Dog Aggression? Nuisance Barking? Complex Dog Behavior Problems Do Take Time

While our dogs do give us love and companionship, that relationship can sometimes become blemished by behavior problems such as aggression or out of control nuisance barking. In some cases it gradually gets worse as the dog owner watches or puts up with it thinking it will go away. Other times it is more sudden, as in a dog bite that brings a sense of immediacy to the forefront.

Often times curing a behavior problem may only take a little tweaking, providing the owner with what seems like an “immediate fix.” An owner who gets their dog behavior problem fixed this quickly might be thinking, “Wow! Problem solved. Now, where was I?” as they move on with their life.

However, many dog problems are much more complex than that – requiring weeks, if not months of positive reinforcement behavior modification exercises.

Owners often times believe they can also get a quick fix for their more complex dog behavior problems. They think – a trainer will come in and fix my dog!

The modification of most all dog behavior problems includes changing the way the owners relate to their dog as well as addressing the specific dog problem. Why is this? Most dog behavior problems are due to anxiety, tension or insecurities developed in the relationship with their owners.

These dogs with problems have either:

  • Received too much unearned love and affection
  • Been provided no structure or not enough (for some dogs)
  • Not received enough doggie needs like environmental enrichment and exercise, or
  • Not received adequate continued socialization with other dogs and people.

Sending the dog in to the doggie repair shop like your Ford, Chevy or BMW won’t address the problem that has developed in the context of your home or neighborhood.

You might get an expensive, 2-4 week tune-up in obedience, your dog returned and your wallet a little lighter, but then the reality of the problem sets in once again as you take your first walk in the neighborhood or try to answer your doorbell while dealing with your barking dog.

Modifying problem dog behavior using positive reinforcement, takes many daily set ups- presenting your dog with the stimulus (cause) that produces his unwanted behavior so that “you” can work him through his issues and teach him an alternate, acceptable behavior – all done in the environment in which the behavior occurs, all done using positive reinforcement. This all takes planned time and dedication to fixing the problem. Most won’t. Will you?

Be as concerned with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

9 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Jamie:

    Stop rubbing you dog’s nose in their poop. And stop any and all punishment. Both dogs need a daily regime of two walks a day with their owners for exercise and to work on leadership (having them walk by your side.) You should put them on a learn to earn program. Teach them to sit and down so that they must earn everything they want, food, toys, treats, love and affection. Don’t give them too much love and affection for about 4-6 weeks. Schedules need to be consistent with your dogs. If they are older dogs, they should have adjusted to your weekend routine of sleeping in.

    Try stuffing a Kong toy for your barker to deploy in the morning on weekends. Both dogs are stressed for different reasons which are causing their anxiety. The problems could stem from any number of issues. Look for a good positive reinforcement trainer to properly evaluate your situation with both dogs. I believe your problems can be solved if properly evaluated and a good program put into place for you. Good Luck!

  2. Jamie from Miami
    Jamie from Miami says:

    I am having a huge problem with my two shih tzu dogs. The female dog, Gigi, starts barking at 7am on the weekends and does not let us sleep in. We try leaving her the Pee Pee Pad for her to do her business. We keep her crate in the bathroom and the pee pee pad is in front of the crate. She does her business but still feels the need to start barking over and over and over again every damn morning. The male dog, Gordito, is housebroken. For the last 2 weeks he has been pooping inside the house in the morning and evening. When we walk him outside he has no interest in going to do his business because he already went inside. I cannot scold him or put his nose in it because he is a moody dog and had bit me 3 times in the past. He does not like being corrected and will turn on me to bite me when I have gone to correct him in the past. I’m at my wits end and would love to just dump them both off at the animal shelter but my husband is madly in love with these dogs. Please help. These dogs are driving me crazy. The picking up dog poop daily and constant barking is driving me nuts.

