Not sure where to start . . . (long)

Posted by raffee
Aug 22, 2010
Well, as my post title says, I hardly know where to begin. Maybe a little background before I actually describe the problems . . . My wife and I adopted a 5 ½ year old neutered beagle from a beagle rescue group. All we knew at the time was that he had apparently grown up in one home for 5 years but for unknown reasons had been given to a family for adoption. They kept him for one month but he constantly barked and behaved aggressively towards their family’s cat. The family then brought him to the rescue group.

We knew when we got him that we had some problem areas. He responded to some basic obedience commands but was otherwise pretty undisciplined. He pulled on his leash and was extremely difficult to restrain when he saw other dogs while walking. He was obsessed with food and constantly came into kitchen and dining areas to try and get food, with or without anyone being present.

I was the primary trainer and was easily able to eliminate a good deal of the problems very early on. However, his behavior was still problematic plus he started to show some other issues of which we had not been told. For instance, his obsession with food included eating his own poop. If he was in the backyard and eating something that we wanted him not to eat, he would bark very threateningly when we approached. He has bitten me on two occasions on my hand, skin not broken, when I went to take it away. The same thing would happen if he threw up in the house or backyard, that is, he is determined to eat his own vomit.

We decided to get some professional training. We asked our vet for some recommendations. We settled on a local outfit with two trainers. They offered both individual in-home training as well as group classes. After evaluation, they strongly recommended the use of a pinch collar. Initially we said we did not want to go that route and said we would hold off. However, soon after their training started we tried it and then decided to keep it.

We made good progress through the training. I continued to bring him to classes for quite awhile after the individual training was over. By the time I stopped going to the classes, we had gotten to the point where we could take him to a nearby park and take him off-leash . . . something we had only previously dreamed about.

Ok, finally last piece of background . . . when we got him, he was fairly aloof and remained unconnected for quite some period of time, not surprising given his recent history of abandonment. But slowly and surely things began to change. At this point – he is now seven – he is extremely attached to me and somewhat so to my wife. We had actually hoped for a dog that would be equally attached to both of us. My wife is incredibly loving and giving to him and never takes out any disappointment on him. This is in keeping with her nature.

So, why am I posting this? We still have the total obsession with food. He will often get completely over-excited about wanting food, maybe after being in the backyard. He will go around and lick all of our hardwood floors as an example. The big problem is when we let him out at night to do his business and then maybe he finds something or gets a scent. He will not want to come in and will start barking incessantly. If he as actually found something or maybe has his own poop, he acts very threatening. Interestingly, if we are out walking and he happens along some poop or poops himself, I can verbally steer him away from it. So I guess there is something about his territorial nature combined with his food instinct that really ramps up his excitement. By the way, he is fed healthy, but not an excessive amount of food twice per day. Oh . . . he has killed two squirrels and one bird in the backyard and then has eaten whole all of them.

I am not able to use food as a reward in his training. As soon as it comes out, he loses focus on whatever task is at hand and just starts panting, salivating, and jumping around to get at the food. I tried teaching him to delay his food approach but I think his heightened state of arousal was not conducive to learning.

I am also concerned about his attachment to me. He basically follows me around the house when I am home, which is a good deal of the time. He will often approach me and start licking my face all over, sometimes very forcefully. He will do this as much as 10-15 times per day. He does not complain when I leave but immediately starts barking when he hears me returning and then accosts me as soon as I am in the door. He will also do this with my wife, minus the licking. He almost never licks her.

I have started limiting some of this licking. I am starting very slowly but intend to cut it back to whatever is reasonable, although I really don’t know what that might be. I know he loves me and wants to express it, but it seems like he is also expressing issues around dominance with this behavior. He definitely displays other such behavior. He will occasionally try to hump my leg or arm. He will also do this to others. From the beginning, I have regularly engaged in a lot of the alpha techniques I see are recommended here. No doubt they have helped, but apparently I need to change things in some way.

He has a very strong aversion to rolling on his back. I can only get him to do it when he is very relaxed and maybe on the couch with me. The professional trainer was sure this was a dominance issue and was convinced he could fix it. He put the dog in a position so that he would have to push back to maintain not going over. The idea being that it is the dog who decides if and when he will roll over. He said he just did this with a huge dog who “gave” in after a short time and that was the end of the problem. I told him you may be underestimating the ferociousness of our dog. Well, he was at it for over an hour and eventually it was him who had to give.

There is so much more I have left out but back to the food situation one more time. I had engaged in some of the training I often see recommended where you start feeding the dog out of your hand and then slowly put some in the bowl and so forth. No matter how much or little was in the bowl, whenever I would out my hand back into the bowl, a warning growl would appear. The trainer’s answer to this would be to use the collar to extinguish the behavior.

Well, I had done this as he recommended for when it was time to wake him up and get him off the couch to go to bed. He is really groggy and he would take his time, often lingering past when he was awake. He had taken to making the same warning growl as with the food bowl. I used the collar and gave him a light pinch when he first growled. After one or two times, the growling completely stopped. However, one time soon after, without any warning, when I woke him, he just turned around and bit my hand. I now have grave doubts about trying to eliminate warning growls. BTW, I have since trained him to respond to the off command and that problem is no more.

I know there will be some people here who will strongly object to the use of any such collar. To offer some explanation, not a defense, I would add that our dog does not in any way fear the collar. In fact, he will give a wag of his tail when we put it on. It was explained to us that the collar should not be used as aversive training and we have been very careful to try and follow that principle. We trained him to use the signal and as means of getting his attention and redirecting his behavior. I think we got way from that using the collar when he awoke on the couch and the result was not good. At this point we now only use it when we go on a walk outdoors where he will be off-leash. It is a safety just in case he follows his nose and gets in trouble.

