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Thread: Dog Aggression, Trying to Bite People

  1. #1

    Default Dog Aggression, Trying to Bite People

    long story so you get the background.

    I got my maltese x bichon at 3 months old, bought from a BYB (i have since learnt & will never support BYB/pet shops again, so dont flame me!) anyway, he seemed like a great dog, playful, curious etc, i met his mohter & sister & they seemed great too.

    The day i got him home, he seemed fine, i had a couple of visitors & he was ok with them but unsure of my brother (the only male apart from my husband)
    the day after i got him i took him to my local vet for a check up & for a vaccination as he was a couple of days late according to his papers. (probably a big mistake as we had only had him 1 day)

    so, i take him to the vet & he was nervous (as was i) the vet staright away started poking & proding him, then tried to give him a worming tablet by shoving it down his throat & he was getting very jumpy. The vet then said she would take him away out the back as she needed help from a nurse. 10 minutes later he comes back muzzled where i then proceed to get a lecture about buying a maltese & how the vet was concerned for her safety. Anyway, i was upset & left feeling unsure about the whole muzzling thing.

    He then continued to be scared of everybody & anybody including children, although he was scared, i was worried about him seeming aggressive, Although he looked like he wanted to bite, he would back up from people rather than lunge forward. Fast forward & i sought the help of a behaviourist, with some training he improved & became more confident & absolutly loves kids & most adults, he has always been weary of males in particular but lately he has become aggressive, lots of barking, growling & has started trying to bite people & on a few occasions actually nipped there pants.

    lots has changed recently from me working from home, to me working away & him being left at home all day. after a couple of weeks he seemed to get used to this, play time at dog parks decreased especially after the flooding in brisbane as our local parks were all under water. On occasion he will allow someone/stranger to pat him but as soon as they stop he attempts to bite them.

    Again, i have asked for help from the behaviousrist & although i think she's great, im not seeing any improvement but feel like his general behaviour is getting worse. We have been asked not to let him on the lounge or bed (where he sleeps) no pats unless earnt & always kept on a leash. i have started crate training him but this is proving to be difficult & sleep time is a real drama with him crying all night.

    sorry for the mammoth post, i am really looking for some advice that might work for us, i love my dog to bits & would love to be able to bring him out for walks without the worry he might try to bite someone.

    he's great with other dogs, if not a little nervous at times from the large overly playful ones at the park, but we have never had any dramas.

    please help me!

  2. #2
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    Bit worried about the first vet.

    Though she is right, maltese are notorious for being aggressive and it takes some consistent training by the owner to counter this.

    I don't know from your post what is triggering the dog. What moves does the dog make immediately before he attacks someone? What you're doing about that? Or what you're doing when he does get aggressive - does it get him lots of attention (do you yell at him?).

    Where do you put the crate. What are you doing by way of crate training? Are you feeding him his dinner and treats in the crate? Are you hand feeding him all of his dinner? Do you make him work for his dinner ie hold a nice sit-stay as you feed him or before you let him eat?

    What are you doing to help get him used to males generally? Why are strangers trying to pat him? Do they aim for the top of his head (bad) or his chest (better), do you get him to drop or roll over first (hard to bite someone that has been patting a dog's tummy). Does he growl when they approach - best not to allow them to continue to approach...

    What obedience training is he getting, and how much exercise generally?

    You may want to try emailing Steve at K9pro.com.au directly with your problem or a link to this thread. Even tho he's in NSW he can probably recommend a behaviourist closer to you who specialises in sorting aggressive dogs.

  3. #3

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    I understand Maltese have a tendency to be aggressive & at first signs of it I got help. Its odd though that something has changed & now he is aggressive. Not all the time though, just certain people & certain circumstances. I'm finding hard to determine whats triggering it also. When he does start with the aggressive look I normally correct him & pull him back & try to get him to sit. Possibly raising my voice!

    Crate training I have started with playing near it, throwing treats in & then his dinner. I started by leaving the door open then closing it. He is getting better as at first he would bark but now he sits quiet until I let him out. Before he comes out though he sits & stays until I release him. He dosnt like going in though, I need to nudge his back legs in.
    Sleep time in the crate is really hard, cries all night. It's a big change from sleeping on the floor or bed.

    Obedience training, we have done classes in the past & now basically just run through the same basic commands. We also teach him tricks as we thought this would be fun & mentally challenging. He is smart, maybe too smart!!

    People generally put their hand out & kneel down for the dog to sniff them, sometimes he will sniff, accept a pat & once they stop patting he will get aggressive.

    I have no idea why he dosnt like males! He loves the ones he knows, he's a very affectionate dog & loves kids. I can't figure him out!

  4. #4
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    Bear in mind I am not a professional dog behaviourist/trainer. I make no claims any of this will work. It's up to you to decide what you're willing to try.

