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rec.pets.dogs: Behavior: Understanding and Modifying FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/behavior
Last-modified: 15 Sep 1998

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                     Behavior: Understanding and Modifying

   Cindy Tittle Moore,
   Copyright 1995.
Table of Contents

     * Prologue
     * Top Ten Canine Myths
     * Principles Behind Dominance
     * Aggression with Other Dogs
     * Housetraining Problems
     * Submissive Urination
     * Other Common Problems
          + Chewing
          + Biting
          + Fear Biting
          + Barking
          + Digging
          + Getting in the Garbage
          + Jumping
          + Car Chasing
          + Tug of War
          + People Food

   First, you should understand that there are two components to
   "training" and they are frequently mixed. There is the kind of
   training that solves _behavioral_ problems. There is also the kind of
   training that creates a command-response pattern. It is perfectly
   possible to have a dog that heels, sits, and stays perfectly and digs
   out all your marigolds. Conversely, you may have a dog that does not
   destroy things in your house nor jump up on people, but does not sit
   or heel. For purposes of clarity, I consider the former type of
   training as "behavior modification" and the latter type as "obedience
   While this article discusses behavior modification and tries to help
   you understand what the sources of trouble between you and your dog
   may be, I want to stress that there is absolutely no replacement for a
   trainer or animal behaviorist you know and trust to help you and your
   dog. Having someone to ask questions and show you what works with your
   dog is like having the picture as opposed to the words -- a thousand
   times better. Nevertheless, this article will hopefully help with some
   common problems. For some help in finding a behaviorist near you, try
   this site: To
   find a good trainer near you, try asking your veterinarian and other
   dog owners for references.
   That said, some good books that are aimed at helping solve problems
   between dogs and owners are:
   Gentile, Dan Jr, _Guide to Beginning Obedience_.
          This little book crams an impressive amount of information into
          64 pages. It's great for the first time dog owners. Very
          concise and precise.
   Dunbar, Ian and Gwen Bohnenkamp, _Behavior Booklets_.
          Recommended especially for the first time dog owner. He has a
          booklet on every common problem, such as: biting, fearfullness,
          housebreaking, chewing, digging, barking etc. and has a really
          simple, common sense, all bases covered sort of approach which
          doesn't leave you asking, "But what do I do if the dogs
          performs (such and such) variation?" which is *really*
          important for people who don't have experience to fall back on.
          They can be had from:
          Center for Applied Animal Behaviour
          #2406 2140 Shattuck Avenue
          Berkeley, CA 94704
   Evans, Job Michael. (1991). _People, Pooches, & Problems_. NY: Howell
          Book House. ISBN 0-87605-783-0 (hardcover). $19.95.
          Excellent suggestions for dealing with common problems between
          dogs and their owners. Highly recommended. [Evans was a New
          Skete monk.]
   Milani, Myrna M., DVM. _The Weekend Dog_. Signet (Penguin Books USA,
          Inc.) (1985). ISBN: 0-451-15731-1 (paperback).
          This book outlines practical solutions for working people with
          dogs. It has excellent suggestions for understanding dog
          behavior, particularly destructive or unwanted behavior. Gives
          all kinds of practical solutions to the problems of adequate
          exercise, adequate training, housebreaking, and so forth.
   Monks of New Skete, The. _How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend_. Little,
          Brown & Company. 1978. ISBN: 0-316-60491-7 (hardback).
          A monastery in upstate New York breeds, raises, and trains
          German Shepherd Dogs. On the basis of their considerable
          experience, they offer troubleshooting guides, discuss
          discipline, environmental restrictions, basic and puppy
          training, and much more. Extensive bibliography. The emphasis
          is on understanding the dog in order to communicate with it or
          to solve problem behavior. An excellent, well written classic.
   Pryor, Karen. _Don't Shoot the Dog!_.
          Introduction to inducive training. Lots of food for thought
   Other websites to reference include:
          Canines of America's Owner's Guide to Behavior offers a number
          of for typical problems. The articles are a little simplified
          and not terribly detailed, but it's worth checking out. I have
          no clue as to whether it's worth using their hotline and paying
          the $$$ for additional advice.
          American Dog Trainers Network offers a number of resources for
          the dog owner. Extensive & useful.
Top Ten Canine Myths

   _Hey, Rover would rather be outside all day than cooped up inside!_
     False. Dogs are strongly pack-oriented animals. They prefer best to
     be with their pack whenever possible. If you are inside, they will
     want to be inside with you. If you are outside, again, they will
     want to be with you. If you are at work, while they would still
     like to be with you, this is not usually possible. In this case,
     does it matter whether the dog is kept inside or outside? It turns
     out that many dogs behave well when kept inside; bark, dig, and
     whine while kept out in the yard. Why is this? Your home is the
     "den." Dogs prefer to be closer to the center of the den -- the
     place where the pack's smells are most acute. While some dogs are
     happy to stay outdoors during the day while the rest of the pack is
     gone to work, a great many dogs develop behavioral problems as a
     result of daily "expulsion" from the den.
     In addition, a dog with access to a large territory may feel
     compelled to "defend" all of it, resulting in other types of
     problems: frantic barking at "intruders," and so on. Restricting
     the amount of territory it has to protect may reduce this type of
     A good compromise for many dogs is access both to a restricted part
     of the house and a restricted part of the yard. The inside-outside
     access keeps him from feeling ejected from the "den" without having
     too much territory to defend. A dog that can't be trusted inside
     and is destructive outside will probably benefit the most from
     being crated during the day. With most dogs, if you crate them
     through puppyhood (which also helps with housebreaking), by the
     time they are mostly adult (from 8 months to 24 months of age
     depending on the breed) you can start weaning them off the crate.
