Question: My Toy Poodle is Snappy. What do I do
Dog aggression should be addressed as soon as possible. Especially if children are in the house. If the behavior is not addressed, it will only get worse.
Dogs are much faster than humans and it’s important to know that you can’t snatch your hand back from a dog quickly enough to avoid being bitten. If a dog wants to bite, he/she will. If a dog snaps, that was a warning. Not a biting attempt.
But if the dog is giving you a warning, the dog is likely to bite in the future if warnings are not heeded. And dog bites must be taken seriously. Small dogs can do damage and even the tiniest break in skin can cause a serious infection. A infection can happen even if dogs and humans are up to date on vaccinations
The absolute worst thing you can do in the case of dog aggression is to counter with aggression. Never yell, hit, slap, poke, yank, jerk, alpha roll, etc.. This will make the situation worse.
.One of the best things you can do for dog aggression is spay/neuter.
See Cathy Rosenthal’s article on preventing dog attacks: http://www.mysanantonio.com/default/article/Protect-family-from-dog-attacks-955598.php
The dog must be up to date in his/her rabies shot. This is extremely important. Rabies is always fatal in dogs and almost always fatal in humans. If a human is bitten and needs medical attention, the doctor will have to report the incident to animal control. A dog without a rabies certificate will probably be taken by Animal Control. A dog with a certificate might also be taken.
Humans should be sure their tetanus vaccinations are up to date.
Please continue reading for more details:
Until you figure out the root cause and work on that cause, the safest thing to do for everyone is management. Children can NOT be near the dog and children must never ever be with the dog unsupervised. If the behavior is serious or getting worse (if the dog is charging) then children can’t be in the same room as the dog.
Until the issue is resolved, humans must avoid things that make the dog snap.
Does the dog snap when she is in Mom’s lap? Then she can never be in a humans lap. Or any elevated surface for that matter – sofa, bed, chairs.
Does the dog snap at people when she has food? Then never bother her while she is eating.
Does the dog snap when she is touched on top of the head? Then don’t touch her on top of the head.
Does the dog snap when people put their hands her face? Then don’t put hands in front of her face.
Doe she guard her toys? Then don’t bother her when she has a toy. Don’t give her raw hides or large bones until the issue is resolved.
Videos on managing behaviors:
No matter what the cause of biting, spay and neuter is always a good thing.
This will NOT automatically fix the problem, but most experts agree that a dog who isn’t a slave to his/her hormones is a happier, healthier, less stressed dog.
Some people have reported that immediately after surgery, their dogs’ temperament improved tremendously. This is probably atypical.
Spay/Neuter plus other techniques can be successful though; and spay/neuter can most likely speed up the effects of other techniques.
There are many other great health reasons to spay or neuter your pets. Besides, dogs with aggression issues probably shouldn’t reproduce anyway.
Don’t delay. The earlier the dogs are fixed, the better. The longer the dogs have their sexual hormones, the more the undesirable habits become ingrained. Here is a very informative post about hormones and fighting: http://www.meetup.com/sanaturehounds-com/messages/boards/thread/10281346/0#39281963
Your regular vet is the best place to get this done. But any vet can perform the surgery. If money is an issue, contact Animal Control or Animal Defense League. Their prices can be as low as free depending on income level, and other circumstances. See the low coast spay/neuter link for more info: http://fuzzychildren.blogspot.com/2010/03/low-cost-spay-neuter-vaccinations-in.html
Talk to your vet
In addition to spay/neuter surgery, have your vet do a full medical workup
If the dog just started snapping, then a physical ailment could be the culprit. Many issues could make a dog become aggressive – like a thyroid condition, pain from an injury or arthritis, etc..
So far, we have discussed management and spay/neuter. These two are imperative for a safe environment. A full vet workup is important to rule out any issues and a dog should get a checkup every year even if no problems are not apparent.
The rest of the info below will actually depend on why the dog is snapping.
Once you have management the situation temporarily, got the dog checked by a vet and fixed, you will have to find a professional. Because kids are in the home, this is not an issue that you can deal without the help of a professional.
