I need help

Posted by Trixie
Sep 20, 2008
I have a three year old shi- tzu which is very dominant, aggresive (with food), and well, very hyper. We got her at a pet strore when she was a puppy, I know if we got her as a puppy, we should have already solved the problems i stated before, but i dont know what happened. I think we spoil her way too much. For example, when we try to disipline her, she gives us a blank stare with her big cute eyes and EVERY TIME we feel sorry for her, and then let her continue with that bad thing she was doing.

When we're eating at the dinner table, she barks, whines, and jumps on us until we get soo annoyed that we have to give her food just to make her quiet, for a few minutes, and then she just starts barking, whining, and jumping all over again!!!

Also, when she manages to steal something, that is way too big for her to eat, ( like a big peice of bagel) she brings it on the couch or something, and sits there and protects it. Even if you just walk by, she starts growling, biting, snarling etc. I've tolerated it for 2 1/2 yrs, btu lately, its gotten really bad! She actually bit me, that it pierced the skin. :eek:

I tried that feeding her by hand, and that drop food in her bowl while eating (things on the dog aggresion book), but it doesnt work. As long as YOU have food, then its okay, she lets you touch her food, and everything. But once she smells that you dont have any food on you, it's back to her aggressive state.

I really love her, and so does everybody else she meets... she's doesn't play aggressively with dogs or humans ( shes only aggressive when it comes to FOOD) She's really friendly, and everybody thinks she's the cutest thing ever, but when it comes to food, it's like she has a split personality!!!

Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 21, 2008
Hi Trixie,

You admitted you have spoiled your cute puppy so lets start from the very beginning. It sounds like food aggression but I am afraid she has figured out that she can get what she wants by acting like that and it needs to be corrected otherwise it could expand to other areas beyond food aggression. I think you need to retrain her basic obedience. If she becomes really obedient, she would let you do whatever you want to; take food/bone/treats/toys away from her, make her "leave" whatever is in front of her, make her drop "whatever" she has in her mouth.

It looks like she is food motivated, I think positive reinforcement will work very well. Make her sit, down, stay using treats 2x15 minutes sessions every day. When she masters those, move on to "Leave it" and "Drop it", again using treats and praise.

As you work on those basic trainings, lets feed her this way:

Put a few kibbles of food in a dish. Prepare another dish with a few kibbles. Give the first dish to her as you hold the other dish high in front of her.

Once she finish the first dish, exchange with the second dish. While she eats the second dish, put a few more in the first dish. You will repeat this until she has eaten the right amount of one meal.

When you exchange the dishes, don't give her a new one while she is growling. She needs to calm down in order to get more food.

As for your dinner time, I would put her in a crate out of sight (maybe in a different room). I would feed her before you eat your dinner (according to the Alpha Techniques, you have to eat before your dog but I don't think it makes any difference and it would be nice this way because you wouldn't have to feel bad about your puppy being hungry, and you can take time and enjoy your dinner).

I understand you love your puppy and it is hard to be firm when she looks up at you with her beautiful eyes but training is for HER to be happier at the end of the day. Please start today and stick to it. Don't give in even once, if you do then it will go back to where you started.

Good luck
Posted by Trixie
Sep 21, 2008
Hi MaxHollyNoah,

Thanks for the advice.. I'll start right now. Ill let you know on how it goes..
Posted by Trixie
Sep 23, 2008
Hi Maxhollynoah,

Feeding her before we eat really solved the jumping problem. Im still working on the aggresion when she eats...
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 24, 2008
Thank you for the update.

One more thing I forgot to mention last time....

>When we're eating at the dinner table, she barks, whines, and jumps on us until we get soo annoyed that we have to give her food just to make her quiet, for a few minutes, and then she just starts barking, whining, and jumping all over again!!!

Never, ever give her food to make her be quiet when she barks. This is the same as teaching her to bark to get food!

When you think about dog's learning pattern, it will be obvious.

Bark - get food/treat - bark again to get more food/treat

What you should do is to ignore the barking (or remove the dog out of sight)

Bark - get ignored/removed - your dog will learn that barking does not do anything good for her - reduce barking

Hope the aggression issue will improve too!
Posted by Trixie
Sep 26, 2008
Hi Maxhollynoah,

Thanks for the advice on ignoring her when she jumps ( She gives up and quiets down if we ignore her for a period of time.) I think she's starting to learn not to jump. . I am still working on the food aggression. I try to do the training sessions (like you said) everyday for at least 15 mins. (but sometimes I skip days becasue i dont have the time).

Anyways, in the training sessions, she is very obedient (like I stated before if you have food.) She knows sit and stay. I cannot teach her down because if I try to make her go down she bites. What should I do? Also, outside training sessions, she usually ignores me... I have to keep on repeating, and repeating the commands. I have to flick her leash SEVERAL times before she turns around and looks at me. I dont know how to get her attention!

