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Hello all! So I am in a bit of a situation. I am in dire need of ways to help my 2 year old Siberian husky. He is a rescue, but looks like he is a pure bred husky boy. He is neutered, and has a bit of a complicated past with me.
Miko.jpg A little under a year ago, a friend of mine decided he needed a playmate for his malamute girl. So, we searched the local shelters and found Miko. He is GORGEOUS. He has a wooly coat (meaning he has long hair instead of the typical husky short) and two piercing ice blue eyes. Off we went to the shelter to adopt him, and that day he went home with my friend. The situation at the time was that I had my one other dog at the time and was enrolled in nursing school, but my friend worked full time. So, being the proactive dog owner that I am, I decided to take his pups with me to the dog park. Miko and his then sister would come with me to the park and then stay at my house after until my friend got off of work in the afternoon. Needless to say, Miko was familiar with me and my dogs. The longer he was with my friend and I, the more and more we realized that something had traumatized the poor guy. He has a strong aversion to anyone (except for those he trusts of course) grabbing his collar and harness. Whenever anyone, including us at first, grabs his harness and/or collar, he freaks out, biting and making this horrendous noise that sounds like someone without vocal chords trying to scream. We believe this is from his previous owners holding him down to hit him, as he flinches whenever hands are raised. So long story short, my friend lost his job and had to move away, and couldn’t take poor Miko with him. Because of Miko’s troubled past and the fact that the adjustment period with my friend was so rough (he ate everything he could find, cut his mouth open on cans, tore the house apart and had frequent accidents), my boyfriend and I decided to take him in. This brings us to the problem. I understand that he should have gone through an adjustment period just like any other dog. We have now had him for upwards of 2 months and he is the sweetest dog ever! That is until it comes to reprimanding him. This is not a problem with my boyfriend, I am assuming because Miko views him as the alpha (even though I spend the most time with the dogs and am very obviously in charge. My other two dogs have had no problem accepting that I am the pack alpha) instead of me. When he gets in trouble, he rolls over on to his back. I then show him what he did wrong, and then either raise my voice to reiterate that it is not OK or I swat him on the butt with a newspaper. Maybe 50% of the time, he will turn around and bite me. It happens when I choose not to swat him as well. I am at my wits end with this dog, as he has bitten me several times. I can’t just not reprimand him for behaviors that are unacceptable, but I can’t stand to be bitten any more. This is obviously a fear based aggression and I don’t want him to be afraid of me or anyone else.
I would greatly appreciate any advice anyone could give me, but please do not reply to this thread with comments such as the following:
-you are a student and are incapable of caring for a dog (I go to school, and work part time and am still able to find time in the day for my dogs. They are like my children and suggesting that because I am young and in school I cannot care for them is extremely ignorant and hurtful, as I do everything possible to make sure my dogs are happy and healthy.)
-swatting a dog is never acceptable/you are abusing your dog
-it is a product of lack of exercise/ exercise him more (I take all 3 of my dogs to the dog park 2x a day every day for at least an hour a trip)
As I am a student, I don’t have the funds for a trainer. I am perfectly capable of training my dog, as I am an experienced dog owner. Before anyone suggests that because I don’t have the funds for a trainer, that I must not have the funds for vet visits, this is not true. I have money set aside for veterinary emergencies and to keep them up to date on their vaccinations and check-ups. Thank you for reading my crazy long post! I hope someone out there can help me!
 

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I can’t just not reprimand him for behaviors that are unacceptable
Actually you can and if you're serious about making things work with this dog, you're going to have to. I would be happy to write out some more in-depth advice and ideas but I'm not sure if you'd actually want to hear it and I don't have a lot of time to waste right now. He sounds like he's going to need a whole lot of structure and all training will need to be force-free.
 

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I'm not going to say that swatting him in the butt is abuse, but I am going to say it's not effective. For one, the alpha thing is not real. Dogs don't see us as other dogs, and they don't have strict pack structure among each other either.

