Happy Ending For Family’s Dog Biting Problem With 9-Month-Old Puppy

Puppy Biting Family Members


Some time ago I received a call from a client who was concerned about her 9-month-old puppy biting family members and friends.  There had been a couple of instances where this had occurred.

On my first visit I was to meet with both the husband and the wife – and the dog of course. But when I arrived at their home for our session, the wife was home and the husband was on the way home from the office. So I asked her to put her pup on a leash, unlock the door and I would let myself in while she focused on controlling her dog.

 A Lunging, Barking Growling Puppy Ready to Bite

I was met immediately with lunging, barking and growling by their dog that was fortunately held at bay by the wife. We sat across the room from each other as I began to click and treat the dog without making direct eye contact with him.   You could begin to see a definite shift in his attitude towards me. Within the next 5 minutes the husband got home and we started the session.

The Biting, Rowdy Puppy Has Not Been Taught Any Manners or Rules

  • A detailed evaluation revealed that there was no structure in the home for the dog:
  • He was not required to do much of anything except get petted by the owners – especially the wife.
  • The dog also shared their bed with them at night, placing himself square in the middle of the bed.
  • He gets a fair amount of exercise with walks but he lunges at people passing by.

He does attend a doggie day camp several times a week as well where he is great with the people once he is at doggie day camp— which is on neutral territory with no owners present.

I  Noticed a Lot Missing in the Way of Balancing the Relationship with their Biting Puppy

I immediately had them put their dog on a learn-to-earn program.

Every single thing he wanted he had to earn it by doing sits and downs.

This began to set a strong foundation of leadership, thereby giving him a better understanding of who’s doing what for whom while at the same time providing him with a function in the group.

Now it was Time to Address the Problem of the Biting

I wanted to be able to show the relevance of the unbridled love and affection the wife had poured onto this pup

 I had them tether him to the stair banister with his 6’ leash.

When we did this, he pulled fully extending the leash trying to get to Mom!

I had her stand just about 1 foot further away from him.

I let her know that I was going to come up and hug her.

When I hugged her, he lunged, growled and barked.

I then had her husband take her place and I approached him giving him a hug with no reaction from the dog.

A Big Reason They Had A Biting Dog Was Now Very Clear

  • In addition to putting their dog on the earn-to-learn program I also suggested:
  • For a few weeks, the wife throttle way back on her involvement with the dog so that the husband could then start feeding, training and exercising the dog.
  • She, on the other hand, was to only interact when she had to feed if her husband was working late and couldn’t feed.
  • The idea was to balance the owner-dog relationship more by prioritizing the husband’s role of leader and later bring her back into the picture with new rules about her relationship with her dog.

It has taken about 10 weeks of consistent work on this program as well as bringing family members and friends back into the home to complete the behavior modification exercises. I love happy endings and am delighted that this has turned out beautifully.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Review: Dog Bites

Dog Bites

Dog bites are a dog behavior that should never be ignored

I’m Judith Haughton my dog’s name is Sailor.    I called Jim Burwell because I was giving up on Sailor because he was biting me and he was peeing in the house.  On the other hand he was affectionate and loving with children.  I called Jim and Jim told me I was not giving Sailor the structured environment he needed.

He told me I needed to work on Sailor’s obedience skills, taking him on structured walks so Sailor learned that when I asked him for something, he gave it to me which taught Sailor who the leader is.  He also taught me how to teach Sailor “off ” when I wanted him to stop a behavior.

We worked over the course of 3 weeks and Sailor is a much better dog.  He has stopped biting me, he listens to my commands.  He also gets along well with my cat which was a big problem.

Jim’s program has given me a lot more hope that Sailor is going to fit very well into our family and be a great dog.

Review: Aggressive Dog

Aggressive dog trainingHi, I’m Meg Malone and my dogs are Shadow and Blue.  I called Jim Burwell because I was having problems with my dog Shadow, he was showing aggression.

Shadow nipped at the little 2 yr old next door and also showed aggression towards a teenage boy down the street.  So I called Jim to help me out with my dog’s behavior. She also had some bad fence aggression, barking a lot and digging in the yard.

