Dealing with Doggy Delinquents

Love Dog

 

In This Chapter

  • Understanding the limits of punishment
  • Helping a dog overcome his fears
  • Calming the anxious, energetic, or barking pup
  • Working with your Pom’s aggressive tendencies
  • Dealing with nuisance behaviors
No matter how perfect your dog’s parents, no matter how wonderful his puppyhood, and no matter how hard you work to socialize and train him, your dog will do something you don’t like. Considering that 90 percent of all dog owners report a behavioral problem, you’re lucky if your dog’s bad behavior is only a nuisance. If you’re not so lucky, it’s a more serious behavior that disrupts his or your life. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with it.
In this chapter, I preview the top complaints of Pom owners and guide you through combatting each one. But — and this is a big but — one thing you don’t get from me is advice on how to punish your Pom. Why? Because as a scientist trained in animal behavior, I strongly disagree with the use of punishment in dealing with bad behavior. After all, your dog just needs some coaxing in the right direction — a little positive reinforcement, if you will. And that’s just what I help you offer for each of the predicaments in this chapter. First, though, I dive a bit deeper into the punishment versus positive reinforcement debate to start your training efforts on a solid foundation.

Squelching Bad Behavior: The Two Major Methods

Like you, your Pom learns from experience. She’s more likely to do things that make good things happen or bad things go away and less likely to do things that make bad things happen or good things go away. That’s actually the entire crux of training. The hard part is bringing this into play in real life.
Of these choices, it’s easiest to make good things happen (reward) or make bad things happen (punishment). In this section, I compare the pros and cons of reward versus punishment. Here’s a hint: Sparing the rod will not spoil the Pom.

Understanding the pitfalls of punishment

It’s human nature to want to lash out when somebody, even a cute little Pom, destroys your belongings or does something wrong. It may make you feel better for a second while you blow off steam. But it won’t help you feel better a few minutes later, and it sure won’t help your dog to shape up. In fact, lashing out can undo all your other good training efforts.
I strongly advise against using punishment to shape your Pom’s behavior for several reasons, among them the following:

Punishment doesn’t tell a dog what to do; rather, it tells a dog what not to do. Anyone who’s ever tried to follow instructions of any sort can understand how frustrating this not-so-helpful type of guidance is. Eventually a dog will quit trying to figure out what you want altogether.

The timing of the punishment is usually too late to be effective. In reality, a dog usually has dug several holes or barked a few thousand times before the owner decides to do something about it, but in order to be effective, the punishment needs to happen immediately after the infraction.

It can cause aggressive behavior. Although severe punishment has long been the advice for dogs that show signs of aggression, in most cases, it’s the worst response because it can actually cause aggressive behavior. Just like in humans, pain can make a dog want to strike out and direct that aggression back toward the source.

And you thought you were being clear

The key to training is communication, and too often, what you have with punishment is a failure to communicate. Pity the poor pup who has to decipher your mixed messages in the following situations:
Scenario
You discover your dog has urinated on the carpet.
Your dog has an irritating habit of running and barking at visitors.
Your dog growled once when you reached for his food bowl.
Your dog ignores you when you call.
You come home and find your dog has made a shambles of the place.
What You Say/Do
You find him sleeping, drag him to the wet spot, and scold him while rubbing his nose in it.
You tell your visitors to kick at him.
You yell at him and take the bowl from him to teach him a lesson.
When your dog does come, you snatch her, look her in the eye, and yell that when you say “Come” you mean come!
You angrily scold him.
What Your Pom Learns
Every once in awhile, when he’s sound asleep, you go insane. He begins to mistrust you.
Yep, he was right: Visitors are bad. He’d better bite them next time.
He was right: You really did want to steal his food. Next time he may have to bite you because growling didn’t work.
Coming to you got her punished. She won’t do that again.

You’re in a bad mood when you come home and should probably be avoided. Next time you come home, he slinks away, which you interpret as acting guilty because he knows he’s messed up something.

It can lead to some unwanted behaviors that may be related to emotional aspects of flight-or-fight. Examples are

  • A dog that runs away when situations remind her of punishment
  • A dog that’s fearful of punishment so she avoids you or snaps at you because she’s scared

Remember

That doesn’t mean punishment never works. The problem is that it only works under specific situations, and more often than not, those guidelines aren’t met when you punish your dog. For punishment to work, it ideally needs to follow these ground rules:

– It’s severe enough to offset the rewards of the infraction.