     Because they are used to spending the time in the crate quietly,
     they will form the habit of spending that same time quietly whether
     in the crate or not as adults.
   _Well, OK, but it's different in the country, isn't it?_
     It is an absolute myth that living in the country confers greater
     latitude in the dictum "thou shall keep thy dog constrained to the
     immediate environs of the pack." Country dogs allowed to run free
     get shot by hunters or farmers protecting their livestock. They get
     into fights with other dogs over territory. They can kill
     livestock, fight and tassle and get disease from wild animals, and
     be hit by cars on the highway. They become increasingly aggressive
     as they vye for larger and larger perimeter boundaries to their
     territory, and they no longer relate to YOU as the leader of their
     pack. Also, don't forget that intact animals will breed and add to
     the overpopulation problem.
     This same misconception leads people to dump unwanted dogs "in the
     countryside." Most such dogs die a painful death, either by slow
     starvation, injuries from being hit by a car or in a fight with
     another animal, or they are shot by farmers protecting their
     livestock. The countryside is not some sort of romantic haven for
     stray dogs.
   _When dogs are mad at people, they do all kinds of spiteful things._
     First remember that "undesireable behavior" is in the eye of the
     beholder. To the dog, it's perfectly alright to dig, to bark, to
     chase after other dogs, etc. This doesn't mean you can't control
     these behaviors, of course, but it _does_ mean that the dog isn't
     doing them "to spite you." The dog hasn't a clue that it's not to
     do these things unless you train it not to. And it has to
     understand what you want from it!
     When dogs start undesirable (to humans) behavior, its best to try
     to understand the source of this behavior. Often it stems from the
     frustration of being left alone. Dogs are very social animals. One
     positive solution is to make sure your dog is properly exercised.
     Exercise is a wonderful cure to many behavioral problems and dogs
     just love it. Do check with your vet for the proper amount of
     exercise for both the age and breed of any dog. Another solution is
     obedience training. The point is, your dog needs your attention,
     whether it is by taking it out on a walk, training it, or both.
   _Ah, but my dog always looks GUILTY after he's done something like
     No. He's reacting to your body language and emotions. When you come
     in and see the toilet paper all over the floor, you get mad. The
     dog can tell that you are upset and the only thing he knows how to
     do is to try and placate you, as the alpha. So they try and get you
     out of your bad mood by crouching, crawling, rolling over on their
     backs, or avoiding eye contact. You interpret the dog as acting
     "guilty" when in fact the dog hasn't the faintest idea of what is
     wrong and is simply hoping you will return to a better mood. The
     important thing to remember is that if your dog finds that it
     cannot consistently predict your anger or the reasons for it, it
     will begin to distrust you -- just as you would someone who
     unpredictably flew into rages.
     This is why it's so important to catch dogs "in the act." That way
     you can communicate clearly just what it is they shouldn't do.
     Screaming and yelling at the dog, or punishing it well after the
     fact does not tell your dog what is wrong. You may in fact wind up
     teaching it to fear you, or consider you unreliable. You must get
     your dog to understand you, and _you_ have to work on the
     communication gap, as you are more intelligent than your dog.
     Preventing your dog from unwanted behaviors coupled with properly
     timed corrections will go much further in eliminating the behavior
     from your pet than yelling at it.
     In fact, you should not yell at, scream at, or hit your dog, ever.
     There are much more effective ways to get your point across. Try
     instead to understand the situation from your dog's point of view
     and act accordingly. The techniques in this chapter approach
     problems with this in mind.
   _Crating a dog is an awful thing to do to it and they hate it._
     Again untrue. Dogs are by nature den animals. When properly
     introduced to a crate, most dogs love it, and they will often go
     into their crates on their own to sleep. Of course, no dog should
     be left in the crate so long that it must soil the crate. It's a
     wonderful tool to use for housetraining, but puppies are not
     physically equipped to go for more than three or four hours without
     going to the bathroom. And all use of a crate should be done with
     an eye toward eventually weaning the dog off of it. There are only
     a few dogs that must always use a crate while you are gone.
     Afterwards, it is a very useful thing to have -- for example if at
     all possible your dog should always ride in the car in his crate.
     Crating a dog works to prevent the dog from doing many of the
     behaviors you don't want it to. What your dog does not do does not
     develop into a habit and thus requires no correction. Second, it
     means that when your dog does have an opportunity to engage in the
     unwanted behavior, you are around (because you're home to let it
     out) to give a proper and timely correction.
     As the behavioral aspects pointed out above, reducing the territory
     to protect and keeping it in the den are also positive things from
     the dog's point of view, reducing the overall stress that it
   _Ya gotta show a dog who is boss._
     To some extent, this is true. But what many people think this is
     comprised of are usually quite wrong. You don't show a dog "who is
     boss" by hitting it, yelling at it, or via other methods of
     punishment. You show a dog who is boss by being its leader. Show it
     what to do, how to behave. Most dogs are waiting for you to take
     the lead. There are actually only a very few dogs who will actively
     challenge you for "top dog" position. Rather, most dogs take the
     "top dog" position because their owners have made no effort to do
     so, and not only that, their owners don't recognize what is
     happening -- until the dog starts correcting them for their
     Interestingly, many forms of behavior that have been touted as
     showing dominance over a dog backfire badly. This is because in
     many cases dogs really aren't contending for the "top dog"
     position: applying techniques to "show him who is boss" in these
     instances results in the dog being alienated from you and
     distrusting you because you corrected it for no good reason. The
     alpha roll, long touted as the "best" of these methods is in
     reality a last ditch, all out correction. It's what you do to your
     teenager after he's taken a joyride in your car and totalled it,
     not when he first asks you for the keys. Being unfair to your dog
     in this way can create a fear biter, one who has lost all hope of
     being treated fairly and defends himself the only way he knows how.