Jim  came and we started implementing the strategies that he advised which included lots of structure for my dog, walking my dog and other strategies. All were easy to implement.

 Even in working just the first week I saw improvement in my dog.  Her attitidue, and bad behaviors were changing. This change will take continued work on my part. They are doing great – so much better that I know this works when I work the plan.

I am extremely pleased and my dogs are doing great!  I highly recommend Jim Burwell’s training program

Review: aggressive dog


We’re Beth and Ted Harper and we have  2 yr old doxen named Gumbeaux.  We were having problems with his aggression and barking when people came to the house.  We were unable to take him on walks because he wouldn’t walk and he was viciously aggressive when we encountered other people on the walk.

Through Jim’s help we have been able to drastically improve these things.  We can now have people come into our home, we can now take him on walks and we’ve learned a lot of tricks to help us for training dogs.  And we will call Jim again if we should have any other problems.

Dominance Aggression in Dogs Can Have Serious Consequences

Any kind of dog aggression, and there are close to 20 different kinds of identifiable dog aggression can have serious consequences.

Dogs clinically diagnosed with dominance aggression, which can also be called conflict aggression, obsess about rank order.  In other words they are in conflict with their owners over control of the environment (the home, the back yard) and the dog is ready to do battle over this at any given moment

The dog has no normal social tolerance for people who invade the dog’s own personal space as well.  This would show up as an intolerance by the dog to being touched when you try to pet him, especially on his backside.  And, in some cases the dog might be insistent on being touched ONLY to turn and snap or bite if your do indeed try to touch him.  These dogs seem to lack any other tools or methods to resolve dealing with owners, owner’s friends, or people who tend to get in “the dog’s” home or yard during daily, normal home activities or even the dog’s personal space. 

Working with this dog as a puppy to begin desensitizing him to being petted, correcting any inappropriate nipping or biting and redirecting to a sit or down, would, in the long haul, prevent snapping or biting as an adult dog.

Other tools an owner could give their dog that would be more appropriate than snapping or biting are commands such as sit, down, leave it, come, go to your bed or “look at me” – all adequately taught by the owner over time since puppyhood.

Providing this type of dog with clear expectations and boundaries on “who does what for whom” (dog sits to earn food, petting, toys, etc) will provide owners with more of a hassle-free life with their dog.

A total lack of structure or “owner leadership” from the very beginning begins to set this dog up for endless indulgence of food, space, toys and love and affection.  He never develops a way to cope with the frustration that eventually develops in his mind when he doesn’t get what he wants right away?  Remind you of raising kids?

Set boundaries for your dog right away.  Put your dog on a learn-to-earn program of sits and downs for everything they need from you i.e. food, treats, praise, love, affection, walks, potty breaks etc.  Begin early and avoid conflicts later!

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

Jim Burwell, Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Dog Aggression Agitates Lifestyle of Laid Back California Dog Owners

Fighting between family dogs

Fighting between family dogs

Fighting between family dogs

Fighting between family dogs

Family dog aggression precipitated an email to me from a lady in California (she found me on the internet) who is desperate for help with her two dogs.  She has 2 dogs, a 4 yr. old doodle dog and a 7 yr old terrier – both rescue dogs.

This is one of the more interesting stories I’ve heard about dog aggression.  A couple of years ago she was preparing to take her two dogs for a walk.  She got them on their leashes, and headed out the door for a typical daily walk, not knowing disaster awaited.   A neighbor had left a bag of dog treats on the front porch.  The dogs were no sooner out the door when they both discovered the dog treats at the same time. Well, you guessed it.  A major dog fight ensued and, as she so aptly explained, it was a war zone right there on my front porch.

She immediately called a trainer and began extensive dog training that lasted for a year.  This was followed by calling in a dog behaviorist, but all to no avail.  She has them to the point now, where they tolerate each other, but things are still tense and very very stressful at home.

Suggestions had been made to “re-home” one of the dogs.  The husband refuses.  If you’ve had the dogs for as long as they have, I would be hard pressed to “find another home” for one of my dogs!  I would exhaust every single avenue to fix the problem.

