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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 4yr old chihuahua named Romeo who has a bunch of behavioral problems.

-He gets defensive around larger dogs & lunges at them (this includes the GREAT DANE in the neighborhood and my cousins BULL MASTIFF who has already attacked a smaller dog on accident)

-He's always tense. I pet him & feel his muscles tense up and he sometimes holds his breath a little. His back feet will also shake when he's eating.

-He whines ALL the time. if he wants to get on the bed, if we're going for a walk if he sees another dog...

-He has started growling at me when I tell him "off" of anything- beds couch etc, "go to bed" or when I'm leaving the house & try to say goodbye. He also growls at me if he's laying with me and I want to pick him up or cuddle him. I really don't understand why.

-He barely eats. (He's been like this since he was a puppy. I've taken him to the vet several times for this & the vet says he's fine & says his weight is good for his breed but I can't help feeling that he could be a little plumper. The vet just says he's picky & I've read about lots of chihuahua owners who go thru the same thing) Though when my brother walks into the room he'll jump out of bed and run to his bowl & gobble everything up. He does the same if the cat goes near his bowl or whenever we have a foster in the house. But honestly I've done nothing about it because AT LEAST it gets him to eat :/ (btw he's on Innova small breed dry food & he also gets grilled chicken or some beef whenever the family has some & when my mom cooks she throws him & the cat a bit of raw meat sometimes he'll eat it sometimes he won't) This all makes training kind of difficult because he's not all that food motivated.

-He barks at everything when he's out in the yard. I feel bad for my neighbors though they never complain coz if people are out in their yards he's barking at them. I don't mind a few barks to let me know what's happening but when he won't let the neighbors be in their own yards it bothers me as I'm sure it bothers them.

-He was potty trained literally at around 5 months of age and now he's going around peeing & pooping the house. It's just infuriating. I've found pee in every room of my house & I don't know why he's going all over the place if he was trained to use potty pads & on top of that I let him out in the backyard like every two hours.

He was a really good dog a few years ago but I ended up in a relationship with an abusive guy who snapped one day on me & my dog (the only time I ever saw him after that was in court) & ever since then he's been fearful especially of men in the months after. He would pee himself in fear whenever a male would approach him & in the following years after that I didn't do much with him regarding training & whatnot coz I was too busy sleeping my depression away. It's been three years since that happened....

Everything I've tried since then hasn't been successful and I've probably just been making him more insecure & now I don't know how to fix everything I've done. I feel like I've really messed up my dog.

Anyway sorry this is so long. I don't know if I should make a separate thread for each of these issues. I guess what I'm here to ask is: What would be my next move?

I think +R training would do best with him but I have no idea how to get started. Especially on a dog who is nervous, insecure and !not motivated by treats half the time!
If anyone could send me some links, recommend some books or a course of action, some training methods, or even just explain WHY he does some of these things so I can better understand what's going on in his head it would be greatly appreciated !!!!!!

4,358 Posts
I'm sorry, it seems like you and the dog have gone through some difficult times. :(

First, let me say that any time there are behavioral changes, there could possibly a medical issue. Now, I understand that you had the relationship issue, and that could affect things, too, but it might be a good idea to start with a medical work up, thyroid check, blood work, etc, just to make sure there are no medical imbalances that are causing any of these problems.

I'm curious to know which of these issues was around before your abusive guy friend snapped on you and the dog. I'm also trying to determine some timing issues: so if the dog is 4 was good for awhile, how old was he when the guy snapped? Did he (the dog) witness lots of abuse?

I'm going to try to go through some of your issues:
- defensive towards larger dogs: my dogs are defensive, also, or should I say they are really FEARFUL, and they act defensive or aggressive because they're fearful. We call it reactivity, and there are several ways you can work through this.
One thing to definitely do is put yourself between your dog and the larger dog, when you're trying to work with your dog on this, so that your dog feels YOU are in control, and can handle the situation. Dogs feel our emotions, so if you are at all nervous about your dog's reaction, he'll pick up on that.
Also, try to work on his "threshold", meaning that, he should have a distance from which he can watch other dogs without reacting. It may be 20 feet, it may be 5 feet, whatever. The idea is that you keep him UNDER his threshold distance. If he can be 20 feet from other dogs without freaking out, keep him at that distance, if it means turning down a sidestreet on a walk, or crossing the street, or whatever. When he can calmly watch the other dog, praise and treat. Gradually, try to shrink his threshold, so he can watch dogs calmly from a shorter distance.

