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FishAndHuntMN

Dog showing aggression

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FishAndHuntMN

Hey all, I've been a long-time reader and now have a topic of my own. I've read everything related to a dog guarding food but mine seems a bit different.

2 1/2 year old English Springer (neutered male) is beginning to show signs of aggression and I first noticed when i went to pet him while he was eating. He would growl but not necessarily very aggressively. In fact, I yelled at him and made him lay by his dish while I took it for about an hour. Repeated, and same thing. If I back off or stand my ground he'll listen to commands but continue to shake and growl. If I persist or move closer to him, he'll show teeth and will snap at me. I've grabbed him and layed on him and I'll admit I've even smacked him, but I'd like to hear other success stories. I don't want to ruin the dog, but I do want to fix this no matter what. Just this morning he growled at me when I scolded him for being where he isn't allowed.

Since he's been a puppy I've pet him and put my hands in his food while he eats. We've never had an issue, and I want to stop this fast. I have a newborn on the way and cannot allow this to continue.

Thanks - Ryan

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lenny7

Hi Ryan,

If your dog is starting to challenge you at the dog dish, I'd take a look at your entire relationship with him. In establishing yourself as the Alpha, little things mean a lot to him.

There's list of things to do to establish yourself as the alpha on the dogbreedinfo site. If you google, you can find the whole thing, but here's an abridged version (I snipped some rules away but kept what I think is the most important):

Quote:
Below are a list of rules every dog owner should follow to ensure your dog knows his place in your human pack. If your dog guards his food, or growls at humans in the family these rules should be strictly followed.

1. The number one way to communicate to a dog that you are his pack leader is to take him for a walk. Not the type of walk most humans take their dogs on but a pack walk where the dog is made to heel beside or behind the human who is holding the lead. This is most important for all dogs, as in a dog's mind, the leader always leads the way. A dog must not be allowed to sniff or eliminate anywhere he wishes, but where you allow him.

2. All humans must eat Before the dogs, as the leader always eats first. <We completely ignore our dog when we eat. I know others who crate their dog during meals>

3. No table scraps should be fed to the dogs during a meal.

4. Feedings must be at a scheduled time. (no self feeding dog food dispensers should be used, as this allows The Dog to Choose when he eats.)

5. Humans must not let the dog go through any doorways first. Or up or down the stairs first. <I get a solid sit before I go through and I don't let him through until I so "OK". Even if the door is closing on him, he will not go through until released>.

<snip>

7. A simple obedience command such as “Sit” should be given before any pleasurable interaction with the dog. (i.e. play session, petting, feeding or a walk etc…) The children should give the dogs commands at least once a day and reward with a treat when the command is followed. A simple “Sit” will do. No treat should be awarded if the dog does not follow the command. Show your dog he does not get anything for free. His food, water, treats, even praise/love have to be earned by doing something. Even something as little as sit, come, or making him wait for the treat while you hold it in front of him. Make sure the dog takes the treat from your hands gently. Do not tolerate a mouthy dog.

<snip>

12. If you establish eye contact with the dog, the dog must avert his gaze first.

13. Dogs must not sleep in your bed. The comfortable bed is reserved for the higher humans.

15. Any attention given to the dog, including petting should be given when the Human decides attention is to be given (absolutely No Petting when the dog nudges or paws you or your hand. This would be letting the dog decide and reinforcing, in his mind, that he is higher on the scale than the human.)

16. Games of fetch or play with toys must be Started and Ended by the Human.

17. Very dominate dogs who have a problem with growling should not be allowed to lie on your furniture, as the leader of the pack always gets the most comfortable spot. Dogs belong on the floor. If you do decide to allow your dog on the furniture, you must be the one who decides when he is allowed up and you must be the one who decides when he is to get off, by inviting him and telling him to get down.

18. No tug-of-war , as this is a game of power and you may lose the game giving the dog a reinforcement (in the dog's mind) of top dog.

19. Dogs need to be taught a “Drop it” or release command. Any objects the dog has in his possession should be able to be taken away by all humans.

<snip>

21. Dogs should not be allowed to pull on the leash. When they do this they are leading the way and it is the humans that need to lead the way and show they're higher up in the pack order.

22. When you put his food dish down, he must wait until you give the "OK" to eat it. Place his food on the ground and tell him to wait. If he darts at the food, block him with your body. You can point at him and tell him, "No, Wait" however do not speak much. <snip> Give the dog a command before giving them their food. If a dog does not follow the command (i.e. to sit), he does not eat. Try again in about 20 minutes or longer. <I have my dog trained so that even if I drop food...human or dog good...he will not go after it until I say "OK">

25. To reinforce your position even more, you can make your dog lay down and stay there for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Tell him to lay down, then tell him to stay. If he tries to get up, correct him.