Sorry if this rambled too much. Here is a brief summary of the major problems/issues:
1. Obsession with food, especially in the backyard. Unable to remove items safely.
2. Dominance issues, over-licking, unable to roll over. Not unrelated to food issues.

Thanks so much in advance for feedback and suggestions.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Aug 23, 2010
Hey raffee,

It does sound to me like most of your problems are rooted in a dominance miscommunication. The licking, humping, food problems, and occassional nips seem to me like a dog who does not fully see you as alpha. That being said, I read you have been doing the basic alpha dog training, and I would say to keep that up, and maybe kick your assertiveness over the dog up a little (use more forceful words, be sterner, expect more).

I'm sure some of the problems are rooted in your dogs seemingly being "abandoned" by a home of 5 years, which makes it tough. I would think these behaviours will get better with you over time, because his trust and friendship in you should only get deeper. This does mean you're going to need to keep working at it and be patient!

As far as your wife, to establish more of a bond between her and the dog, try giving her more responsibility with him. She should take him on walks by herself, she should feed him, that sort of thing. This will also help with his licking of you, if he forms a closer bond with someone else in addition to the bond he has with you.

For the licking, when it starts, immediately say "no", stand up or move so that he can't reach you anymore, and ignore him. Wait til he calms down, then sit down or get close to him again. Repeat the process if he starts licking again. You can even go so far as to hold his muzzle shut and say no, then ignore. Always wait for him to calm down before returning your attention to him. Give him verbal praise and really good pats for the times when he's not licking, just enjoying time with you.

With the poop eating, it'll take a bit of effort on your and your wife's part. When he goes outside, both of you should watch him, one with a bag, the other with a treat or favorite toy of some sort. When he goes, the one with the treat should call him and distract him, while the other collects the poop into a bag. That way there is no poop for him to eat. You can go one to try this sort of "training" so that you don't have to immediately collect the poop, just one of you go out with him and immediately distract him from his business once he's done it, then bring him back inside. If you catch him trying to eat it still, it might be a better idea for you to put him on his lead at first and walk with him in the yard til he goes, so that you can remove him from it while giving a "no" command, then go on to try without the lead.

The same sort of idea goes for when he's outside before bedtime and you say he gets stuck out there, sniffed up in something. One of you needs to go out with him and get his attention back on the house before he gets distracted. Apparently treats will get his attention, so you could start with those, and once he responds on a regular basis, cut back to just verbal praise and pats.

As far as food aggression goes, its tricky. You are feeding him after you and your wife eat, correct? Make sure he sits before you give him food, I know you said as soon as the food is in sight he goes berserk, but give the sit command, bring the food out, and if he loses it, take the food back immediately. Have his bowl up on the counter when you fill it, dont pour the food out in front of him, this makes it easier for him to see it coming, and see it being taken away again for his bad behaviour. It also makes it easier for you to avoid being bitten. Anyway, as I said, if he comes out of the sit position before you give an "ok" command for him to start eating, put his food back on the counter, have him sit again, have him stay, and walk away for a few minutes. You're going to have to keep at this, and it might take a while, but if he loves food as much as you're saying, he should catch on eventually. It's all about him not getting food until he is calm and focusing on what you are telling him. YOU decide when to feed him, he doesn't just get to plow into it as soon as its in sight.

To help with his coming into the kitchen looking for food, obviously don't leave any out. Store his bowl out of sight when he's not being fed, and keep his food somewhere where he can't really get near it, preferably in a lockable container. Don't feed him at all unless it is in his bowl, and at a meal time. Treats for training don't count, but I mean don't give him your food scraps unless you put them in his bowl and have him do his sit routine for them too.

The training you're doing with him sounds really good to me, obviously the biting is not a good thing. When he does this, its important for you to assert your dominance over him, not just stop messing with him, because that gets interpreted to him as biting = he gets his way. So next time he nips at you, get a hold of his collar or put his lead on him right away, and boot him outside for a while, or put him in his kennel if he's got one. Either way, remove him from whatever he was doing, and do so sternly. Lots of "NO" commands, and be forcible, but not physically punishing. You can always try muzzles and the like at first, if you're afraid of him inflicting real damage, but I think from what I've read they are just warning "leave me alone" nips. So if you correct them immediately and show him you and your wife (because she needs to be doing this stuff too) are in charge and won't tolerate that behaviour, he should cut it out.

I feel like I haven't given very straight forward advice on this one, mainly because everything you're doing is right in my opinion, I think it just needs more "gusto" behind it for him to get it. I hope you see improvements
Posted by kjd
Aug 23, 2010
Hi, raffee!

Your dog is very lucky that you adopted him; you seem to have the persistence and patience to lick his problems!

As someone who's dog decided poop was good, I have one suggestion. Get some meat tenderizer (not the one with onion in it, but the more expensive type), and shake it on his food. Sunna was going through periods of poop-eating, so I now add it to her food regularly. A bottle costs between 6 and 8 dollars. The cheaper kind, with onion, is between 4 and 5 dollars, but onion is supposed to be bad for dogs.

A properly fit pinch collar, and I suspect from what you've said that your trainer made sure it was, shouldn't be painful to the dog -- it should actually be safer than most of our training collars.