Principles Behind Dominance

     See also:
     * [sic]
   For obedience training to proceed smoothly, your dog must consider you
   its alpha leader. This means that it considers YOU the boss. There are
   a number of exercises you can to to establish and maintain dominance
   over your dog. Individual dogs vary in submissiveness. If your dog is
   very submissive, you don't need to worry about establishing dominance
   (in fact, you may need to tone down your own dominating behavior to
   help bolster its confidence). Most dogs are happy to be submissive:
   just be sure to show approval at the occasional signs of submission,
   and assert dominance if it tries to test you (most dogs will, in
   adolescence). A very few dogs may be dominant and continually
   challenge you for dominance, in which case you will actively need to
   assert and establish your position, but this last is exceedingly rare.
   More often, people will misinterpret adolescent high energy or bratty
   behavior as ploys for dominance when they are not. Think of a two year
   human child testing her parents. She's finding out what the limits are
   rather than actually "challenging" her parents for leadership. Puppies
   and young dogs do exactly the same thing. Correct them firmly, but
   don't go into an all out "dominance battle" -- it's inappropriate and
   your dog will begin to distrust you. Returning to the toddler analogy,
   the most you might do is a sharp word or a small swat on the rear. You
   would not pick her up, hold her against the wall and scream at her.
   Remember that most dogs are still "young" (in human terms, under 20
   years of age) until they are two or three. In other words, don't
   confuse physical maturity with mental maturity.
   Never mistake being alpha with punishment. An alpha leader is fair. An
   alpha leader *deserves* its position. An alpha leader does not use
   fear, punishment or brute force to achieve and maintain its position.
   An alpha leader, instead, makes it crystal clear what behaviors it
   approves of and which it does not. An alpha leader _expects_ its
   subordinates to follow its lead, it does not _force_ them to.
   If you get mad at your dog, or angry or furious, you've lost the alpha
   position. Dogs do not understand fury. You have to be calm and
  Always show approval at signs of submission
   Praise your dog when it drops its eyes first. Praise it when it licks
   you under the chin. Give it an enthusiastic tummy rub when it rolls
   over on its back.
  Be consistent and fair in your corrections
   You must demonstrate to your dog that it can trust your orders. Do not
   ever correct the dog after the fact. Such corrections appear to be
   arbitrary and unfair to the dog, because it has no associative memory
   the way people do.
   If your dog is still a puppy, socializing it is a good way to gain its
   If you decide that some action requires correction, *always* give a
   correction when you see that action. For example, if you decide that
   your dog is not allowed on the sofa, then *always* correct it when you
   see it on the sofa.
   Consistency can be a big challenge with a family: every family member
   must agree on the basic ground rules with the dog; when and for what
   it should be corrected, what commands to use and so on. Families must
   cooperate extensively to avoid confusing the dog. It is best if only
   one person actively trains the dog; thereafter if the commands are
   given the same way, everyone in the family can use them.
   Finally, always use the *minimum* correction necessary. If a sharp
   AH-AH will do, use that rather than an alpha roll. If a pop under the
   chin will do, use that rather than a scruff shake.
  Correct the dog's challenges
   Especially during adolescence, your dog may test and/or challenge your
   position. Do not neglect to correct this behavior. You don't need to
   come down like a ton of bricks; just making it clear you don't
   tolerate the behavior is sufficient. For example, don't let your dog
   crowd you through the door, don't let him jump out of the car until
   you've given him permission, don't let him jump for food in your hand.
   Don't let him ignore commands that he knows.
  Learn how to display alpha behavior
   You may not need to use all of these, but you should be familiar with
   them. They are listed in "escalating" order. Do not use any of these
   if you are angry or upset. The point is never to hurt the dog, but to
   show it who is alpha. They work best if you are calm, firm, and matter
   of fact. Again, always use the minimum correction necessary.
   More important than knowing how to perform an alpha roll is learning
   to play the alpha role. That means having the attitude of "I am always
   right and I will _never_ let my dog willfully disobey me" without ever
   becoming angry or giving up. Picture a small two-year old toddler, for
   example. You're not in a struggle over who's "Mom" but over what the
   child is allowed to do, and there's a crucial difference in the two.
   Using an alpha roll on a dog who is already submissive but disobeys
   because it doesn't know what is expected of is destructive to the
   relationship between you and the dog. Likewise, using an alpha role on
   a dominant dog but not using any other positive reinforcements can
   alienate it. Most dogs never need to be alpha rolled in their lives.
   Furthermore, alpha rolls are one of the strongest weapons in dominance
   arsenal. Save it for the gravest of infractions.
   Being dominant is no substitute for learning to read and understand
   your dog. Proper obedience (which should be a part of any dog's life,
   even when "only" a pet) is a two way street and requires you to be as
   responsible to your dog as your dog is responsive to you.
   There are a number of ways in demonstrating dominance:
     * Timeouts: put the dog on a down stay or if not yet trained to do
       so, put it in its crate quietly and without fuss. Fifteen minutes
       is fine. No yelling is necessary, keep it all very quiet. This is
       often suprisingly effective, since dogs are such social creatures.
     * Eye contact: alphas "stare down" subordinates. If your dog does
       not back down in a stare contest, start a verbal correction. As
       soon as it backs down, praise it.
