Possessiveness

Sometimes people ask me, “Are your dogs perfect?” And my honest answer is: no. In large part, this is because there are things I just don’t care enough about to put in the training time. But another large part is that nothing stays the same, including dogs.

For instance: I think Lily’s losing her hearing. For a long while I thought she was just being stubborn when I called her to come, but now I’m not so sure. I’m not tuning up her recall because, well, what if she can’t hear me? So her recall is failing and until I know one way or the other, I’m just not going to worry about it.

Another for instance, and the point of this particular post: Doc got possessive. I’ve had him for a year and a half now, which means any issues he’s still dealing with probably don’t have to do with him being a rescue, they have to do with him and me. (Note: this is a rough rule of thumb, with a lot of exceptions.)

He’s never shown signs of possessiveness before, but about six months ago he started getting possessive of bones with Lily. He tried some growls and snaps, and he got in big trouble for it (poked by me and chased off, his bone given to Lily), then rewarded for tolerating her (praise and pets when he had his bone and he wasn’t being a bully to her while she was wandering around/sniffing it, etc.). The praise worked better than the poking with him, so I used that a lot more once I noticed, and he got over his issue in a couple of weeks.

Skip to six weeks (or so) ago, and he’s trying to be possessive of ME, with Cash. Mostly when we were snuggling or I was petting him, and Cash would come up to say, “Me too!” Doc would growl and try to nose Cash away, and went as far as snapping at him a time or two. Because I was standing right there, I’d push Doc away (to the other end of the couch, or chase him off a few feet if I were standing), then pay attention to Cash, THEN call Doc back over and love on him, too. Again, when Cash came up and I could see Doc wasn’t happy about it – turning his face away, ears pinching along his head, whites of the eyes showing – I would praise Doc for tolerating it. After a week or two, that went away as well.

Skip to two weeks ago, and it’s popped up again: this time being possessive first over Patience (my sometimes-helper and the dog trainer in the East Bay I refer people to), then Margo (my assistant) and finally Quin (my honey). In each and every case we did the same thing: push Doc away, love on Cash, bring Doc in and love on him. We also added a couple of things:

For Patience, since she’s also a dog trainer, I asked her to start making Doc calm down and think. One thing I’ve noticed about Doc is the more wound up he gets, the less he thinks overall. Now, it’s normal for a dog’s brain to turn off when they’re super wound up (with either excitement or aggression or anything else), but his brain turns off even when he’s not wound up, if he’s spent a lot of time wound up. Things that wind him up: not exercising enough, some of my playful boarders, fetch, the wild peacocks, squirrels. It’s a full time job keeping him centered! Getting a wound up dog to pause so they can think again (and guiding them gently but firmly through what to do until they CAN think) is key. So I asked Patience to get him thinking around her, adding in little brain-working things like sitting and calming down at doors before he goes out to play, sitting to get petted, things like that. That calmed him so his possessiveness also dropped.

I asked Margo (who does some minor training for me, but firmly insists she’s not a dog trainer!) to use a squirt bottle if he got possessive of her. It’s a good consequence: not emotionally very powerful, certainly not painful, just distracting and annoying.

With Quin, we put Doc in time out when he got possessive, in an x-pen in the house. After twenty minutes (which I judged to be enough time for his brain to wander off his possessiveness), he re-joined us. He was put in time out a couple of times before he got the point!

In all instances, when he became tolerant of Cash or wasn’t possessive, he got rewarded with lots of love and pets. Ex: I petted Cash, Doc watched but didn’t come over to push Cash away, so after a minute – before he lost his patience – I turned and loved on Doc. Repeat ad nauseum! For every time he got busted for naughtiness, I want at least five rewards. If I’m busting him too much, that’s my signal that I’m asking too much of him. I need to reward BEFORE he puts himself in trouble, so he knows what it is I’m looking for, not just what I don’t like.