Good luck,
Posted by raffee
Aug 23, 2010

Thanks so much for your feedback. I was thinking I am on the right track but I think I need to hear it from some others to make sure. And I am also sure I make mistakes, but hopefully I am not repeating those so much.

As to the food situation, we always eat before him. My wife feeds him in the AM and I feed in the PM. He will whine occasionally while we eat. We eat in the dining room, where he is not allowed. After we are done, I will get up and feed him. We try and keep things on schedule as much as possible. I could use an idea or two about that whining.

When I get ready to feed him, he has to remain in a sitting position. If he gets up, I stop what I am doing. After his bowl is ready, I give him permission to go over to his crate (he was crate-trained when we got him, which helped). I then place the bowl in his crate and he has to remain in sitting position until I give him the go ahead signal.

But now if I want to place my hand in the bowl or heaven forbid, pick it up, he will growl ferociously. Confession: my wife does not follow the same routine. For a number of reasons, including chronic illness, she is just not able to demand the same out of him and make him stick to it. Our dog does not have free reign and anything goes, but he is able to get away with more. And I don't see how that can be changed right now. She could have less responsibility but then that would be bad in lots of other ways.

And I do not think it would affect this particular issue, although I do think it plays into our overall dominance problems. But this guy is so hyper-focused on food, kind of like he is seized up, I am somewhat doubtful that much can be done. In actuality, I am less concerned about getting him to the point where he lets me pick up his food bowl than, let's say, having him drop something in the backyard if I tell him to. I don't see much of a safety issue with the food bowl. But it does occur to me that to whatever degree the two situations are related, then confronting one issue could help the other, at least I would guess so.

One thing I am not clear on . . . are you suggesting that I should have him stop all licking of me? I would be reluctant to do so, unless I got convinced that I needed to do just that. He has become so accustomed to the routine, I would think it would be quite a shock not to let him lick at all. Once he starts he wants to go on and on and on. So what I have been doing is stopping it not too long after he starts, so that I am in control of that instead of him.

I really do need to do something different when he bites. It does not occur often, but may actually become more frequent as I confront his over-possessiveness. I am thinking of using a thick pair of gloves to get at anything in the backyard. The last time it happened, I yelled at him, then of course felt terrible after. I guess I was so hurt (not physically), I just over-reacted. I need to de-personalize that behavior and perhaps act forcefully but not angrily or revengeful. I don't think I would want to put him in his crate, as I just want to have only positive associations for that space. Especially because his food and water are also there.

You have given me a number of things to think about. Hopefully I will be able to incorporate whatever advice I get here into my training and life with our dog. I absolutely love him to death. I know there are no easy fixes and it will take time, but I also know I need to change some aspects of what I am doing.
Posted by raffee
Aug 23, 2010

Thanks also for your reply. You know . . . I tried some stuff I got online, some sort of powder that was supposed to make his poop unpalatable. Never even made a dent. I suspect it would be the same with the tenderizer, but I don't have too much to lose, so may give it a go.

And yes -- the trainer did fit the collar. We are both very careful each time it goes on him. We have never seen any sign of distress, or even discomfort. But there are some things where a collar is not the answer and I am sure that is mostly true here.

I only hope we have the patience and persistence we need. He is a very, very tough little guy when he is so motivated!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 23, 2010
Hi raffee,

>I only hope we have the patience and persistence we need. He is a very, very tough little guy when he is so motivated!

I want to see if there is anybody more patient and persisitent than you are after I read your whole posting! Your beagle is such a lucky dog to find a home like yours!

I understand that he came with a bunch of problems and he still has some issues but when you compare him now and then, you should be proud of yourself and him as well. He has come this far!

I am afraid that he never had a chance to learn to trust his owners unfortunately. All of his misbehaviors seem to come from lack of trust of people and lack of confidence in himself. I don't think he is showing his dominance over you. He just tries to protect himself and his possessions, due to being treated disrespectfully in his past life.

Once his personality has been twisted it will take a lot of time to unwind it to become a relaxed and trustful dog. You and your wife have done a great job!

By this time, I am sure he knows where all his foods come from. That by itself works as your favor. I don't like you feeding him in his crate. If he sees his crate as his safe place, if you stick your hand in the crate, he can easily take it as an invader.

I would still use foods/treats to train him. Hungry, lonely and bored dogs are best learners. Does he hurt you when you offer him a treat? Does he try to grab it or does he know he should take it nicely. Overreacting when he bites or his teeth touches you works very well in my experience. He, and any other dogs, doesn't want to hurt you for no reason. My dogs acts so guilty when they hurt me accidently and when I scream "OUUUUCh!!".

Because he does all the "wait" "sit" commands in front of his meals, I assume he can somewhat control himself even if he is so obsessed with food. Keep working on making him learn to control himself over foods/treats, but make sure it is always fair to him. In other words, throw a ball and when he brings it to you, give him a reward/treat. When you call him from distance and he comes to you, give him a reward/treat. Offering treats throughout a day will make him think foods and treats are not such special things. When you are obsessed with something but if you get it all the time you will eventually lose your obsession. Create that situation.

As for licking, I don't think it is a sign of dominance at all. It is a sign of submission instead. He just loves you. He wants to trust you totally but his past experience doesn't allow him to do that.