     * Taps under the chin: alpha dogs nip subordinates under the chin as
       corrections. You can use this by tapping (NEVER hitting) your dog
       under the chin with one or two fingers. Don't tap on top of the
       muzzle, not only can you risk injuring your dog's sense of smell,
       you may make him handshy.
     * Grabbing under the ears: alpha dogs will chomp under subordinate
       dogs' ears and shake. You can mimic this by holding the skin under
       your dog's ears firmly and shaking. Again, do not use excessive
       force. Do this just enough to get the point across. DO NOT grab
       the top of the neck and shake. You may injure your dog this way.
     * Alpha roll: Pin the dog to ground on its side with feet away from
       you. Hold scruff/collar with one hand to pin head down (gently but
       firmly) with the other hand on hip/groin area (groin area contact
       will tend to cause the dog to submit to you.) Not recommended.
  Insist on decorous behavior
   Feed your dog after your own dinner. Make him lay down while you are
   eating rather than beg at your lap. Don't let it crowd through a
   doorway ahead of you. Don't let it hop out of the car until you say
   OK. There are a variety of small things you can do that assert your
   dominance in a non-traumatic way. If you're clever about it, you can
   use them to get a well-behaved dog (one that doesn't shoot out of the
   front door or scramble out of the car or beg at the table). In
   particular, putting a behavior that the dog wants to do on hold until
   you say OK is a very good way to be the alpha and keep the dog well
  Make sure your dog obeys everyone in your family
   This is a fairly important point. If your dog seems to have trouble
   obeying a particular family member, you must make sure it does so, by
   always backing up the family member when he or she tells the dog to do
   something. If the family member seems to be afraid of the dog, or is
   very young, then you should supervise all interaction until the
   problem is resolved.
Aggression with other Dogs

   Dogs can be aggressive with other dogs, especially if they have not
   been properly socialized with other dogs in puppy-hood. Sometimes a
   dog that is naturally dominant has trouble with other dogs especially
   in puberty. Sometimes a dog has a specific experience (e.g. a dogfight
   with another aggressive dog) that causes it to become aggressive
   toward other dogs in general as well. Whatever the reason, it is well
   worth your time working on your dog's aggression toward other dogs.
   You will probably get the best results, especially with a problem dog
   -- extreme aggression, for example -- if you contact a local trainer
   (preferably one that specializes in problem dogs) for individual help.
   However, there are some common-sense things you can do.
   First a bit of basic dog pychology: friendly behaviors include moving
   side by side, sniffing butts, tails wagging at body level (not up high
   or over the back). Not-friendly behaviors include meeting
   face-to-face, esp. a face-to-face approach, ears forward and tail over
   Force them into friendly behaviors as follows: walk the dogs in
   parallel on leash. They should be close enough to see each other but
   not close enough to snap at or touch each other. Be careful when you
   two turn that the dogs don't tangle. Make sure one doesn't get ahead
   of the other: keep them parallel. Keep this up until they relax.
   Slowly start walking closer together as behavior permits.
   Hold one dog on leash in a sit. Have food treats and a water bottle
   handy. Walk the other dog toward it, to about six feet, then turn away
   (increase the distance if the sitting dog snarls). The idea is to turn
   away *before* the sitting dog shows any aggression. If the dog shows
   no agression, reward it with a food tidbit or verbal praise. Do NOT
   touch the dog (stand on the leash or tie it down). If it does growl,
   spray it with water. Switch the dogs so that each experiences sitting
   or walking toward. They are learning that good things happen without
   defensive behavior. As they improve, start walking a bit closer before
   turning. If the sitting dog snarls, do NOT turn the other dog away:
   the person with the sitting dog should correct it and when the dog
   subsides, THEN the moving dog should turn away.
   Finally, holding the head of one dog, but allowing it to stand, have
   the other dog investigate its rear briefly. This is really the extreme
   extension of the above.
   These exercises have several purposes. One is to force the dogs to
   consider themselves friendly by engaging in the behavior of friendly
   dogs. The other is to teach both dogs that an approaching dog is not
   necessarily grounds for aggression.
   This will take a lot of work, probably over a couple of months, but
   they will work, and what's more, should reduce tensions with _other_
   dogs as well (i.e., not only between the two specific dogs in the
Housetraining Problems

   All housetraining problems are frustrating, but the good news is that
   it's often easy to fix with a little thought and care. Some tips:
  Sudden changes in established habits
   If your dog has been fine with its housetraining up till now, there
   may be several reasons for it to break with its training.
     * If there have been no major changes in its life, your dog may very
       well have a medical problem, such as kidney trouble. Have your vet
       rule out possible medical causes.
     * It may be trying to defend its territory if you have a new animal
       in the household. You will probably need to separate the pets for
       a while, and reintroduce them gradually. Provide each with a
       retreat area.
     * It may be generally upset or anxious if you've just moved and
       trying to assert ownership of the new territory. Mark your
       territory first: scatter dirty laundry around the house to tell
       your dog YOU'VE claimed the territory and your dog should subside.
       After a few days, you can pick up the laundry.
  Eating feces
   Some dogs will eat other animal's feces. By and large, this is a
   fairly normal, if disgusting, habit. The main risk of this habit lies
   in picking up internal parasites. If you have such a dog, you should
   make sure it is frequently checked for worms by your veterinarian.
   If it is cat feces in an indoor litter box, you can try the following:
     * If you have a utility closet or some other closet where you can
       keep the litter box, you can fix the door so that it only opens
       enough for a cat to get through (assuming big dogs) by using
       something like a string/ribbon/rope over the door handle to a
       small hook on the adjacent wall or door jamb. If you can make a
       more permanent change, you could put a kitty door into the closet
       and be able to keep the door shut.