  3. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Thanks for your email. As you know, if you’ve read my blog I teach leadership, not dominance. Leadership is more along the same lines as teaching a child. You teach your puppy, only using positive
    reinforcement, to understand and respect boundaries and you teach them appropriate behaviors you can re-direct inappropriate behaviors to. It appears your puppy has some resource guarding issues,
    which again need to be address by leadership. I would suggest you find the best positive reinforcement trainer you can afford and have them come to your home and work with you, your husband, you child and
    your puppy as soon as you can.

  4. TXMom
    TXMom says:

    We have a Husky puppy that’s 5 months old. We have been working on establishing dominance with her, she’s pretty well housebroken, knows sit, lay. She’s normally a very loving (and very energetic) dog. But she’s started showing some aggression in a couple area’s. Especially with our 3 year old. First incident was when she was at the vet and they were holding her to examine her, she started growling at the techs. Then there’s been a couple instances where my 3 year old took stuff away from the dog that she should not be chewing and the dog nipped her arm. She’s also tried to bite my husband when he has tried to remove her from the room by pulling on her collar – and he wasn’t even pulling hard, she just didn’t want to go and fought him. We love the dog but don’t have money for expensive training. I am worried that the dog will hurt my daughter, is there anything we can do?

  5. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Your issues are a little more complex than we can resolve via email. What I suggest is to find a good reward-based trainer that has a good foundation of behavior modification that is behavioral science based.

    Your dog is using aggression (the only tool in his tool box) to make a perceived threat go away (the other dog). He has probably transferred that to the owner as well.

    Sometimes working on this can be difficult as it would involve using the other dog and it’s owner in the process. Sometimes working on this is difficult to orchestrate with unwilling participants.

    Another approach is to desensitize your dog to the other dog – first at a distance, then gradually get him closer. Part of this process includes redirecting him to an alternate behavior like sits and downs for which you can praise your dog.

    Go onto http://www.apdt.com and use the trainer search to locate a good trainer in your area.

    Good luck. I’m not trying to dodge the question but this takes a good deal of in-depth, hands on evaluation and appropriate BM follow up by a competent trainer or behaviorist. I hope this helps.

  6. Speech Lady
    Speech Lady says:

    I have a similar issue with my two year old Jack Russell, Maxwell. I’ve had him since he was 12 weeks and will admit to spoiling him and giving him too much unearned love. I have been able to potty train him, stop separation anxiety and even stopped him from sleeping in my bed with me. He gets a minimum of three LONG walks a day and 3 to 4 five mile runs per week. I even take him to doggie daycare/socialization groups once a week at the local PetSmart every Saturday.

    My current issue is his incessant barking and aggressive behavior. Since moving back to the DC area 6 months ago, he has become very aggressive with a 12 year old cocker spaniel that lives in my building and goes nuts when he smells his scent in the building lobby or on the dog walking trail. This aggressiveness leads to pulling, bolting up the stairs in an attempt to “find” the dog, and even turning on me if I attempt to correct him! This evening upon smelling the dog on my neighbor, his owner, Maxwell nipped at him! I am extremely upset and am unsure as to what to do! Please help as I fear his behavior is escalating!

  7. Brit
    Brit says:

    I really wish we lived in the same area or closer so you could evaulate him. Our behaviorist recommended euthanizing him. We have another dog that he redirects on, so we have to be careful.

  8. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Brit:

    Other trainers may have escalated your dog’s issue because of poorly timed corrections which can cause your dog to associate the correction with the stimuli and/or suppress the behavior in the moment to avoid a correction. Only to reoccur again later but escalated to a higher level of anxiety and stress. BUT I have not had the benefit of knowing how the trainers approached the problem.

    The behaviorist on the other hand, is recommending a time proven scientific process of desensitization and counter conditioning which I use all the time. I would tend to go with the behaviorist.

    If I had had the opportunity of evaluating your dog and it’s problems and have known exactly what the other trainers had recommended and tried, I could be much more detailed in my
    answer.

    Jim Burwell

  9. Brit
    Brit says:

    We are dealing with just this very issue. We have sought out trainers, which I believe escalated the issues, and are now working with a Vetinerary Behaviorist. She wanted us to try to slowly introduce our dog to what was causing him to react aggressively. We tried but it made the issue worse. What do you do in cases like that?

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