One of my dogs was a stray and she only weighed 35 pounds when she was found. She is now 45 and just fit. She was a bad countersurfer when she first came to live with us. She even ate a very spicy Thai green curry left over on the counter. She did that every time we went out. Her separation anxiety made her eat whatever was there since she didn't know when she could eat next. However, over time, she has learned that she will never have to starve as long as she lives in this house. She just loves us and her home. She never escapes and she always loves to come home. This is an example but each adopted dog has some unknown experiences with which he/she has learned some lessons so it is hard and taking time for them to discard those lessons.

The best way to gain his trust is repetition. Repeat small routines and rules every day. Dogs like to have routines and when it happens at the same time everyday it makes them happy and relaxed. As Caroline suggested, I would go in the backyard with him for his business and clean it as soon as he does. Say "Let's go inside and have a treat!" and give him a treat. Let's go get a newspaper and take him along. Go back inside and tell him how much you enjoy his company and give him a treat and pat. Have him sit next to you when you watch TV and from time to time offer him a little treat for no reason but just because.

I am not so worried about your dog is not as attached to your wife as to you. It is rather unusual a dog is attached to each of family members at the same way. I love my 3 children equally but dogs see and feel things different. My dogs don't even go walk with my husband as long as I am home. When I am at work, they all enjoy walks with my husband. However, if Mama's home, they think they should stay with Mama (in fact, Mama is more fun than Dada) from their point of view!
Posted by raffee
Aug 23, 2010

Ah great . . . I was kind of hoping to get another viewpoint in here. While our guy does appear to me to have dominance issues, I am quite a bit less than certain about this. I sure wish I knew more about his upbringing.

I have been thinking that he may have had a lot of isolation from other dogs. When he sees other dogs, he gets the same kind of excitement as over food, but not as intense. Then when he approaches another dog, he zooms in to his behind and starts sniffing away for as long as he is allowed. He just seems to ignore the normal communications from other dogs . . . I am not sure he had enough contact when he needed it to learn how to communicate. He shows no interest at all in playing with them . . . he takes any attempts at play as a sign of aggression and runs off. He can be easily run off by even a much smaller dog. And the woman who had him during rescue told me that one of her other rescue beagles gave him a strong correction and ended up taking a bite out of him.

Yes - he can control himself while waiting for his bowl. But when I have a treat in my hand, he has never maintained composure. That's one thing I don't think I have the patience to keep trying . . . seems completely futile.

Thanks again for a somewhat different point of view. I do see that everyone keeps emphasizing a number of the same things -- like repetition, persistence, and patience. Oh by the way, when I was trying to shape his feeding behavior, I did stop feeding him in his crate, for basically the reason you mention.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 23, 2010
Hi raffee,

I agree with you that your dog didn't have proper socialization with people and other dogs while he was raised. It is nice though that he just runs off when the other dog tries to play with him. Noah, one of my dogs, would probably snap/bite the other dog out of fear. When dogs encounter something that he/she is not comfortable with (something that he/she can not tolerate with), they can either "fight" or "flight". My Noah is the former.

Dogs can be aggressive in many ways and I don't think it's always due to dominance. It's more likely due to lack of trust, fear, resource guarding, territorial, etc. Your dog's food aggression is maybe a mixture of those.

I would still like to you to try and give him treats. Don't hold treats in your hand. Wear a training pouch, or put them in a tin box or something next to you. Your dog knows "Wait" or "Leave it", right?

After he finishes his meal (sot that he is not so hungry anymore, I hope, tell him to sit in front of you and bring a piece of treat in front of him saying "Wait". When he looks at you in your eyes, tell him to "Take it". It is important that he looks at you. This is a game of patience! Equip yourself with a glove or anything you feel comfortable. He will be drooling but that's OK. We are now trying to make him understand that "He needs to work for it" and "We, the owner, has the authority". He is not starving since he has already eaten. You will repeat every day after his meal. I am curious how he will develop. This is like a bonus for him so he should like this session.

Let us know how it goes. Good luck.
Posted by raffee
Aug 23, 2010
Hey MaxHollyNoah,

I will try as you suggest, although I want to think about the best time to do it. He is absolutely not even close to being sated after he eats . . . we and his vet think his hunger is about the norm for the breed. I do not want to establish any kind of expected routine where he thinks he is going to get treats after he eats, or at any other time for that matter.

There was a biting incident last night. I was better prepared, almost expecting it the way things developed. He pooped very late at night while I was watching him. When I went over to him, he started his menacing growls. I had put on these fairly thick gardening gloves. Finally, when I got too close, he lunged and bit one of the fingers very hard, but let go. It hurt a bit, even through that glove.

I kept moving towards the poop and grabbed it while kind of using my body to shield him away from it. He growled some more and then turned away to go in, which is what I had wanted him to do in the first place.

I am sort of torn between trying to minimize these encounters by controlling his outdoors freedom versus letting him poop and chase whatever but establishing that all of it is subject to my letting him eat something only with my approval. Right now, I am leaning towards the latter. For a number of reasons, it will be difficult to always be with him when he is outside and I am concerned about that being too restrictive on him. I also think that he should learn that if I want to take his poop or anything else, that I am free to do so, without his being allowed to growl or bite.

Thanks again for your input, and I will post the result of the treat experiment.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Aug 23, 2010
Hey again,

What a great lot of feedback! I think your beagle will learn trust again, dogs are such loyal animals.

Just a few ticks of my 2 cents again I think you can allow as much licking as you like, as said above, it is a sign of affection, but when he starts to be forceful with it and not give up, it can become a dominance thing. That being said, allow as much as you're ok with as his owner (its your call!), and then be sure he knows to stop when you say to.