It took a couple of weeks for him to cycle through everyone and figure out no one was going to let him get away with it. I’m still praising and loving on him when other dogs butt into “our” space to get pets, just to reinforce his good behavior.

During his possessive phase, I used different techniques for different people, depending on how he reacts to the people in question and what they were more comfortable with/capable of, and what worked best for him.

No dog is ever perfect. Even when a dog trainer owns them, even if I spent all my time making them perfect to everyone’s standards, living animals are always changing! I wouldn’t have it any other way. 😉

Jenna

Advertisements

Thievery

About two years ago, we put Cash on Prednisone to solve some massive allergy attacks that made him so itchy he itched himself bloody. We were later able to take him off it, but the damage had been done.

I don’t mean liver or kidney damage, although that’s something to watch for. Nope, I mean behavioral damage. Prednisone makes dogs thirsty and hungry, and he’d discovered nirvana: counter surfing.

Now, he surfs like I surf: not standing on the object so much as flopping around it and eventually falling over. In his case, though, he didn’t have to stand on the counters to get the food, and falling over resulted in four feet on the ground… and whatever he’d gone up for. Perfect!

I mostly solved the problem over the next few months, and it helped that he was no longer starving all the time. I kept food off the counters or I put him in an x-pen while I was gone so he couldn’t get to the counters, and then I corrected him when he so much as looked at the counters while I was home — hissing and chasing him away.

Once in a while it would still happen, but only once a month or 6 weeks, and I got lazy. While it was frustrating to come home and discover he’d eaten all my bagels, I didn’t care enough to do anything about it.

Last winter, he started gaining weight. He wasn’t stealing food off the table (although he and Lily have started pulling the dirty bird papers out of the bird cage and eating everything from parrot poop to dropped fruits and veggies. I still don’t know how they’re getting the papers out!), so to the vet we went. His thyroid was a little off; we put him on meds. He gained more weight. I started taking him walking. He gained more weight. Then one day I came home to see his face in the dog food bin. Not only had he learned how to open it, but when it was more than half full he could help himself quite tidily! No WONDER he was gaining weight!

Yesterday, I came home to see that he’d pulled the dog treat bin off the counter and helped himself, gotten into the food bin, AND pulled out the bird papers to eat everything there. Enough is enough. Time to fix this!

There are two ways to fix this, and as with everything, it is to either spend more time or more money.

The more-time-more-training way would be to start limiting his access to things when I’m gone, probably by x-penning him, and then giving him consequences (hissing and chasing him off) when I see him looking at the counters or the bird cage, and if I hear him nosing/moving the dog food bin. This will work: I’ve done it before, though I quit a little early. The thing is I don’t want an x-pen in my living room right now.

The more-money-less-training way is this: buy a zap mat and put it in front of things, or a disk and e-collar system that will zap him if he gets too close to the disk (then I can put the disk — or several disks — wherever I don’t want him), or find a way to keep him away from the three things he wants: tie the birdcage tray closed, velcro the dog bin, put aluminum foil on the counter (this last won’t work with him, but it often works with other dogs).

In both cases, keeping the counters (and bird cage) clean is of utmost importance.

Now, in addition to myself (my desire not to have an x-pen up), I need to take into account Cash. A disk with an automatic e-collar to keep the dog away from the disks uses a zap (“static charge” or a shock). I think getting zapped would scare him too much, and I don’t want him to stay that far from the birdcage. (In fact, it’s kind of handy that he cleans up around it.) Since the dog food bin is right next to the bowls, I don’t want him wary getting water or eating, either. So an e-collar and disk system is out, and I don’t want the x-pen. That leaves me with a zap mat. It’s visible, which is good and bad: he can see it, so he knows how to avoid it. But I’ll have to use it for so long that he no longer thinks about it, so that when I pick it up he doesn’t think, “Ah! Now it’s gone! Now’s my chance!” This means leaving it down for 6 months. But I’m willing!

