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4 Year Old JRT keeps attacking my husband's slippers

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by MrsWolfie, Feb 17, 2020.


  1. MrsWolfie

    MrsWolfie PetForums Newbie

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    Hi all,

    I'm here today because we are having an issue with our 4 year old JRT, Hugo. He loves us and is constantly close to us, but this slipper-biting business has got to stop.

    Hugo has always been quite an anxious boy. When we got him, he had horrendous separation anxiety, to the point that I spent the first 4 nights in the living room with him, sleeping on the sofa. If I left him and headed for my own bed, he would cry. I've used the usual technique of expanding the duration of time that he has without us and it's actually gone really well. I was back in my own bed about two weeks later and we're able to go out for date nights now as well.

    Hugo is very fussy about being approached for attention. I've now learned to let him approach me, or to offer my hand and let him decide if he wants to be fussed. Again, that's gone really well and I'm now greeted with a tail wag if I talk to him. He loves new people and greets them with an abundance of kisses everytime. He's also very sociable and has a great bond with my Mum's dog. He is very submissive, but he usually finds his confidence and gets on with most dogs.

    Unfortunately, the issue we have seems to stem around slippers, and my husband's slippers in particular. Hugo will nip at my feet if I'm busy and he wants to play, but he outright appears to attempt to dominate my husband. Hugo sleeps in a deep converted cupboard with a baby gate fitted to the front and he has more than enough room to stand and move around. The gate is held open during the day (apart from when someone is at the door, or when we have short-stay visitors) and he has full roam of our flat, or his own bed he can rest and chill out in if he prefers. Even in spite of this, when my husband puts him away before we eat our dinner, he goes for his (usually slppered) feet, he then lays there and gives me the big, brown eyes.

    This evening, an attack happened and my husband told Hugo off and put him in his place. 10 minutes later he was out again until dinner time and my husband took him outside, then bought him back in with no issues. When he put Hugo in his bed, Hugo leapt out of his sleeping area and attacked his slippered feet. He also attacks my husband's feet if he tries to get him to move in from the hallway without taking him outside. Our bathroom is next to our only entrance door, and sometimes these attacks happen if my husband has only been to the bathroom. I'm not sure if it's because he wants outside or if it's because there is a tennis ball in the letter holder that he wants, but either way, it has to stop.

    A few things stand out for me. First of all, my husband, bless him, is rather flat-footed. He does stomp a bit and I can't help but think Hugo sees these huge, heavy feet coming towards him. Secondly, my husband does stare Hugo directly in the eyes (I've told him this evening that dogs find that intimidating). Finally, I did all of the training. Does he see my husband, ultimately, as lower than him? That also has to stop.

    We did have an incident when he was a puppy during which my mother's lodger had some Darth Vader slippers on. Hugo really got wound up by them and kept attacking them, which my parents and lodger all laughed at. It might seem cute and funny from a puppy, but when it's an adult dog, it's much more serious.

    I'll admit that he hasn't had the exercise he normally has this past week. I had a health emergency at the beginning of the week when a large sebaceous cyst erupted unexpectedly. Although I'm healing up fine now, I've been back and forth to doctor's for packing and dressing changes, and led up on antibiotics just generally feeling pretty poorly and sorry for myself. I can't help but wonder if that has made him anxious and confused, perhaps? My husband has played with him in the evenings, but I normally take Hugo for a walk first thing in the morning and he's not had it for a few days because I've felt particularly sore and under the weather. Not only this, but with Storm Dennis, we've all been confined inside for the past few days on top. I accept that maybe he does have too much energy at the moment and that might be making him anxious, but biting the hand that feeds him (which he more or less does, as my husband fills his food bowl) is completely unacceptable.

    I'm loathed to ask my mother for involvement as she backs the use of Cesar Millan's methods. She has tried to alpha roll Hugo before, and he freaked out, nicked her with a tooth and dress blood. I'm a fan of positive reinforcement and have used it with Hugo with great results, but I'm stumped on what to do with this one. Any thoughts on what's going on, or what to do moving forward?

    Many thanks,

    Helen
     
  2. Billbailey

    Billbailey Banned

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    This might seem a weird question, but do you think it might actually be the slippers rather than your husband? How is Hugo when Husband is not wearing them? JRTs are terriers, bred to kill small furry animals. And they can get fixated on a particular object.
     
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  3. MrsWolfie

    MrsWolfie PetForums Newbie

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    @Billbailey it had crossed my mind, but they're nothing fluffy or fancy, just normal men's slippers. I wear moccasins myself and he's never gone from them, and mine aren't that different to his. It's also not the hunter-pounce you'd normally see with a terrier (and I've seen a JRT unexpectedly catch a wild rat), it's quite clearly an act of aggression or dominance in response to someone approaching what he sees as his, or telling him what to do. If my husband corrects him he will look up to him, but as soon as my husband tries to move past him, he goes right back to it again. He did sit when he was told, but he did growl while he was doing it.
     
  4. Billbailey

    Billbailey Banned

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    I doubt it is dominance. That theory has been discredited a while back. It's more likely to be those particular slippers. It could be the smell or the sound they make or something about them that you can't percieve but Hugo can.

    Try getting your husband to wear a completely different pair and then see how Hugo reacts.
     
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  5. Billbailey

    Billbailey Banned

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    Another thought, is it an aggressive growl or is it a play growl? My dog will growl at me when playing Tuggy but it's not aggression. I often growl back at him like another dog would.
     
