Westie with issues

Posted by tersampson
Apr 13, 2008
We have adopted a 7-year-old Westie, Simon, from a very loving family who had to place him with another family because of aggression he was showing to their children, ages 1 and 3. It is my understanding that they had no problems with aggression until the children were born. He is a fantastic dog, really loving and sweet. However, he has a very aggressive streak and has bitten my husband, who he loves and follows constantly, a couple of times. He gets along pretty well with our other Westie, age 9. The only issues with the two of them is when a rawhide chew is involved. We have figured out a couple of things that make him upset, like picking him up when he doesn't want to be or petting him in a certain way. But sometimes we don't know what will set him off. Today my husband told him no and pointed a finger at him. Simon jumped up and bit his finger, drawing blood. I feel we're being trained not to antagonize him, but when other people come to our house, we're afraid he'll go after them. What is the best way to begin to get Simon past this so that we can trust him around us and other people?
Posted by Todd
Apr 22, 2008
Hi there and thanks for the post

Sorry for the delay i am trying to get through things that i have missed.

Simon does seem to have a little aggression streak but we will try to get him through this. I think the issues may be based around some dominance aggression.

I think Simon may think he is the boss around the house and so can put people in there place when he is not happy about what is going on.

With all dominance issues he needs to learn he is in fact at the bottom of the pack.
So as always we will start with some alpha training to make sure he knows his place. He will be much happier knowing he is at the bottom of the pack and not having to look after everyone else.

Some ideas to help with this -
1) Simon should be fed last and never from the table

2) When you arrive home wait 10-15 minutes until Simon has calmed down before you give them any attention

3) If Simon is lying in the hallway make him move out of the way. Stepping over or around him only lets them know that they are boss. If he is being aggressive then leaving a lead on him will make it very easy for you to move him safetly.

4) Simon should wait until you have walked through a doorway before they can. You can even practice this by putting them on the lead and walking them around the house!

After a few weeks of a change in the order of place in the house you will start to notice some changes. The next big step is obedience.

The more obedient Simon is the easier he will be able to control no matter what the circumstance or situation.
Take him to a quiet secluded area and practice the basic commands of sit, stay and come for 10-15 minutes twice a day.

Obedience and alpha training can make a huge difference no matter what the problem but will not completely solve the problems. He does need some more direct behavioural modification to fix him and i promise you this will take time.

First things first Simon needs to be reprimanded for any aggressive behaviour whether this be growling, barking, showing his teeth, lunging or biting. You need to reprimand him quickly and properly so that he knows exactly what he has done wrong.

The best way to tell him off is with a loud GRRRRRR or AHHHHHH as well as either throwing a large blanket over him or squirting him with a water pistol. This is a very good approach and does wonders.
You need to be consistent with telling him off no matter how minor or major the degree of aggression.

After he is reprimanded take him away from where he did it to a quiet room or garage. This will also distract him. Leave him there for 15 minutes until he has calmed down and then get him out again. Time out is very helpful.

Often what i find helps in these situations is to completely ignore Simon for an enitre day. This means don't look at him, don't talk to him and don't pet him. This applies to everyone in the house as well as visitors.

This will help SImon realise he is not the top dog and helps gets the ball rolling with these issues.
When it comes to petting him etc try and pet him once then leave him alone and carry on what you are doing. With one pat he won't have the chance to get grumpy at you when he thinks he has had enough.

After a few days of this you can extend it to 2 pats.....carry on like this slowly extending the number of pats he has. This helps reinforce that him getting attention is on your terms not his.

If at any stage he gets aggressive he needs to be told off just like i mentions.

When people come over make sure you tell them what is going on and how they can help. Often visitors can inadvertently undo your good work so make sure you let them know.

If worse comes to worse you can always put him in a kennel outside. Often with a change in environment things can get a lot better.

Also there may be a need at some stage for some medication to reduce his aggression. I find DAP and rescue remedy very good but if these don't help he may need some more serious medication.

Good luck, be patient and remember i am here to help so don't be afraid to ask any more questions you have

Posted by amkishaba
Jun 30, 2008
I was so glad to be told about this forum and learn that I'm not the only one with problems with a rescue dog. Sweets (I changed his name from Grumpy) was found abused and neglected in another state and moved to the state from which I adopted him. We think he's a terrier mix of some kind; I was told Maltese/Poodle but he looks more like a West Highland.

Abuse is evident and he had to be treated gingerly at first; rescue org. rep. advised keeping lead on him and ignoring him at first. We seemed to have bonded quite quickly (I got him on April 6, 200 but he's quick to growl then bite. My feeling is he has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and if accidently woken, his first instinct has been to just bite. I almost returned him after one incident where I had to have a puncture wound checked out by doctor but changed mind when told they might have to pull all his teeth.

I have a friend who comes once a week to train him to walk on lead and learn that he is part of the pack and not Alpha; my friend used to train dogs in the Army and has a rescued MinPin who took 2 years to socialize.

Sweets has had good training, I believe, as he's never been a problem to leash and walk (which he loves). However, he goes berserk especially around bigger dogs and certain human body types as well as bike riders and noisy trucks. Walking on heel helps some; but there are days when all he's "learned" seems to go out the window!

He follows me around all over the house; must always be where I am. He's gotten very cuddly and lovable but ... still growls and though it is much less, he will occasionally start to bite.

He hates the brush. My trainer friend has started gently brushing him before Sweets is taken out (I am following example) but Sweets will still growl/grumble (esp with me) and occasionally try to bite the brush. He's small enough so I can grab him in a chokehold to brush him and or wipe him down with Nature's Miracle Pet Wipes (I'm afraid to try and bathe him tho once sprayed his behindwhere he has a scarto clean him up after a soft movement. He seemed to enjoy the cool water.

I know I must be patient but would appreciate any hints and training recommendations. He really is a love and his nickname is "Devil Dog." I keep him on a lead always when we're outdoors and warn people (he's very cute) who come near. He's learned to accept pets from certain people when they're inside the house but he's very territorial.

Sorry to be so long winded and thanks in advance for any additional help.