Picking a Trainer/Behaviorist
If you use a behaviorist to help you figure out the problem, be sure to thoroughly interview him/her.
Under no circumstances hire a trainer who advocates any type of punishment after the fact. No leash corrections, no yelling, no shock collars, no hitting, alpha rolling, poking, kicking in the butt, etc…
Actually, don’t use any trainer or behaviorist who would have you use your hands in any way to solve the problem.
You need a professional who will examine the home life of the humans and the dog and find ways to prevent snapping long before it happens.
Run away from anyone who offers quick-fix solutions. Ask the behaviorist about classical and operant conditioning. If she/he doesn’t seem to know what that is, then do not use him/her.
Don’t be taken in by anyone who “talks with authority.” Just because someone sounds like they know what they are talking about, it doesn’t actually mean that they do.
Anyone can call themselves a “trainer” or “behaviorist.” There is no governing body that checks this. So be careful. There are trainers who get certified but this is not mandatory. You can ask the trainer what organizations he or she is a member of. Here is one site that lists trainers who have gone through their certifications: Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Note: being on the list doesn’t mean a trainer won’t use negative methods (which you need to avoid) and not being on the list doesn’t mean a trainer is not good. It’s just one tool to use. If you use a trainer from a major chain or franchise ask the trainer what type of continuation training he/she has received since being certified by that chain.
I repeat: A professional is imperative in this matter. Until you get find a good trainer, here are some things you can work on:
Be a Benevolent Leader
All humans in the household must establish themselves as benevolent leaders.
Being the leader doesn’t mean being mean or yelling or scaring or putting your hands on the dogs harshly. It means letting the dogs know that you will protect them and take care of them. It means that all good things come from you. Don’t put the dog in a position where she feels she must “protect” you.
Some dogs might snap because they are being “protective” but many dogs will snap or bite out of fear.
If the dogs know that the humans are in charge, if they know that they can look to the humans for protection, they will be less scare
Leadership Articles: http://www.stubbypuddin.com/2011/02/on-leadership-and-dominance-years-ago-i.html
The dogs must know that you control the resources. Do not allow free-feeding. Actually, as you establish yourself as pack leader, you might consider not using bowls at all. Hand feed the dogs separately (only if not food aggressive). Ask for a behavior before feeding i.e. sit, lay down. If the dogs have not learned some basic commands, then you can just wait until the dogs are calm before feeding. Do not feed them when they are jumping around, barking, etc.. More about establishing a calm household later.
Other ways to make the dogs work for their food:
Broadcast it out in the yard so that they have to search for it. Make sure they see you putting the food out.
Once you have established that food comes from you, you can put the dogs in one room or another part of the yard, then hide the food then let them out to search for it.
Food puzzles – like a kong or other food dispensing toy. See this video for a cheap food dispensing toy: http://www.youtube.com/kikopup#p/search/5/pZl9JxFh0s4
Here are my dogs with food puzzles: http://www.youtube.com/latrenda12#p/u/60/KR48K0Oin5o
Always be ready to step in front of danger or perceived danger so that the dogs will see you as their protector. This could be something as simple as not letting visitors or strangers pet your dogs too roughly
Life Isn’t Always Fair
Teach the dogs to cope with disappointment. i.e. She can’t always get a morsel of your food when you are eating dinner.
Nothing in Life is Free
In addition to working for food, the dogs should also work for petting, for walks, for rides, to go outside etc.. Make the dogs sit or lay down or at least wait until they are calm before giving them anything that they enjoy
Read Doggie Body Language.
Watch your dogs closely for signs of stress, aggression, etc.. and be ready to redirect long before any snapping occurs.
(more about stepping in and redirecting later in this document)
high and stiff tails
quivering stiff tails
a tail that wags at the end and not at the base
lips forming an “O”
Weight shifting to front legs
One dog putting his head over the shoulder or back of another dog
One dog humping another dog
One dog putting his paw on another dog
Fear, Anxiety, Stress
lots of white showing in the eyes
Grimacing (it looks like a smile but isn’t)
Weight shifting to back legs
Legs or whole body shaking
You can maintain calm by rewarding calm and ignoring excited behavior. Yelling, scolding, physically correcting hyper behavior will at best make the behavior worse. .