– It happens immediately after the infraction.

– It happens the first time the infraction occurs.

For example, if a dog jumps up, puts his paws on a hot burner, and gets burned the first time he does it, he doesn’t do it again because the circumstances follow the three ground rules.
Considering the best approach: Positive behavior training(2)
If punishment doesn’t work, then what does? You can’t just let your Pom run amok, doing as she pleases. Well, not too much, anyway. Think positive: What can you do to make your dog have rewarding experiences? Doling out treats, playing with toys, or going for a walk are all things likely to turn your Pom on. And how can you make those experiences relate to her good behavior? Always be ready with a treat, toy, and special caress when your Pom makes the slightest bit of progress.
Exactly how you reward your dog’s behavior will depend in part on what you’re trying to get him to do — or not do.

Helping a Fearful Dog Be Brave

Dogs appear to be gregarious and brave animals in general, but in fact, many dogs have fear issues. Living in fear robs your dog (and you as his companion!) from engaging in lots of normal, fun activities and puts him at risk for panic-running, fear-biting, and high stress levels.

Remember

Fearfulness can be inborn, but it also may be the result of poor socialization or a traumatic event during puppyhood. You can address fearfulness by training, drugs, or both. The type of fear your dog exhibits determines which method(s) works best. Keep these two distinctions in mind:

– A dog with generalized fear is more likely to have a genetic predisposition and is less likely to benefit from training. Medication or general socialization may be the best bet in such cases.

– A dog with a specific fear is more likely to be suffering the consequences of a specific event; he’s more likely to be helped through behavior modification than with medication.

Training away the fear

Dogs with a specific fear are most often afraid of strange people, strange dogs, the veterinary clinic, and loud noises. Dog trainers use one of two main training techniques to minimize the fear: desensitization and flooding. The most effective training technique to minimize fear is the desensitization method. (Because I don’t advocate the flooding method, I cover it for your information in the sidebar “Freaking out your dog on purpose: Flooding.”)
The best way to reduce a dog’s fearfulness is to go slow and easy. Your goal is to end each session with your dog relatively nonfearful. This means either you undertake marathon sessions that last so long that your dog is finally used to the situation or you provide short sessions with milder situations where exposure to a fearful event doesn’t overwhelm your dog.
To help your dog build confidence and a feeling of control, follow these general guidelines:

Gradually expose him to whatever it is he’s afraid of. For example, if he’s afraid of strange dogs, start so far away from one dog that he just barely notices it. Then the next day — and only if he’s calm — move a little closer.

Remember

Your dog is learning to be calm. If he’s still afraid at the end of a session, you’ve only reinforced his fear. You’ve pushed him too hard, or you didn’t expose him long enough. Because staying long enough might mean pitching a tent, my advice is to back off next time and go more slowly.

Prevent inappropriate responses. Keep your dog from biting, running away, and so on out of fear. Instead, if he looks like he’s going to freak out, get his attention and have him do a simple trick. Then reward him for the trick by moving away from whatever he wanted to get away from. This step gives him some control while teaching him that looking to you for leadership is the best solution.

Encourage responses incompatible with fear. Rather than just have your dog stand there and think about how scared he is, get him to do something like relaxing, eating, playing, hunting, or walking. This way he begins to associate good events and feelings with the feared object.

Freaking out your dog on purpose: Flooding

The common alternative to desensitization is flooding, a practice in which you expose your dog to his fear at superhigh levels and for extended periods of time. The logic presumes that normal levels of the feared event, then, will seem like nothing in comparison. The result doesn’t turn out that way, but, unfortunately, dog trainers still try this method all the time.
For example, is the dog afraid of people? A trainer that uses the flooding method would take the dog to a shopping center and hold him while everybody and anybody who goes by can pet him. The only problem is that this approach works no  better than locking a person in a room with spiders. You’re likely to end up with a dog really afraid of people — and shopping centers.
Flooding is ineffective for two reasons:

The dog has no control over her own well-being, and having no control increases her anxiety and fear. In fact, when dogs are unsuccessful at escaping the situation, they often turn to the only control left to them — growling or biting in self-defense. The horrified owner then typically punishes the dog and may even decide the dog can’t be trusted, so he gives up the dog.