So my current plan is money over training, in a way that won’t distress either of us too much: three zap mats, one in front of the bird cage, one in front of the dog food bin, and one on the counter. (Or maybe two zap mats, and I’ll just velcro the bin closed.) You can get strips instead of full mats, and that’s what I’ll do. He won’t hit it every time, but that’s fine. It’ll make him cautious, and I won’t have to store a giant mat!

Phew. Home training done!

Dogs and food: feeding issues

Occasionally, someone will come to me concerned that their dog isn’t finishing their food. If your dog has suddenly stopped eating, that’s a major concern and a trip to the vet. But if your dog has never been much of an eater, there might be some things going on.

First off, check out your dog’s weight. Most dogs who aren’t eating do so because they’re self-regulating: if they’re chubby (even just a little chubby), they’ll often go off their food or eat listlessly because they simply don’t need it.

Of course, this means you have to tell if your dog is chubby! If you can see a dimple at the base of their tail (a large dimple), they’re probably at least a little chubby. It’s the fat deposits around that spot that create the dimple. Today, for instance, I saw a dog at a pretty good weight who was a smidgen chubby. Not enough that I felt the need to say, “Put this dog on a diet!” but just enough to see that dimple, and know that the fact that he wasn’t finishing his dinner probably had more to do with being a little overweight than a major problem.

So, how to tell your dog’s weight? First off, you should be able to see the shape of their ribcage. Second, if you pet firmly, you should be able to feel individual ribs. (Some breeds of dogs don’t really have waists — like corgis or bassets — but you should still be able to feel ribs.)

Here is a pretty little chart to help you out:

dog weight chartIf your dog is chubby and not eating well, don’t worry about it. If the feeding guide on the food package tells you your dog should be eating more, keeping in mind they’re averaging most (if not all) breeds, and they don’t know your dog’s metabolism and exercise level! (They’re also trying to sell food.)

Also, keep in mind dog treats. If you’re in a training class, you’re giving a lot of extra treats. If you have a small dog, the “few” treats you give might be the size of their head! Take a look at what your dog is eating in relation to their body, and think about it in relative proportion to your body. I couldn’t eat a meal the size of my head!

If you aren’t giving treats and you think, “My dog is chubby, but they seem hungry!” then you should know that dogs are capable of eating pounds of food at once. They scavenge and gorge when they’re able to find food in the wild, then go for days without eating. A sense of feeling full would be a hindrance in that! They also don’t necessarily feel hunger like we do, but they can keep eating, and just like us, they eat for taste. Trust me: your dog isn’t hungry.

Now, what if your dog isn’t overweight and is still a picky eater? First, double check with the vet. This is sign one of worms, and a sign of other problems. But if the vet says, “Nope, everything is fine!” and your dog is still a picky eater, there’s some things you can do.

First, try mixing a little canned food or pumpkin with your dog’s food. (Pumpkin is an intestinal regulator: if your dog’s stool is loose it’ll firm it up, and if it’s too firm it’ll soften it. But better, it’s sweet!) You can also try adding some chicken broth or canned meat of any kind. Obviously, if you do this and your dog doesn’t eat it, throw it out!

Another trick, if you have access to other dogs, is to feed them around dogs. Seeing other dogs eat (or being threatened by having another dog steal their food) will often trigger an eating response. As well, feed your dog when you’re eating, and let them eat near you: dogs eat together, and sometimes that will trigger an eating response, too.

While you’re tempting your dog, there’s a behavioral trick you can use. Give your pup five minutes to eat, and then pick the food up. Don’t feed her again until the next meal, then do the same thing. Most dogs who are uninterested in food can go for about twenty-four hours just nibbling at their food; I’ve seen them go as long as forty-eight before they start actually eating the food when you put it down. (Don’t give them treats; they need to be hungry!)

