Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
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Possessive Aggression of Rio, the conclusion
After two months staying with me, Rio is now home with his owners. He was so happy to see them again. The one most important thing that had been missing from this case was my seeing the actual interaction between Rio and his owners.
On the Monday, we had nearly four hours of talking. This also included one hour of an obedience training class with Rio and his best mate Snoop, a young boxer. These two would have preferred to play together instead of working in a class, but it was an excellent distraction with both handlers and dogs working very well.
In these last four articles, though based on Rio, possessive aggression is a problem worldwide for a percentage of dogs. In the majority of cases, dogs do not even try aggression once they enter a human home. Some dogs do show some possessiveness but owners usually nip this in the bud when they are puppies and the problem disappears. For others, they learn the wrong lessons from their human owners and the dog becomes a danger. Some people will either try to find how to cure it, whilst some try to ignore it or try to keep it securely contained.
For Rio, as with all dogs’ not necessarily dominant dogs, they understand their genetic rules of language on this subject. Here Rio certainly is not being a dominant pup, would have backed away from his food if challenged by a more dominant dog that wished to take it from him. Likewise, Rio could use exactly the same challenge towards a more subservient sibling and take their food from them.
Entering a human home for Rio, the same rules would apply to him. Seeing a human trying to remove his food, he would naturally protect it. Depending on the owners reactions this would show if they were subservient or dominant.
Rios owners, seeing his inherited exaggerated facial lip curling, growling etc, would have quite naturally and immediately wondered what sort of demonic beast had they brought into their home.
In that moment of anxious hesitation, Rio learned that humans were subservient to him. Trying to correct this, their approach always appeared as a challenge and quite naturally, he reacted the same way each time, sometimes even resorting to biting.
I explained that they must not appear to challenge, but act quickly and with authority. They must show they are serious so the next thing was to make Rio his meal and then explain two methods I needed them to use.
The first method was once or twice a week, as he was eating, walk from behind and past him, patting him and speaking in a happy tone. Rio must not freeze at any time, as this is the first stage of his warning. If he does, they must immediately and in a gruff tone, say NO, which he now accepts. This will desensitise him to their being near him when he eats.
The second method is once a week, but not the same day as when using method one, to walk past him whilst wearing one of my protective gloves. They must pick up the bowl quickly but only move it two feet further forward and then let him eat again. Doing this there is no time for Rio to give a warning and there is nothing for him to protect. This will show him they are leaders and can move his food, but unlike dogs, they are not trying to deprive him of it. By this method, it will teach him to stop being anxious.
They should also play retrieve games with him, as now he loves to fetch. He gladly gives it up so they can throw it again for him. If he fails to release and freezes, a simple firm NO or an offer of a treat also works. Whilst walking from the obedience field, I watched the husband throwing a ball for Rio and he gave it back without any problem.
The most important thing for the owners to learn is how to read Rio and recognise the freeze without feeling intimidated by it. They must immediately say a firm NO and by doing so, he immediately backs down.
Whilst feeding him I did push Rio to his limit. I patted him, rubbed his neck, head, and face. Finally, with a gloved hand, I held the bowl but did not move it. The owners watched as he reacted with a bite, but it was not a bite: it was a hold. For those of you who have had an older dog and a puppy in the house you will probably recognise the dog’s method of correction. When the puppy is doing something wrong and does not stop, the older dog will often resort to quickly, but gently holding the pup by the muzzle. The closest similar human action is of a naughty child where a parent takes them firmly by the wrist to show they are in charge.
No one can risk testing for a bite without the use of good quality protective gloves. To help them I have lent them my pair, so they will loose their anxiety. Rio is not trying to harm then, only take charge, as this is his normal genetic language. This he must learn he cannot do to humans.
Since he went home, Rio tried to enter their bedroom at night. Now they tell him OUT and he remains there even though the bedroom door is open. He has sometimes tried to sneak in but if the owners wake, Rio shoots back outside, so he does know the rules.
Rio stole an empty plastic water bottle from their bin. The owner got up and quickly walked towards him, immediately removing it. Rio looked surprised, as he is now seeing his previously submissive owners acting superior and dominant. The owners do not feel intimidated by his display anymore and when he shows it, they now know how to react correctly.
I am very pleased with the result and know that Rio, though found as an abandoned snarling puppy on a golf course, is becoming the perfect character of a friendly dog.
I can write about the importance of sociability training but witnessing dog’s actions with people, tell it far better than I can. Over forty years ago, City of York dog handler P. C. Alan Smith was visiting a local nursery school. Sat nearby him was his Police dog Shane. As Alan spoke, a small girl got up from her chair and walked up to his dog, wrapping her arms round his neck rubbing her face into his. Alan always had his family do all these sorts of things as some dogs can take an aggressive dislike when this happens. Shane just sat there and loved all of her attention. Alan was rightfully, very proud of Shane that day.
I too use the same training with Winston. Whilst walking in Javea town, a young girl ran over to him and did exactly the same thing. The mother was distraught, fearing the worst but Winston just loved it. He also was ecstatic when the family then began feeding him cakes and chips minutes later. Winston was the dog I retrained to stop him lunging at small children. Therefore, you can understand I was also very proud of him that day.
The owners read all my articles on sociability training and they did all the same methods that both Alan and I try to do. These are imitating all the things a child might do with a dog, effectively treating them like a living teddy bear. Whilst Rio was with me, I continued rubbing my face into his, pulling his ears, legs and tail as well as removing painful sticky burrs from his face and body. You could do anything with him.
Once home, the owners were telling me that when they go shopping it is taking them nearly all day. People are forever coming up to see and fuss this lanky, trotting, tuffty eared Honey monster, Basil Brush, Muppet and Womble all rolled into one.
On the second day a young downs syndrome woman walked up to Rio, hung her arms round his neck, and buried her face into his. Rios reaction was he loved it. Such a sight says it all. This too was a proud moment for Rios owners. He loves it also when children pat his head when he sticks it through their fence. He is indeed a lovely dog to have.
There are indeed millions of dogs around the world with the same sort of endearing temperament. Some are like this naturally, but most are a result of the owner’s use of various forms of sociability training. If this is how you would like your dog to act, then please never neglect this type of training.