Feeding out of the crate is a good idea, I dont think I caught that you were feeding him in his crate the first time. Even just outside is better, as was said, crates and dog boxes become safe places, the dogs place, so feeding him out of it creates less stress if you put your hand in.

Like I said the first time, I think you're doing wondefully with him and his training, its just time you need. We're always here if you need reassurance or advice
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 24, 2010
Hi raffee,

Let me go for one more round. I am interested in your beagle's case and I would love to outwit your dog.

OK. About giving treats to him after meals - that doesn't have to be treats, it can be a part of his meal. Put a handful of kibbles aside (again, in a treat pouch or box, not so obvious way). He might develop a habit to expect more food after his meal but so what? The main purpose is to:

1) Make sure he knows that foods/treats come only from YOU
2) Train him to control himself over food
3) Spend one-on-one time by making this as a game, rather than training
4) Make him learn to pay attention to your commands and pay more respect to your feelings (make sure you and him will get an eye contact and smile at him when he does well)

Overall, I think it is a good way to communicate with him.

Re: his biting/growling when cleaning his poop. Are you saying that he turns around and eats his own fresh poop? Or, is he just protecting his poop? If it is the former case, next time you go after him, be sure to be equipped with a water bottle with lemon juice or vinegar or tabasco sauce in it. (No detergent or chemical just in case he still does eat it). As soon as he finishes pooping, spray the lemon juice (and maybe some tabasco sauce) on his poop and let him eat it and let him figure out if he still likes it or not.

If it is the latter case, bring him inside while you clean it up and let him out to see if he still obsesses with his poop. Will he go business when he is leashed? If so it will be easier because you can just guide him back to the house or tie him somewhere while you clean the poop.

Sorry, I am too persistent. It is up to you to try my methods or not. Good luck
Posted by raffee
Aug 24, 2010
Hey KOPcaroline,

Just to clarify. . . I had been feeding him in his crate. I stopped when I began trying things like putting my hand near and then into his bowl. I gave up those things some time back as I think I was training him not to growl but did nothing to address the bigger issue . . . biting.

Since then, I have gone back to feeding him in his crate. I would change that immediately if I go back to trying different things with his food bowl. However, if the folks here think I should not feed him at all in his crate, I would also make that change now.

I am very thankful for all the great feedback I have received here from you and others!
Posted by raffee
Aug 24, 2010
Hey MaxHolly Noah,

He is not so much over-possessive as he is obsessed with eating anything he considers palatable, which most definitely includes his own poop. Actually, he would eat anyone's fresh poop and sometimes even go after stale poop. But when we are out of the house, I can tell him direct him away from any stale stuff, and probably even the fresh stuff from others.

At home, he will eat his own every possible chance. While I suppose I would like to see that end (oops, sorry bout that), I am far more concerned about the aggression.

You know, it is very interesting that you mention pay more attention to my feelings. I would love for him to be able to do that . . . he seems to have no such ability with me or anyone else. I have always considered it part of his developmental issues, like his apparent lack of knowledge about communicating with other dogs. But who knows what he could learn if he could better control himself over food?

I am going to try a few things you mention and I will report back. If you can outsmart him, I want to be the beneficiary!!!

Thanks so much for staying with this.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 24, 2010
Hi raffee,

Your response interests me.

>But when we are out of the house, I can tell him direct him away from any stale stuff, and probably even the fresh stuff from others.

I know he acts aggressive to you when it comes to foods but you can control him better outside the house. That implies it is a mixture of resource (his obsessed resources) guarding and territorial aggressions. He is claiming his poops in his yard as his possession. I think the tabasco or lemon juice spray is worth trying. Once he doesn't like the taste, it becomes less valuable to him.

Does he exhibit any other aggressions non food related, for example, does he let you brush him, clip his nails, touch his teeth, how about can you tug his tail?

I undertand he doesn't play with other dogs but how about with toys? Is there is favorite toy? If he does, can you take it away from him (not to snatch it out but ask him to give it to you)?

>You know, it is very interesting that you mention pay more attention to my feelings. I would love for him to be able to do that . . . he seems to have no such ability with me or anyone else. I have always considered it part of his developmental issues, like his apparent lack of knowledge about communicating with other dogs. But who knows what he could learn if he could better control himself over food?

I still have a big hope. He probably never learned how good to be loved by someone, how good to have mutually trusty relationship with someone. He never had fun playing with other dogs and probably never been treated fairly by human beings. Once he realizes how much he can trust you, he will turn around to be a very loyal companion. Aggressions will go away once he really starts trusting you as someone he doesn't need to protect anything from, in contrary, you ARE the one who gives you clear rules and guidance that he can follow to avoid any problems as well as better foods than his own poop
Posted by raffee
Aug 24, 2010
Hi MaxHollyNoah,

Yes, I agree with your suppositions that our guy is displaying guarding and territorial aggression. He is extremely protective of what he considers his space. He is not a terrible barker as is the case for some beagles. But early on I set up a kind of cushioned bench for him in my home office. It is right under the window. Often he will lay on it towards me but there are plenty of times when he is sitting and looking out. Whenever a dog passes by on the sidewalk (there is a lawn between the window and sidewalk) he gets very agitated and will start barking if allowed. He will do the same with a person, just a little less agitated. And if a dog or person is walking on the other side of the street, he will also get upset, and bark loudly if it is another dog.

He does not have those kind of things to get him riled in the backyard. But he gets incredibly worked up, more so than from events in the front, if a squirrel or bird is in the area. He has killed and eaten whole 2 squirrels and at least 1 bird. So at least his reflexes are in good order! He is deceptively cagey and smart. So yes, the backyard is a loaded place for him . . . I will try the lemon-tabasco cocktail and see what happens.

