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Husky with attitude...

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by sleddog owner, Apr 3, 2011.


  1. sleddog owner

    sleddog owner PetForums Newbie

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    Hi,
    I own a 9 month Samoyed dog and 7 month husky bitch. The husky is definitely the 'top dog' in the household although we had the samoyed first. We know this because he won't walk in front of her, he submits toys and people to her which I've read is normal behaviour in the submissive dog.

    However, I have concerns over the husky behaviour. If we go to take food or toys or anything she is currently occupied with, she will growl and go as if to bite. We worked hard with the samoyed to make sure he would give up his food or toys if taken away from him. Unfortunately, we got her at 5 months and it looks like the previous owner did not do this. I am reluctant to challenge her as I am afraid of her biting me. On the other hand, my boyfriend will get her by the scruff and hold her down if she tries this. This doesn't seem to have had any effect up to now.

    One other thing that has been bothering me is how far we should let the 'top dog' role go. We always greet her first however when we go to greet the samoyed next, she goes for him. When I was wiping his eyes the other day, she went to bite him on the face and I had to push her away. When I say 'goes for him' I mean tries to bite him on the neck or face, similar to when they are playing....

    In the house, she sits on the sofa with us and he sits on the floor. To be honest, he gets too warm on the sofa and (before the husky arrived) would move anyway, but he will not even think about coming on the sofa with us while she is there as she will go to bite him.

    When playing outside, walking or sleeping at night, they are fine. I have had other people watch them and they say it is normal puppy play and that bitches are often more rough than dogs.

    I am just worried about this other 'indoor' behaviour and how to effectively tackle it.

    Can anyone help? :confused:
     
  2. frosty2010

    frosty2010 PetForums Member

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    Hi Sorry to hear about your problems.

    Firstly the husky cant be top dog, you need to be top dog.

    There are ways to achieve this, our husky submits food and toys to us. Being top dog isnt necessarily being bigger, stronger or domonating, this will just rule out any potential respect she could have for you.

    To be top dog, you just need to be seen as a good leader. I know it is easier to say than to achieve, and it sounds simple, but its not, you have to make her work for ALL her food, make her eat out of your hand for the next month or so, never leave food down for her at all, even after a month of feeding by hand, only put food down in a bowl for no more than 10 minutes, then remove it.

    I find huskies respond better to food than anything else. Once she realises you are in control of food, your the leader, and she will start to respect you, and do as told. in the mean time, let your samoyed eat in a seperate room, so he feels safer eating, otherwise he could end up with an eating disorder.


    That said, it is only my personal methods, tried and proven with our own husky, but I cant guarante it will work for you. Hopefully you can see the theory behind the process.


    Hope this Helps.
     
    #2 frosty2010, Apr 3, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011
  3. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    I think I will be supported by many people on here in asking you to throw all the 'top dog', rank-reduction and rank-related training techniques out of the proverbial window. Why? Because there is very little evidence that this makes a difference between dogs in incidences of aggression, like you're experiencing, and no evidence to suggest that it has any to do with dog-human relationships. I would most certainly get a qualified, positive reinforcement-based trainer to come help you too.

    Your Husky, like you said, probably has never been taught that by you taking hold of possessions, she will get them back and it isn't then end of the world. She may have even had bad experiences around them. Your boyfriend should stop grabbing the Husky by the scruff of the neck and holding her down, it's no wonder that she is guarding her food. You do not need to challenge her in any way, shape or form.

    Resource guarding needs to be worked on slowly, especially if aggressive signals are already being exhibited. Try hand feeding her daily meal allowance through practising training basics- I would get rid of food bowls completely now and use all her daily food in training.

    With her toys, try encouraging her to swap via 'leave it' and 'take it' cues. If you would like to take a toy off her, throw a piece of high-value food (chicken, hot dog, cheese etc.,) behind her and take the toy. Then, place the toy back down again. If it's a ball, maybe throw the ball and interact with her. Practise this a number of times and include a 'leave it' cue just before you throw the food. Then, say 'take it' when you give the toy back to her. These interactions show that you taking toys away, and by you handling food, are great experiences because they mean fun and rewards.

    The behaviour and interactions with your other dog seems to be an extension of the resource guarding. She sounds like she's trying to guard over the attention you are giving to the other dog. There are ways to help with this, but I am not prepared to say over a forum as I think this is something a behaviourist should assess and work on with you.