The process depends on the dog becoming so accustomed to the feared object that she can’t maintain her level of fearfulness. In truth, that process would usually take many hours, if not days, and most people don’t wait that long. Instead, they spend an hour at the shopping center for petting (tormenting, in the dog’s view). The dog may eventually give up her attempts to escape, but her fear probably doesn’t diminish much. She leaves the shopping center knowing three facts: She can’t escape from these strange people; her owner won’t help her; and the shopping center is a very scary place. When her owner takes her back the following week for round two, she’s even more scared.

An example of this strategy is taking your dog for a walk with another person if your dog is afraid of strangers. Allowing him to focus on the walk — and have fun with the stranger — is better than just standing there while a stranger pets him.

Let him see other dogs and you behaving appropriately. If your dog is afraid of strangers but has a doggy buddy, he may be encouraged to join in the greetings if his best doggy friend is getting petted and eating treats from a stranger.

Remember

Your dog can take cues from you as well. When he acts fearful, avoid clutching him to you, pulling on the leash, or coddling him. Instead, act jolly, like there’s nothing at all to be afraid of. Have him do a trick if you really want to pet and reward him, so he earns it.

In addition to the general guidelines, these tips can help in specific situations:

Fear of strange people: Select the people you want her to meet. Instruct them to stop a short way from the dog, not looking at her, not even facing her. They should ignore her while you talk or walk with them. Let them offer a treat, again without looking at the dog, and let the dog make the approaches. Remember to proceed gradually.

Fear of strange dogs: Walk the dogs together, with the other dog on a leash, of course, held by his owner. Keep the other dog from getting in a position where he can chase your dog by keeping them both on leashes.

Fear of the veterinary clinic: Take her for short visits to the clinic’s waiting room. Just pop in and back out; then go for a ride in the car to a place she really likes.

Fear of thunder and other loud noises: Fear of thunder is a difficult phobia to treat because you can’t control how loud the booms are. In many cases, drug therapy is needed so the dog can experience being calm during a thunderstorm.

For other loud noises (such as gun shots), try to drown out the bangs with loud music. For some reason, this seldom works for thunder; dogs seem to be able to sense the thunder through the music. But you can try. If loud noises are an ongoing problem, you can help your dog deal with them by gradually exposing him to louder and louder noises and rewarding him for calm behavior, just as you would for any other fearful thing.

Medicating away the fear

Prescribing drugs to dogs for behavioral problems may not seem natural. But in fact, drug therapy is often an attempt to bring a dog’s chemicals that affect behavior back into normal balance. The most commonly prescribed drugs for dogs are antianxiety drugs, which may help with fear- or separation-related behaviors. They must be prescribed by a veterinarian.
The best use of drugs is in tandem with training, not in place of it. Sometimes a short regime of antianxiety drugs can help your dog be calm during training. This assistance is especially beneficial if he’s too fearful to make any progress. Drugs aren’t usually a longterm answer, but in conjunction with desensitization, they can help work wonders and are certainly a better alternative than letting your dog live in fear.

The field of fixing doggy behavior problems

If your dog has a serious behavior problem, especially one that has you considering giving him up or even euthanizing him (behavior problems are some of the most common reasons for these choices), your veterinarian may be a source of behavior information.
However, because veterinarians are expected to keep up-to-date in many fields covering several species, they can’t be specialists in every field. So, for serious behavioral problems, a certified clinical behaviorist can be of more help. Clinical behaviorists are trained in diagnostics and treatment and have the advantage of being able to recognize and treat organic problems such as brain tumors, epilepsy, and chemical imbalances that may be responsible for behavior problems.
Professional canine behaviorists are often satirized in movies as asking dogs about their dreams or showing dogs inkblots, but in fact, these behaviorists are usually highly trained veterinarians with specialized training in behavior or animal behaviorists with PhDs. They work with animals that have behavior problems using the latest animal behavior, behavior modification, and drug knowledge. Your veterinarian can consult with one or refer you to one in your area (go to www.avma.org/education/abvs/vetspecialists.asp for a listing of diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists).
Your dog’s obedience instructor also may be a source of information. Like veterinarians, dog trainers vary widely in their levels of behavioral training. Look for a trainer who is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.apdt.com) and is certified through the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers (www.ccpdt.org).
I don’t go into a lot of detail about drug therapy here, mainly because that’s a job for a veterinarian, preferably one with specific training in behavior problems. Certain drugs work better for certain problems, and they know which ones. Remember, in this day and age, it’s no stigma for your dog to be on doggy downers or puppy uppers!

