Fear aggressiveness and hand biting

Posted by Inga
Nov 11, 2009
I would like to tell you about my dog – Reino – a lab mix. I love him very much but I have a lot of problems with him. Although I had tried to solve them, most of the problems have still remained.
Reino lives with us for a year (he is now one year and one month old). He was already quite mischievous when he was a puppy but now problems have become more serious.
The main problem when he was a puppy it was his habit of biting (nipping), mostly hands and arms. This habit has not stopped. Biting is not so hard to make bleeding but painful enough. He starts biting when he is excited (positively or negatively because of some kind of stress) or too energetic or when something does not go the way he wants.
And he is also quite jealous when somebody (even my husband or children) comes too close to me – no hugs or kisses in front of him! I am his main person in the family. But although he adores me, follows my footsteps etc, he not always obeys and does what I say.
I understand that it is mainly the question of dominance. It is not so that I would not have tried some techniques to prevent his dominant role in the family (feeding after the rest of the family has finished eating, going through doors after us), but I know that there are things I have to change. And they are – feeding titbits from the table (but it is only during the process of making the meal), sleeping/lying (not at night) on my sofa, patting him, rubbing his, back and belly when he demands etc.

One more big problem about Reino is his aggressiveness because of fear. He is very afraid of strangers (people in the streets, people entering our apartment) and of dogs as well. So because of fear he tries to attack them. Till now nobody is hurt, thank god, but I noticed that he is more aggressive when he is on leash. In some cases when he somehow managed to slip off the leash, he did not show aggressiveness. We use a muzzle for Reino, of course, when going out or when somebody is visiting us.
Sometimes when I watch my dog’s behaviour outside it seems that he is afraid of his own shadow. Pulling the leash, of course, is quite common phenomenon when walking with Reino.
Of course, there are usual problems as well:
- jumping on people (when I come home, he is so extremely happy that it seems that some hurricane has started in apartment – running around, jumping and licking my hands and my face, and as he is very strong and big I cannot do anything to prevent it, especially when I arrive with shopping bags in my hands);
- spoiling some items of furniture and some wallpapers but it was more often when he was a puppy;
- some barking when he hears neighbours/strangers outside;
- thieving;
- general disobedience – when I say “no”, he stares and pretends he has not heard or starts biting.

He knows commands “sit”, “stay” (for a short while), “down”, “stay”, “heel” (he knows what it means but he is so stressful that it is difficult for him to obey), he runs after the toys/balls and brings them back, sometimes he is willing to give them back, sometimes not quite so willing but allows to take them out of his mouth. I have trained him that he can start eating his food after I have said “Eat!”
There are, of course, also many good things about him.1) Reino has no house training problems. 2) He knows that at night he sleeps in his place (outside our bedrooms) and he starts whining and tries to enter only after alarm clock rings. 3) He is very sweet and expresses his love (when he is in mood) generously. 4) Reino is very protective and I know that my family and my apartment are not in danger because Reino will not accept any stranger to come in.

To summon it up I have to say that I need your advice and help eagerly.
The main problems are his hand biting and jealousy at home and fear aggressiveness at people and dogs outside. My husband has ordered your book and I have started to study it but maybe you have some advice for me how to start this “treatment” process.

Waiting for your answer,
Inga (from Latvia)
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Nov 12, 2009
Hi Inga,

It sounds like you need a lot of help to retrain your dog.
May I ask some questions on how you have raised Reino since he was a puppy?

First of all, you said you have had him for one year and he is now 1 year and 1 month old. Does that mean he came to your home when he was only 4-5 weeks old? If so, he was way too young to leave his mom and his siblings. Puppies need to be with his mom and siblings up to 8, more preferrably 12 weeks. That is a very crucial period when they learn how to behave with other dogs through play bitings. They also learn how to communicate with other dogs. Lack of socialization results fear aggressions or over-submissiveness as well as hard play bitings to people.