    Needless to say, for the moment, interact with the dogs separately. Set them both up for success- don't allow your Husky to become agitated and aggressive, and don't allow your Samoyed to feel threatened.

    And really drill it home to your boyfriend that any kind of harsh physical or verbal punishment is not the way to go about this. You need to respect the reasons why your Husky is exhibiting these behaviours and realise that she has probably had a lack of socialisation, undesirable behaviours reinforced and that she has not been taught anything different.
     
    #3 Rottiefan, Apr 3, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011
  4. frosty2010

    frosty2010 PetForums Member

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    Thats pretty much exactly what i said lol
     
  5. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    In some ways. However, saying that the owners need to be the 'top dog' and the dog will learn 'to do what its told' is not the point and has no evidence. More importantly, it could lead the OP down the wrong path and suggest to them they need to look at other rank-reduction training methods, which are utter trash, quite honestly. You wrote:

    Once she realises you are in control of food, your the leader, and she will start to respect you, and do as told

    But this really isn't the point. It is good to teach a dog that you have control of food and other valuable resources the dog likes, as we can begin to use these as a reward in training and shape our dogs into human-acceptable parts of the family. It is not the point, though, to make a dog simply do as told. The whole point of training and behaviour modification is to make a dog 1) want to do what you want it to do and 2) have the dog do them all the time without you prompting or coercing.

    Sorry if this comes across a bit full on. It's just that the OP and her boyfriend have obviously been looking at the wrong information for these types of problems and the last thing we need is to encourage the pack theory here. What you say about using food in training and feeding by hand is great though. :)
     
  6. frosty2010

    frosty2010 PetForums Member

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    Also stated this lol:

    and this:
    by no means am i a professional i just felt your response looked professional and was just surprised that it was exactly what i was trying to put across.
     
  7. sleddog owner

    sleddog owner PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks very much for your insight. I will try some of the techniques you have suggested although I have been warned about hand feeding. Some have said that this could lead her to only eating from the hand in the future. She has been a picky eater in the past and I don't want this to interfere...

    To be honest, I painted the wrong picture regarding the interaction my boyfriend has with her. He has only intervened in this way when she has gone to bite and it has never been in a hard, threatening way. He has only had to do this twice in all the time we have had her. We were taught this technique by a guy that has 17 full grown huskies and a sled team and is well respected in the husky world otherwise we would never have dreamt of using it!!

    Thanks again for advice.
     
  8. sleddog owner

    sleddog owner PetForums Newbie

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    Apologies... I now realise what you meant by 'hand feeding'... I took you both literally when actually you meant using it during training. We have also done this with the samoyed and, I must admit, have not done it has much with the husky...

    Will start from tomorrow!! :001_smile:
     
  9. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    You should never have to use these methods, full stop. This is old-style training, promoted
    by the likes of Cesar Millan, and is still flying around in the dog training world by people who have a lot of experience. But experience doesn't count for everything and many people refuse to keep up with the times.

    When a dog shows aggressive signals, it is their way of saying "I'm not comfortable, please back away". If you said that to someone, how would you feel if someone then punched you? Or intimidated you by getting in your face? That's what it's like for dogs a lot of the time. Biting is a last resort and should not be viewed as a bad, unacceptable, unruly behaviour that needs to be punished. We should be saying to ourselves in those situations "What an idiot I am!", as we have pushed a dog to feel the need to bite.

    Anyway, lots of positive training around food is the best route. If you would like to use food bowls still, here's a programme that you may like to try (although it's hard if your dog is a very quick eater!):

    1) Give your dog food in the bowl and throw a piece of high-value food next to it.

    2) Walk over to the food bowl and place the high-value food next to it (not too close to scare the dog though) and wait for the dog to take it. Practise this a lot.

    3) Repeat 2 but try and get really close to the food bowl without any threatening displays from the dog. This gets the dog used to your hands being around the bowl, but good things coming of it.

    4) Walk over, kneel down, throw the food away from the dog. When she goes for the food, remove the food bowl until she turns back to you, say 'Good girl' and place the bowl on the ground again. This step needs to be practised a lot.
     
    #9 Rottiefan, Apr 3, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011
  10. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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  11. Dogless

    Dogless PetForums VIP

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    I have a copy of 'Mine!' by Jean Donaldson which I really enjoyed reading; it has step-by-step exercises in for dogs that are resource guarding (similar to those detailed by Rottiefan but laid out tiny step by tiny step).
     