What’s happening is that you’re creating a scarcity complex. People react to this, too: If someone tells you, “buy this, there are only five left!” your desire to buy it increases. The same thing happens with dogs: if you say, “You only get this for a limited time!” the dogs go, “Holy crap! Better eat it now!” You have to wait for the dogs to get hungry enough to care, but it’ll happen — and then your problem will be resolved. At that point, you can start cutting back on the extra treats in the food to tempt them to eat, and they should keep eating.

Finally, Lily was one of these types of dogs. Now, it didn’t bother me because she self-regulated, but then I switched her to raw food. She LOVED it, and ate rapidly for taste. When I switched her back to kibble after about a year (because she, unlike some, needed the grain and because kibble was easier), she continued to snarf her food. Now, after about five years, she’s slowing down again… but she’s still eating fast enough!

Try these, and I think things will start to improve!

Jenna

Case files: Beau, separation anxiety and chewing

I got the following email, and thought it might be helpful for others! So, with the person’s permission…

My sister got us in touch, this way:

“Hey Jenna!

I’ve copied H on this email as she is the one needing help.
She owns a pit bull named Beau whose story is almost identical to Lily’s. Lots of shelters, new homes and people giving him back because he has separation anxiety and chews everything up when left alone.
H and D (her husband), want to work with Beau to try and get him to stop chewing, but are looking for advice and tips on how to proceed.
Are you able to offer up any advice?”
I sent:

“First, crate training is a MUST. There’s a bunch of entries on how here: https://jennasfeathersandfur.wordpress.com/tag/crate-training/

Second, does he chew things up when you aren’t home? Because if not, then start crate training, take him walking daily (the less energy he has the less anxious he’ll be), and wait about six months. It takes time for dogs to settle in; with separation anxiety and destructive behaviors, the big key things are to crate him when you’re not home, and then burn off the energy, and let time heal his emotional wounds! There’s a few other things you can do, too, if you want to email me back with some details. (Does he have crate trauma? Does he destroy things when you’re home? How old is he? How long have you had him?)”

And from H:

“[W]e think Beau’s about 2 or 3 years old.  He seems ok in a crate. We’ve only had him for about 2 weeks. He gets super upset when we leave and he starts chewing on wood, mostly door frames and doors haha.. So it’s not the easiest fix.
He gets lots of exercise! Between me and David, he probably runs about 3 miles every day! 🙂
We got him a crate today and he seems to be doing really well so far! First we put him in there when we were home and gave him his toys in there to get him comfortable, and we give him a little treat whenever he goes in the crate and lays down by himself. Hopefully he keeps doing well with the crate.  If you have any other tips for crate training, let me know!
Thanks again!
H”
Response:

“Hi, Haley!

This all sounds fantastic! If he’s that comfortable in his crate, start leaving him in there. (He might say, “Forget it! I’m not going in anymore!” Tell him he has to, feed him in there with the door open to keep it a good place, etc. I often put a dog’s breakfast in their crate just before I have to leave for work, so that they go in to eat, I close the door, and there’s no argument!) Continue to make sure he has toys in his crate so he doesn’t get bored.

That’s the first big step. If he can’t be supervised, crate him. If you’re gone, crate him. Chewing for anxiety reasons has two big aspects to tackle:

First, it becomes a habit. We need to break the habit! That’s what the crate is for: so that he can’t do it. It’s breaking the habit, and teaching him what he should chew on: his toys and bones, which are in the crate! Now, to continue breaking the habit, when you see him SNIFFING the type of thing he would normally chew, give him a scolding and chase him away from it. (A squirt bottle works wonders for this.) This way he learns that wood things are off-limits, and because he’s crated when you’re gone he won’t learn “they’re off limits… until everyone leaves!”