     * Get the kind of litter box with a big top and a "kitty door" or
       even just an opening on it. Place the litter box with the opening
       about 4"-6" from a wall (backwards from the way you would normally
       think of placing it). This leaves just enough room for the cat to
       get into the box but not (usually) enough room for the dog to get
       to the box. The kind of box with the swinging kitty door helps
       make it a little harder for the dog to get into it.
   A surprising number of dogs eat their own feces (coprophagy). This is
   a fairly disgusting habit, but difficult to cure. One way to prevent
   this from occurring is to clean up feces as soon as possible, but this
   can be difficult for dogs left in yards or kennels all day.
   The Monks suggest feeding your dog a dry food that is at least 23%
   meat protein, and about 25% raw meat. In addition, either an egg, or a
   tablespoon of vegetable oil every few days. They also think that
   eating feces may involve a dietary deficiency. Adding Accent
   (monosodium glutamate) or kelp tablets (usually available at health
   food stores) to your dogs food can give the feces a bad taste for the
   dog. Also putting tabasco and vinegar on the feces themselves may
   In rare cases, this can suggest a trypsin deficiency. Trypsin is a
   digestive enzyme and affected dogs don't get enough nutrients from the
   food so they eat the stool. In many cases, despite eating quite a bit
   the dogs are still thin. There is a test for this syndrome and enzyme
   supplementation is part of the treatment. Your vet can help you rule
   out this possibility.
   This is a difficult problem and not always solved or stopped. It
   doesn't really hurt the animal, although you should take care to have
   it checked often for internal parasites, which it's more likely to
   pick up.
   If it is a _change_ in your dog's normal behavior, it might be a
   bladder infection or some other medical problem, so check that with
   your vet first.
   It's rather common for older spayed bitches to start dribbling. This
   is easily fixed most of the time with doses of estrogen. In many
   cases, the doses can be tapered off after a few months. Some dogs
   require estrogen for the rest of their lives. Only small doses are
   needed, so it's not that expensive to treat.
   If your dog is urinating in different places around the house, you can
   try the "vinegar trick". Pour some vinegar on the spot in front of the
   dog. What you're telling the dog with this is "I'm alpha. YOU may not
   pee here." Then clean it all up first with an enzymatic odor remover
   and then a good carpet shampoo (see the Assorted Topics FAQ).
   Defecation is not as frequently a problem as urination can be.
   However, the most often recommended remedy for a dog that defecates in
   the house is to change its feeding times so that you are likely to be
   walking the dog when it needs to defecate or it is outside in the
   yard, etc. This will take some time of fiddling with the amount,
   frequency, and timing of feeding your dog to get the results you want.
Submissive Urination

   The genetically shy dog is a super submissive type and unlike many
   dogs are quite sensitive to any forms of "dominant" behavior in
   humans. Even ordinarily submissive dogs can become extremely
   submissive if its owner misunderstands and unintentionally forces it
   to increase its submissiveness. Mistreated dogs may also become
   excessively submissive.
   First, tone down your aggressive behavior -- with a submissive dog
   there is no real need to consciously dominate it. Examples of
   dominating behavior include:
     * Direct eye contact
     * Standing over the dog
     * Walking towards the dog while looking at it
     * Wait when you come home. Say "hi" and be verbally friendly, but
       don't touch or pet it for about 5-15 minutes. Try not to make the
       moment more exciting than it already is.
     * When you greet it, get down on its level. Rather than standing and
       bending at the waist, bend at the knees (or sit) so that your face
       is about level with his and you are not looking down on him. This
       is a less dominant position, and less likely to trigger a
       submissive posture.
     * Don't pet it on the head. Rather, tell it to sit, maybe "shake
       hands", then scratch it under the chin and on the chest. This is
       less dominating than the pat on the head (because you avoid
       standing over it).
     * When you correct this type of dog, do so with your voice only
       (avoid direct eye contact). If it starts to urinate, then say
       immediately, "OK, let's go out!" in a happy tone of voice -- and
       take it out. Or, take a toy out (something it likes to do) and
       play with it. What you are doing here is telling your dog, "OK, I
       see your submissiveness. That's good."
     * When guests come over, ask them to ignore your dog and not look at
       it even if it comes up and sniffs them. After a bit, when people
       are sitting down then have them gently put their hands out and
       talk to your dog, without looking at it. Usually after about 15
       minutes or so everything is fine.
   In general, show signs of low-key approval _immediately_ when the dog
   becomes submissive. Then distract it with something else. When you
   ignore submissiveness or get mad at it, you're in effect telling the
   dog "You're not submissive enough!" so the poor thing intensifies its
   efforts -- and submissive urination is about as submissive as it gets.
   Be really positive with your dog, this type lacks self-confidence and
   will look to you quite often to make sure everything is OK.
   One technique that helps many dogs with this problem is called
   "Flooding." You need a group of people, preferably ones who will
   stimulate the undesired response (in this case, peeing). You find the
   least intimidating step for your dog (the point at which she does not
   submissively urinate), and work on each step until she's comfortable
   with each. If she urinates, you've gone too fast and you should back
   up a step until she's more confident. This process will take a while.
     * Have your dog sit with you on leash (preferably not on carpeting!)
     * Have the group of people walk past your dog without looking at
       her; when they can do this without her peeing, move on to next
       step (this is true of all steps)
     * Next have the people look/smile at her when they walk past
     * Next have the people say something to her ("Hi puppy") as they
       walk past
     * Next have the people give her a treat as they walk past
     * Next have the people touch her (ex. pat on the head) as they walk
     * Next, repeat the previous 5 steps but with the people stopping
       instead of walking past (ie, stop but don't look, stop and look,
       stop and say hi,...)
