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Dog Acting Up

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by kage, Nov 7, 2020.

  1. kage

    kage New Member Registered

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    Hi there

    This is my first post here after watching a lot of YouTube videos and not getting much success following them. Myself and my fiancé took on a staffie cross with fox hound around a year ago who was already one year old. We didn't realise at the time of taking him on but he had some very bad habits and very little training. He wasn't even chipped and hadn't had his vaccines which we sorted as soon as we had him.

    We've persevered through and he's come a long way but lately he's skipped back a bit. He's become once again very pushy for attention and disobedient. We do obedience training with him regularly and he's very clever and obedient but only when treats are involved. If you haven't got anything for him then he won't listen to you.

    He gets quite aggressive around other animals. He's recently killed a hedgehog in the garden as well as injuring another and we also have three cats. The cats are mostly outdoor cats and they only stay in the kitchen in the house where we don't let him. His prey drive is very high and I think if he got hold of one of the cats he would hurt it. He used to be OK with some dogs, I took him to puppy training classes when we first had him and he wasn't the best socialised but got along with some of them. There have always been dogs that he seems to take a dislike to, usually ones that start barking, but lately where he seems to be more disobedient and aggressive it seems like he has an issue with all dogs. We never let him off the lead anyway because he's always been too pushy in playing with other dogs but he seems to lunge at every dog we come across now. He's been snappy of late when there's high excitement. He's nipped my leg recently where I've pulled him back from another dog on the lead and is quick to snap when trying to get attention away from passers by in the window or our cats.

    We've bought a muzzle and been training him to wear one which he's taking to well but we'd like to kerb the behaviour altogether. What can we do for a clever dog who listens when incentivised but doesn't care unless you have a treat in your hand? How can we pull his aggression and prey drive back?

  2. JacksDad

    JacksDad Active Member Registered

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    Truly smart dogs are both a challenge and super fun to work with. But the reason it seems he will only listen if you have a treat is because you allowed the treat to become part of the cue. For example if you were to hold a bit of food in your hand, in the same way every time and your dog can see the food, and then say sit...that WHOLE picture is likely your cue rather than just the word "sit". I see this a lot. Your dog is not blowing you off, being disobedient etc. you changed the cue if you suddenly just say sit, but all the other pieces...hand position, food etc "disappeared" from the "picture". Your dog likely isn't sure what you are asking in this case.

    So the first step is likely going back through your training and cleaning things up. But this time with the intention of the food being the consequence of the behavior, not what creates the behavior. If you have to pull out food to get something to happen, food is not yet the consequence. The sit isn't making food happen, food is making the sit happen. So there is something needing adjusting in your training mechanics or plan.

    It is critical to separate out hunting behavior from aggression. they are not the same. Hunting is not aggression, it is food acquisition. there is no "anger" or fear here, which is often but not exclusively behind aggression. Taking out a hedgehog does not automatically mean he will be aggressive towards other animals. However, you are wise to be cautious and concerned about the cats. You can try to proactively address this, but there are no guarantees. the basic plan I start with here is

    Reinforce ANY behavior that is NOT interacting with the cats.
    If safe to do so, make the cats being around your dog a non novel experience. So playing a bit with desensitization and habituation.
    I also teach a alternate behavior, typically "look at me" since most people already have trained it or something close and train it such that the random cats on walks are the "cue" to do this behavior. Dog sees cat, dog looks at me and gets super good reinforcement.

    other dogs. root cause could be age (think human teen who easily takes offense or likes to push boundaries), possibly a frustrated super social dog. Maybe fear is a factor. Without consulting and more information I can't say. But the aforementioned "look at me" is a great place to start regardless of root cause. Hard to go wrong with alternate behavior as a solution to seeing dogs and barking, lunging, staring down etc. Rather your dog sees dogs, and that is (just like with cats) the cue look at you and get super yummy treats.

    I try and minimize the number of different things to training. not everyone is really into training. you can use this "look at me" alternate behavior for a great number of things. rather than lung at squirrels, the bikes as they go by etc. your dog sees these things and looks at you.

    pushy while playing, that is part bully breed, part not having ideal socialization as a puppy, part lack of confidence etc. Regardless, to what degree it is a problem depends on what "pushy" actually looks like, how the other dog is reacting, etc. I would advise to start, no playing with other dogs until you have a better handle on what is going on.

    The nip at you. without more information, hard to say. BUT you can never go wrong with making sure your dog is not put back into a position to trigger him to nip. Yes, this is "avoiding" the situation and it's not a great plan if this is all you do for the rest of his life. But short term it is the best plan because if he gets to repeat the unwanted behavior he has a chance to become better at it and if there is something reinforcing it, it risks becoming his "go to" behavior in those situations.

    nut shell.

    You likely have some training principles to review and ensure you are executing correctly so that food is the consequence, not the "cue" for a behavior.

    Training an alternate behavior such as dog looking at you (eye contact is optional, not required for this to work), holding that look as you pass the thing that triggers your dog.

    getting some help to assess your dog. is there fear going on? is there just a typical "teenager" going on? frustration due to restraint by leash from social opportunities etc.

    We can help a bit here and I would actually suggest breaking your three main principles, other dogs, and your dog and a cat that co habitats into 3 different threads. It will make it easier to keep things clear.

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