Second: the anxiety. As we break the habit, we also work on the anxiety. He’s getting plenty of exercise: make sure he’s also learning down-time. He’s old enough now that he should be relaxing at night, so if he isn’t — if he paces, checks halls and doors, constantly asks to play, harasses you for attention — then he hasn’t learned how to relax. Put him on a leash with his bed nearby, and tell him he has to stay close. No wandering off. Put a couple of toys he likes within reach. We’re teaching him to stay put; eventually he’ll start getting bored, lay down, and chew on his toys. Soft, soothing pets are fine, then, but otherwise just let him be so he can figure it out. Teaching him to calm down will also help him alleviate his anxiety.

If he’s having trouble calming down after a few days, or if his anxiety is simply bad enough, consider Rescue Remedy. You can get it at Target, Whole Foods, pet stores, and a dozen other places! It’s expensive, but will last forever. A drop or two a day often helps. (Any form — for humans or dogs — is fine.)

Finally, when he is looking stressed out, don’t soothe him. You can praise him — “Good job! I’m so proud of you for staying calmer tonight!” or chide him, “Silly dog, there’s nothing wrong,” but don’t tell him, “Oh, honey, it’s okay.” When we do that our body language collapses, and what we’re really communicating is, “I can’t handle this, either!”

Phew! That’s our two-pronged attacked. Keep crating him when you leave until the anxiety is gone; it will likely take about six months. By that time, the habit should be broken, too! “

The result:
“Thanks again for all the help! He certainly doesn’t need much help calming down.. He is the laziest dog I have ever seen! That’s why we were so surprised at his anxiety problems. The crate has seriously worked wonders. I think it helps him feel safe too, so he really mellows out whenever he’s in there. Your tips were all so helpful! He totally obeys the “go in your crate” command now, and sometimes even walks on there when he sees my grabbing my purse and keys! He’s learning to love it! He’s an awesome dog, he just needed some rules. :)”
HOORAY, H and D! They’re well on their way to having an awesome dog, despite his trauma at being handed around. It looks like he’s found his forever home!
Jenna

Moving

If you’ve ever moved with a dog, you might relate to Hyperbole and a Half just a wee bit. (It makes me laugh every time.) As I write this — this post is pre-written — I’m preparing to move. In another week I’ll start packing boxes in and around dogs, then load them into a U-Haul and move into a proper house with a giant yard. I know that, eventually, the dogs will be ecstatic.

Eventually being the key word there.

I’m lucky (or rather, my dogs are REALLY used to my crazy life), in that my dogs have gone on vacations with me, are used to staying in strange places, and generally bounce back from new things pretty well. I also know that packing boxes is going to freak Lily out completely.

As a dog trainer, I know the following about any major life changes (including temporary ones, like vacations):

1. It helps greatly if the dogs are worn out; regular walks or runs are the best thing ever.
2. It helps greatly if I stay calm.
3. It helps greatly if we stick to their routine, both before and after the move, as much as possible.

I also know myself well enough to know that packing up my house, arranging the U-Haul, and moving is going to be VERY stressful on me. Add to that the fact that Quin’s chest reconstruction surgery is the day after I move, and, well… I’m not going to have time to take the dogs walking, and I may or may not be successful at staying calm.

Before I even start packing, I need a plan. My plan is formed from the knowledge about what helps in general, and me and my dogs in particular. Here we go.

1. I’m going to buy extra bones. I know that when Lily gets stressed, her first method of coping is to chew things like crazy. I can support her in this coping mechanism by buying her things to chew that will help her burn off her anxiety. In her case, that’s bones.

2. If I am feeling extra stressed, I’m going to give the dogs some Rescue Remedy. When I get stressed, we all go downhill. I might as well prepare for that, just in case.

3. I know that I may or may not have time to take the dogs walking or running. I know that it’s better for all of us if I do — it lowers my stress levels as well as theirs — but if I’m low on time, I’ll pack my  bike last. I can at least take the dogs for a quick bike ride to burn off energy, even if we don’t have time for long walks.

