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Hey everyone,

My wife and I have a 6 month old Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix. We both love the dog immensely and seem to spoil her daily —*whether it's through attention or treats, we just cannot get enough of this dog. We adopted her so I would have more of a friend around the house while I was busy working (I'm working from home at least once a week, job permitting). Initially she would display favoritism towards me, come near me and lay down on my lap, or chest, leave my wife's side if I sat on the couch, etc. She felt very comfortable with me.

It's become a complete reversal in behavior. My wife walks her in the morning and puts in a brief play period before she leaves for work. I wake up and let her out for a couple minutes before I start getting ready; but I usually come home for lunch to let her out again. We left for a weekend trip and upon coming back she spent all of 10 seconds with me, then showered my wife with affection. I'm usually working in my office at night, or relaxing by the computer - my wife on the other hand is always on the couch, and the dog cannot be by herself, she requires human contact constantly. So they're cuddling all evening long.

It's become a rather anxious and depressive situation for me. When she leaves for bed, the dog has begun to whine by the door. I'm truthfully happy for their relationship but it's an involuntary feeling of rejection that overwhelms my senses always being placed in these positions. I play with her daily, or try to. We rough-house, and I chase her around the house (which she loves, her tongue nearly hitting the floor). She's very excited whenever I come home, especially when she's already out of her crate. During the cold winter months it's been hard to walk her —*she's tiny and those little pads cannot handle the freezing ground.

Ironically, she never listens to my wife. I say an order and she follows, submissively. I'm more stern. I was raised with several german shepherds and have subconsciously adopted my father's personality when it comes to training animals. I was a tad rough with her at first when she misbehaved; having your own dog vs. your parents definitely changes your perceptions, and the inexperience might have led to poor choices in discipline, nothing extreme, just the quick yank on the fur. I stopped doing it the moment I read it disrupts bonding. My wife can yell and scream while the dog will just bark back. I say a word and she comes closer to me and lays down, her ears low and tail wagging. I try to balance my fun personality with that of an owner.

What can I do? Does she seem completely bonded to my wife? What actions can I take to not only improve my relationship but to become a better person around her? Can I change her perceptions of me? The last thing I want is for her to be afraid of me. I'll mention too, I can yell, not at anyone in particular, but if there's a game on, or I'm playing something - I can get heated, but it's all smoke with zero substance, but my wife has commented that the puppy feels afraid.

The last thing I'll mention; I have plans to take her to more formal training when she's fully vaccinated.

Thanks for reading!
 

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If your wife is spending more time with the pup and doing things that the pup likes to do, it is possible that the dog has developed more of a bond with your wife. It doesn't mean the dog doesn't like you! Sometimes dogs just like to do certain things with other people, too. Your dog may like to rough house with you, but prefers relaxing with your wife. It's not a big deal. You can make an effort to take the dogs on more walks, do some more fun, positive training exercises. Split the load, in other words.

It is also possible that your 'stern' behavior toward the dog has also damaged the bond. Although you may just be venting your anger, the dog may still be frightened. And yes, this can be fixed. Also, the dog is very young, and it is normal to feel like you don't 'get' one another. Teenage dogs are a handful and can be very trying at times! It helps to think of your relationship with your dog as more of a partnership than master/servant. You have the opposable thumbs, the big brain, and control of the dog's resources (food, treats, outside time, etc.). It's up to you to teach the dog to understand that when she behaves the way you want, she gets what she wants. There is no yelling, screaming, or physical corrections required!

I would suggest enrolling in puppy courses with a positive, force free trainer to help you develop a better bond with your pup. Also, there are great threads on this forum describing positive reinforcement training, with tips for all aspects of training your new pup.
 

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Here's a simpler way of understanding why dogs do the things they do.

Dogs do things that are gratifying. They repeat behaviors that lead to things that they want. Sounds like your dog enjoys play, affection, and softer tones. All these things, it seems like your wife provides. It sounds like your wife spends more time with her.

Dogs avoid things that are scary or dangerous. This isn't anything personal. It is a survival instinct that humans have too. I don't doubt that your dog enjoys her interactions with you too. But as you put it, you were a tad rough with her at first. Even if you've changed your ways, she has learned that you have the potential to be scary/dangerous. "Stern" is another word that suggests this. Some dogs are very sensitive to tone. Your dog is listening to you "submissively" as you put it. She behaves through fear of consequence, not through love of performing. This is why I differentiate between "respect" and "obedience". "Love" and "obedience".

Providing resources (attention, petting, play, treats, access, etc.) without structure leads to a dog that is very attached but disobedient, as it seems to be the case with your wife.
Enforcing obedience with a heavy hand or stern tone leads to a dog that is obedient but meek.

The good news is, good training is all about structure, consistency, and control of resources. You can have a dog that is obedient yet thrilled to be with you, devoted but not clingy. You can get a well trained pet dog without ever putting your hand on it, without ever uttering a single word (which is why mute people can train dogs, and deaf dogs can be trained to high levels and even competition). I would encourage you to find a motivation/positive reinforcement based trainer to help you understand training theory on a deeper level.
 

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Dogs simply don't know smoke from substance. One moment you're sitting there staring blankly at the TV for an extended period of time, then you instantly "explode" into a boisterous fit of excitement because your team just scored. Your wife and neighbours may understand the cause of your outburst, but your dog sees this as humans being incredibly unpredictable and at times super scary for reasons unknown.

Personally I'd try to tone down the level and frequency of the outbursts, or even eliminate them if possible. Aside from that you could try counter-conditioning by implementing very gradual increases in your excitement, paired with feeding your pup a small tidbit of food each time there happens to be cause for celebration or disgust. However, the former option is much more preferred, especially in the case of a pup.

Paul Owens has a terrific book, "The Dog Whisperer" (NOT to be confused with anything by Cesar Milan). I'd recommend reading that while waiting for the vax to take effect. To my understanding Paul Owens also has a sequel titled "The Puppy Whisperer" but I'm unfamiliar with it.
 

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The others above have given good training/dog relationship advice.

So I am chiming in on something tangentally related....

Dog is 6 months. Dog goes on walks, presumably in public areas? But you are waiting on formal training until "fully vaccinated"? In much of the US at least, puppy shots finish around 16 weeks include rabies. Even in parvo high risk areas, I have not heard of needing vaccines past 6 months to go to a training facility (boosters a year after puppy vax but not something in between basically)

So if you are interested in a class, I suggest double checking vax requirements since puppy kindergarten classes are targeted at your pup's age range and its a great time to start positive reinforcement training in a formal setting with exposure to people and dogs.

If disease is a concern though, as always check with a local vet
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
I want to thank everyone for their comments; it has definitely given me enough to think about.

I do live in the US — the dog suffered a high fever (106) and was hospitalized roughly 3 weeks after we adopted. The vaccinations we had already completed had to be redone given the situation. We have a very good vet that wanted to mitigate damage and prevent further complications by postponing vaccinations that would strain the body. We were essentially in code red for a while there.

Thank you for providing resources I can lean on going forward. As I'm sure with parenting, we all make mistakes and it's recognizing said mistakes that allows us to progress, hopefully in a better direction. Positive reinforcement training is my next step!
 
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