who decides when mealtime will take place.  If Wolfie can boss you into feeding him when he wants, he will not see you as the sole provider of the food.  He will not recognize that you are not the one responsible for his well being.
  • Try scatter-feeding Wolfie.  Take his food and scatter it on the ground or in the yard.  He now is focused on grazing across a large area and not protecting an exact spot.  Hide some food behind a chair or under a plant so that it will take extra time to find it.
  • Teach Wolfie basic obedience such as "leave it", "stay", and "wait".  Exercise these commands during feeding time or even when giving him a little treat.  This will direct Wolfie's focus to you as the provider of food.  It will also direct him to wait until you allow him to take the treat or have his dinner.
  • If you need Wolfie to move away from his food, never directly approach him and his food bowl.  This is a naturally aggressive act and might trigger Wolfie to respond. Call Wolfie to you.  You are redirecting his attention to you and when Wolfie responds, you are enforcing that you are his care giver.  The food is not as important as obeying you.
  • If needed, use the leash when feeding.  This will help you redirect him away from the food, if needed, without becoming physical.
  • Never feed Wolfie in a corner.  This limits his options if anyone approaches him and also heightens any aggressive or protective tendencies he still may have.
  • If you have multiple dogs, feed them separately until you can resolve the food issue.  Introduce them back together one at a time.  Always be present and between them to assure them that you are the provider and you will guarantee that they all have the nutrition they need.
When there is an issue with any form of canine aggressive/possessive behavior, the important point is to take it slow.  You are setting the scene to allow Wolfie to come to the conclusion that everything is fine and he is safe.  He needs to learn this at his own pace and in an environment where he has the ability to learn.  This is not set on a specific time table.

If you need additional information on anything we have discussed, please feel free to go to our web site for more information or to gain our direct contact information: South Florida Dog Trainers

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Teaching Wolfie the Wrong Stuff

I like to teach Wolfie to do a lot of fun stuff, but sometimes he seems to take advantage of me and do them at the wrong time.  What can I do and what can I tell Wolfie?

We see this a lot as we are out working with out clients.  They teach Wolfie things like "give paw".  This is great when they ask him to do it, but they don't understand that they are conditioning him to do it when he approaches other people or might want attention. 

Just to peak your interest, a few other examples of teaching Wolfie the wrong thing are:

  • Jump on me when I come home.
  • What do you hear?  What do you hear?  What do you hear?
  • Get the squirrel!
We think nothing of this because, as humans, we can understand when an action should take place and when it might be inappropriate to perform an action.  This is based on our ability to "logically think through a situation".

Wolfie learns through pure repetition and consistency.  If I teach him to "paw me", he might paw me even though I might not ask for it.  If I teach him that it is OK to jump on me, he can jump on me and anyone else.  Wolfie doesn't understand "I can do this when...".  He only understands that it is acceptable to perform an action I have taught him.

So, the bottom line is never teach Wolfie inappropriate actions.  Don't teach him to "give paw" because he might go up to a guest with new, white silk pants.  Don't teach him to jump on you because he might go up to a two year old and jump on them.  Don't teach him to go "crazy at the window" because he might do it when you are in the middle of a dinner party.

As a general rule of thumb, teach Wolfie the basic commands and you will be fine.  We like to make sure that all dogs know:
  • Come
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Down
  • Walk
  • Crate/Bed
These are all simple obedience commands that won't have the possibility of causing inappropriate behavior.  If you have any questions, please contact us at Broward Dog Trainers

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Picking up Little Wolfie

Sometimes when I pick up Wolfie, he gives a little whimp or tries to give me a little nip.  What can I do to make sure that Wolfie is fine when I pick him up?

The most important aspect of picking up Wolfie is to make sure that you are not hurting or startling him.  He must feel comfortable during the entire process and be assured that you are always keeping him safe and secure.  Here are some qeneral tips:

  • Never let small children pick up Wolfie.  Wolfie might squirm and they might drop him.  They might also squeeze him and he might nip to tell them that he is being hurt.
  • Don't pick up big dogs.  They can easily squirm and you will drop them.  If you need to get your big dog into a car or on a bed, build a ramp or get some "doggie stairs".  This will assure that Wolfie will kept safe and you won't hurt your back.
Now, let's discuss how to pick him up, assuming that Wolfie is a medium to small dog and you have the ability to pick him up:
  • Lightly stroke Wolfie to make sure that he has no sores or aches.  Trying to pick up a doggie with painful spots is not a good thing.
  • Slowly approach Wolfie and calmly grab him around his belly.  Picking up a dog by grabbing them under their front legs can, at times, be painful.
  • Wait for a moment and then slowly lift him up to your chest.  Once he is there, praise him with a high pitched "Good Puppy".
  • Turn him and hold him against your chest while holding him with both arms.  He should be "right side up" so that his belly is resting in your forearms while you have one arm holding him in place.
  • Slowly pet him by taking your hand and stroking him down his body.
  • Keep the environment calm and quiet.  Loud noises or fast movement might startle him and you might drop him.  This is not good.
  • If Wolfie displays any anxiety or begins to squirm, put him down immediately.
  • When you are ready to put him down, return to holding him with both hands under his belly.
  • Slowly lower him, letting him see where his feet will touch the ground.
  • Once both feet are on the ground, praise him with a high pitched "Good Puppy" and let him loose.
Picking up Wolfie is a process of bonding and trust that is critical in the relationship you are trying to create with your dog.  Doing it correctly helps create a great experience.  As dog trainers, we have seen that improper grabbing and picking up of dogs can create lasting behavior issues.