4. If possible, I’ll take my dogs with me to visit the new house before we move. If I am able to do this, I’ll let them run around and play just as if we were visiting a client or a friend, while I do what needs to be done. That way when we move, they’ll be familiar with the house, and it’ll have good feelings associated with it. If I don’t have time to do this, then when we first arrive I’ll put them on leashes and walk them around the house before we unpack, staking out our territory together and setting some quick rules (don’t go out the gate, for instance) before I release them to explore. I don’t know why I think one method will work better than the other in these situations, but my subconscious tells me it will. I’ve learned to listen to my subconscious; I usually realize why after the fact.

5. Once we’ve moved, I’ll set up their stuff ASAP so Lily has her safe-space crate, they know where their bowls are, and feeding schedules can be put to rights immediately. This will also mimic when we’ve vacationed elsewhere.

6. We’ll start walks or bike rides that night, and continue them. While I usually only walk the dogs 4-5 days a week, we’ll try for twice a day rides while in the moving process to burn off extra energy.

7. Lily will stay stressed the longest; I know this. I’ll keep her supplied with bones, make sure the rules and boundaries remain the same (not give her leeway like us humans are inclined to do: that only creates inconsistency and yet more change), and tell her to keep behaving. This will settle her down as fast as possible. (That’s true for all dogs.) I might also keep her on Rescue Remedy for a few days as she settles in.

That’s my plan. It’s good to have a plan before you set out on something big, so that you know what you need to do before anything happens, and so you don’t find yourself halfway through a problem with no easy way to solve it. For instance: if I thought, “I will take my dogs walking,” and didn’t also think, “I’ll be busy and stressed, I may not want to walk, what’s an alternative?” then I wouldn’t think to pack my bike last. Then I might get halfway through packing, be too tired to walk with no bike, and things will rapidly go downhill from there.

The steps above are generally pretty good steps for most dogs. Obviously, they’re centered specifically on my dogs, and your dog might have a different solution. (Visiting a known and loved petsitter while you move, for instance!) But before you do something big… plan for it!

By the time you read this, I’ll have moved and settled in. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section, and I’ll let you know how it went!

Jenna

FAQ: Help! The office dog is fear-aggressive toward men!

I recently got this email from a friend, and am re-printing it and my response with permission! (If you would like to email in for advice, you can reach me at jenna.b.mcdonald [at] gmail [dot] com. Including a video will get a much more specific response!)

Hey Jenna,

Here’s the breakdown on the office dog of incredible noisiness. He’s about 5/6 years old, debatable breed (picture attached), abused by men in his puppyhood, and adopted by Headbossman at around the age of 1 – 2 (ish). 

 

His major issue is fear, especially of men. He’ll bark uncontrollably at any man who comes into the office or walks by the office, even coworkers he’s known for months and years. The only men he’s comfortable with are Headbossman (who he’s super attached to and really clingy about), and me.

 

Some women he’ll freak out over, and some he’ll ignore. 

 

When he freaks out, he’ll do these little aborted lunges, sort of mock-charging the person who’s scaring him. If the person walks toward him, he’ll back up fast but keep barking the whole time. To my knowledge, he’s never snapped at or bitten anyone; I’ve never seen him snarl or be overtly aggressive, just noisy.

 

He’ll shut up when I yell at him, and he’ll kind of quasi shut up if Headbossman or Ladyboss (who he adores) yell at him. He spends a lot of his time in the office hiding under Ladyboss’s desk or headbossman’s desk. Sometimes he’ll just bark from under the desk. 

 

If we shut him up in a back office, he’ll bark and bark for hours. So that’s not at all effective. 

 

I can definitely get a squirt bottle, bully sticks, and walk him in the middle of the day. I’d really appreciate if you could give me a battle strategy, or he’s going to end up a casualty of war. >.>

 

R

Hopefully he hasn’t ended up a casualty of war yet! 😉

Okay, what you’re describing is fear aggression. I’m going to give you several scenarios at once.

