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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all,

I adopted a puppy about 4 months ago from a shelter down in Arkansas. He is an aussie/shepherd mix (i think) and is almost 8 months old right now.

I think he might be going through a fear stage where he is scared of everything under the sun. Is there anything I can do to help him through this?

He also is showing signs of food aggression. He is fine when humans pick up his food bowl and petting him when he is eating all that, but when other dogs are around he gets quite defensive and snaps at them. I think he came from a situation where he didn't get enough food. Any advice on this?

To add on to the list, he is very reactive towards runners, skateboards and children. When he sees them, he will bark and lunge at them. I am at a loss as to what to do to get him to be less reactive towards them? I always put him into a sit and watch me when they go by and for the most part it works, but sometimes it doesn't and he will lunge at them. I am very worried that he will one day bite somebody and have to be put down. Any advice on how to deal with these issues?
 

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Hi! Eight months is a common time to go through a fear stage, I believe.

For the food aggression: I wouldn't recommend humans taking food or treats away. That can often CAUSE problems where none existed before OR it can make some issues WORSE. The reasoning is, food is a resource, and if people start taking it away he will likely feel that he NEEDS to guard and protect his food, because people are trying to take it away. If you just leave him to eat, than he will learn that his food is not at risk of disappearing, and he won't have to guard it.

I know some people recommend trying to take a dog's food away to show them that it's ok, and get them used to it, but that can backfire and make a dog feel like he's at risk for losing a precious thing like food.

Do you have other dogs? Are other dogs around when he eats? I would definitely make sure that you feed him alone, with no other dogs around.

In the meantime, you can work on trading up if he's aggressive when he has treats/toys. This means that you offer him something even better than what he's guarding, so he doesn't feel like what he has is being just randomly taken. In conjunction with this, you can teach him "drop" so that when you trade up, you're actually rewarding him for the "drop" command.

As for being reactive: usually that is fear based. What I would do is work on his threshold. His threshold is the distance at which he can calmly watch his triggers (the things that trigger him to be reactive, runners, skateboarders, and kids). It may be 20 feet, it may be 10 feet, whatever. Start out by making sure anytime you see a trigger, you move him away so he's under his threshold. That may mean crossing the street, turning down a side street, or even turning around and going another direction. Once you have distanced yourselves from the trigger, you can put him in a sit, and have him look at the trigger, and give him a treat if he's calm.

Gradually, he may start to feel more calm, and you may be able to work on gradually shrinking his threshold. I have a reactive dog, and with work, you can get improvement!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hello doxiemommy,

Thank you for your reply.

I normally do not take his food away for good. I usually make him sit and wait, put the food down and then let him have it. I will pet him while he is eating and he is fine with it. I will also take his food bowl away and put some treats in it and then give it back to him. It is only with other dogs that he is food aggressive it seems like. I have started handfeeding him by putting him into a sit and having another dog sit nearby and I will take turns feeding them food. I do not know if that will help but I am hoping it will.

He does "drop it" with certain things, but with other things like high value items or food he finds on the floor he will either gulp it down or refuse to give it to me, any advice on redirecting that behavior?

I will try the threshold training and see if it will help. He seems to be fine if little children are not moving, but once they started moving and making a fuss he will bark and lunge.. should I block him and have him focus on me if he does this or should I just remove him from the situation?

Thanks again!
 

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I have no advice for the food aggression, as I've never had to deal with it personally, but I can help with your drop it issue.

I would say you should start teaching him impulse control using the method found here. Also teach a solid "leave it", so of you drop something you can tell him to leave it do you don't have to take it away in the first place. For now though, keep his FAVORITE treat on hand so you can "trade up", show him the treat, ask him to drop it, and when he does hand over the tasty treat :)

~IJMB
 
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