See my video on rewarding desirable behaviors. http://www.youtube.com/peteducation#p/u/4/EIvWIyVZoGM
See Kikopup video on teaching calm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wesm2OpE_2c&feature=channel
Pet the dogs in long slow strokes. No vigorous rubbing. Never pet on top of the head.
Keep humans calm
No running and rushing about. Practice good time management so you are never in a rush to get to work, etc..
Keep talking at a minimum
Especially excited chatter
See my article on remaining quiet as I leave the house helped to reduce my dog’s anxiety: https://docs.google.com/View?id=ddtbr7bw_1132hphw2wcr#first_book_mark
Feed Quality Food
Too much sugar, carbs, and preservatives can make a dog hyper and agitated — which can lead to snapping. Review your dog food at http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/
Do not feed any wheat, corn or soy. Many advocate no grains at all. Makes sure the diet is high protein. Make sure any treats are also high protein and healthy.
Check with your own vet or a homeopathic vet about some natural remedies for maintaining calm. Here are some homeopathic remedies that have been suggested by some experts (be sure to check with your vet before trying any of these. Tell your vet about any medications that your dogs are already on)
Bach Flower Essences
Dog Appeasing Pheromones
As soon as you see trouble – like a stiff tail, happily call the dog and engage in a game of fetch or do something fun to make the dogs they were about to snap.
See video on stopping unwanted behavior before it starts: http://www.youtube.com/peteducation#p/a/u/1/YoHTir_uK1o
See Kikopup video on a positive way to interrupt undesirable behavior: http://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup#p/u/49/TBvPaqMZyo8
What NOT to do
Never yell, or use your hands or any part of your body. Try not to scold. This might just teach the dog that bad things happen around the other certain people, and it could increase the level of aggression.
It can sharpen and focus the mind. Creating a more relaxed, balanced and calm dog. And a calm dog might be less likely to snap.
.And once the dog is trained, you can put the dog in a down stay when you see her about to agress (or use some other training tool)
When picking a trainer to help with obedience training, use the same guidelines as picking one to help with the fighting. Don’t take a class unless it’s fun and enjoyable for you and the dogs.
Other things that can mentally stimulate your dogs and create calm and focus:
A change of scenery – take them for rides and walks
Exercise is extremely important and running around the back yard is great for that. But dogs need so much more. Twice a day walks will help a lot. They could also use other mental stimulation
This is a great blog post that addresses this issue: http://kpk9listen.blogspot.com/2010/10/inside-looking-out.html
Examine Home life
Dogs are very perceptive and will pick up on any stressors in the home. Is there tension in the home? A new family member? A family member who has left or passed away? An illness in the family?
Other Things That Can Cause Tension, Frustration, Aggression:
Electric fences, hot wire fences, shock collars, prong collars
Let the dog live as a family member
See cathy rosenthal’s article on dogs who normally bite aren’t family members: http://petpundit.com/2010/11/resident-dogs-are-usually-the-biters/
Prepare for baby long before baby arrives
Cathy Rosenthal teaches a pets and babies class
Article: Pets and New Babies: https://docs.google.com/View?id=ddtbr7bw_814dt2vhfg4
I have mentioned several remedies that will require expenditures. Especially fencing and doors to keep the dogs separate. If money is tight, consider all the things that are less important than your dogs. Click the link for suggestions.
All of the above definitely looks like a lot. But don’t be discouraged. Start with the most important stuff like spay neuter and management then start trying some of the other things one at a time.
Some of the above suggestions can be practiced while you are watching TV or reading a book. Take all the data in pieces. Don’t try to look at everything and get overwhelmed.
Even if it does turn out to be a lot of work, the fur kids are worth it. They’d do anything for us.
Best of luck to you!