Small Dog, Big Problems. What Would You Do?

Sometimes big dog problems can come in small dogs. “Turning around” this little dog proved an interesting challenge. Let’s take a look at this family dog problem, then tell me your solutions below.


Details of the case

 

Dog Trainer Quiz

Julie and Bart are in their late 20’s and have been married for 4 years. Both Julie and Bart work.

They live on the 4th floor in a one bedroom apartment, condominium style with concrete hallways and elevator lobbies giving them access to their project’s public dog run/park or outside for walking.

Bart’s family had a dog when he lived at home. This is Julie’s first dog.

Their dog Mackie is a 3 ½ year old male, Chihuahua that was acquired at 6 months of age shortly after they were married. Mackie is neutered.

Mackie broke his leg when they first got him when he accidentaly fell off their bed and landed wrong on the hard concrete. The rehabilitation time took a while so he was given “extra love and affection.”

Because of his injury early on and his size, Julie and Bart decided to forego dog obedience training. Mackie spends most of his inside time on the couch with Julie or sitting next to Bart in his recliner. He sleeps with them as well.

Mackie was also not socialized around other dogs.


Problems Presented


1. Mackie is very clingy.

2. Mackie barks at dogs and people in hallways, elevator or stairs.
3. He is aggressive towards dogs and people in the project’s public dog run so they avoid going there.
4. He is the same way on walks in public.
5. He is even worse when anyone other than their parents come over to visit.
6. Starting to exhibit some separation anxiety when they leave.
7. Julie and Bart can’t hire a dog walker so Mackie uses a pee pad during the day while they are at work.


Additional Discovery at Their Home on the First Lesson


1. Mackie is actually fearful of dogs and people. His bossy temperament causes him to use aggression as a tactic to scare them away.

2. He will also “perch” on a box seat window and bark at people walking by and charge the door barking when hearing footsteps in the hallway allowing him to rehearse his territorial aggression.
3. Mackie is very food treat motivated and he devours his food.

 

Open Discussion

 

How would you approach Mackie’s training? If you would like, share your thoughts below and let’s get a discussion going.

Dog Trainer TestJim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 9000+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, dog owners do that influence that dog behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability and experience in mentoring and teaching dog trainers how to excel and grow their dog training talents and their business.

2 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    You are on the right track. Classical conditioning and desensitization, albeit slow, is a good way to start. However, in this situation, we
    took the dog outside and the owners passed the leash to me and I walked the dog — alone. Once separated from his owners, he was much more receptive to walking — not
    growling/snapping at me. I was able to walk him back to the apartment and keep him with me next to my chair. Keep up the good work Charlie!

    Jim

  2. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    Hey Jim ~ As a fairly new trainer, I’ve stayed away from aggression cases until i develop a more confident approach. It seems to me that based on your case study, that the couple has loved on their dog way too much and have not spent much time socializing him. So I would say do a lot less petting and make him work for it. The book also says desensitize him to people and dogs gradually by associating positive things with them. Do you think I’m on the right track?

    Your articles have helped me a lot. Let me know what you think.

    Charlie

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