   Actually, this technique can be used for all kinds of other responses:
   a dog that jumps on people, barks at them, etc.
Other Common Problems

   Many puppies like to chew on everything they encounter. Certainly,
   very young puppies explore the world around them by tasting most of
   what they find. First of all, as a practical measure, remove anything
   harmful from the dog's way. Put electrical wiring behind furniture
   wherever possible, put cleaning supplies up out of reach or secure the
   cabinet doors to them. Clean small objects off the floor.
   Make sure you have a supply of allowable chewing items on hand.
   Whenever the dog is in a crate or small room, there should always be
   some of these toys to chew on. Whenever you are at home and see the
   dog about to chew on something it shouldn't, say "AH-AH" and give it
   one of its toys.
   There are products available to spray on items to make them taste
   unpleasant. Some caveats: a few dogs are not bothered by the taste;
   it's not really a cure for the underlying problem, but it does help
   you train the dog; you must make sure the product does not harm the
   item to be sprayed first. Bitter Apple and Bitter Orange are available
   at most pet supply stores; veterinarians have other formulations they
   may sell to you.
   The judicious use of crating, toys, and watching the puppy closely
   will be the way you teach it to leave your house alone.
   It is natural for young puppies to bite and chew on people; however
   DON'T let them do this.
   If your dog is a puppy, yelp pitifully when it chomps on you, and
   replace your hand with a chew toy; praise heartily when the chew toy
   is used instead. If it persists, stand up and stop playing with it. It
   is no fun for the puppy if you stop interacting with it, and it will
   learn to stop chewing on you fairly quickly.
   With older puppies and dogs, say "NO BITE" sternly and withdraw your
   If the dog goes through a cycle where it seems to be infuriated by
   your correction and returns ever more aggressively to chew on you,
   call a timeout and put the dog where it can't get to you, preferably
   its crate. When it calms down, let it back and be prepared to
   interrupt the cycle if it starts again.
   Never put up with a puppy biting or mouthing you. When they are adult,
   the problem will be far more severe.
   This is a separate problem, caused by a fearful and submissive dog
   that feels cornered. It indicates an extremely poor temperament and
   possible abuse. Such dogs should never be bred.
   To deal with a fear-biter (evidenced by a dog that bites/threatens to
   bite but has its ears laid _back_ along its head rather than facing
   forward), first you have to deal with the insecurity and temperament
   of the dog. This kind of dog has no self-confidence at all, hence its
   ready alarm at normally innocuous situations.
   Think of the submissive dog outlined above. You need to build up its
   confidence: pay close attention to understand exactly what sets it off
   (some are afraid of men, men with beards, people holding something in
   their hand, small children, etc) and for now, remove that from its
   environment. Do some training or other work with it to build up its
   confidence (the training in this case becomes a vehicle for praising
   the dog). Then work slowly on its fear.
   You should really enlist professional help to deal with a fear biter
   unless you are experienced with dogs. This kind of dog takes lots of
   patience and careful reading and may never become trustworthy. If you
   cannot resolve its problems, consider having it destroyed; don't pass
   it along to someone else to become a problem for that person.
   Each and every time your dog barks, go out and see why the dog is
   barking. If your dog is barking for a good reason (such as a stranger
   in the yard), you should praise your dog and then tell it to be quiet.
   If the dog is barking because there is a squirrel up the tree, or
   something similar, tell the dog to be quiet and immediately go back
   into the house. You will have to repeat this every time the dog barks.
   Pretty soon, in a week or so depending on the dog, the dog will only
   bark for a good reason. The dog may still bark at the squirrel, but
   not continually. Instead, one or two good barks to scare the squirrel,
   and then it considers its duty done. At the same time, you have not
   dampened your dogs ability to bark when there is something wrong.
   _Dealing with complaints about barking._ If your neighbors complain
   about your dog barking while you are not at home, first purchase a
   voice-activated tape recorder and set it up where your dog will
   trigger the tape if it barks. You may find that your neighbor is
   incorrect about how much your dog actually does bark (keep a log of
   the barking you record). You may find out what exactly causes it to
   bark (hearing a car drive by before each barking sequence, for
   example), giving you some ideas for eliminating the behavior. But do
   determine that there is actually a problem before you try to do
   something about it.
   If you know that you have a problem, you might enlist the help of your
   neighbors. Neighbors are often happy to help you with this problem!
   Have them squirt water at excessive barking, or rattle cans of
   pennies/rocks, etc.
   In any event, take a neighbor's complaint seriously, even if it is
   unwarranted. More neighbor disputes arise over barking dogs than
   anything else, and dogs have been injured or killed by neighbors
   desperate for a good nights sleep.
   There is some evidence that barking is an inherited trait: if the
   parents bark a lot, chances are their puppies will, too.
   Often, one method that helps alleviate barking is to give your dog
   specific permission to bark. Teach it to "speak" -- let it "speak"
   when appropriate (say, when you're playing in the park). Then "no
   speak" follows from that. However, there is often a problem when the
   dog is alone. The following methods outline some other possibilities
   to address this problem.
   There are collars, called anti-bark collars, available that are meant
   to help train your dog not to bark. Dogs will react differently,
   depending on how well they learn, train, and handle. The collars by
   themselves are not the solution to your dog's barking: it must
   understand what the collar does, and you will have to *train* it using
   the collar. Some are electronic and others are sonic. These can be
   quite effective if introduced properly. Ideally the dog should not
   understand that it is the collar giving the correction so that you can
   ultimately wean the dog off the collar. Read the instructions on the
   devices; the good ones will outline exactly how to train them.