-Being tense: I have a chihuahua-dachshund mix, and I also notice her muscles are more prominent than on my mini dachshund. She shivers very easily, and is often tense. My girl was abandoned very young, and has a few issues, and yours could have some issues feeling safe if she witnessed a lot of abuse.

-Whining: My girl whines, too. It got worse about the time she turned 1, and has gotten better, since we usually ignore her when she whines.

-Growling: Hmmm. Growling is a warning/communciation. I don't ever think of warning as bad; it's just a way for dogs to tell you they aren't comfortable with something. That said, it should be totally ok for you to tell him "off", and have him respond without growling. How well is he trained for the "off" command? Do you ever have to physically move him off? I'm not sure what to say about that one.
As for him growling when you want to pick him up or cuddle him, sometimes dogs don't want to be cuddled. So, if he growls when you try to cuddle, maybe he's simply not in the mood for it. And, many small dogs tolerate being picked up, but it doesn't mean they actually like it, because it can be kind of scary, since they're small. If you try to pick him up and he growls, I'd respect his wishes and let him be.

-Eating: It seems like the vet is unconcerned. Do you feed him on a schedule, or do you free feed? It does sound like he guards his food, as you said he gobbles it up when your brother walks in.

-Barking in the yard: Is he out in the yard alone? Do you go out with him? If you don't go out with him, I'd encourage you to do that, so that you can get the barking under control. Does he enjoy being outside? One method would be for you to bring him in each and every time he doesn't respond to a "quiet" command. Of course, you have to teach the "quiet" command first, but, when he doesn't respond, bring him in.

-Potty training: Problems with peeing/pooping usually means there is a physical problem, like an infection, OR the dog was never really potty trained that well to begin with, and was kind of just getting by.
I'd go back to the basics, as if he was a brand new puppy. Don't let him out of your sight, tether him to you with a leash, that way, he can't sneak off and pee/poop without you knowing what's going one. And, for the time being, you may have to take him out every hour instead of every 2 hours, until you get this under control.
Also, clean with an enzymatic cleaner, so there is absolutely no trace of the mess. Regular cleaners leave enough of a scent behind that dogs can smell it, even when we can't, and it encourages them to go there again.

Dogs read our emotions very well. If you were in abusive relationship your dog felt your stress. After that, and you began "sleeping your depression away" your dog felt that as well. So, for you, I'd say top priority would be strengthening your bond with your dog. I'd start by just some basic training, does he know "sit", "stay", "down", things like that? Try 5 minutes of training like that, several times a day. Have you tried bits of cheese and hot dogs? Very tiny bits?

Also, take him on walks where he is NOT likely to see other dogs. That way, you take that stress out of the equation, and you can both just enjoy your time together.

Start small. Look over your post, and prioritize. For instance, don't worry about large dogs for now, don't worry about his tension (once you have him cleared by the vet), don't worry whining (actually, just ignore it), pick what you'd like to work on. If it were me, I'd choose potty training and the "off" command, as well as getting him a bit more comfortable. Keep experimenting with treats, to see if you can find something he'll work for: chicken jerky, bits of hot dogs or cheese, something very smelly.

Hopefully someone else will come along with more help!

6,439 Posts
Institute NILIF. It'll help his fear, as he will learn what to expect out of his environment and how to get certain reactions/things. Exercise him...twice a day brisk walks for about 45 min. Excess energy feeds into anxiety.
Get better treats...tiny pieces of cut up hot dog, pieces of dried liver, cubes of velveeta cheese.
Look up resource guarding. That's what he is doing regarding not wanting to get off the couch. keep a short leash on him when you are there to supervise, so you can move him if you need to. Sometimes just picking up the end of teh leash, will make one jump down, and you can say "off" right before he jumps, and then reward him.
Pooping/peeing- vet check, then supervise by tethering him to you. Crate, or put him behind a toddler gate in a small room when not supervised. Don't free feed, and you can learn his potty schedule. Use a cue word/phrase like "go potty" to ask him to go and reward when he does.

