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I stumbled onto these forums after an incident occurred with my boyfriend's dog Elsa, but I'm unable to find a good response as to what to do.

Elsa is a 2.5 year old GSD mutt, built like a lanky lab, large pointy ears, but colored like a sable GSD. She is quite the interesting animal when it comes to dominance. I work at a large kennel and have supervised daycare; most dogs are naturally submissive to people.

I have not known her for very long, just for about 3 months. She is a rescue from the south and came into my BFs hands at 3 months old. She goes to Daycare at least once a week and usually does fine.

Overall, she is a reasonable dog (if you don't interact with her..), but has some irritating quirks that makes it hard to enjoy her presence.
-She can take offense to petting, but not all the time. If I pet too close to the neck or sides, she will curl her lips at me. She has gone as far as snapping the air when I move my hand off the area that seems to bother her. She does better when I praise her for letting me pet her, but I am confused as to why I would need to reward a dog for a rewarding experience..
-Regardless of who it is, she is defensive about people touching her feet. Which I have seen at the kennel, mostly with small dogs after getting a fear of nail clipping. I have been able to clip her nails before, but only with a lot of verbal praise and positive tone of voice.
-When she plays, she wont hesitate to play with an open mouth. It is something I know I should stop her from doing, since biting in play can easily turn into something painful.
-I have learned now that she is food aggressive, weather it is in her bowl or not. She curls her lips at me if I try to pet her while shes tongue length away from food being prepared on the counter.
She takes the time to inhale her meal only when I am around or enter the house. If I walk past her or look at her as she stops to look at me in mid munch, she has her head lowered and ears back. If I approach or pet her while she is eating, she will curl her lips and yesterday she went as far as growling.

Which is were I believe I made the mistake of scuffing and pinning her down, causing her to fear bite me in the process. Her body language in the pin is so different then any dog I've seen. Most will lay limp and submit to what is happening, but she tenses her legs inward, pupils dilated with her lips almost curled - as if the situation wasn't just about being dominated, but of fearing something worse to come.

I have started to grow a bit of a fear of this dog, since there seems to always be something that causes her to be defensive/fearful. She never fully submits, but I'm thinking its the method my BF is using. Physical punishment seems to do more emotional damage then it should and I think that now I have to go for a non physical punishment with this dog.

If I try to pretend she doesnt exist, she just goes about her day and the only interaction she gives to me is strange licking (which makes me think of submissive licking) Its as if she cant pick a side..

What do you guys think? Did something happen to her to make her this way?
 

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How long has this dog been owned by your friend? It seems this poor animal has some real issues that may need some professional counter training. Food aggression for sure!

Not being mean ... just pointing out something ... and just something to consider ...

Even as a human if someone were patting me on the head as I was eating I would smack your hand off ... and if you put your hand near my plate I would do the same thing .. if you pinned me down and I was a dog I would bite the living tarnation out of you ... as a human I would probably punch your lights out!

Your friends punishment training IMHO probably has done enough harm that it is going to take a very long time to undo. I took on a rescue dog who had a rough life and was abused physically and mentally. She took a whole year to learn respect and to trust people at all.

I firmly believe that this dog needs someone to use positive methods of training on it ... and a trainer for the food aggression. I would be careful as you may end up being bitten.

To be helpful ... there are a lot of good stickies in the dog training forum. Ian Dunbar is a good one to read also and the NILIF. :)
 

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1. "Most dogs are naturally submissive to people" ... Not quite - most family pets learn to be friendly with people. Vets learn to be wary of dogs, b/c most dogs are not happy being probed, if they haven't been trained first.
2. Most dogs may like to be petted around the shoulders. Many dogs don't like to be petted around the kidneys or sensitive ribs, but family pets may have gotten used to it. I purposely trained my dog not to react badly to being startled, hugged, or kissed in the face by little kids. He can get up and walk away (dragging the 'untrained' child, if needed), but he won't react 'aggressively'. Most people don't anticipate this type of abuse.
3. The top of a Dog's feet are very sensitive. Even if a dog is trained to accept handling, they don't like it.
4. Playing with an open mouth may or may not be bad. If the dog has never been trained with Bite Inhibition, that can be bad.
5. Dr. Ian Dunbar is unambiguous. If a dog growls, give her room. She has just warned you. The dog has never been trained to accept handling while eating... that might be a safe thing to consider getting help with. But you now know that you will not make friends with the dog if you approach while she's eating :)
6. Obviously don't pin the dog, and it's a good decision to stop All punishment methods. (You're probably lucky that you were strong enough to hold her down.)