    I understand Maltese have a tendency to be aggressive & at first signs of it I got help.
    This is a good thing but obviously the help you got wasn't enough or you need an update or something.

    Its odd though that something has changed & now he is aggressive.
    Not odd at all, he's probably insecure because your lifestyle has changed and he's not sure about anything any more. And this can make some dogs lash out - usually in fear though when they're trying to attack you, it's hard to tell.

    Not all the time though, just certain people & certain circumstances. I'm finding hard to determine whats triggering it also. When he does start with the aggressive look I normally correct him & pull him back & try to get him to sit. Possibly raising my voice!
    What do you do to "correct" him? If your correction is painful to the dog, and you're often doing it when he growls at males - then he's going to associate the pain with male people - do you see how it can then get worse? This is called "fall out" from using adversives (things a dog wants avoid) to punish a dog ie yanking on the collar and yelling at the dog or even worse - hitting it.

    It is important not to punish a dog for growling - because what the dog learns is to skip the warning growl and go directly to attack and bite. But at the same time, you can't allow him to think inappropriate growling is ok. So what can you do? This depends a lot on what he's growling at and what that "trigger" is doing but I will give an example based on guessing what is going on with the patting...

    1. You get dog to politely greet a new bloke who gets down to his level to pat. Explain to bloke what your plan is for the end of the pat ie distraction, food and blocking if distraction doesn't work.

    2. When bloke stops patting and tries to move away - a couple of possibilities -
    a: dog thinks retreating hand is prey and tries to get it.
    b: Dog has previously been corrected for growling and lunging at hand so perceives the end of a pat as a sign of impending pain - and goes for the "I'll get you before you get me" approach having assumed that the patter is responsible for the pain.

    What to do? What would I do?
    Distract and reward:
    When the bloke is ready to stop patting, he lets you know but continues patting. You call and distract your dog away from bloke so he's leaving of his own accord - keep the leash loose, and feed a heap of his favourite food (eg roast chicken) for coming away from bloke without attacking him. Signal bloke (or tell him in advance) to stand up and go slowly and quietly as soon as your dog has turned away from him.

    So dog will start to associate the end of a pat being under his own control and full of good things ie roast chicken. Hopefully the pat time will end with no attack at all. If dog ignores your attempt to distract - you have a lot of work to do on "relationship building" and "recall". But then I'd use blocking - ideally before the dog growls - described as follows:

    Blocking:
    But if bloke tries to retreat and dog growls, again - call your dog by name (use happy voice) and distract him, if he ignores you, put yourself physically between bloke and dog, gently shoving dog back so you don't step on bloke. Make noise to distract the dog like "bah" or use a squeaky toy, call his name and reward him with his favourite things (food,toy) as soon as he stops looking at the bloke and starts looking at you, ie as you go to step between them this should happen cos dog does not want to be stepped on. Try not to hurt the dog in the process. No yelling, no yanking.

    You need to be very aware of exactly what you are rewarding and what you are punishing. A lot of people with small dogs, pick up their dogs when they get anxious - thereby rewarding the anxiety, and encouraging aggression. And a lot of people punish their dogs when they growl - there by encouraging the dog to give no warning at all when it's uncomfortable about a situation. And sometimes the timing or association between action and punishment is off, so the dog gets the wrong idea about what it is supposed to be doing in a given situation.

    Crate training I have started with playing near it, throwing treats in & then his dinner.
    Throwing treats in, or putting his dinner in, is "luring" ie dog will follow the treat. You want the dog to go in the crate first and then you reward him for doing what you want, not what he wants (ie following the food).

    So to get the dog to choose to go in the crate, you need to reward him for being in the crate. And the reward needs to be given "high and at the back" of the the crate, which means you have to get low enough to do that. Or give the treat through the bars of the crate at the back.

    So you can play a game near the crate, and then stop playing and hope he goes in the crate, and then give him a pile of rewards (eg 10 bits of roast chicken) for going in of his own, high and at the back.

    But the way Susan Garrett plays it, is she spends 20 minutes to an hour getting the dog comfy in the crate - starting with putting the dog in the crate and not letting it out at all until it can sit in the crate and wait for release. The dog gets a series of treats - high and at the back for staying in the crate ie put hand on crate, if dog stays put, it gets a treat. SG wants a sit but I'm not fussed about that. put hand on crate door, if dog stays put, gets a treat... open door - treat. close door - treat, open door a little bit longer - treat etc. When dog can stay put with the door open then you can put lead on. If dog moves while you are going through the process of putting the lead on - you go back to the open door/close door routine. Until the dog can stay put while you put the lead on... all the time you have been treating that dog for being in the crate and behaving nicely.

    He dosnt like going in though, I need to nudge his back legs in.
    When you think he is pretty happy about being in the crate (all that roast chicken) you open the door, put the lead on, run the tail of the lead out the door and stand on it, and invite the dog out, no treat, then wait for it to go back in the crate of it's own accord - squillion treats jackpot wooo hoo super doggy....go nuts. Then go back to some more of open the door, close the door routine, then try the out-in game again...