2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Sorry It's been so long since I've been on here X: I forgot my password & then it was telling me I wasn't registered & I dunno. But I'm here now! & thanks so much to the two of you who responded. I was starting to feel like I was messing up in every area possible with my dog /:

He didn't witness much abuse since it was only the one time it happened & I was NOT gonna stick around & wait for more. It was worse though because he and I were BOTH abused. The idiot threw my dog against a wall when Romeo tried to step himself between us. Then it was a huge scramble and chaos and panic to get him to a vet because I thought he had broken Romeo's back or something all the while trying not to get killed by the guy myself. It was extremely traumatic for the both of us I really wish I could just forget it all happened :( after this I developed anxiety attacks and like i said extreme depression. I was thinking the other day when I was looking at Romeo like Wow that dog IS me. He's everything I feel inside; all the tension & anxiety I have is also in his little body just like it's in mine & it motivates me SO much more to rid myself of all of it. I feel like I'm just a toxic energy that my dog is constantly feeding off of.

Anyway though on with the post
@ Doxiemommy Thanks so much for being so thorough. I'll try my best to do the same :)

Big dogs: I'm doing the threshold thing. It's hard to keep myself in between him and the other dog though because once he sees the dog he's already pulling me towards him & whining but from a distance I can usually get his attention and keep him focused on the walk & not the dog :D

Tense: I'm trying to give him slow & relaxing massages. The tension is usually in his back and hind legs.He lets out whines sometimes of tension you know like when you get a massage & you just have to exhale the tension out as you relax? He always ends up asking for a belly rub tho. I guess he's more comfortable that way lol. I'm also trying to learn how to meditate since I know the energy I give off to him is just as important. I haven't really gotten it down yet (meditation is a LOT harder than it seems lol) but hopefully I will.

Whining: I have always ignored his whining! I usually check to see if he's trying to communicate something to me (like "I gotta go pee") and if not I try my hardest to not pay attention to him. Sometimes he gets a "Shush" from me but that's because my patience is SO TESTED with this one. It's actually gotten WORSE now because the weather's getting nicer and I'm taking him more places (especially in the car. The whining gets REALLY intense in the car). I've realized tho his whining is mostly always excited whining. When he's in the car he's excited to be in the car and have his head out the window and get to where we're going. He knows it's usually someplace fun like a new park, someone's house, the PetCo or the best of them all, the dog park. I'm not sure what to do about that but if I'm not the driver and I massage him & quietly shush him he's A LOT quieter. I'm not sure I should do this though?? Would it count as PRAISE for an UNwanted behavior???

Growling: He knows "off" pretty well. He's never had problems with it before that's why it's so strange for him. I tell him once now and he'll walk to the edge of the bed. If I say it again he will growl. I think he may be trying to figure out the best way to jump down & he's maybe saying "Don't rush me" coz he's scared to fall. He has a step to get onto my bed but he never uses it to get down. I'll try not to rush him from now on & be less aggressive about it & more assertive but happy?.
I read what you said about the cuddling. Now I'll instead pat the bed next to me & see IF he wants to come cuddle first. I'm also more gentle as you made me realize it must be really scary to be that little and be lifted up all the time without consent. Also I watched a video on Youtube from Kikopup & I've stopped kissing him on the head. She says dogs can see that as a threat. Imagine you're tiny & this big old head is in your face all the time lol.

Eating: I free feed only because with the schedule he would skip so many meals. I started just leaving the bowl down in hopes that maybe he'd be hungry later and that doesn't seem to be working either. He does still gobble it up when my brother walks into the room or if the cat is near his bowl. Otherwise he's completely uninterested in food unless it's table food. I noticed he will eat more than usual after some long exercise but I mean LONG exercise. He has to be completely pooped to actually come home and go straight to his bowl first thing. Pooped for Romeo seems to be after about two miles! It sounds a lot for a Chi but this little dog really would walk on forever if you'd let him.