  6. MrsWolfie

    MrsWolfie PetForums Newbie

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    @Billbailey, after last night and seeing the behaviour first hand for myself, I'm convinced it's resource guarding over his bed. I took Hugo outside before bed and when I moved to move a tennis ball out of the way of the gate, he went for my foot too. It's a snap rather than a bite, and he does recoil immediately with the whites of his eyes showing so he is very clearly quite scared. I've diced up some cheese into very small pieces today and I've done two episodes of having him in his place while I approach and give him a piece of cheese (broken even smaller again, for 4-5 uses) if he doesn't growl, and of course no cheese if he does growl. There was still a lot of unease and evident anxiety, but I'm pleased to say that I was able to avoid him snapping. I'm also going to get into the habit of making sure that the gate is clear of any obstructions prior to him going to bed so that we can make the transaction as quick and easy as possible, for everyone involved.

    Many thanks for your help,

    Helen
     
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  7. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    It won’t be dominance but more likely anxiety tbh.

    If your husband is telling him off and putting him in his place that is very likely to create anxiety and make the dog feel threatened. Physically putting him away at meal times will add to that.

    Staring him down too is a big “threat” to a dog.

    The fact your mother alpha rolled him will have added to his anxiety at being handled.

    As for the slippers, JR are notorious for fixating on an object in this way but should be redirected calmly to something else, such as a toy.

    The fact he sees your husband as aggressive towards him is probably adding to it.

    I would stop everyone being forceful with him and possibly use a chew to entice him into his area at meal times. Even a different area to break the habit.

    A vet referral to a good behaviourist might be a good idea to guide you with the correct way to deal with this. Also to change your OH/mum’s mindset that dogs need to “know their place” and dispel all the Alpha nonsense.

    Now your approaching him, pressurising him more, and rewarding him for not growling could just teach him not to growl but the anxiety is still there. The growl is him telling you he’s unhappy/anxious. Stifle that and he could either just shut down or feel forced to bite.

    Resource Guarding is complex. Dealing with it the wrong way will make it worse. Have you taken things off him in the past, rather than swap for something else for instance?

    I really advise getting professional help with this before he feels overwhelmed. I think there are a number of issues going on here, not least incorrect handling and the (now discredited/outdated) theory that we need to be “top dog”.

    This chart is useful but I prefer the title Ladder of Anxiety:

    7942FE65-7142-4E9B-AF5E-ADC7E6749DC1.jpeg

    You will see Growl comes after many other signals.
     
    #7 Lurcherlad, Feb 18, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
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  8. MrsWolfie

    MrsWolfie PetForums Newbie

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    @Lurcherlad thankyou for that, that is really interesting and useful to read. Hugo's vet is aware of some resource guarding/handling issues as I took him to be checked out when he growled to being fussed, fearful that he was actually in pain. She checked him over and said he was absolutely fine, but anxious. She advised the acclimatisation process, which is what I've been doing. Even as we speak, he's right under my chair. If I reach a hand down now to fuss him, and he'll reach up and gladly accept it. If there is one good thing I can say for Hugo it's that he is doting on me, but that all changes if I approach his bed.

    I do agree that the assertive and aggressive handling by my Mum and OH is unhelpful. It is frustrating for me also as my Mum undermines me (I've had dogs longer, so I know better) and my OH seems to see dogs like children that just need reprimanding and time out to cool down. I've never thought about not shutting him out while we eat though, it's just something that we always did growing up to stop begging behaviours. I'm going to try and get into the habit of putting Hugo's food down while we eat out dinner. That way, he eats when we do. I do feel that my OH and Hugo feed off of each other a little bit as well. My OH works a stressful job and I can't help wonder if Hugo can "feel" his anxiety sometimes, he often shouts at the football too. I've even had the neighbours complain a few times about his shouting so I can't imagine that it's good for a nervous dog.

    I can't recall taking things from Hugo, perhaps only when I've seen it as a perceived emergency. That time he got hold of a meat soaker pad and I didn't fancy taking him to the vet with an internal blockage, for instance. I can think that on those times I might have acted on impulse, rather than exchanging out one prize for another. That's something that I'll certainly need to be aware of and try and change my approach going forward.

    I will also be relocating the treats to another place in the room and not near where Hugo sleeps. That way, it becomes "when people approach, good things appear" rather than "I get treats if I shut up and play nice", which is something else that I have noticed. He knows where the treats are kept, and he will sit and wait in front of his treat jar when he wants one.

    I will look into behaviour specialists, thankyou for that recommendation.
     
  9. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    I'm no expert, but this jumped out at me too.
     
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  10. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    Vets are vets, not behaviourists ;)

    A member posted yesterday of the vet that blew into her pup’s face because he was being fidgety/mouthy :rolleyes:

    OP - make sure the behaviourist uses only positive, reward based methods.

    Avoid anyone who spouts the old fashioned dominance/alpha theories.

    Look at positively.com, kikopup and thecanineconsultants.co.uk for tips on dog psyche and positive training.
     
    #10 Lurcherlad, Feb 18, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  11. MrsWolfie

    MrsWolfie PetForums Newbie

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    @Lurcherlad that's horrendous for a vet to do that, but worth knowing. I might hold back on discussing behavioural issues with her in future, just in case.

    I do watch a lot of Victoria Stilwell's videos and implement her methods. It doesn't make for intervention I know, but at least it's not the alpha dog techniques my Mum picked up from Cesar Millan. Reward-based, positive training is the only way to every do anything with dogs. Whether it's correcting behavioural issues or teaching them tricks. Hugo is a very fast learner and he'll try every trick he's learned to get a treat, he's just not nearly so easy about people approaching his place. I have faith that he will do just fine with patience, understanding and retraining my Mum & OH!

    I will have a read, thankyou :)
     
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