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Sorry for the long post!

We adopted a dog from a local rescue this past summer. He's amazing. Super cute, fun, potty trained, no problem with strangers or kids, doesn't bark very often, a real lovebug... except when he turns Kujo on my husband and I.

The rescue said he would be about four years old by now. He goes through some really aggressive mood swings and has bit us before. He does it about once a month or so and I am trying t figure out where it's stemming from. He is a miniature poodle. I grew up with 2 toys and 2 standards so I am familiar with the breed. Never had this problem.

It generally happens later in the evening. He snaps, growls nasty and bites. He does it most often when we find him in the living room alone on the couch wondering why he ventured off from us in the family room where we hang out. Or if he is in the middle of the bed and we go to move him to the end so we can get in.

Last night we went on a walk and I took him off his leash, he bolted to the house next to us and dug right into their cat food on the front porch. I went to get him away from it and the beast came out again.

Is this a dominance issue? Territorial over food? I am starting obedience school with him at the end of March but I would like to work on things at home before then and understand what the heck he is thinking.

Thanks in advance.
 

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The obedience school thing is a really good idea, and if you don't get this cleared up I'd try Behavioral Classes as well.

At first I thought maybe your dog doesn't like being bothered when he's comfortable or taking some alone time; But when he went Cujo over the cat food, that's a little odd...

It's possible the dog doesn't really know his place in the household, like he doesn't know you are the authority figure. He may think he's allowed to sit/lay anywhere and isn't to be bothered, he may think he's allowed to run rampant and not be scolded.

Behavior classes help issues like that.
 

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First of all, throw out the whole thinking on dominance. Dogs do not dominate humans. Dogs can start resource guarding (which this sounds like). However, before saying it is resource guarding I would first have a vet check with a blood panel drawn to make sure their are no physical problems such as diabetes or thyroid problems.

IF the issue is determined NOT to be physical, your dog may be resource guarding. This surely sounds like that with regard to the bed, the couch and the cat food. Resource guarding does not go away on its own. It escalates.

So, the first thing I would do is instill a strict Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) protocol. Dog never gets on the bed or the couch or the furniture. Dog never gets anything HE wants without first doing something for you. Dog eats his food one kibble at a time from your hand and not from a bowl and must do something for each piece (sit = kibble, Lie down=kibble, stand=kibble etc.). Dog does not go out a door without sitting first. Dog is not allowed to break any command until he is given another command or his release word. Dog is crated at night and not on the bed with your or is in his own bed, not in the bedroom. IOW's he has to be treated like a dog.

There is a good book on resource guardingand how to handle it. The book is "Mine! A guide to Resource Guarding" by Jean Donaldson (www.dogwise.com).

In the mean time, get a leash with a loop on the end of it. When you need to remove this dog from the bed, the couch or anywhere else he is not supposed to be, slip the noose end over the dogs head and remove him so that you are not next to his teeth. The object is to prevent being bitten. Dog bites can be very serious.

Remember, IF the dog is resource guarding, this WILL escalate. Putting the dog on a military version of NILIF is a good start. You can do other things like teach him "leave it" and "drop it." If he has a toy, never take it from him without swapping the toy for a treat (he must give it up willingly). If you teach him drop it, have him drop it on the ground first and eventually teach him to drop it into your hand.
 

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There are dogs that try to dominate. Do they not do that with each other?

Sounds like Resource Guarding is another word for "dominating". They're "dominating" what they think is their "resources".

"Dominating" the chair, "dominating" the food, "dominating" things he thinks is his...
 

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There are dogs that try to dominate. Do they not do that with each other?

Sounds like Resource Guarding is another word for "dominating". They're "dominating" what they think is their "resources".

"Dominating" the chair, "dominating" the food, "dominating" things he thinks is his...
Dogs don't dominate objects; they can and do show dominant behavior with each other. Resource guarding is just that; guarding the resource, be it food, toys, or even their greatest resource, their human.
 

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There's a sticker about NILIF on the forum, try to implement it. When the human give limits that are not clear enough, often times dog will become anxious and try to make the rules for humans. It's not a nice place for them to be, he'd probably like much better to have rules made by humans ;)
 
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