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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 10lb chi-terrier rescue that we believe is now about 2. When we first got him he was traumatized by the vet trying to take blood. Over time I've been able to convince him to let me trim his nails, but trying to get him to go to the groomer has failed multiple times since. We stopped trying in May.

Well, in July he had his shots and it was an all together nightmare. They had to muzzle him and basically hold him down so he didn't alligator roll while they gave them.

This past weekend he went in for boarding for the first time in about a month and he actually snapped at four different people. He's never done this before and he used to let them carry him around no problem. They said they think it's because of his harness and also say it's been a progressing issue since trying to get him in the grooming room back in May. He doesn't appear to like people to go over his back, but I'm not convinced that these are solely the reason but also possibly the vet trips for shots too.

We are going to go to training, but I'm looking for some recommendations as far as scolding or treat training against this to help us reverse these behaviors as much as possible in the mean time. I want the handlers at daycare to feel safe while handling my dog.

We have already told them to stop using his harness and to just loop him with the pole. I started training him yesterday afternoon to start walking on a leash instead of a harness (he's so small that I actually use the harness with a retractable leash as a back up for now because I'm worried he may get out and we live in the city - please let me know if this is a terrible idea). Already this morning on his walk I felt like I had more control over him.

I'm really heartbroken because I try my hardest to be a good dog parent. We have numerous important trips coming up this fall and him getting kicked out of daycare could cause a mess. On top of that we are also trying for a baby. I don't want to give up my dog, it would tear me to pieces, but if we can't break the snapping I don't know how we can have him around a baby.

Please help. I'm open to all ideas.

I'd also like to know the success of using water spray bottles or cans with pennies as tools when acting out if anyone does this? We have a water spray bottle, but I admit I haven't been consistent with it. I'm just so confused because sometimes someone says, "oh that's bad, don't do that." So then I switch and I just feel like it gets muddled and inconsistent.

I'm also going to reach out to his vet about anxiety medication. If anyone has used this and has any comments I'd be grateful.

Thank you!
 

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For fearful dogs - no punishment. No scolding, yelling, spraying, penny cans, hitting, etc. Think about it... Would a negative experience make him like people more, or less? Answer is less. And a dog who likes people less and less is more likely to do more damage when they do react.

Catch poles are traumatizing for dogs. I would find it unbelievable, borderline abusive, for daycare staff to use a catch pole multiple times a day on a 10# dog. If your dog struggles at all, it has a lot of potential to seriously hurt him. Any daycare that agrees to this handling, even if recommended by the owner, is a facility I would never leave my dog at. There are so many better, safer, kinder, and easier ways to handle aggressive dogs in boarding situations and if they just shrug their shoulders and jump to catch pole, that suggests to me that daycare staff have zero experience with body language or safety.

Instead, if he needs to be boarded and moved from place to place by stranger, I would recommend having him drag a leash attached to a harness at all times. And make sure the kennel set up has nowhere for him to tangle. This way, staff can just pick up the end of his leash and lead him from place to place. If he plants himself and won't even move with a stranger, I recommend putting potty pads in the kennel and telling staff they don't need to handle him at all, and to just change out his pads, food and water every day. And goes without saying... If he doesn't need to be boarded, don't board him.

If your dog is food motivated, treats can help. But treats need to be used in a thoughtful way, with a solid understanding of thresholds, and ALWAYS letting the dog determine the pace and distance for the training. Find a trainer that focuses on positive reinforcement to help you. "CPDT" is a good certification to look for when you are searching for trainers and the CCPDT website has a search option to find certified trainers in your area.
 

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Anecdotes....

I work in a shelter where we regularly work with fearful dogs with bite histories. Our shelter is awesome but unfortunately we do need to move dogs from their indoor spaces to outdoor runs (we do not have a connected outdoor space for the dogs). We do have a catch pole. In the years that I've worked there, we have NEVER had to use it. This is regular shelter staff, able to move dogs around our building. Dogs who have drawn blood on people. Not only do we successfully do it, but we successfully help these dogs become less fearful over time. We use treats, barriers, toys, leashes, even other dogs... To move our fearful friends in gentle and effective ways.

I have a training client with a fearful and reactive dog. Unfortunately, the dog now has a bite history... A friend of the client has in the past tried to 'train' the dog by stomping towards him and yelling at him. This surely scared the dog so much that the dog would stop barking (which made the person think the methods were working). But it also was teaching the dog 'this person is really scary'. But one day the friend came into the house unannounced and the dog bit and punctured his leg. I can almost guarantee that if the friend had not scared this dog and created negative associations, he would have just been rushed and barked at instead of bitten. And this has never happened with other people who the dog has reacted to.

So many more. But I cannot stress the importance of finding a good trainer to work with you on this. Your dog is just scared. There are proven methods that are kind and will help him.
 

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The repeated exposure to things/situations he doesn't like is probably what created this problem, honestly. Most dogs can get over one bad experience, but consistently being made to feel uncomfortable has probably grown some distrust when people try to handle him.