Second, you need to teach him what you want him to do, and manage him (with a crate, baby gates, etc) when you can't supervise. Dogs don't understand being shown their wrongdoings and then scolded. Some take it and look "guilty" (really an appeasement gesture, like "I'm just a small dog, don't hurt me"). Some dogs will lash out. It's not effective training and it's obviously making him very frightened of you, so stop doing it. If you want him to stop being afraid of you, stop yelling at him and swatting him.

What types of behaviors do you feel need to be reprimanded? I redirect my dogs and say "no" sometimes, but if you find yourself just telling him "no" all the time you need to change your approach and find ways to tell him "yes" for doing what you want. And if he's getting into things when you're not around, you need to contain him better or dog proof your house better.

For example, since he tries to bite if you grab his collar, I would start pairing collar grabs with treats. Make it a happy fun event and show him that letting you take his collar brings great treats. If you do this enough he will start to love having his collar grabbed.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
He also is crated when my boyfriend and I are not home so that he can't get in to anything dangerous.
 

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first the alpha stuff needs to stop that has been shown to be false and is causing the fear you see when someone grabs for him. I would also stop the swatting also you need to find a neutral way of calming him and yourself when he does not do something right. You also want to prevent the bad things from happening as much as possible (some behaviors are self rewarding and the dog will keep doing them if he gets something for it).
What have you done so far in training? basic or more??

Depending on what kind of park you may need to add training sessions also for mental stimulation--dogs do better not just running, fetching but working some things out-- this is true for working breeds like yours.
 

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He also is crated when my boyfriend and I are not home so that he can't get in to anything dangerous.
Then what kind of things do you feel you need to reprimand him for? If you give us some specifics we can help find other ways to deal with those issues.
 

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Well, sorry but "-swatting a dog is never acceptable". Unless I am in immediate physical danger, I have never found a need to swat a dog.

Agree with the above, what is he doing that is the problem? Most problems are solved by management and positive reinforcement/redirection.

Especially since he's so fearful, you need to have a gentle approach vs correcting him so often with a loud voice and physical punishment (swatting).
 

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I would work on the collar grab game.


A few things to note from your post.

-Alpha/pack theory has been disproven by science. Others on the forum are more eloquent in explaining it than I am.

-Swatting your dog on the butt is not abuse. But it's also not particularly effective. It's much more effective to teach your dog what you want him to do, as opposed to what you don't want him to do.

-Going to the dog park twice a day may actually be adding to behavioral problems. That's a lot of dogs in one day. It's entirely possible that is stressing him out, or making him overtired. I would try more structured exercise, like a walk.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
DogTheGreat I would love to hear your ideas. He has a general structure to his day, from feeding to dog park to crate while we are gone. The only behavior I was referencing there is the biting. He CAN NOT bite. Not me not anyone else. That is my biggest fear, is that he is going to bite someone else and that it is going to get him in trouble.
 

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DogTheGreat I would love to hear your ideas. He has a general structure to his day, from feeding to dog park to crate while we are gone. The only behavior I was referencing there is the biting. He CAN NOT bite. Not me not anyone else. That is my biggest fear, is that he is going to bite someone else and that it is going to get him in trouble.
Under what circumstances is he biting? Just when you try to grab him?

In that case yea, I'd work on collar grab games by rewarding him when you move toward his collar so he feels good about it and doesn't feel the need to be fearful and protect himself.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Chimunga, Thank you for that video! That will be helpful and I will definitely start doing that. He is not particularly food motivated. DO you have any thoughts on how else to reward him besides verbal praise?
 

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DogTheGreat I would love to hear your ideas. He has a general structure to his day, from feeding to dog park to crate while we are gone. The only behavior I was referencing there is the biting. He CAN NOT bite. Not me not anyone else. That is my biggest fear, is that he is going to bite someone else and that it is going to get him in trouble.
If you are worried about a bite then I would not be going out in public with him with out a muzzle (yes I said it) till you can get a handle on his fear because that is what you may end up with. What kind of structure the more details the better we can help you. You said that he bites at you when he thinks he is going to get reprimanded for doing something--what is the something??
 

