Olliver’s Story – Food and Dog Aggression Issues

Oliver, 3 years old, affectionate, loving and playful.

Oliver has  a very playful and goofy kind of personality.                                            He was brought to me for some behavior training. Oliver’s owner did an amazing job with her fur pal’s obedience training. He would sit, down and stay on command with no issues. He even had a pretty good recall. Her love for him is still endless today.

Oliver’s behavioral issues were food aggression and intermittent dog aggression. Oliver also had a habit of leading his handler and leaning heavily on his collar. Being at my home with many other dogs Oliver was fine for the most part. Got along well with the dogs including my intact male German Shepherds.

Evaluation Week is where it all begins.

Within his first week at my home Oliver began to show his food aggression. At first he would allow us to take his food bowl and fill it with food. He was even ok if we pet him while he was eating. Then on day three Oliver decided that nobody was allowed to look at him or move around him in the room while he ate his food. This went on intermittently during the first week.

Then his intermittent dog aggression showed itself. While he was playing nicely in the kennel area with other dogs, our female German Shepherd, Annie, jumped down from her cage. As she was coming down, Oliver moved like lightning towards her. By the time we even knew what was happening Oliver had dragged poor Annie across the room, by her ear.

Then he was great again for a few days until once again his dog aggression flared up and he attacked my intact male German Shepherd Scout. Luckily fast thinking was on our side and we were able to break up the fight within the first 30 seconds of it beginning. Fortunately nobody incurred injuries.

This was scary because it was totally unexpected. At this point we began to make him wear a muzzle when we had him out with other dogs. Oliver was a great dog but the more time we spent with him the more I thought he had a Jeckle & Hyde personality.

Time to lay out a plan.

We needed to figure out what was triggering the aggression in Oliver. He was other wise a gentle and fun filled dog. Unfortunately his behavior issues were harder to correct because of his age.

At this point, Oliver has had over three years to form and practice his habits, good and bad. Until we could control Oliver’s aggressive tendencies, he needed to wear a muzzle in the presence of food and other dogs. 😔

My assumption was that Oliver’s owner didn’t have the knowledge to fix the aggression issues when he was young enough to do so safely and effectively. Most owners with similar issues think this behavior to be cute until they get scared or an accident happens.

When playing with other dogs Oliver was a strong and aggressive player but well mannered. Until his play drive turned to prey drive and then to fight drive. Once you have a combination of fight and prey drive backed up by the power this dog possessed it was game over. He wanted to fight and overpower the first dog he could grasp on to once he got too excited. Thankfully we had the evaluation period to see his aggressive tendencies

Oliver’s food aggression fix

Oliver was beyond the average learning curb of 18 months. He was set in his ways so I decided to start at ground zero with him. We muzzled him for food aggression training sessions. I sat on the floor with a bowl full of his food. I fed him one kibble at a time and made sure that he understood he was eating because I wanted him to.

It took Oliver 4 days to accept my hands in his food bowl and then only wagged his tail as I was serving him with my hand in his bowl after 6 days. It was now time to test him with no muzzle again. Oliver did well for several days after the muzzle was removed. Then one morning he decided this was wrong. He stared me down and was sending me clear signals that if I didn’t back off he would attack me.  I literally felt the hair raise on the back of my neck.

Once I was safely out of his attack proximity, I immediately went to get the muzzle. I was completely baffled by this set back. We had gone through several days with no food aggression at all. So once again we started over with the muzzle.

Oliver’s unpredictable and intermittent dog aggression resolve

I also applied similar methods with Oliver to teach him that dog aggression was inappropriate behavior. Unfortunately Oliver needed to wear a muzzle when around other dogs because of his unpredictable behavior.

Combined with muzzled play time I applied relaxation massage to Oliver and any other dog who was on the road to getting too rowdy. Even with the muzzles on both Oliver and Scout got into a fight in the first week of this therapy. With the muzzles on it is much less dangerous to pull the dogs apart . It still took three people to separate them. You have about 6 seconds to stop a dog fight before it becomes more than arguing in high drive dogs .

 

Each time the dog begins to get too rough he is given a time out in a down position. I massaged Oliver until he was completely calmed down and submissive.

This was done in the field with all the other dogs still playing. The can’t leave this position until he has established a calm and collected mind set.

This still is the most effective method that I have found to help in these issues. This method taught Oliver that he could not get out of control and trust that I would not allow another dog to hurt him.

Conclusion

After 42 days in total training and evaluation days, Oliver no longer pulled on leash. Oliver would heel, stop, stand, sit down and return to heel position if asked. He was accepting of me feeding him his food and putting my hands in the food. The massage therapy to keep him in a calm state when playing with other dog kept Oliver 100% fight free for the last 3 weeks of his visit here at DK9S.

Oliver was sent home with a proper collar and his owner was taught how to use it properly. They also received a muzzle for when he went to the dog parks. Last but not least they were shown how to apply relaxation massage to help keep Oliver calm at the park.

All of this aggression could have been avoided.

To the best of her knowledge Oliver’s owner did everything right by him as a young puppy and growing up. Oliver was well socialized, playful, obedient and loving. However, he was not given solid boundaries to respect.

If Breeders were more conscientious and have a plan set out for the puppies adoptive parents this wouldn’t happen so often. The breeder needs to follow up and ask the appropriate questions. They should also provide a guide of what to do and not to do with their puppy when they go home. Would providing a list of local trainers too much to ask?

Puppies need you to teach them

Puppies;

  • should learn the recall without fail. It is one of the simplest commands to teach and I have had pups as young as 6 weeks learn it.
  • get fed when mom says and unless she says otherwise the puppies have no right to the food in her possession. So this rule should carry on to the adoptive parents.
  • should never bite the hand that feeds them.
  • need to learn to accept the human touch and manipulation of his body parts.
  • must also know that it is unacceptable to fight other dogs, steal food from your plate, or bite people.

All of the above are things that require no age to start training but are the foundation of respect between you and your dog. The establishment you are acquiring your puppy from should offer a support system teaching you the basics that you need to know. A short training guide encompassing a list like the one above goes a long way.

If you do not have the support you need and choose to acquire the puppy regardless, speak with a dog trainer. A good dog trainer can offer you advice and training for your puppy from 8 weeks to 6 months.

This stage of training is all about manners and a must. It is the basis of respect between the dog and the handler. Behavior training starts at birth with the puppy’s mom. Then needs to continue with adoptive parents for the rest of the puppy’s life. From 8 weeks to 6 months you will do behavior training. Nest you will start basic obedience training a 6 months and so on. Each training period is needed for your puppy to develop into a well balanced adult dog.

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