    Or you can get the dvd - because it explains it better than I can. "susan garrett's crate games".

    But as long as the dog is behaving nicely in the crate, go give him random rewards just for being in there and behaving.

    Every morning I make myself promite on toast and chop one of the crusts up for dog treats, and my dog gets them one after the other for being in the crate ie she goes in there by herself at high speed to get her treats. And she only gets a treat when she's wholly inside the crate. No paws nor nose outside, even tho the door is usually left open.

    For your dog's dinner time, do not put the bowl into the crate until he goes in there first. Give him the opportunity to figure out what is required by himself. Might take a few minutes but he's a smart dog (beware of him training you).

    Sleep time in the crate is really hard, cries all night. It's a big change from sleeping on the floor or bed.
    Where is the crate when it's bed time? Somewhere cold and lonely like the laundry? Could you imagine doing that to a child? Nope. Put the crate next to your bed. Leave it there for a month, then move it slowly - 10 cm per night - towards where you want him to sleep.

    Obedience training, we have done classes in the past & now basically just run through the same basic commands. We also teach him tricks as we thought this would be fun & mentally challenging. He is smart, maybe too smart!!
    The thing about classes is you get heaps of ongoing opportunity to socialise him with new dogs and people, that you don't get at home. It is also a good way of "generalising" and "proofing" his training. Dog class is an extremely distracting environment so if he pays attention to you there, you have more chance of getting him to pay attention to you anywhere else, but you do need to practice in as many different places as possible.

  5. #5

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    Just had a quick read & you have some great ideas for me. My trainer is great but what we ate doing at the moment seems to be making him worse. I feel like I have to take what works & also make small changes that suit us & him.

    At sleep time his crate is near my bed, I am reconsidering the crate for sleep time though as I find it stresses him out. I didn't crate him last night & let him sleep where he wanted & he was a much better behaved dog today.

    Anyway, thank you again for your reply & advice, will read it again later when I get home.

  6. #6
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    I didn't crate him last night & let him sleep where he wanted & he was a much better behaved dog today
    Classic example of a dog "shaping" (training) their owner. But if that particular option is good for you both, go with the flow. There is also the option of letting him use the crate like a kennel - ie put it next to your bed but leave the door open.

  7. #7

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    Mini breakthrough last night, I was determined to get him to sleep in his crate since he had been naughty all night. My trainer reccomended crate training but it was proving very difficult, anyway, I put the crate next to my bed & he got in, I closed the door & ignored his cries all night. He has to learn who the pack leader is, I think this us our main problem with his behavior.

  8. #8
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    I'm not into pack leader stuff much although people tell me I do it.

    I'm more into taking turns about who leads but I do set boundaries about what is and isn't acceptable. And yes, I won't let my dog out of the crate or the car or pay any attention to her if she's screaming her head off when she's meant to be quiet.

    However there are times when I do let her yell at me for attention. I don't want to completely shut that behaviour down, because otherwise I will forget to feed her one night and she wouldn't tell me, I'd rather she told me.

  9. #9

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    I know what you mean about not wanting to ignore the yelling/crying as he normally cries at the door to be let out if its toilet time. he can hold it but we had 1 occasion when he was sick & every 2 hours he cried & ran to the toilet. I couldn't believe he held it then since he had the runs but I'm trying to figure all this out as we go.

  10. #10
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    Bare in mind that you have a 3 months old BYB puppy which was obviously not socialised from the beginning and who knows how he was kept. Even if he's older now this things still apply. Leaving such a young puppy to cry itself til exhaustion in the crate is not a great idea as it can lead to even bigger problems. He is going through a very sensitive (crucial) stage of its life. It does not mean that you don't need to be persistent with crate training and your wish that he should sleep in the crate. IT is actually OK and advisable that if the pup cries louder and louder to get back to him and comfort him for a while, then to leave again. It's tricky because you obviously do not want him to learn that you will jump and come over every time he squeels.

    I agree with what Hyacinth suggested, I have a 2 y.o. rescue and dealing with exactly the same thing - he comes to greet, sniffs then bites. We were making progress and then one day out of the blue he attacked again. Thank god he has really small jaws and teeth that can't really go through jeans, but still, to me it's very embarrassing although people laugh because he's tiny little thing. Not funny at all.

    You should also bare in mind that BYB dogs often have issues with aggression and other stuff which is genetically influenced because they do not pay attention to character traits, they just breed for the sake of it. When you add poor socialisation, lack of proper care and the rest that goes with BYB - bingo - you have a dog with lots of issues. This does not mean you can't do nothing about it, but it is certainly a lot of work with many ups and downs.
    Respect and you shall be respected. Animal is always right.

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