Rather than what behaviors to stop, what behaviors would you like her to do? For example:
1. When you pet her, stay away from sensitive areas all the time for now. Pet where you know she likes, allow her to nudge you to other spots, and feed her a few tiny treats (size of a dime or smaller) when she allows you to pet her.
2. Don't try to train her Not to be food reactive ... Save that for a professional positive-method trainer/behaviorist.
 

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Hmm, she sounds like my mom's dog Shug. I never thought it was unusual or weird, LOL. Just don't steal her food or try to pin her down. . .

Some dogs don't find petting rewarding. Most dogs don't like to have their feet touched. Most dogs don't want you to steal their food. If you want them to accept those things, they have to be desensitized to them. It takes time. And patience.
 

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1. "Most dogs are naturally submissive to people" ... Not quite - most family pets learn to be friendly with people. Vets learn to be wary of dogs, b/c most dogs are not happy being probed, if they haven't been trained first.
2. Most dogs may like to be petted around the shoulders. Many dogs don't like to be petted around the kidneys or sensitive ribs, but family pets may have gotten used to it. I purposely trained my dog not to react badly to being startled, hugged, or kissed in the face by little kids. He can get up and walk away (dragging the 'untrained' child, if needed), but he won't react 'aggressively'. Most people don't anticipate this type of abuse.
3. The top of a Dog's feet are very sensitive. Even if a dog is trained to accept handling, they don't like it.
4. Playing with an open mouth may or may not be bad. If the dog has never been trained with Bite Inhibition, that can be bad.
5. Dr. Ian Dunbar is unambiguous. If a dog growls, give her room. She has just warned you. The dog has never been trained to accept handling while eating... that might be a safe thing to consider getting help with. But you now know that you will not make friends with the dog if you approach while she's eating :)
6. Obviously don't pin the dog, and it's a good decision to stop All punishment methods. (You're probably lucky that you were strong enough to hold her down.)

Rather than what behaviors to stop, what behaviors would you like her to do? For example:
1. When you pet her, stay away from sensitive areas all the time for now. Pet where you know she likes, allow her to nudge you to other spots, and feed her a few tiny treats (size of a dime or smaller) when she allows you to pet her.
2. Don't try to train her Not to be food reactive ... Save that for a professional positive-method trainer/behaviorist.
Thanks for you positive reply!
I guess I am used to family dogs from the kennel work and I realize now that there are just as many dogs that dont like to be handled as much. Its just with how the job goes, we have to push and shove dogs around weather they want to do it or not.

I'm not afraid of tackling a dog down and its gotten me in trouble before, it was instinct to do so since its the quickest method in a the large-group-dog setting of daycare that I'm used to. I should have reacted more gentler and realized that shes certainly not accepting of a somewhat new person, tromping on her territory, approaching too close to her food, and then taking her down for something that made sense to her.

I'm gentler now, praising her for allowing me to pet her, but she will still seem just somewhat nervous and a bit submissive about it. I think it will just take time for her to understand that I'm not going to punish her, which still makes me wonder if something had happened to her in the past that makes her so worried about tone of voice and collar touching.

It sucks when dogs go through something traumatizing. The dog I live with was an abused shelter dog that took years to learn to trust people and not to pee when her name was called, even if it was to praise her.
 