First, don't use punishment on this dog (scolding, water bottles, penny cans) because you may make the problem worse. The dog is clearly very afraid, and using more aversive methods will only frighten him more. I would also recommend getting a positive, force free trainer to help you with these issues.

Can you give a little more information on this? Clearly, he has issues with being handled. Is it only with strangers, or with you, too? What was happening when the daycare workers got snapped at? Is he typically fearful of strangers?

Handling issues can be fixed, but it often takes a lot of time, and incredible patience. It's important to move at the dog's pace, and when they express their discomfort, you must listen and back off. Praise and reward is important, as they begin to associate handling with good things.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The repeated exposure to things/situations he doesn't like is probably what created this problem, honestly. Most dogs can get over one bad experience, but consistently being made to feel uncomfortable has probably grown some distrust when people try to handle him.

First, don't use punishment on this dog (scolding, water bottles, penny cans) because you may make the problem worse. The dog is clearly very afraid, and using more aversive methods will only frighten him more. I would also recommend getting a positive, force free trainer to help you with these issues.

Can you give a little more information on this? Clearly, he has issues with being handled. Is it only with strangers, or with you, too? What was happening when the daycare workers got snapped at? Is he typically fearful of strangers?

Handling issues can be fixed, but it often takes a lot of time, and incredible patience. It's important to move at the dog's pace, and when they express their discomfort, you must listen and back off. Praise and reward is important, as they begin to associate handling with good things.

When he goes to daycare regularly, he's excited to go. We stopped going a lot over the summer months because they had a kennel cough outbreak and I didn't want Benji getting sick after he caught it at the end of May. So I think maybe he's just out of routine by going there only three times in July for half a day and one day in August) and doesn't understand it's supposed to be fun social time?

He is fine with me when I put his harness on, but it is difficult for my husband to do and now apparently it is difficult for the workers at daycare to do too. It's just strange considering last fall they were walking around with him tucked into their hoodies and now he's snapping at them.

When people visit our house he does get wary and stressed, but as long as they ignore him he will eventually go up to them for a treat or pet and sometimes even crawl in their lap by the time they leave.

However: my mother in law came to visit in the spring. We told her the same thing we told everyone else - ignore him. Instead she got impatient and tried to pick him up and he snapped. I was more pissed at her than him because I felt she put him in that position. Then he had the incident at the groomers in May. In July he had his shots and that was even traumatizing for me to watch. Then in August a friend came to our house and we told him the same thing: ignore our dog. He didn't listen and the dog snapped at him and he reacted by smacking him. Fortunately, my husband confronted him immediately so I didn't have to. Now this has happened. I feel like it has progressed because we are doing something wrong or not doing enough.

I bought a collar that tightens if he pulls on the leash too hard so that I can teach him to heel on leash (I worry he will slip out of a regular collar right now and he pulls really bad on his harness anyways). Is this okay? I feel like if they don't have to put the harness on and just clip his collar we can rule out whether the harness is an issue.


Thoughts?


Thank you so much everyone for the feed back. I'm going to call the daycare to talk to them about things we can work on together to make him more comfortable. When he goes regularly he's better around other people and dogs so I feel like this is an important thing for him to continue doing, but I don't want to do it at the expense of his or someone else's safety. I'm also going to call the training center I had in mind to ask them about their training certifications as recommended.
 

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Have you taken him to the vet? Perhaps he is feeling pain in that area, and when someone manipulates his body to put on his harness that irritates something?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So after talking to the daycare I've confirmed he doesn't have to be picked up to be put into his loft he stays in for boarding.

The problem times seem to be when they lift him to put on his harness and one incident where he slipped out of the gate at daycare while they were getting another dog and they tried to picked him up to put him back in. The girl I spoke to told me she's done that before and it wasn't an issue. It appears it's only with certain people.

I also asked if when they leash him if they get to his level. They said yes.

I explained that he does respond very well to treats and is extremely treat motivated so perhaps we could incorporate this in his daily activities to ensure a positive impression on him.

I've bought him a loop leash and have asked if we can try this for now. I've been practicing with him today quite a bit and have started rewarding when I put the loop leash on and take it off (it has to be taken off when he goes into his room. I asked if it could be left on but they said it's policy so they don't get caught on anything. Which I understand, it's the same practice I use at home). I also asked if they could reward when leashing him to reinforce it as a positive thing.

I also bought beef jerky for dogs so that he has a special treat he receives each time he gets to daycare/boarding.

I don't think the harness hurts him - especially with as much as he pulls on leash while using it. So I think the change to a loop leash will be good bc it will allow me to take control at home too.

I'm open go anymore suggestions should anyone have any!
 

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If he is comfortable with being led around using a slip lead (assuming that is what the loop leash is), then that is infinitely better than having to handle him or use a catch pole. Emphasis on "comfortable" because it tightens and can choke a dog if the dog is fighting it. I agree with the staff that it's not safe to leave a slip lead (or anything attaching to a dog's neck) on unattended. If he is very treat motivated then luring with a treat is also a great way to move him around.
 
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