As to touching him, I am able to do all of the things you mentioned. He is not crazy about having his teeth brushed but the job gets done using a little patience. However, there is one issue I mentioned before . . . he is strongly motivated to resist rolling over on his back. No one has been able to get him to do so voluntarily, at least while he is fully alert. When he is very relaxed and laying on the couch with me, I can get him to do it. I have tried pairing this with a cue word, but so far it has not transferred to other situations.

About toys . . . he does not much enjoy playing with them. We do keep a few around because when he gets tense or nervous he does like to chew on one of them. Also, when he is very agitated, he will sometimes pick up this one toy and bring it to me. That is my cue to tell him to drop it, throw it, and have him fetch it. He will want to do this 3-4 times at most. Whenever I have tried to initiate that game, he is not interested.

He is truly a very loyal companion right now, but he has no sense about a give and take relationship. And while that might be nice, it is not something I need from him.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 25, 2010
Oh raffee! He might be a cat wearing a beagle costume!!

I will have to digest what you wrote and think about new strategies!

Go ahead and try the tabasco cocktail

More to come
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 25, 2010
OK. Lets sort your beagle's issues out:

1. Food obsession - put aside a handful of food (kibbles) and try to feed him one kibble at a time after he finishes his food in the bowl. Make sure he waits for your command and obey to it as well as giving you an eye contact before he gets the treat (kibbles).

2. Poop eating - spray tabasco on his poop as soon as he produces and let him figure out if he still likes it or not. Feeding meat tenderlizer that kjd suggested is good too as well as mixing some tomato paste in his food.

3. Letting him on his back - he might have had some bad experience being forced to lie down on his back so slow approach is necessary to desensitize his fear of showing his tummy. Teach him "Play dead" (just to lie down on his side) might help but I don't know what you want to use as incentives (maybe using treats after you train him on item #1.) After mastering "Play dead" you can teach him to "Road kill".

4. Barking at dogs and people passing by in front of your house - I can not give you any suggestions on this item since my own dogs are even worse than your beagle. They are very alert and protective, which I like, I just wish they could stop barking as soon as I tell them "that's enough". I am still working on this myself so hopefully someone will give us better advice.

5. Killing squirrels and birds - some dogs are more of predators than others, however, I still think you can control him by teaching him to "Leave it" or "Drop it". Holly, one of my BCs, actually caught a squirrel in her mouth twice right in front of my eyes. I shouted "Drop it" and she dropped it and the squirrell ran off both times. If you are not with him when it happens, I think it will be impossible to save those animals.

>He is truly a very loyal companion right now, but he has no sense about a give and take relationship. And while that might be nice, it is not something I need from him.

Do you think you are giving him too much attention and too much care/love? While I think it is important to give your dog a lot of loving care to gain his trust, sometimes it might feed him up and makes him lose motivation to please you. This balance is very difficult. As I said before, when dogs are hungry, lonely and bored they learn better. Leaving certain room for him to long for your attention might be the key...

And of course, daily obedience training is very essential and helpful for correcting the issues listed above.

Good luck
Posted by raffee
Aug 26, 2010
Hi MaxHollyNoah,

1. I tried this yesterday,although not after dinner. He was able to maintain eye contact while salivating and shaking, at least for the first few treats. After that, he began losing focus and ability to follow direction. He did what I have seen in the past . . . that is, he starts going through his learned repertoire in order to get the treat. He will sit, then lie down, then go back to sit, but not in response to my commands. So, I stopped at this point. This is pretty much how it has been before when I have done this. However, previously, I have not tried doing it every day.

2. I will get some tabasco and add it to some lemon juice and water and give it a try.

3. May have to wait until I can use food as an incentive. However, he does spontaneously lie down on his side, so I can pair a cue with that behavior to at least get started.

4. Kind of the same for me -- not a big thing that I am worried about but would also like barking to cease when told (he will actually do so in some situations when he is not too jacked up).

5. We have come to accept that he will be killing some small animals from time to time. The biggest concern is to get him to drop something if we tell him. Right now, if he gets a hold of anything he wants to eat in the backyard, he will absolutely not respond to the drop command.

I have considered if I am giving him too much attention, love, and care. I do not think so. At times, especially in the past, we gave him too much leeway. But that is different and is also not so much the case now. Perhaps I have been letting him do too much licking, still not too sure about that, so I am letting my own feelings guide that right now. I do tell him I love him in a cute voice several times a day, but does not seem excessive to my wife or myself.
He also has to make do with at least 3-4 times per week when I am gone for 4-5 hours, so he gets plenty of opportunity to long for my attention. And when I am home, it is not like he has my undivided attention.

I just think he has developed in a way that he is not the type of dog who has learned, and maybe now can't learn to give and take within a relationship. I would think he would first need to learn to self-regulate much better, and I am not sure how much he might be able to do that. However, I will proceed as if he can improve as I see no downside if it turns out he can't better self-regulate.
Posted by kjd
Aug 26, 2010

A quick take on your response to MaxHollyNoah:

1. Stop as soon as he loses focus and put the treats away. What you should see is a gradual lengthening of the time he will remain focused on you.

4. Don't use the drop command in the back yard right now. You cannot enforce it and he is only learning it is a non-command. You can work on it inside, if you can trade things off with him: one toy for another, one treat for a better treat. If you can, you use "drop" as he drops, of his own volition, the first toy or treat.