Barking in Yard: Yes he's usually out alone but I am with him sometimes if it's particularly nice out. I've started calling for him all excited like when he's barking & when he gets to the back porch he gets a command like gimme paw or something & then I close the door and leave him outside. I guess that counts as diverting his attention. It seems to be working somewhat.. I've noticed now that when my yard is too quiet I have to make myself get up & check if he escaped! LOL the yard is closed but if it's windy or if people are walking in & out of the house the gate might get left open so I find myself checking all the time if I can't hear him to make sure he's really there. Funny huh?

Potty training: He was actually very well potty trained at a really young age. I think the potty issue came up about a year ago when we moved houses. In the last house he never had a yard so while I was gone he would go on pee pads. In our house now he has a yard so maybe he got to marking up the yard & then also marking the house? (He's not neutered I wanna get him neutered so bad I as soon as I have the money I will) Maybe I didn't transfer his training from house to house correctly??
I do have a cleaner I bought at PetCo called "Nature's.... something" lol I can't remember it's specifically for cleaning up pee & poop messes & getting rid of the odor dogs can still smell. What I did with this was I cleaned the ENTIRE HOUSE. Moved furniture and everything. Mopped up and used the cleaner in his normal spots. He's been good about not peeing in the living room, dining room, kitchen and my room so far. I am finding pee in the laundry room (that's a little excusable coz at least that's where his pee pad is located) and I found some in the bathroom this weekend. I'll have to try the leash him up to me thing. I have done it for a while but never stuck to it because the leash makes him so excited and whenever I walk around the house with him he's thinking we're going for a walk and he tried to pull me to the nearest door & when he sees we're not getting to go outside the whining starts *facepalm* so I probably gave up quicker than I should have with that idea.

@spotted nikes

NILF: got it, doing that. even for opening the door to the yard he has to "sit" & "give paw" & "lay down" then "stay", I open the door & he can only leave when I say "ok" I always switch it around & ask different tricks of him because I don't want him doing the tricks in order before I ask.

Exercise: he gets at least a walk a day. Sometimes it's not the longest walk he could get it's like a "lets walk til you run out of pee" thing. I am taking him on (roughly) one hour walks to the park, at the park and from the park twice or three times a week. Other days I'll put him on the treadmill for 15 minutes if I don't have time for the park. For the past few weeks as well, I've been taking him to the dog park on the weekends. I also just discovered this BEAUTIFUL hiking trail so I'm planning on getting him slowly used to hiking with me. I'm sure he'll love it. He's such a walker :)

Better treats: I'm still struggling with this one. Cheese works sometimes..sometimes it doesn't. Chicken sometimes sometimes not. /:

Peeing: see above @doxiemommy. it's getting better but still not 100%

Thanks again guys !!

4,358 Posts
Glad you're back!
Big dogs/threshold: sounds like you're doing great! If he is reacting (whining/pulling) it usually means you are TOO close (under his threshold) and should back up or move to a different area, so that you are further away (at his threshold). The reaction will usually stop if you are far enough away. That way you aren't allowing him to pull and try to get closer to the dog.

Barking in the yard: dogs usually don't DO much in the yard if they're by themselves, meaning that they usually just sniff and explore stuff, and then get bored. If they're bored, they will usually use any little movement or noise as an excuse to bark. Very rarely do dogs actually play in a yard by themselves. So, that's why I recommend that you go out with him.
Also, you can get the barking under control that way. It doesn't have to be forever, of course. Just enough that he learns not to bark. My fiance is very particular about this. We don't have many close neighbors, as we're down a rural country lane, but, he really doesn't want them to have to deal with barking, so we're pretty on top of that! :)

Potty training: Nature's Miracle, maybe? That's a great cleaner. And, yes, it could have something to do with moving, in more way that one! Any change in routine or environment can cause setbacks in potty training. PLUS, dogs don't generalize well. So, if he was potty trained in one house, you kind of have to "retrain" him in the new house. And, also, sometimes they do tend to "mark" to put their scent in a new place.

Keep it up! :)
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