Can anyone help me??
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 26, 2008
Hi Trixie,

I know what you mean - we need to get her attention in order to teach her anything. That is the very first step so lets try this -

When you have her sit in front of you, show her a small piece of treat and bring the treat in between your eyes. She will follow the treat and end up having an eye contact with you. Then, give her a treat. Later on you can label this action as "Watch me".

Do this practice randomly, whenever your dog is not paying attention to you. "Watch me" and give her a treat. Make sure that she will not get any treats, even meals without giving you an eye contact. You can call her name, or make some smacking? sounds to get her attention. If she does, give her a treat.

I would recommend you carry a little pouch that contains tiny tiny bits of treats, instead of holding treats in your hand. You need to make her associate "paying attention to you" and "something good (treats) happens".

I know it will be a long process but this is the best way to teach your dog that everything good will happen when she listens to you and ignoring you will not bring anything good to her.

As for "Down" command, you might want to wait until she learns "Leave it". Otherwise, she will bite you to take the treat that you are bringing down in between her paws. Once she learns "Leave it" then she will not be able to bite you because she will have to "Leave your hand (that holds treats) alone".

Hope this will work. Let us know how it goes.
Posted by Trixie
Sep 29, 2008
Hi there,

I'm starting to practice the commands with my dog Trixie, But a while ago, she grabbed a piece of bread (It fell on the ground). She ran to the couch, and started protecting it. She didn't eat it, she just guarded it. Everytime we came close, she started growling and when I came close, she barked and bit. We just left her alone until she finally came back to us, and then we praised her.

Did we do the right thing, or were we supposed to force the item away from her, or were we supposed to ignore her or something. I dont know what to do...
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 30, 2008
Hi Trixie,

I think you did a good thing by ignoring her. She will eventually realize that the piece of bread is not worth protecting if nobody pay attention to her. In fact, you can create more situations like this and drop something and ignore her when she takes it away. Wait until she comes back and praise her.

As she gets better and becomes less protective about her wins (bread or whatever she thinks precious), you might want to play "exchange" games.

For example, if she has a toy that she likes, show her another toy and if she wants that one, give it and take the old one away. Now she wants the old one back, give it back and take the new one away. By repeating this she will be less or less protective because she will learn that she always gets it back. In fact, she might enjoy this game. Later on, exchange the toy with a treat.

The goal is for her to learn that she does not need to guard any of her possessions, to trust you, and to have more confidence in herself.

You are on the right track so good luck
Posted by Trixie
Oct 4, 2008
Thanks alot for the advice

Im starting to try the exchange games.. She isnt interested in trading toys with toys,
But she likes to exchange toys with treats..I realize she is VERY food nominated .
Posted by Trixie
Oct 4, 2008
Just now, she was protecting something (AGAIN!!! :S ) What she had was not SUPPOSED to be chewed. We tried to get it from her, saying GIVE or NO and we tried shaking a can full of pebbles too (she was just startled but still kept on chewing) We tried ignoring her for a few minutes, but she wouldnt come back to us. I didnt know what to do, and we ended up bribing her with a piece of chicken ( I know your not supposed to bribe but we needed the item back.) Am I doing something wrong??

And shes starting to bite again... I dont know why ... Progress was going good, until a few days ago... I really dont know what happend.

Should I hire a dog trainer, or should I correct her actions mysel...I would really appreciate as much advice as possible THANKYOU
Posted by Debra-ampJosie
Oct 6, 2008
Hi Trixie (& everyone with small dogs),
I also own a shih-tzu puppy (one year old now) and I am quite concerned about the fact that your dog bites you! My dog would NEVER bite me and if she did I would firmly tell her NO. If she did it again I would pick her up and give her a "time-out" in either her cage or another room by herself. This has been quite affective, even for her barking or growling at strangers (guests who visit that she has not seen before). If she growls again I put her back in the room and wait for a short time before I take her out and try again. She wants to make me happy and I am her boss (in her opinion) so she obeys, sometimes reluctantly when it comes to strangers, but the point is she does.

It is nice that your dog does not react that way to others but she definately should not bite you! I think that if this does not work you should seek professional help in teaching your dog that you are the dominant one and that she needs to listen to/be nice to you. You don't want this to get to the point where your dog rules the house and you do not love her anymore because of her aggression towards you. I have a cat that lives with us that I am afraid of, who attacks me when I have my back turned, and I wouldn't want you to be afraid of your dog.

Good luck
Posted by Trixie
Oct 9, 2008
Thanks alot for the advice... Time - outs are very effective to my shi -tzu! She has stopped trying to bite, and now I'm starting the food aggression training all over again , Hoping that all this training will pay off one day