So, what’s this dog aggression in California got to do with me, I’m sure you’re asking.  That’s where the email comes in.  She has set up  a consultation with me, as it turns out she will be in Houston next month visiting friends.

There are still many unanswered questions, such as “why is it the wife’s responsibility to deal with the dogs 24/7?  Hmmm, something’s up there.  No husband participation?  Fights amongst dog house mates usually always occur around one or both owners and generally between (not always), dogs of the same gender.

Could it be squabbles over pack status? Resources like food or owner affection?  More will be revealed when I receive the completed “canine questionaire”.

Stay tuned as this saga unfolds and we find more pieces completing the puzzle, once again restoring a peaceful and rewarding relationship between these two dogs and their owners.

“Be as concerned about the trainer of your dog, as you are the teacher of your children.”  And remember,

“Opportunity Barks!”

Jim Burwell,

 Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Bad Dog Behavior

Dog Behavior And Playing Rough With Your Dog

When is too much rough play, too much

When is too much rough play, too much

There is much disagreement out there as to whether playing rough, or roughhousing with dogs is good or, not so good.  If you were to consider roughhousing with your dog, I would say that to ensure good dog behavior,  there should be some very definite rules to the game.

Let’s have a look at rules that make sense:

  • Dogs should never initiate the game – only humans do.
  • The game starts and stops on a command word(s).
  • Rough mouthing or not stopping on command causes the game to end immediately.
  • Keep a check on the pressure of any mouthing, as you immediately will end the game for any mouthing.

Other than your pleasure and your dog’s pleasure, are there any other benefits to playing rough with your dog?  Let’s take a look at some:

  • Roughly handling your dog during roughplay could desensitize your dog to being handled all over in situations such as a veterinary visit or if you need to grab them to keep them out of harm.
  • It is a good release of energy
  • It teaches your dog bite inhibition if done correctly, by saying “OUCH!” and ending the game immediately.

Ultimately, this is a personal choice that should include strict rule adherence so there is no misunderstanding in the dog’s mind as to what those rules are.

Jim Burwell

Dog Training – Dog to Dog Greetings

What many people are absolutely unaware of is the potential, stressful, fearful or compromising position dogs are put in when they are on leash and other dogs approach, mostly at what should be happy times – greetings.

I consult with owners of dogs every day that have not had an opportunity to develop their dog’s early primary and/or secondary socialization skills.  As a result, some dogs become fearful and are not comfortable being around other dogs.  This is sometimes further complicated by being on leash.

When a dog is put in defense drive he will choose one of two options:

1.  Flight – he will distance himself from that which he is unsure of, or deems a threat.  This is usually the preferred option, especially for more submissive or softer tempered dogs.

2.  Fight – if flight is not an option for the dog, then the dog is forced into fight or bite.  Oftentimes, the more dominant dogs choose the fight option versus the flight option.

If a dog is cornered and would prefer to diffuse the stressful situation by leaving, but doesn’t feel that option is available (when he’s on leash) then he reverts to the other option – fight or bite.  If you keep your dog on a tight leash, this can illicit that same emotional stress in dogs because they feel they do not have the ability to leave.  And unfortunately, owners invariably tighten up on a leash when they feel their dog is going to pull or lunge towards another dog whether friendly intent or not.

Dogs have distance increasing signals or warnings:  a throaty growl, growl with a lip raise, an air snap or a lunge and bite.  A dog will choose to offer up any one of these distancing signals depending on how they interpret the threat.  Some threatening factors include the speed of the approaching dog, the proximity of the approaching dog to them, the size of the approaching dog, the gender of the approaching dog and whether or not the approaching dog is intact or not and more.  In addition to fear in dogs there is resource guarding.  Many dogs guard things they consider having high value like chew bones, Kong toys and yes, you the owner.  

Here’s an example:  Le’ts say that it has been your Sunday morning ritual to take your dog and sit outside a Starbucks enjoying your Latte Grande or your tall coffee (room at the top for cream of course) and reading your Sunday paper.  Your dog is lying by your side working on his Kong toy and reading the “Daily Growl”.  All of a sudden the peace of the morming is interrupted by your dog lashing out at another patron’s dog who is innocently passing by and your dog looks like the bad guy and you know he’s really not.