Please let us know how you treated your puppy when he first came to your home. I am afraid you guys didn't give him plenty of opportunities for his socialization towards other puppies/dogs and people.

Dogs are happier if they are given clear and cosistent house rules and boundaries from all human members of the family. It is not too late so please sit down with your husband and children to decide how you guys treat your dog from now on and everybody should stick to the rules.

Anyway, I am curious to know how your dog has been treated in your family since he came.

>And he is also quite jealous when somebody (even my husband or children) comes too close to me – no hugs or kisses in front of him! I am his main person in the family.

Especially something like this couldn't have happened in a day or two. YOU have made him think over time that HE IS allowed to act like this.

Looking forward to learning more about Reino.
Posted by Inga
Nov 12, 2009
Thanks for your interest. I will try to answer your questions.
We took Reino when he was 5 weeks old. Now I am clever after reading of different books and materials and I know that it is too early but as he is my first dog I did not realize that it was crucial fact for biting or not biting.

Regards socialization I feel that he really lacks it. It was O.K. with him until he was about 4 months old (no problems with strangers or dogs neither during walks nor during visits of other people). But as we have problems with biting I consulted a professional trainer and I have to say that now I understand that he was not so professional as it seemed. His methods were quite rough. Firstly, he suggested to hit Reino’s muzzle with fist when he tries to bite. We tried to do it but could not quite perform it as we did not like it. And I am against methods like these ones. And when we went out for obedience training with this trainer, I did not like also his methods for obedience training. So after some 4 times I stopped the cooperation with the trainer. Reino was about 5 months old when he started to express dislike towards strangers (it was approximately the time when I stopped cooperation with the trainer). I started to teach Reino myself some commands we had tried to learn with the trainer and I succeeded even without harsh methods. When Reino was about 7 months old we went to obedience classes (many dogs, many people). It was quite difficult for Reino and for me as well. He was afraid and most of the time he spent there he was looking around and watched if nobody came too close to him. I felt that we were not welcome there and after two months we quitted the classes.
I know that I have to provide more socialization to Reino but in what way? He is very strong and he is not easy manageable and when he does not want to be or to go somewhere he tries to escape this kind of stress.

Regards his jealousy - of course, it did not happen in some days but I had always told him “no!” when he tried to demonstrate his jealousy and corrected his behaviour. Somehow it did not help. He mostly spends time in my rooms, he feels safe and relaxed there. And when somebody else enters the room where Reino and I are in, he expresses his dislike.
Most probably, we had made some mistakes regarding his jealousy but what are they? I am afraid I cannot identify them without help. And what to do to correct the situation?

Waiting for the answer,
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Nov 13, 2009
Hi Inga,

Thank you for your response. Now I understand that you tried many different training/correction methods, which unfortunately confused your dog as well as you guys. I don't agree with training using forces or physical punishments and I prefer positive reinforcement training using treats and praises.

Well, we can't change the things that already happened but we can definitely change his future behavior so lets focus that.

I don't think it is healthy for both the dog and the owners that the dog is only attached to just one person (YOU, in your case). In order to change this, can your husband or your children feed Reino from now on? Also can they take him for walk every day?

I think foods and walks are the biggest highlights in many family dogs daily routines. Therefore, dogs will soon realize that people who provide those fun things are their friends.

You said Reino gets jaleous but I don't think its jaleousy but a sign of "resourse guarding". Sine Reino is so attached to you, he thinks you are one of his valuable resources and he doesn't want anybody else to get to it. Thus, he tries to protect it (you) when someone comes in the room where he and you are.

Have you tried this? While you and your husband (or your children) are in a room hugging each other, or sitting close to each other, call Reino over. How does he react? I don't think he would growl at your husband or chase him away from you. Instead of having them come to you when you are with Reino, make a lot of situations where he would have to join you guys.

Togehter with the other members of your family feeding him and walking him, and the above mentioned practice, I hope Reino will accept gradually the other members as part of his family so that he doesn't need to protect YOU from.

Let me know how it will work out. Good luck