Intro - Cliffy

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Intro - Cliffy

This is a discussion on Intro - Cliffy within the Introductions forums, part of the DogForum Community Welcome category; Hello everyone. Just wanted to introduce our dog and get some feedback on what we have to work on. I pretty much threw a giant ...

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Old 04-04-2014, 01:31 PM
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Intro - Cliffy

Hello everyone. Just wanted to introduce our dog and get some feedback on what we have to work on. I pretty much threw a giant jumble of facts about what we've learned about him in the past year, but I would love for any advice.

Name: Cliffy.
Sex: Male (fixed).
Weight: 10-12 pounds.
Age: 3 (Shelter said he was 2 years in 4/2013).
Breed: Mixed (Descending order of likelihood: Maltese, Poodle, Bichon, other).
Additional: We don't know anything about him before his time at the shelter, or why he was released. We live in an apartment in Manhattan.


-- Outside of food, his world revolves around his ball. I know he's a dog, but he is obsessive about it, and can fetch all day.

-- He growls when you try to take the ball from him, even though he brings it to you. Let's divide the growling into level 1, 2, and 3, 3 being the highest pitched and most scary sounding, though all 3 sound threatening. We quickly found out that the low-pitched level 1, when he brings you the ball but then protects it, is harmless. When you aggressively fight him for the ball, he goes up to level 2, higher pitched and quite dramatic, but again, never snaps or bites even though my hand are in his mouth and I'm being quite aggressive. Vets have said this is bad, and I try to yell at him, which discourages him somewhat, but it has no correlation with any kind of hostile action, i.e. snapping or biting. However, if he gets a piece of food, like a sausage or anything else and you try to take it, he quickly goes to level 3, high pitched, very serious sounding, and he will try to bite you if you try to take the food. Don't know if there is any kind of issue we need to work through here.

-- Speaking of eating, he often tries to slowly eat my socks, with alarming success, so I have to keep them out of reach.

-- Back to the ball, when we take him to the dog park, he ignores other dogs and just wants to fetch all day. He seems to interact fine with other dogs; not perfectly, and he doesn't seem to be having a great time, but no fighting or snapping or anything like that, based on how he has acted at groomers or off-leash. However, and this is our biggest problem, when I am walking him on leash, he lunges at any dog within 15 yards and snaps. If he gets to make contact with the other dog, we will sniff very aggressively and usually start snapping (though he hasn't bitten yet.) This is unless its maybe 5% of dogs who are super submissive, usually very old. I understand this all has something to do with the fact that he thinks he is our alpha dog, and has to protect, etc. I have spent the last month heeling him behind me as we walk, but he hasn't accepted it, constantly straining to walk ahead of me.

-- Here are some of the things we do with him that may encourage this.
-- Wife feeds him from the table a lot. I don't, and have adjusted his kibble portion downwards accordingly, which according to his last trip to the vet has worked in regulating his weight.
-- He sleeps in a bed next to ours, but we sometimes let him up to sleep with us. We also let him sleep with us if we're lying on the couch.
-- He regularly goes right up to people as they are walking by and sniffs their feet; no respect at all of their space. Though he is super friendly, it seems a bit extreme.
-- If we walk by a person acting unpredictably, e.g. carrying big bags or boxes or something, or suddenly coming out of a door, he will start barking at them.
-- When we're both gone, he seems to stay by the door to our apartment, and if he hears someone coming down the hall he barks. Otherwise he's quiet (I have videotaped him).
-- He generally comes when he's called (doesn't ignore you, but you can't 100% count on it).
-- When we bath him or groom him we is submissive, though when i'm pulling things off his face he'll turn away and sometimes give a warning snap, though never tries to bite (i know when he does that, because he usually succeeds, see food issue above). I think this is because he trusts us. At vets, they need to bring an attendant AND a muzzle because he basically goes nuts.
-- We walk him about 4 times a day. The internet doesn't seem to agree on whetherr this is adequate. I also don't know whether mini-walks (#1 and done) + longer walks is the best way to do it.