  12. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    I have been trying to remember where I have seen a great explanation of resource guarding and how to work on it, and your post just reminded me of a section in Donaldson's The Culture Clash. Great books, great author.
     
  13. Dogless

    Dogless PetForums VIP

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    Love 'The Culture Clash' too; really enjoyable and fascinating reading!
     
  14. sid&kira

    sid&kira PetForums VIP

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    my newest girl can be slightly possesive (which is what this behaviour is, its not dominance). She will bare her teeth if we are fussing her and either of the other 2 come over, she will also bare her teeth if we are eating and they get close to us aswell

    If she does this then any contact stops immediately, we move her away from any food or whatever she is guarding (she likes to guard the bin) and tell her no.

    She also doesnt like us being near her food when eating, which is understandable considering that up till a month ago she was chained outside, beaten and starved. We nipped this in the bud by handfeeding her, i would hold her bowl in my lap and make her sit, then take a small handful of biscuits out of the bowl and let her eat out of my hand.

    You OH should NOT be pinning her, all this is teaching her is that she has good reason to guard her food, because it will be taken off her! I would never remove my dogs food from them once they had been given it, what a way to build distrust!! How would you feel if a waiter served you your dinner, and halfway through decided he wanted it back? And how would you feel if he held you down to get it because you had tried to keep hold of it?? You'd be pretty pissed and upset.

    Dogs will sort out a natural pack order, and usually there is no need to intervene unless there is an actual fight, which doesnt occur because of dominance, usually over a resource, like food or toys. Pack order is normally defined through play and other interations. Pack order also rarely stays the same, a dog which was top dog yesterday, wont necessarily be top dog tomorrow.

    Hope this helps, i'm an owner of 3 sibes so if you need any help feel free to pm me :)
     
  15. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    This is not hierarchy this is normal canid behaviour - bitches are usually winners of possesions and dogs usually defer to their possession. This is nothing to do with submission, this is deference which is what dog-dog relationships are based on.

    Your dog doesn't have an attitude - this is not a dog problem. This is normal dog behaivour that we humans have a problem with ;) :D

    Your dog is a resource guarder. Unfortunately she hasn't complete socialisation in relation to this issue and as an adolescent this problem is likely to escalate.

    Your boyfriend needs some training lol - manhandling dogs is not acceptable, is not necessary and is very dangerous.

    Your dog's escalated response (growling, snapping) is asking for distance and this is being rudely responded to. This will teach her that you and your boyfriend are absolutely increasing distance from and she will do this using this sort of behaviour.

    Her more polite requests for distance have been ignored and she has been pushed to this response. I am just glad that nobody has been bitten...yet.

    Here is more on resource guarding: Resource Guarding | Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle | Dog and Puppy Tips from Seattle |
    and here is more on learning to read doggie signaling: Learn about dog body language


    You can greet your dog in any order you like. But you have a dog-dog guarding situation, as well as a human directed guarding situation in your house and this is worrying.
    You have also become one of the resources guarding.

    This is not normal puppy play and your dogs are adolescents, not puppies. There are a couple of major red flags here and I think the very best step to take is management for right now (that means to not put them in situations where this reaction is likely to be seen) and contacting a professional for intervention is the next step.

    Dog-dog guarding is one of the most difficult behaviours to modify, I have found it consistently harder than modifiying human directed guarding.

    Be very careful choosing help for this issue. Any trainer that refers to pack order or any of that, or suggests allowing them to fight it out themselves is not suitable. Any trainer that suggests telling off your dog for using distance increasing signaling is also worth avoiding.

    Check out the COAPE association of behaviourists for a referral: CAPBT - COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers

    Please prevent your boyfriend from interveneing like this again. Start teaching your female that you giving attention, treats etc. to the male means that something good is coming her way. Separate them via a baby gate for training and do not allow them have access to resources outside of training situations or when there is no way of separating them.

    Get this nipped in the bud asap - your dogs are going to be big soon and this issue will be very difficult to work with the older they get.

    Best of luck, please get some help soon :)
     
  16. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Exactly, saying being a good trustworthy leader may be true, the problem is how that will generally be interpreted, especially with the use of Dominance-based ideas alrady being used by the boy friend. How would he interpret advice to be "top dog"?

    The fact is, truly gentle dogs toward people are made by gentle treatment with subtle interactions, not by the strong and confident imposing themselves, meaning some weaker human like a small child may become a victim of displaced aggression.
     
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