By incorporating all these behaviors in his normal day your dog will realize that you the human are alpha over him and he is beneath you. Obedience exercises and classes are great and very useful, however, obedience training alone does not address pack behavior problems.

Now to be honest I don't follow all the "rules" on this list. I think how hard core you need to be depends on your dog's disposition. In your case I'd tend to overdo it until the situation is under control, then maybe back off on a few things. Also, with hunting dogs, obviously there are times when they need to be leading. When I take my dog for a walk I have him at heel most of the time, but when we get to the park near our house, I release him and get him quartering down the soccer field. So far it appear he knows his place.

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lenny7

Ryan, another thought occurred to me. You said this just started happening. It's possible that there is an underlying health issue causing this behavior. Give your vet a call and see what they think.

You're smart to be getting on top of this right away.

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2 DA GILLS

Ryan,

This is definitely something that needs to be resolved prior to a little one arriving. Lenny made some good points about dominance and alpha status. I would reinforce your dominance on a regular and consistent basis.

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rattlereel

The advice about the vet is very good.

If the dog is looking at you when he barks, growls ect. he is giving you a direct challenge. You need to get him on his back in a submissive position where you are in total control. You need to meet every challenge by that dog and win every time.

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FishAndHuntMN

Thanks for the replies, I sure appreciate the help. It's just so weird, because he's very timid around feeding time (schedule 2x a day). He'll be tail between the legs and in the other room when I get his food. I'll admit, I haven't stood for it and have smacked him and literally laid on him until he relaxes for the past 3 feedings. I really hate doing it, but I realize the greater good here. Maybe it's a bad route to take, but that's why I'm posting.

Tonight for an experiment I sat by his bowl and fed the entire thing by hand - no issues. I don't want to start a moral debate here, but I'm not sure which route to take at this point. I do know I have to be consistent.

I will definitely give my vet a call, but I'm still very curious on ideas and suggestions. Keep 'em coming.

Ryan

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bigred1974

remember that he is a dog and not a 3 year old girl. Getting up his azz for doing what he is doing is absolutely nesessary. YOU are the pack leader, and he is challenging you. watch a nature show on wolves and see how the pack leader disciplines, you wont feel so bad after words. I had a rottweiler and a pitbull, and we lived very well together, they knew better than to get out of line. You dont have to be be mean,just firm and consistent.

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lenny7

When I first got my dog I was careful not to be physical with him. Then I saw that the dogs he was playing with were far more physical than I was and I quit worrying about it. Dogs respect strength and power, not coddling and babying. I'm not saying you can beat a dog, but rolling a dog and grabbing him by the scruff won't hurt him a bit.

I think the key points are to look at the total relationship and look for even small signs of challenges, and to check with a vet to see if there might be a health issue that's causing the problem.

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JayinMN

Quote:
it's just so weird, because he's very timid around feeding time (schedule 2x a day). He'll be tail between the legs and in the other room when I get his food. I'll admit, I haven't stood for it and have smacked him and literally laid on him until he relaxes for the past 3 feedings.

I'm going to go against the the popular idea here and suggest you to quite getting physical with an already fearful dog. The dogs body language is enough to confirm that, its timid at feeding time, the tail is tucked between its legs and its hiding in the other room, now your battling it for its next meal. It is putting on a threat display in an attempt to get you to leave it alone so it can eat, hopefully with out a fight. Something about feeding time has made this dog nervous and thats why it has started the resource guarding. Rolling him, scruffing him, pinning him to the ground, slapping him, scolding him and whatever else are not going to help a nervous or fearful dog over come this behavior. The more agitated and fearful the dog becomes the more likely he is going to growl, snarl and eventually snap at you in an attempt to defend himself. Is any of that stuff really working? It doesn'[t sound like it. Here is my suggestion, try feeding the dog a handful of food at a time, and praising him with each handful you add into his dish. The dogs going to learn you control the food supply but at the same time its learning there is no need to be scared. Do this for however long its takes for the dog to relax and become happy about feeding time. It may take a few days or even a couple weeks. When thats going well, start putting small amounts in the dish so it needs to be refilled a couple times before the dog finishes its whole meal. When the dog is eating out of its dish, make it a point to slip something tastier in there and praise the dog for being good. The point is to make this a pleasant experience and he can relax a bit. Best of luck to the both of you.

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DuckDog

I kind of agree. If you hit the dog it will associate that activity with aggression. If the dog growls at you - take the food away; repeat this step every feeding if necessary.

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rattlereel

I would not let my dog eat out of my hand because he is taking something from me. I'm the alpha dog and he gets only what I give him.

As for hitting you dog if you feel it is necessary to do this open hand under the chin. He won't see it coming and will not be fearful of someone reaching over his head to pet him.

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