Combating Separation Anxiety

You come back from a hard day at work, open the door, and gasp. Vandals! Your home has been ransacked by vandals! Your Pomeranian dances at your feet. The poor guy must have tried his best to stop them. He’s panting and shaking, and it looks like he’s drooled all over himself. You call the police and then start inspecting the damage. Funny thing — these vandals appear to have clawed and bitten everything. And that scrap of sofa stuck on your dog’s tooth? Indisputable evidence. This was an inside job — the vandal is your panicked Pomeranian.
When this scenario happens time after time, it’s most likely one of the most common canine behavioral problems, separation anxiety. A dog with separation anxiety is stressed, and in many cases, she’s trying to find her owner. She only knows that her owner’s gone, so she often does the following:

– Center a lot of her destruction on exits, trying to dig under doors, peel screens from windows, or chew through door frames

– Gets so upset that she urinates and defecates on the floor and then spreads it around as she paces back and forth in agitation

– Barks or howls, calling for her owner and angering the neighbors

But you don’t see all this. All you see is red!

Remember

Instead of punishing her, you’re better off turning around and sitting outside to cool off first. Your dog isn’t doing this to spite you. Although she appears to look guilty, she’s actually scared because she saw you go crazy the last time you came home after she had done this. As much as she wanted you to return, now she slinks away in fear.

Separation anxiety tends to get worse, not better, on its own. But if you can’t wring her neck, how can you get through to her? Strange as it may sound, it will take you changing many of your behaviors. This is your starter kit:

Start with short times away. Leave for only short periods — maybe a minute — at first. Your goal is to return before your dog has a chance to get upset. Work up to longer times gradually, repeating each level several times before moving to a longer period of absence, always using your I’ll be right back cue (see the later bullet).

Remember

You want her to associate the cue with feeling calm. If you must be gone longer than your dog can tolerate, don’t give her the I’ll be right back cue (see the later bullet in this list). You don’t want to lie to her.

Downplay departures. Make the difference between you being home or gone as subtle as possible — no long farewells and as few cues as possible that you’re leaving.

Common cues are putting on your shoes, picking up the car keys, or turning off the television. Instead, rattle the keys and turn the television off at random times throughout the day when you’re not going anywhere.

Use an I’ll be right back cue. You can also give your dog a cue that tells her you won’t be gone long — spray some air freshener in the room, turn on a radio (if you don’t usually have one on), or put down a special bed. Incorporate one or more of these cues into your short-time departures (see the first bullet in this list).

Return nonchalantly. Nobody but a dog can greet you after a ten-minute absence like you’ve just been on a trip around the world. But for now, keep the reunion low key. Ignore her until she’s calm. Even better, give her a cue to do a trick and then reward her for that to take the focus off your return.

Tip

Find a safe place. If you need to leave your dog for a long time, play it smart and place her where she can’t do much harm. You may need to crate her or place her in an exercise pen (see Chapters Prepare to Be Pomerized! and Saving the Carpets: Housetraining for details).

These options don’t help cure her problem — they just confine the range of destruction. And confinement isn’t a longterm solution. Eventually some dogs come to associate the crate or pen with being left, and they become anxious as soon as they have to go in them.

Consider antianxiety aids — for your dog. Antianxiety or antidepressant drugs may help dogs that are extremely stressed. Usually you must give these drugs on a continuous basis, not just when you’re leaving. However, you may need to add some drugs for the treatment of panic when the dog is going to be left alone.

Remember

As with all drug therapy, this decision should be made with the guidance of a clinical behaviorist.

Consider getting a canine companion for her. Most separation anxiety focuses on the presence or absence of people, not dogs. For the older puppy or adult dog, a person is the primary caretaker and essentially takes the place of a parent. But sometimes another dog can help alleviate separation anxiety.

Calming a Ping-Pong Pom

Pomeranians, despite their small size, are energetic dogs. They can race back and forth in your house, jump up and down at your feet, and bark at their own shadows. An active dog is fun, but is your dog hyperactive?
Most dogs labeled as hyperactive are simply active dogs without an outlet to burn off their energy. That means you need to ramp up your Pom’s activity, and the exercise works best if it’s both mental and physical. Here are some ideas:

– Throw balls for him inside the house.