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Overall, she is a reasonable dog (if you don't interact with her..), but has some irritating quirks that makes it hard to enjoy her presence.
-She can take offense to petting, but not all the time. If I pet too close to the neck or sides, she will curl her lips at me. She has gone as far as snapping the air when I move my hand off the area that seems to bother her. She does better when I praise her for letting me pet her, but I am confused as to why I would need to reward a dog for a rewarding experience..

Because the petting is NOT a rewarding experience for her. She either hasn't learned to relax and enjoy being petted or she simply doesn't like it. Some dogs prefer to be scratched and have their favorite spots, others like gentle strokes of petting and some just aren't big on it in general. Try one hand holding tasty treats and one hand gently giving a few strokes along her back. Don't over do it.

-Regardless of who it is, she is defensive about people touching her feet. Which I have seen at the kennel, mostly with small dogs after getting a fear of nail clipping. I have been able to clip her nails before, but only with a lot of verbal praise and positive tone of voice.

Very common and while of course it is preferable to be able to touch their feet to clean them and trim the nails, the fact that she allows nail clipping with just verbal praise means her issue isn't that strong/bad. It took me months to be able to even touch Chester's feet and even today, trimming his nails (w/ Dremmel, god forbid I use clippers) involves a boatload of treats and major panic. Touch foot gently, give treat. Touch gently, give treat. Repeat daily a couple times a day for a few weeks. Then pick up a foot and give a treat, let foot go. Desensitize slowly.

-When she plays, she wont hesitate to play with an open mouth. It is something I know I should stop her from doing, since biting in play can easily turn into something painful.

Every dog I know plays with an open mouth but all of them have good bite inhibition. If her bite inhibition with other dogs is good (as in, there is never blood and the other dogs don't yelp) then I can't see this as an issue. Chester and foster Luna nibble and chew and play with teeth all the time, unless one yelps or they start to run into the tv/computer etc I don't stop them

-I have learned now that she is food aggressive, weather it is in her bowl or not. She curls her lips at me if I try to pet her while shes tongue length away from food being prepared on the counter.
She takes the time to inhale her meal only when I am around or enter the house. If I walk past her or look at her as she stops to look at me in mid munch, she has her head lowered and ears back. If I approach or pet her while she is eating, she will curl her lips and yesterday she went as far as growling.
Let her eat in peace! For one, you already know she doesn't enjoy being petted, so why in the world would you pet her while she's eating? Read the stickies on resource guarding and you can work on trading up. You can also simply walk by and drop a tasty treat into her bowl but don't try to pet her, touch her or acknowledge her while doing so.

Which is were I believe I made the mistake of scuffing and pinning her down, causing her to fear bite me in the process. Her body language in the pin is so different then any dog I've seen. Most will lay limp and submit to what is happening, but she tenses her legs inward, pupils dilated with her lips almost curled - as if the situation wasn't just about being dominated, but of fearing something worse to come.
No duh she is upset; you're pinning her to the floor! Forget the dominance stuff, don't pin dogs to the floor. It is rude and scary to them.

I have started to grow a bit of a fear of this dog, since there seems to always be something that causes her to be defensive/fearful. She never fully submits, but I'm thinking its the method my BF is using. Physical punishment seems to do more emotional damage then it should and I think that now I have to go for a non physical punishment with this dog.

Physical punishment is basically NEVER the answer. Reward the good behavior, redirect from the bad behavior, and unless the dog is doing something that puts another dog or person in immediate physical danger, then do not grab the dog or otherwise use physical force

If I try to pretend she doesnt exist, she just goes about her day and the only interaction she gives to me is strange licking (which makes me think of submissive licking) Its as if she cant pick a side..

She might just like licking.

What do you guys think? Did something happen to her to make her this way?
I think YOU happened. I think you scared this dog and she doesn't trust you. You need to slowly rebuild trust
And by the way, if I ever found out a kennel worker or trainer was "alpha rolling" or pinning my dog, I'd throw the biggest dang fit you ever saw and make sure that everyone I knew in the local dog community knew not to trust that kennel/daycare.

I put my comments in bold in the above quote.
 