First of all, everything we do with him we do as gently as possible. Very firm, very, VERY gentle. Dogs who are so fearful that they stop thinking and just start attacking everything (ie, are fear aggressive) have no confidence in themselves and no confidence or trust in the humans around them. It would be like living with grizzly bears. We want to convince him that you’re not a grizzly bear; you’re a dog in human skin. This means lots of encouragement and as gentle as possible corrections until he learns that you’re not going to attack and hurt him.

Next, walk him. When you walk a dog they start to trust you, they learn some basic rules, and best of all, they’re too tired to argue! A twenty minute walk every other day is enough. If he never gets walked, a ten minute walk every day is even better. (Since he isn’t your dog, this would have the added benefit of encouraging him to trust you. Training will be easier if he comes out from under Ladyboss’s desk.) Give him lots of treats and encouragement on his walk, so he looks to you for food and some rules. This is setting him up later, so he’ll look to you when men come in the office! Also give gentle (gentle!) tugs when he walks ahead, tugging straight up, until he drops back beside you. Be persistent; we’re nagging into good behavior, rather than demanding it right off.

When things are calm and quiet in the office, start calling him over and giving him treats. (My dogs LOVE “Canine Carry-Outs.” You can get them at Target or most pet stores, and break off little pieces.) If he won’t come out from Ladyboss’s desk at first (which is highly likely), just say his name to get his attention, and toss the treat toward him. Continue doing so, with a shorter toss each time, until he’ll come out and get it. This might take several days, with backsliding at first.That’s normal! What we’re doing here is teaching him to come to you. When you’re sure he’ll come for a treat, then start saying, “[Name], come,” as he’s coming toward you. (Make sure he’s actually going to come: we want to trick him into thinking he has to when you tell him, because he does it every time!)

The other thing you’re going to start at the same time is no more yelling. When a dog starts barking, and you yell, they think you’re barking too. It actually encourages the barking and carrying on. By the time you’re being forceful enough to break through his barking haze and make him realize you’re “barking” at him, you’re so forceful that he’s going to be afraid you’ll hurt him. (I am using “you” as a general term here.)

So, this is all set up. You can do set up and training at the same time. The more you do set up, the faster training will go.

Training:

There are a couple of things that would be easiest to solve the barking problem. One would be to use a squirt bottle. When he starts barking, don’t say anything, just lean under the desk and start squirting him. Squirt bottles are great because they startle dogs out of bad behaviors without causing stress or anxiety. Something about being squirted doesn’t tend to scare them or increase aggression, it just makes them go, “What the heck–?!” I suppose it would do the same thing to me! This is telling him, “Don’t be aggressive.” Once you’re breaking through the barking with a few squirts, use a noise just for him. It can be a command (“No barking”) or a noise (“Hssst!”) or anything else, but it needs to be something you can say in a deep, calm voice that is only for him. You say the noise and squirt at the same time; he should start pairing the two pretty quick, so that he stops barking when he hears that noise. Again, this is stopping the aggression. If your boss doesn’t want you squirting her dog, skip to the next step below. It will take a LOT longer to stop the barking, but it will work slowly but surely.

The next step is stopping the fear, so he doesn’t snap at someone, or have an unexpected outburst some day. To do that, we want to teach him to come to you for protection, and to be calm enough to realize men aren’t that bad.

To teach him to come to you for protection (or to get him to stop barking without a squirt bottle) it’s easiest to put a leash on him and let him drag it around. When he starts barking use your squirt bottle until he stops. (If you aren’t using a squirt bottle, just grab his leash.) Then grab his leash, say “come,” pull him to you, get his attention with a treat (put it practically on his nose, and when he starts to notice it draw it toward your face until he looks at you), give him the treat, and praise him for coming to you. DO NOT let the stranger pet him. Your job is to protect him!