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Chimunga, Thank you for that video! That will be helpful and I will definitely start doing that. He is not particularly food motivated. DO you have any thoughts on how else to reward him besides verbal praise?
Most dogs have some kind of food motivation. It's just up to us to find the right food that motivates them. But if your dog is one of the rare cases that isn't food motivated at all, you can reward him with toys and play.

Zak George is a big proponent of teaching dogs with play instead of toys.

 

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ireth0, yes, it is when I try to grab him or when he knows he is in trouble. For example, last night he grabbed a bite of my pasta off of the table, and when I shouted "HEY!" to get him away from it, I got up to show him the plate with the word no, like I usually do when I correct him (Show the problem, then say "that's a no") and then he backed himself against the wall and when i started talking to him he growled. I Know not to lean over him and not to get too far in to his personal space when he is afraid. I am unsure of what else to do to correct him. We have also tried meat, jerky treats, PB, homemade PB treats, kibble and chicken.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
SirviRavenWind, This is the daily schedule more or less:

Wake up, go out to pee
Eat breakfast
Dog park for about 45min-1hr
Home, crate so I can go to work
When I get home, I take them to the park immediately (They love the park so I don't think the stimulus is the problem, and he is very very dog friendly and loves to play with others)
Home, relax for a while
Dinner at 7

Behaviors that need to be corrected:

Jumping (I redirect to sit)
Biting when corrected
Eating off of the table
Biting when collar/harness is grabbed
Pulling on leash

He is a very good dog (except for the biting), and there isnt many recurring things that I can think of, but it is little things here and there. I'd also like to reiterate that not every one of these offenses gets him swatted with the newspaper. Normally I bend to his level and verbally tell him "that's a no". I wag my finger as well and he will either growl or snap. That is when I am at a loss. Swatting upsets him and gets me bit so I would love to be able to stop doing that, but I don't know what to replace that with. He also gets positive attention when he does good things. He sits, stays, waits, shakes/ high fives, and lays down, so he has basic training. He and I haven't been able to do much else because of the way that he shuts down because of the fear.
 

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ireth0, yes, it is when I try to grab him or when he knows he is in trouble. For example, last night he grabbed a bite of my pasta off of the table, and when I shouted "HEY!" to get him away from it, I got up to show him the plate with the word no, like I usually do when I correct him (Show the problem, then say "that's a no") and then he backed himself against the wall and when i started talking to him he growled. I Know not to lean over him and not to get too far in to his personal space when he is afraid. I am unsure of what else to do to correct him. We have also tried meat, jerky treats, PB, homemade PB treats, kibble and chicken.
Showing the problem and then saying "no" is not an effective training method. He doesn't understand what you are doing and it scares him.

Instead, teach him a "leave it". If he starts to go for your food, say "leave it", and then praise and reward with something he can have.
 

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Showing the problem and then saying "no" is not an effective training method. He doesn't understand what you are doing and it scares him.

Instead, teach him a "leave it". If he starts to go for your food, say "leave it", and then praise and reward with something he can have.
This. Or crate him when you're eating, or teach a 'go to place' command so he will sit on a mat or dog bed while you're eating.
 

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SirviRavenWind, This is the daily schedule more or less:

Wake up, go out to pee
Eat breakfast
Dog park for about 45min-1hr
Home, crate so I can go to work
When I get home, I take them to the park immediately (They love the park so I don't think the stimulus is the problem, and he is very very dog friendly and loves to play with others)
Home, relax for a while
Dinner at 7
I do not think the park is a problem, just that it is more physical stimulation--Wondering if a tether every other day would help him. That would give him a chance to do things with you that you can praise him for so that he learns to trust you. (sit, stay, look at me)
Does he know basic commands? you could also use a few of them in a short session to give mental stimulation also. Do you other dogs play at home with him?
I did this kind of thing with a rescue GSD/husky mix that started out fearful and she turned around in two years she became a therapy dog-- so I do believe that you can turn him around if you help him trough his fear.
 
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