– Take him for walks and runs.

– Practice some agility obstacles.

– Teach him some challenging tricks.

For more ideas, see Chapter Ten Cool Activities to Do with Your Pom.
After your Pom works off some of her energy, she needs to be rewarded for her calm behavior. Keep these suggestions in mind for helping her earn those rewards:

– Speak calmly and quietly.

– Ignore any pushy or overactive behavior. She must display acceptable behaviors to earn your attention.

– Have her sit and stay if she wants you to go play again.

– Reward your active dog when she’s calm, even if that reward is then doing something active!

Remember

You don’t want a dog that’s a lump on the rug — you just want one that can follow your schedule.

– Show her that relaxing can be rewarding by giving her a massage as she lies down and relaxes. Soon she’ll realize that sharing calm times with you can be just as pleasurable as the active times.

Quieting a Barking Nuisance

A talking Pom is cute. One that barks an alarm is handy. One that barks to alert you to the presence of oxygen in the air is a nuisance. If you yell at your dog to make him stop barking, he thinks you’re joining in the fun. Not a good plan! Instead, be calm and quiet yourself. Poms that bark when they’re excited need to understand that being quiet is more rewarding than barking. Follow these steps with your noisy critter:

1. Wait until she’ quiet momentarily and then give her a treat.

If need be, you can throw a clattering can filled with coins on the ground to stop her momentarily so she can be quiet enough to begin training. his may be easier if you have her sit and stay first (see Chapter Mastering Manners and Basic Commands for teaching this command).

2. Keep repeating Step 1, gradually increasing how long she must be quiet before getting a treat.

3. Add a cue word like “Shhhhh” as you start your timing.

Eventually, she figures out that the cue means she gets a treat if she’s quiet.

4. Try Step 3 when there’s really something to bark about.

Remember

You can’t stop her from barking entirely, but you may get it under control.

If your Pom barks when she’s alone, she may be bored or lonely. Try one or a combination of these suggestions:

– If she’s outside, bring her in — when she’s quiet — so she can share daily activities with the rest of the family. (Sometimes that means you have to stand by the door and wait for her to hush up for five seconds.)

– Give her something to do that’s more fun than barking. It’s hard to bark when you’re busy chewing a bone or working the food out of a treat toy.

– Make sure she has plenty of exercise. It’s hard to bark when you’re asleep.

If your dog’s barking is so bad that you live in fear of being evicted or of having your dog declared a nuisance, talk to your veterinarian about the pros and cons of surgical debarking (which usually renders the dog with a quiet, hoarse bark). This solution isn’t a great choice for tiny dogs (surgery can be risky and not totally successful), but it may be the only choice in some extreme cases.

Collaring that bark

Shock collars may quell the barking momentarily, but they don’t work in the long term. Citronella collars, which automatically spray a distasteful citrus scent when the dog barks, are more effective — perhaps because the scent lingers.
However, some dogs figure out that they can avoid the spray by barking and jumping backward; others just bark until it empties and then bark with wild abandon. Even if they do refrain from barking when the collar is on, many dogs figure out it’s safe to bark when the collar is off.

Nipping Biting in the Bud

Pom owners are often lax about curbing their pride-and-joy’s aggressive behaviors. But even small dogs have the ability to inflict significant injuries. On one tragic occasion, a Pomeranian killed a human baby that the owner had left alone with the dog. That’s definitely the exception, but Pom teeth can still hurt. A dog that bites is dangerous to others. She’s also unpopular and at risk for euthanasia.
Dog aggression encompasses many types of behavior that result in growling, biting, or attacking. The aggression may be

– Play that just gets out of hand

– A response to pain or fear

– A fight with other dogs

– Protection of the home territory, the family, or food

– A protest against being controlled

– Without known causes

Each type must be treated differently than the others because each type has a different cause. In Pomeranians, you’ll most likely encounter playful aggression, fear-related aggression, and territorial aggression. I cover playful aggression in Chapter Starting Off on the Right Paw: The First Few Days.

Fear-related aggression

As strange as this may sound, a surprising number of dogs act like tough guys because they’re really scared. Dogs tend to act in flightor- fight mode — if they feel trapped, their choices are giving up or fighting back. Although most normal dogs remain quiet when frightened and will submit when cornered, some dogs figure the best defense is a good offense.