If your boss doesn’t want you doing either of these, you can wait until he’s calmed enough to be thinking, THEN catch his attention (finger snapping is usually good), show him a treat, call him over, and give it to him while praising him for being quiet. As he starts to realize that he’s going to get a treat shortly after he stops barking, he’ll stop barking faster and faster, and soon when you see a guy coming to the door you can call the dog and give him a treat while the stranger comes in.

Now, when he starts calming down overall, what you’ll find is that a stranger comes in, he gets his treat, and then he goes and barks. This just means you need to keep giving him treats. It will give him something else to focus on other than the stranger coming in. He’s addicted to barking: he needs a distraction, and that’s food! If you stop, he’ll probably start growling and head over to bark. Call him back, praise him for coming, give him a treat when he looks at you. (Always treat while he’s looking at you: if you give him a treat while he’s staring at the stranger, you’re rewarding aggression!) This treat business gives him a chance to calm down long enough to realize that the stranger isn’t hurting him, and that he gets food when he sees strangers — always a plus! You can also give him bully sticks that are “special stranger” bully sticks: take it away when the men leave, so he associates getting his special treat only when there are strangers in the office. (Kongs with peanut butter are also good. Do not do this if he’s treat aggressive, or be prepared to squirt him to get it back.)

The other reason to work with treats after he’s stopped barking is because if he’s fear-aggressive, it’ll just come out some other way unless you give him an alternate option. His alternate option is to run away and hide, which we reward. That way, he’s not cowering under Ladyboss’s desk waiting for the next terror to strike and letting that fear build until he snaps at the next man who sits down in front of Ladyboss’s desk: he can act (run away) and be praised for it instead.

So, in short:

Start walking him to build trust and wear him out.

Stop yelling at him when men come in: he thinks you’re barking, too.

Teach him “come” by calling him and giving him a treat.

When men come in you can either:

1. Squirt him until he stops barking, then call him over — pulling on his leash if you need to — and reward his good bravery by protecting him and giving him a treat.

2. Just pull on his leash, protect him, give him a treat for coming.

3. Wait for him to calm enough to think again, call him over, give him a treat. Do so sooner as he starts to calm down faster.

I hope that helps! Figure it’ll take about two weeks to really be much better, down to a bark or two before he stops and runs to you (assuming you get a couple of guys in an average day). Let me know if anything needs clarification!Jenna

*Update: About a week later R emailed to let me know that though the Office Dog Of Incredible Noisiness hadn’t yet gotten brave, the barking was decreasing rapidly and he was starting to come to his name. Huzzah!

Peeing (or marking) on walks

One of the things my clients are often surprised to discover is that their dogs really shouldn’t be peeing on their walks.

Now, don’t get me wrong: if I take my dogs on a long walk, we will probably stop to pee once. But no more than that. A dog is like a person: they can easily hold it for 3-4 hours even when they’re out walking. Most likely, your dog holds it for 3-4 hours in the house: why would they suddenly need to constantly pee outside? If your dog is peeing more than once on a walk, their either have a bladder infection (highly unlikely, and then they would also need to pee frequently in the house) or they’re marking. Both male and female dogs mark; male dogs lift their leg, while most female dogs squat.

Dogs mark when they want to establish that something is part of their territory. There’s no reason for them to think that the lamp post down the street is their territory! If you want to stop your dog from marking, every time they pause to mark just give them a quick tug and keep walking. Once during your walk, stop and let them pee.

There are many reasons to teach your dog not to mark:

1. If your dog doesn’t mark, you can take him into dog-friendly stores fearlessly.

2. If you teach your dog to hold it, it will strengthen the muscles and help her hold it in the house and delay or avoid elderly incontinence.

3. If your dog knows that they need to fully empty their bladder when you tell them to, they are much less likely to have an accident in the house. (Or in other words, if you let them mark they will always hold urine in reserve, and their bladder will fill back up faster so they have to pee sooner!)

Is your dog marking? There’s an easy way to tell: if she pees more than once on your walk, she’s marking!

Jenna