Finally: He is a wonderful, playful, warm, gentle dog whom everyone who visits us falls in love with. But obviously we want to do right by him and not spoil him. Please let me know about your thoughts or further questions. Please also let me know if there is a better forum to go with this stuff.

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Last edited by LorenzoStDuBois; 04-04-2014 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 04-04-2014, 02:40 PM
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Welcome. I hope you're willing to think about how your dog is reacting in a different way.

It is bad that your dog growls at you when you try and take the ball. Please stop trying to forcefully get it away from because that's escalating the problem. Yelling isn't effective either. You need to teach him to drop it using your larger brain power. This may take longer now, than if you'd done it from the first, but it's doable.

Taking food from a dog and getting snapped at by the dog is pretty much a fail on your part. How would you feel if you were eating and someone 20 times larger than you came and took your food away? Stop that too. He needs to be taught the "leave it" command when he has something in his mouth that you don't want him to have. There's absolutely no reason to try and take his food or treats away from him.

Your willingness to be aggressive with him when you try and get the ball has probably contributed to his reaction when you try and take food from him. Time to rethink all of this and find an easier kinder way to train him.

He doesn't think he's the alpha dog. He's probably reactive to other dogs because he's fearful. Most aggression is based on fear.

He sniffs people's feet because that's one way dogs take in information. It has nothing to do with not respecting their personal space.

His behavior at the vet's can be changed too but like everything else that you need to work on, it won't happen overnight. The results will be well worth it and your dog will be much happier and more confident it he's counter conditioned and desensitized to being handled. Look into Sophia Yin's video on low stress handling. Examples are on her website and I'm pretty sure there are several videos demonstrating the protocol in the thread below.

Now for the videos and links to threads here that can help you change how you communicate with your dog. You would probably get a lot of benefit by reading Jean Donaldson's book The Culture Clash. We have a list of good dog training and behavior books in the training and behavior section. You should spend some time browsing through the different threads, articles and videos.

Here's the link to the sticky thread section. Pay special attention to the resource guarding and the reactive dog threads and articles. There are videos on teaching leave it and drop it. I think you'll find them helpful.

I'm sure other members will be along with more advice. Be like a sponge and soak it in. I'm glad you joined and are asking questions. He's a cute little guy.
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Old 04-04-2014, 09:42 PM
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I ran across this article today.

Playing with your dog’s food… good idea or not? | Paws Abilities
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Old 04-05-2014, 10:54 AM
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Hi Lorenzo,

First of all, a big welcome to the Forum! I loved seeing a pic of your little Cliffy and reading all about him. I hope that you'll stick around, read a few threads, ask more questions, and jump into any conversation that interests you.

I'm going to second Grabby's recommendation to pick up a copy of The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. I've read it and found it to be a very insightful guide to why dogs behave the way they do. It provides great guidance in how to best train and interact with your dog in order to minimize unwanted behaviors and create a stronger bond with him.

There are different schools of thought about dog behavior and dog training. From your post, I got the impression that you've been trying to shape his behavior with dominance-based techniques (popularized by Cesar Milan). That's the whole idea of the "alpha dog." This approach is very popular, but unfortunately, it is based on an inaccurate understanding of dog psychology and behavior and can end up being very damaging. It's clear in your account of how your dog guards his balls and food as well as interacts with other dogs that your efforts to exert dominance are backfiring.

If you spend more time on this site and explore the resources we have to offer, you're going to learn about a very different approach to interacting with your dog. I agree with Grabby that ultimately your dog is most likely fearful, both of you and other dogs. The response to fear is fight or flight. In order to improve his behavior, you need to lesson his fear and that can be done through counter-conditioning and positive reinforcement training.

Again, I would recommend getting Donaldson's book. We also have a number of "sticky" threads at the top of the Training and Behavior section. We're here to help you and little Cliffy. I really hope you'll continue to post.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:37 AM
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Welcome .
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intro, introduction, lunging, new dog

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