Tip

A dog who is biting out of fear demonstrates a number of telltale signs. He tends to

– Crouch, with tail tucked and ears back

– Alternately snarl and whimper or even snap in the air

– Bite quickly and attack briefly

To minimize your Pom’s fear-related tactics in the short and long term, try a few of your own:

Immediately call your dog to you and have her act calm by sitting for a reward. Removing the dog from the frightening situation can be a reward in itself!

Make note of the objects or events that trigger her fear and aggression — and avoid them! Events may include your own actions of cornering her, reaching for her, and prodding her into facing something that scares her.

Remember that the dog has two problems: an inappropriate fear and an inappropriate reaction to that fear.

  • Treat her fear following my suggestions in the earlier section “Helping a Fearful Dog Be Brave.”
  • When you can’t avoid a trigger, do what you can to minimize her reaction by having her sit or heel.

Warning!

Obviously, punishing an already frightened dog doesn’t help the situation at all; it just makes the problem worse. But, unfortunately, letting him have his way just rewards his bad behavior, and reassuring or petting him sends the wrong message. People may think they’re soothing the savage beast by stroking him gently as he growls and barks, but they’re really saying, “Good boy! Get ’em!”

Territorial aggression

Having a pint-sized protector can be nice, but some Poms take their duties a little too seriously. They challenge your guests, your neighbors who are in their own yards, and everyone who walks down the street. They may even extend their territory to their carrying bag, your person, or the car. And this aggression may be directed toward other dogs as well.
Some parts of territorial aggression are learned. For example, if the mail carrier comes in your yard, your dog may spot him and start barking at the intruder. The mail carrier deposits the mail and leaves. But your dog thinks she’s scared off the intruder. And so it goes, day after day, until your dog is convinced she’s the toughest dog in town.
Normal dogs may bark when a stranger approaches their territory, but they quiet down when the owner tells them to stop. Some dogs, however, cannot be quieted, and some owners are proud that their dog is such a protector. But an indiscriminate protector is a nuisance and a danger, even if she is little. Her barking is irritating, and she can nip and trip people with her aggressive behavior. Stop her in her tracks by doing the following:

– Eliminate the possibility for her to act in a territorial manner by removing her

  • From the fenced yard when passersby are expected
  • From the front door area when you expect company
  • From view of the mailbox when you expect the mail carrier

– Reward her for sitting and staying when strangers arrive

– Have visitors bring her treats

Warning!

Owners often make territorial aggression worse by trying to reassure the dog or by distracting him with a game or treat — in both cases rewarding him for aggressive behavior. Screaming at the dog is just as bad because the dog thinks you’re screaming with him, not at him.

Getting Him to Drop the Begging

Begging is one of the most preventable behavior annoyances you may face with your Pom. True, those pleading eyes are hard to resist — and it’s not like you’ll starve if he eats some of your food! So feeding your dog from the table is an easy habit to fall into. The problem comes when he gets insistent or when you realize that those hungry, sad eyes are making you feel guilty at every bite you take.

Remember

Your dog repeats actions that bring him rewards. If you give him a treat when he barks at you while you eat, he quickly learns to bark or beg at the table. If you decide to stop (I mean really stop) giving him food, he learns it does him no good, so he quits.

The problem is that most people don’t operate in this all-or-nothing manner. They don’t give him food every time, but when they’ve had enough of his begging and resolve to stop, they still give in occasionally. This inconsistency makes begging resilient.
Think of the problem this way: When you put a coin in a soda machine, you’re supposed to get a soda every time. If one day you don’t get a soda, you may try again. But if it doesn’t work again, you quit very quickly and deduce the machine is broken. That’s an all-or-nothing situation.
Now consider a slot machine. You put your coin in, and you know that you may or may not get a reward. So you put in another coin. And another. You keep hoping that the next time is the jackpot.
When you give in and reward your dogs occasionally for begging, you turn yourself into a human slot machine — and your dog into a gambling addict. When dealing with begging, be the soda machine: all or nothing at all!