   There are two types, one will eliminate the barking -- that is, they
   are triggered by any barking the dog does. Others are "diminishers",
   they will kick in after one or two barks. There are a few that adjust
   to be one or the other. With diminisher collars, watch out for the dog
   learning to "pattern bark" -- they've learned they can bark twice,
   pause, bark twice, etc. You will need to switch to an eliminator in
   this case.
   The best collars are triggered by throat vibration rather than noise;
   this helps avoid having your dog corrected when a nearby car
   Surgery on the dog's vocal cords, called debarking, can be done to
   reduce the barking to a whispery sound. This is a controversial
   practice, banned in Britain and other places. Some vets will refuse to
   do the surgery.
   The dogs do not stop barking. They do not seem to notice the
   difference, or at any rate continue "barking" as if they still made
   the noise.
   There are different ways to perform the surgery, and it is possible
   for the vocal cords to grow back and the dog to regain its bark. If
   the vocal cords are cut, chances are the cords will heal themselves.
   If they are cauterized, the operation will last longer. Whether it is
   over a period of weeks or months, it seems that many dogs eventually
   regain use of their vocal cords.
   There is a "No-Bark Muzzle" that is designed to prevent dogs from
   barking. Many dogs very rapidly learn not to bark when the muzzle is
   put on them each time they start barking. It is not binding or
   confining and does not put the dog through surgery. In general, though
   dogs should not be left alone with muzzles on, unless it allows them
   to drink.
   Dogs may dig out of boredom or to make a cooling/heating pit.
   Some approaches:
     * _Filling in the holes_: Try refilling the holes with junk. With
       junk, dogs can quickly lose interest and pretty much stop digging.
       Fill the hole with whatever is at hand - dead leaves, sticks, pine
       needles, rocks or even dog feces. Fill the top 2 inches or so with
       dirt. The dog finds the stuff, gets discouraged and often quits
       digging. They seem to get the idea they'll never know where
       they'll find junk, and it's not worth the effort to dig only to
       find junk so they quit.
     * _Surprises in the hole_: The Koehler dog method advocates filling
       holes with water and sticking dog's head under the water for a few
       seconds or so. This may not work with some breeds (e.g.,
       Labradors), and may not appeal to you as a method to try.
       Alternatively, you can try burying a water balloon in one of the
       holes which will pop in its face when it starts digging
     * A sandbox: Try to remember that digging is a natural tendency for
       dogs. So, if there is any place where your dog may be allowed to
       dig, you should encourage it (and only in that place). Designate
       an area where the dog can dig. Many people build a sand box for
       their dog. Place the box in an area that is cool in summer and
       warm in winter.
       To teach the dog to dig only in the box, place or bury toys or
       treats (sliced hotdogs, for example) in the box. Encourage the dog
       to dig up the toy or treat. Praise the dog. Repeat until the dog
       willingly jumps in and digs. Watch the dog. When it starts to dig
       in any other place, quickly go out and take your dog to its box.
       Show it (by digging yourself), that it should dig in its box. To
       deter boredom, place several toys/treats in the box before you
       leave for work. The dog will spend its time digging in the correct
       place rather than digging up your roses. You can also sprinkle
       animal essence (available at hunting supplies places).
       Remember that dogs like to dig in freshly turned earth. So get out
       that shovel and turn the dirt over in the sand box every now and
       then. Toss in some fresh dirt. Keep a close eye on freshly planted
       areas, as they will be very attractive (bury some extra hotdogs in
       the sandbox when you are putting down new plants).
     * Line the yard. for extreme cases you can line the yard with
       chicken wire and put a layer of sod over that. Use paving bricks
       or blocks around the edge to prevent the dog from injuring itself
       on the edge of the chicken wire.
  Getting in the garbage
   You should train your dog away from this habit. Crate it, to keep it
   out of the garbage when you are not home, and correct it when it gets
   into it when you are at home. This works best if you start in
   If you already have this problem, some approaches to try:
     * You can get "Mr. Yuk" labels and put them in the trash to keep
       them out of it or spray Bitter Apple into it. But you have to
       remember to do this regularly. If you can, put the trash out of
       reach of the dog, eg, under the sink. You may need to get the
       kinds of trash cans that have closing lids. Don't start easy and
       work your way up as the dog figures each one out: you are just
       training your dog how to open garbage cans. Get a good, well
       secured one at the start.
     * Get some jalapeno peppers, or something that your dog REALLY
       HATES. Slice them up and spend some time wrapping each one
       individually in tissues or kleenex. Fill the trash can with the
       wrapped surprises and let your dog at it. A few days of this
       should convince your dog that trash cans are not fun.
     * Put a mousetrap in the bottom of an empty can, cover it with
       newspaper, then put something that the dog really likes in the can
       and leave the room. Only do this when you are around, do not trap
       all the trash cans and then go off to work for the day!
   Since most dogs are shorter than you, their natural tendency is to
   jump up to see you. It is also an expression of exuberance and
   happiness. However, you may be wearing your Sunday Best. The dog's
   paws may be muddy. The puppy may grow too large. Some people are
   afraid of dogs. Train your dog not to jump on people. If you don't
   mind your dog jumping on you, then train it to jump on you only when
   it's "OK".
   In general, correct it immediately when it jumps on you, praise it
   when all four paws land back on ground. A helpful reinforcement is to
   give them a command and praise lavishly when they do it, e.g., "No!
   Brownie, sit! Good girl, what a good girl!"
   Try to anticipate the jumping: look for their hindquarters beginning
   to crouch down, and correct them when you see them *about* to jump.