Here’s my advice on meeting other dogs in public:  Greetings should be pleasant, never approach another dog unless you ask the owner if it is okay to do so.  Remember to always ask “may my friendly dog meet your dog?”  Give owners an opportunity to keep their dog and themselves safe and stress free at that moment.Don’t be one of those dog owners who allows your dog to get in another dog’s face. 

If you have the dog that’s not good at greeting other dogs, be aware of that and don’t set your dog up to fail by not paying attention to the situation and the surroundings.

Who’s To Blame Owner, Victim or Dogs?

I just read in a Google Alert on dog training, that in the case of Marjorie Knoller, her murder verdict has been reinstated.  I’m sure most of you remember this case in San Francisco back in 2001.

Ms. Knoller and her husband Robert Noel owned 2 Presa Canario guard dogs in San Francisco and lived in an apartment building.  One of their neighbors, Diane Whipple was innocently coming out of the door of her apartment at the same time Ms. Knoller was returning from walking her dogs on the roof.  The 2 dogs attacked Ms. Whipple and mauled her to death.

There was a lot of debate and upheaval in San Francisco over that case because Knoller and Noel were blaming Whipple for not going back into her apartment stating that’s what made the dogs attack.

Here’s the thing.  It is my true belief that when you have a dog, you, the owner are solely responsible for the actions of the dog.  Yes true, certain breeds have a propensity for being guard dogs and somewhat more assertive than others.  But it all comes down to owner responsiblity. 

Red flag #1 – My belief is that Knoller and Noel were aware that the dogs they bought had been specifically bred to be aggressive.  The breeder was a racist convict who was starting a line of Presa Canario guard dogs he was going to call Dog-O-War.  Red flag # 2  Ms. Knoller did not take the time to properly obedience train her dogs and exercise those two large guard dogs.   Red flag # 3  The last mistake is that she was bringing both dogs down a hallway of an apartment (close quarters) and sadly Ms. Whipple probably startled the dogs when she opened her door.

When you own a dog it is your responsibility to make sure the dog receives proper dog obedience training starting as a puppy, it is your responsiblity to see the dog gets regular structured exercise to release its energy in a positive way,  it is your responsibility to know the temperament and behavior of your dog around people and places and things. 

A dog is a dog is a dog.  I would never tell anyone that any dog is not capable of biting.  The upsetting thing is  when a dog is set up to fail because of lack of responsibility on the owner’s part and someone gets hurt or killed because of their unwillingness or laziness to train their dog.  Here’s the link to the story

Please, be responsible pet owners.

Dog Bites – A potentially serious threat

A 7 month old Rottie was doing some serious resource guarding of food bowls, couches, dog toys etc.  The owners, who got him at 8 weeks felt that apparently since birth this dog had been very assertive.

With no structure for the dog in the home for 7 months straight, both the dog and the family were headed down the wrong path of life with the potential for some serous harm. 

What finally had them call me is that when the wife tried to remove a bone from his space, the dog bit her.

So, how did we fix it?

  • Structure:  We put the dog on what I call the “learn-to-earn” program.  The dog was required to do the obedience commands of sit and down for everything he got i.e. food, articles of play, space and most importantly, love and affection.
  • Dog behavior modification for guarding:  We began a gradual desensitization of the dog to allow family members and other people to come around his food bowl, his chew bones and his space.  He was rewarded for acting appropriately.
  • Dog behavior modification at the front door: We taught him the obedience command “go to your place”.  We then expanded this obedience command to become “go to your place” when he heard the doorbell ring.  This fixed the charging of the front door.

The key to our success?  The owner’s 110% commitment to working their dog on the behavior modification program and dog obedience commands.  I am always so proud of my clients who recognize that only a serious commitment to working the dog behavior plan will turn their dog around – and it has!

Trust me on this.  Consistency and repetition will begin to breed habit in your dog, so keeping structure in his life and your expectations of his behavior high, will be the key.

Tell me what you think!