You may want to concentrate on the no-poop-eating, because we humans find it disgusting, and the food obsession. I think, once he no longer values food so highly (and this will probably take a very long time), many of the other problems will disappear.

Really, whenever you get discourages, just look back on how far you've come! You've done a terrific job with this dog.

Posted by KOPCaroline
Aug 27, 2010
Hey again Raffee,

I think kjd's idea of focusing on the big behaviour problems (food obsession, namely) and tackling those first is a good method to the madness of sorting this out! A lot of unwanted dog behaviour are tied together in cases like this, so sorting the big one can lead to a decrease in others. As its been suggested, use the hand feeding only until he loses attention, and the poo spraying I think these are excellent ways to train him.

I think your love for him can only help here, as long as you aren't babying him and bowing down to his wants everytime. I'm sure progress will be made!
Posted by raffee
Aug 30, 2010
Hey kjd & KOPcaroline,

Thanks so much for your continued input! It all helps. I have gone over the whole thread a few times and that helps to get some focus on the big picture. I find it so easy to lose that when this or that problem is always presenting itself. So, kjd, I will try to keep some sense of the journey it has been -- and where it started.

I do not keep doing feeding, or any other training, when he loses focus. I tend towards integrating the obedience stuff into his daily routine. When I actually set aside time, as I am doing now with the hand feeding, I will keep it short, no more than 10 minutes, even if he is on track. I have found going longer with him is counter-productive.

KOPcaroline, don't worry (be happy, oops, sorry) . . . I do not baby him at all. I will sometimes express love or affection in a baby-like voice. But when it comes to his behavior, I try to be as consistent as possible. I can't say that I am perfect at this, but I do think I have established my expectations pretty well. He knows what he is allowed to do or not to do in virtually all aspects of his daily life. And I do not keep giving commands that I can't enforce, which are very few.

I feel lucky that I have gotten a lot of good feedback in this forum. I am a total newbie here -- although not so with dogs. I really wasn't sure what to expect, and I am very grateful that a number of you have taken the time to think about as well as post responses.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 30, 2010
Hi raffee,

Another week started! I am glad to hear that you are keeping hand feeding your Beagle. Have you seen any difference as far as his food aggression is concerned since you started the systematic approachs to his behavioral problems?

When you see him starting to lose his focus, just throw a kibble to around his tail. He will immediately turn around to pick up the kibble and he will turn right back to you, expecting another kibble will be thrown. You will throw again, and again, and again for a few times before you end the session. Give him a hug and praise that he did well during the session.

As your session goes well and he doesn't get aggressive at you even though you have treats/kibbles in your hand, you want to try this (it might take a good couple or 3 weeks before you will feel comfortable doing this):

Hold a kibble in each of your hands and close your fists tight. Extend the both fists in front of his face. He will probably looks at your fists (not at you first) and tries to open your fists. Don't let the kibbles go until he looks at you and expresses his confusion, which is a sign of asking for your direction.

I think training dogs continues until the dog or I die. There is no perfect dog and no perfect trainer so make it simple and fun so that both you and your dog enjoy the routine.

I am curious about the tabasco cocktail
Posted by raffee
Aug 30, 2010
Hi MaxHollyNoah,

Actually, the only time he has displayed food aggression towards me or my wife is when we have tried to or taken some food (or whatever he considers food) away from him. So, when I do hand feeding, he never comes close to being aggressive. He will get very, very anxious, just crazed because he wants the food.

I can see value in trying to get him more relaxed around food . . . although as has been pointed out I think to accomplish this would take a very, very long time. I kind of doubt that this would transfer to those situations when he is aggressive. In the past, I tried to work on this by starting to take some food from his bowl. I used the collar and would started just by putting my hand near the bowl, then in the bowl, and finally taking a piece out. He would growl menacingly and I would hit the button and he would stop.

I thought I was making progress by getting to the point of taking a piece out with very little growling. However, I used the same approach for stopping his growling when I would wake him up and ask him to leave the couch. It worked great, or so I thought, until one night when he just turned around and bit my finger without any warning. And I think that was what I was setting up to happen with the food bowl. I stopped and have not resumed.

I just bought the tabasco, so will let you know what happens very soon.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Aug 31, 2010
Hi raffee,

OK. I see your point. He is only too obsessed with some items/spaces that he thinks his possession. That's why when you have food kibbles in your hand he only gets over-excited but he never gets aggressive to take them away from you, correct?

If my understanding is correct, it is a good idea to expose him to foods that he can not control as much as possible. In other words, instead of putting foods in his bowl, spread some kibbles on the floor and cover some of them with your hand, telling him "Leave it". He can eat the ones not covered but he shouldn't touch the ones you have your hand on. You can gradually release one kibble at a time. He should not claim those as his possession until you release them.

Just now as I was writing this, Noah who was looking at darkened outside barked at something. I told him to stop barking but he continued. I told him to go outside the room and lie down and he did. The door is still open but he should not cross the line. The other two dogs are lying down by my feet quiet. The message here is "being in our office is a priviledge. If you cannot follow the rule or cannot obey my command, your priviledge is gone."

If your beagle doesn't get off the couch when asked to, he should not have the priveledge of sleeping on the couch. Don't you think so? I am not interested in Alpha training myself and I do feed my dogs before we eat and we let them on the couch and sometimes even on the bed. But the rules here are all the decisions are made by us, not by them. Getting access to those couch/bed/office, etc. is considered as "priviledge" so our dogs don't deserve it unless they are ready to give it up once they break the rules. I think this is a good way to learn "give and take" or "cause and effect".