   With medium-sized dogs, you can discourage jumping with a well-timed
   knee in the chest (never kick). This does not work as well on small
   dogs and very large dogs. With small dogs, step back so they miss you;
   you can also splay your hand in front of you so their face bumps into
   it (don't hit them, let them bump into you). Correct, then praise when
   on ground. With larger dogs, the kind that don't really *jump*, but
   *place* their paws on your shoulders, grab some skin below their ears
   (be firm but not rough) and pull them down, saying "No!" Again, praise
   it when it is back on ground.
   You should note that some dogs do not respond to the above physical
   corrections. They may view it as a form of rough play, or be so happy
   to get attention that they don't mind it being negative. In these
   cases, a much more effective approach is to ignore such a dog,
   stepping back slightly or turning your back when it jumps. Give lavish
   praise and attention when all paws are on the ground again.
   Gradually expand this to include friends and visitors. Start first
   with people who understand what you want to do and will apply the
   physical correction in conjunction with your "No!" As the dog
   improves, expand with other people. In the interim, a reinforcing
   exercise is to put your dog on a leash, and stand on one end of the
   leash or otherwise secure it so your dog can stand but not jump. When
   it tries to greet someone by jumping up, praise it *when it lands* and
   don't correct it for attempting to jump.
   For those of you who don't mind being jumped, you can gain control
   over it by teaching your dog that it can jump on you -- when you OK
   it. At random times (i.e., not *every* time you correct it), after
   your correction and praise for getting back down, wait thirty seconds
   or so, and then happily say "OK, jump" (or something similar, as long
   as you're consistent) and praise your dog when it jumps up then. At
   other times, when it is *not* trying to jump on you, encourage it to
   do so on your permission, using the same phrase. You must make it
   clear that it shouldn't jump on you unless you give it permission, so
   you must still correct unpermitted jumping.
  Car chasing
   This is symptomatic of a larger problem: why is your dog free to run
   after cars in the first place? If the dog is being allowed to roam
   that should be stopped. A car chasing dog is a menace to itself as it
   may get killed, and is a menace to drivers as people may injure or
   kill themselves trying to avoid an accident.
   Have a few friends drive by (slowly) in a strange car. When the dog
   gets in range, open the window and dump a bucket of ice cold water on
   the animal's head/back. Repeat as needed (with a different car) for
  Tug of War
   The Monks (and former Monk, Job Michael Evans) seem to believe that
   playing tug is a form of "teaching" the dog to use its teeth, and
   therefore a precursor to the dog's learning to use its teeth as a
   weapon. In their view, you should never play tug with a dog. On the
   other hand, there are many people and organizations, especially in
   obedience and working dogs (patrol, narcotic, and search and rescue)
   that actively use tug of war as a reward and a way to build up a
   strong play response. People with hunting retrievers never play tug of
   war for fear of creating a "hard mouthed" dog (one that mangles the
   birds it retrieves).
   Dealing with the possible aggression incurred in tug of war is
   probably more constructive than never teaching your dog to use its
   teeth. Besides, studies on canine aggression show that even extremely
   docile dogs can be provoked to show aggression. Houpt and Wolski in
   their book _Domestic Animal Behavior for Veterinarians and Animal
   Scientists_ note: "Growling is an aggressive call in dogs, and is
   commonly known. It is interesting evolutionarily that even the most
   placid dog can be induced to growl if one threatens to take a bone
   away from it. A scarcity of food in general can increase aggression
   ..., but bones seem to have particular value even for the satiated
   This can hinge on whether you (as the owner) can distinguish between
   challenges and playing. If the dog is playing when doing TOW, there's
   no problem. If it *is* challenging you doing this, you need to 1)
   recognize the challenge (versus just playing) 2) win and 3) stop the
   TOW and correct its challenge to your authority. If you can't make the
   distinction, then don't play tug-of-war with it. Couple any tug-o-war
   games with the command "Give" or something similar so that the dog
   learns to immediately let go ON COMMAND. If it doesn't, that's a
   challenge, and you need to deal with it. Teach your dog what "give"
   when you start playing this game with it. When you know that your dog
   understands the command, then periodically reinforce it by having your
   dog "give" at random times. This becomes a form of keeping your alpha
   position as mentioned earlier in this article. And tug of war,
   properly implemented, is an intensely rewarding game for many dogs,
   making a good "treat" during training sessions, for example.
  People Food
   Feeding your dog "people food," i.e., table scraps and such is a poor
   idea. First, you may encourage your dog to make a pest of itself when
   you are eating. Second, feeding a dog table scraps is likely to add
   unneeded calories to its diet and your dog may become overweight.
   Third, if your dog develops the habit of gulping down any food it can
   get, it may seriously poison or distress itself someday.
   Some guidelines. Do not feed the dog anything but dog food and dog
   treats. You might add vegetable oil or linatone to the food to improve
   its coat. There are other foods that you may want to add to improve
   its diet such as vegetables, rice, oatmeal, etc., (check with your vet
   first for appropriate food to meet the dietary need you want to
   address), but always feed them to the dog in its dish, never from your
   plate or from your hand while you are eating.
   Discourage your dog from begging at the table by tying it nearby (so
   that it does not feel isolated from the social activity) but out of
   reach of the table. After you finish eating, feed the dog. Tell your
   dog "no" or "leave it" if it goes for anything edible on the floor (or
   on the ground during walks!), praise it when it obeys you. Teach it
   that the only food it should take should be from its dish or someone's
   If you are concerned about the "boring and drab" diet for your dog,
   don't think of food as a way to interest it! Play with it, take it out
   on walks -- there are many other and better ways to make life exciting
   for your dog.
    Canine Behavior FAQ
    Cindy Tittle Moore,
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