Minimizing a Dog’s Food-Guarding Response

Dog owners get some funny ideas. One that’s sadder than it is funny, though, is training a dog to allow her food to be taken away . . . by repeatedly taking her food away.
The poor dog, trying to eat her meal in peace, keeps having some jerk snatch her food away. She finally growls to let her owner know she doesn’t like that move. The owner says, “Aha! I knew it!” and punishes the dog. The dog, already irritated, may take the next step and bite. So the owner decides the dog can’t be trusted and punishes her more until the dog finally is subdued.
Although she allows the owner to continue the irritating test, one day a visiting child reaches innocently for her bowl. The dog lashes out at this new food-stealer; she’s labeled as vicious and taken to the pound.
Nobody wants a food-guarding dog, but owners who repeatedly test their dogs are essentially teasing them and creating the problem. In direct contrast, you want to convince your dog that hands bring food to her bowl; they don’t take her bowl away. You do this by one of several methods:

– Drop special treats into her bowl while she’s eating.

– Give her small portions, wait until the bowl is empty, and then immediately fill it with better treats.

– Feed her meals one kibble at a time, dropping each into her bowl as she finishes the one before.

– Never take away any food unless you replace it with something better.

Soon she’ll be begging you to come near her food bowl.

Tip

If you have more than one dog, they may guard their food and treats from each other. In this case, simply feed them separately; only give them chewies or treats in a private room or in their crates. Dropping a treat between them can start a fight or cause one dog to gulp it down so fast he chokes. Never allow a treat to be abandoned in the house somewhere. It may cause a later dispute, perhaps when you are gone.

Discouraging Disgusting Eating Habits

Your dog hops in your lap and kisses your face all over. Yuck! Why does his breath smell like doo-doo? And what’s that brown gunk between his teeth? You look closer. It really is doo-doo! After you run to the bathroom and sterilize your face, take a calming breath before labeling your Pom a sicko. Eating feces is not uncommon for dogs, although it’s far more commonplace for cats and horses.

Technical Stuff

This menu choice is so common that it has an official name: coprophagia. Nobody knows why dogs eat feces, but it doesn’t seem to be because of a nutritional deficiency or digestive disorder. Eating feces may be a natural behavior for dogs, perhaps left over from their days as village waste scavengers. Why some dogs do it and others don’t is a mystery. Stopping it is a challenge. The best cure and prevention is diligent feces removal. Here are a few other suggestions:

– Add hot sauce to the feces (although she may just gobble it down and run for the water bowl!).

– Use commercially available food additives, usually containing monosodium glutamate, to make the feces taste bad — or at least taste worse.

– Put a muzzle on her, which stops the eating but not the trying; this tactic can lead to messy results.

– Ask your veterinarian whether the drugs that treat obsessive compulsive behavior may help. Some dogs appear to exhibit a compulsion to eat feces.

Tip

Dogs eat other nonfood objects such as fabrics and rocks. Many of their choices can cause obstructions in the throat or digestive system, though, and require surgical removal to save the dog’s life. Prevention is through diligent removal of objects from the dog’s reach, possibly supplemented by drug therapy for obsessive compulsive behavior.

Lots of dogs like to eat dirt, which makes you wonder whether the dog is sick or has a nutritional deficiency. But nobody has figured out what they could be deficient in — unless it’s dirt!

Putting a Stop to Mounting Embarrassment

Your guest has arrived. Your Pom enters the room, and you can’t wait to see the impression he’ll make on your company. But when he walks up to her, he starts humping her leg — not exactly what you had in mind!
Mounting is a natural play behavior for dogs — male or female, neutered or intact. They mount each other from any direction, sometimes as a declaration of being top dog. Some dogs become overly enthusiastic and both mount and masturbate at every opportunity. They may use your leg, a pillow, a stuffed animal, or other pets.
Remove the object of his affection immediately and get him to do a more acceptable trick in exchange for a more acceptable reward.

Saying “No” to bad ways of saying “No!”

Unfortunately, many dog trainers still believe in the dominance theory, a method of training popular in the ’80s and ’90s that models wolf-pack behavior. The basis of this method, however, was a study that wasn’t representative of normal wolf-pack behavior much less domestic dog behavior.
Nevertheless, trainers still talk about the method and how to be alpha (boss) with your dog. For example, they advocate shaking a dog by the scruff of his neck as a way of telling him “No.” In reality, wolves don’t do anything like that, and the act can permanently injure a small dog.
In order to show him who’s boss, advocates also throw a dog to the ground and roll him on his back until he stops struggling. But again, wolves don’t do that. This particular act is responsible for many, many dog bites. If somebody suggests these methods to you, please just say “No!”

by D.Caroline Coile,Ph.D.

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