Of course my doggies didn't learn all these rules over night. It took us a while but the key was patience, persistence, consistancy and fairness.
Posted by raffee
Aug 31, 2010
Hey MaxHollyNoah,

Yes, your understanding is correct. It is only food in his possession that is taken away that will trigger his violence. I really like your suggestion about covered and uncovered kibble . . . that seems more pertinent to our situation.

As to the couch, I also agree completely. As soon as we found out that we had a problem, we changed the rules completely. While my wife and I were unhappy at losing the enjoyable contact with him on the couch, we forbade from being on it for awhile. Then when I felt that using the collar was the wrong thing, I was able train him to respond to the off command. Since then, he started letting him back on the couch. He has never failed to get himself off the couch right away when it is time. We also decided to not let be on the couch unless one of us is present. Once in awhile he will jump on it anyway I don't know if he is testing or just loses focus in any event, we tell him to get off and he practically jumps out of his skin getting off of there.
Posted by raffee
Aug 31, 2010
Well, it appears there is another problem with my boy wonder. We recently came into possession of a condo in the city. It is about an hour drive from our house. For now, we are planning in spending about 25% of our time there, in various chunks.

I was very concerned about how much limit setting I would have to do in the condo . . . especially because it is a loft-style unit with an open floor plan. This is our first day here and he has been adjusting remarkably well. Of course he was very anxious at first and kept pacing, but now has settled down nicely. And it has been a piece of cake to teach him where he is allowed and where he is not.

Ok, I am getting to the point . . . the unit has a metal winding staircase going up to the loft area, which will be used primarily for sleeping and not much else. I knew he might have a problem going up the stairs and sure enough, he wanted no part of them. I was kind of shocked when food would not lure him to take even one step up.

To see if the problem was his being able to see through the stairs, we taped up some towels to cover the open spaces of the first few stairs. At first he was still reluctant, but with a little coaxing and a food pellet, he finally did go up and get the kibble.

So, is there some way I might be eventually able to get him to go up? Maybe I should post this in a new thread. The problem may come when it is time to go to sleep. At home, he sleeps in his bed which is at the foot of our bed, which is upstairs. He will not want to sleep alone. And I don't want to start carrying him up and down the stairs, for a number of reasons.

I again welcome any and all suggestions . . . even though the pay sucks.
Posted by kjd
Aug 31, 2010

I think you are correct. I'd leave this thread for the food obsession.

Since I had a dog who was afraid of all stairs, I'll start the new thread, quoting your last message.

Posted by raffee
Sep 1, 2010
Thanks, kjd. I replied to the new thread.

Update on food: We were all set with the tabasco mix, but his only poop today was when we took him out on a walk. We are headed back home tomorrow and should have an opportunity very soon to see how appetizing his poop is after it has been sprayed with that stuff.
Posted by raffee
Sep 8, 2010
Hey MaxHollyNoah,

We have been away for the last 5 days, but before we left I tried the tabasco mix. He ate the whole thing, well thing in this case being his one-lump poop, generously sprayed with tabasco, lemon juice, and water mix. He did not flinch at all! However, he then came in the house and took a long drink of water.

That is the only time I have sprayed his poop so far. Perhaps I should try again, or maybe up the tabasco concentration a little. We are also leaving again and will be away from home for about 8 days.

BTW, we have a friend who comes in and house sits while we are gone. She also has extensive experience with dogs. She has been doing this ever since we got our dog and has a good relationship with him. She does not have the same expectations we have of him, yet she will follow through with our rules pretty darn good.

I have started food training as you last suggested. He has been able to follow the rules of the "game," but it is certainly not easy for him. After he gets the "free" kibble and knows another one is available, he gets very, very excited. If he is supposed to be sitting, he will do so, but starts lifting his paws just slightly and then begins shaking and just keeps escalating his expression of tension until he is free to eat the kibble. I have done this with him about 5-6 days so far, and he has not yet managed to calm down, even to the slightest degree.

He will respect that it is not yet his kibble, well at least it is not his to eat. I am not at all sure that he understands that the kibble is not his to begin with. Ok, what I really mean is that I am pretty sure that he does think it is his possession. I would guess it could take quite awhile to break that mindset. Question: . . . do you think I should have our house/dog sitter continue this while we are gone, or is this something that only I should be doing with him?

Thanks for all the energy you have put into helping us and for your continued presence!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 8, 2010
Hi raffee,

I am sorry but I had to gibble when I read about your dog eathing the whole thing and didn't mind the tabasco/lemon juice cocktail We lost the game!

OK, what's next? Maybe a stronger concentration or something really taste bad to dogs but still not poisoness.... How about mouthwash? It think it's worth trying

As for food rules, if your housesitter is very experienced with dogs, why don't you ask her if she feels comfortable doing that? She might have some new ideas. At this point, I would expose him to foods that don't belong to him as much as possible and control his access to the foods. Put all the remainder of food away before he loses his focus and starts acting restless. I know 5-6 days seem to be long but you need to be patient. No free kibbles!

I have a totally opposite case right now. My foster dog is too timid to come inside to eat his food. I cannot catch him so he has been sleeping outside for the last 5 days since I got him. I am telling myself to be patient but it has been very hard.

Well, let us see which one of us (you or me: your dog or my foster dog) will make progress sooner. Isn't it interesting how different each dog is?

Good luck