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I would not pin her down, imagine someone doing that to you, also as others have said let her eat in peace, i never touch Holly while she is eating and never have and never will, i would not want someone stuffing there hand in my food while i eat, or someone petting me either.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
And by the way, if I ever found out a kennel worker or trainer was "alpha rolling" or pinning my dog, I'd throw the biggest dang fit you ever saw and make sure that everyone I knew in the local dog community knew not to trust that kennel/daycare.

I put my comments in bold in the above quote.
I guess some of this was helpful, but it makes me sound like I'm a horrible person.

I cant begin to explain why dogs get pinned, its rare but sometimes the situation calls for it. I can certainly PM you examples if you are curious.

I would not pin her down, imagine someone doing that to you, also as others have said let her eat in peace, i never touch Holly while she is eating and never have and never will, i would not want someone stuffing there hand in my food while i eat, or someone petting me either.
Yes, I know this now.
Food aggression is important to find out about if you have guests or kids who can unknowingly get hurt from being careless.

I think I have all the explainations I need. Thanks everyone for reading and sorry if what I've explained makes me sound like I'm a terrible person.
 

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I guess some of this was helpful, but it makes me sound like I'm a horrible person.

I cant begin to explain why dogs get pinned, its rare but sometimes the situation calls for it. I can certainly PM you examples if you are curious.


Yes, I know this now.
Food aggression is important to find out about if you have guests or kids who can unknowingly get hurt from being careless.

I think I have all the explainations I need. Thanks everyone for reading and sorry if what I've explained makes me sound like I'm a terrible person.
I don't think you are a terrible person; I think that if the kennel you work at hasn't taught you that dogs shouldn't be pinned and asked to submit, that it is a poorly run kennel and it would definitely make me wonder what other outdated methods you (you=the kennel as a whole) might be using.

Since your original comment was "Her body language in the pin is so different then any dog I've seen. Most will lay limp and submit to what is happening," then it reasonably led me to believe that you have pinned a fair number of dogs and thus it is not "rare"

I am not a trainer, but the trainer that I use works with a variety of dogs, including those with dog aggression and human aggression issues in addition to the very high drive working dogs (such as correctional facilities dogs) and the regular old pet dogs there for obedience, rally, or other classes. The absolute most physical force used on a typical basis is a quick leash pop on a dog that is trained (as in, "knows better"). Some specific K9 type work calls for physical confrontation to train the dog to deal with it later on the job. Dog-on-dog aggression has been broken up without alpha rolling/pinning and is prevented from happening a second time (some dogs come in straight from the shelter with unknown histories and traits).

I think that if a person comes here to ask questions and listen to the variety of answers they get with an open mind, that means they want to do right by their dog. I think you have gotten off to a bad start with this specific dog and it sounds like it could be due to having learned poor techniques.
 

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About the petting... are you going to her during the day, bending down, and petting her? If you are, I advise you not to. Always have her come to you to be petted, whether it's by calling her or if she just comes and rubs up on you submissively for a pet. Leaders never go to followers, followers always go to leaders.

For the feet thing and nail clipping, try taking her on a long walk before doing nail clipping. When a dog is very tired, they are more open to strange feelings like nail clippings and are less likely to resist.

Good about the biting thing; don't allow it! I highly recommend you not allow your dog to bite you, even lightly. When she does, she is trying to control you.

For the food thing, make sure to only feed her when she is 100% calm, and never before. That will help you. Also understand that in nature, food aggression is natural for dogs. The dogs with the most energy/dominance eat first. However, since dogs are domesticated, they need to learn to live by our manners, which brings me to this...

Does your dog see you as your leader? How would you describe your dog when she is around you, her body language, how she treats you, listening to you, etc?
 

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If I try to pretend she doesnt exist, she just goes about her day and the only interaction she gives to me is strange licking (which makes me think of submissive licking)
Sounds like appeasement behaviour.

aka .. "You're ignoring me, and that weirds me out. Uh-oh ... *lick lick* PLEASE, don't punish me / please don't pin me".
 
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