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Not good! :(

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by lauz_1982, May 6, 2011.


  1. lauz_1982

    lauz_1982 PetForums VIP

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    Mac will be two in September. He's a Border Collie. We got him at 12 weeks. He's brilliant in the house - mostly brilliant out a walk. Shockingly bad when it comes to food though.

    When we first got him he had already developed a food aggression. We were on the waiting list with a breeder and he was returned to the breeder and then we were offered him being next on the list. The reason we got him was because the person who had taken him couldn't handle him being so active. Breeder and that person to blame for that situation but I will never know the whole truth about that. The breeder should have made sure they were ready for a puppy - certainly a 'bold' little BC - and the person that took him should have known what to expect. Well somewhere between the two of them he became defensive over his food. This became obvious the first time I fed him. I've worked on him with this and I'm now able to stand very close to him when he's eating his dinner without him stopping and growling (teeth barred and face into bowl) like he used to - he's happy as long as I don't touch him and will eat normally.

    The problem is that he has developed an issue with taking treats. The 'low priority' ones he will take very nice but if I give him something nice he will literally nearly take my fingers off, growl at me if I say no and go to his bed still growling and refuse to come out for a long time even when I want him to go outside etc - he knows he's been bad. I don't smack him - never smack him. When he's bad he goes to his bed. He is effectively doing the crime and putting himself to bed! I have tried the putting a treat in my fist and holding it but he goes nowhere near it and doesn't try to get it. When I place it on the ground he will leave it but as soon as I say 'ok' he will snatch, growl and go to bed. There is no specific incident that's happened to cause him to be like this. He still continues to take low value treats very nicely.

    Is there anything I can do or do I just cut out anything he grabs (anything he really likes otherwords)?

    At my wits end because this is the only issue with him we can't seem to get around.

    Laura :(
     
  2. grandad

    grandad PetForums VIP

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    Stop giving him high value treats. The behaviour might disapear.
     
  3. Angie2011

    Angie2011 PetForums VIP

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    Hi Hun! i did not wont to read and run! but i will leave giving you advice to someone more Esperance! as i would NOT! like to steer you in the wrong direction. I am sure someone be along soon! good luck :)
     
  4. lauz_1982

    lauz_1982 PetForums VIP

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    I tried that for a couple of months and just went back to trying the other day and it's straight back to square 1.

    Thank you! x
     
  5. grandad

    grandad PetForums VIP

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  6. lauz_1982

    lauz_1982 PetForums VIP

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  7. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    I would stop giving him high value treats unless you are specifically training with him on his food aggression problem.

    To work on it, I would start with just one small piece of high-value food (finger-nailed size) and just drop it on the ground. Don't give him time to get worked up or growly. Keep repeating this. Just dropping it on the ground and letting him have it. Then slowly increase the time you hold onto the food- it might only be a couple of seconds at first as after this he may get bothered and growly.

    Fast forward many sessions and hopefully you can hold onto a piece of high-value food and ask him to 'SIT' and he'll wait 30 seconds-1 minute and then you say 'Take it!' as you drop the food on the ground. If he's doing this, you can up the anti by starting to handle the food a little more- offering him the food in an open hand, just placing it on the ground, not dropping it- these types of things. This will improve his control and teach him that you handling food doesn't mean that he needs to compete for it.

    There's no quick fixes for these types of problems. Especially since he's been doing it since so young. I would stop telling him 'No' and telling him to go to his bed. I really don't see what there is to punish him for. He's growling for a reason. It may not be acceptable in our society and people may see that this is behaviour that needs to reprimanded; I see it as a dog that needs his perception of high-value food changed.

    If he growls at you, I would just walk away from him and as soon as he stops (you'll need to be quick) walk back to him and drop the food. Growling= you walk away and not growling= he gets food.

    You may also like to start factoring in small bits of high-value food with his kibble and hand feed him during training throughout the day.

    Starting clicker training could help as well, as he'll associate higher value food with positive sessions and learn that he gets rewarded for behaviours that are acceptable in our society.
     
    #7 Rottiefan, May 6, 2011
    Last edited: May 6, 2011
  8. lauz_1982

    lauz_1982 PetForums VIP

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    Thank you - I will try that. He will sit and wait for as long as I want him to even with a high value treat but as soon as he is allowed to take it he will snap it.

    The only time he is bad - apart from the food thing - is when people come in and he is told no for jumping on them and if he doesn't listen I tell him bed until he calms down. He's never been told to go for grabbing food - just the word no is enough for him to go to his bed after he grabs because he knows it's wrong.

    He does do clicker training and is perfect with something he doesn't see as high value - like dog choc drops etc but high value food is totally different but I see what you mean in him learning to associate good with the high value treat as well as the low value.

    Thank you for your reply.
     
  9. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    Ah, I see. Sorry, I misinterpreted your post a bit. So, if we take it in slow motion, does he try and snap the food out of your hand in an aggressive way? Or is it just snapping in terms of trying to get the food quickly- purely food motivated? I know many dogs who have a 'hard mouth' and teach them to use their mouths nicely by say 'Ouch!' and not giving the food when I feel teeth on skin. Eventually, they start to just lick the food, which is a good time to say 'Take it!'. You can sometimes use a glove if it is quite painful!

    In terms of visitors coming in, I personally just like reinforcing sits. Telling him to go to bed can work to solve a problem, but many dogs don't learn what they should be doing instead of jumping. So they are getting punished for jumping but don't learn quickly how they can get attention.
     
  10. lauz_1982

    lauz_1982 PetForums VIP

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    No that's fine - I'm not so good at wording things!

    When he was a pup he grabbed it so I did the exercise where I keep the treat in my fist getting him to take it nice by ignoring the pawing and nibbling at my fingers then giving him it and clicked him when he took it nice etc. He knows what 'take it nice' means for sure as he will do it perfect with low value treats. I have never offered then taken away food so I don't know why he feels the need to grab and run. Usually I have a couple of high value treats in one hand and I offer him one and say 'take it nice' - he will grab it, growl and go to his bed and I then put the other treats away and go sit down - I won't try with any more if he grabs and he knows it but still does it. Just don't understand it.

    If I have a high value treat in my hand he will not look at it and looks at me until I say he can take it and that's the moment he snaps it. I can hold it for ages (if I wanted to) and he won't touch it until I tell him.

    In my opinion he grabs in an 'I want it now' kind of way but then growls as if don't come near me when I have food way.

    With reinforcing sit when there are people in he gets so overexcited that he doesn't hear or listen to sit, down etc - although he does know these commands and will do them very well when calm - and he gets very persistent to the stage where he is climbing on people. I have to send him to bed to calm down then he is told to come out and told to sit nice again. If he does he stays out - if he doesn't he goes to calm down again. He gets so carried away that he really needs that minute of 'time out' really or he gets far too much for people. He knows he should sit nice and he does try but the excitement gets too much for him even when people are very calm with him and tell him sit he ends up jumping all over the place. He forgets his manners you could say!
     
  11. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    I don't know if you've seen this video by Kikopup, but I've always liked it. However, I appreciate that your dog will probably be much more over-stimulated by people coming into the house!
    YouTube - How to stop Jumping up!- clicker dog training

    I would just practise the jumping up issue. Set up circumstances where people are going to be coming a lot. Only working on it when you have real visitors sets no solid consistency and basis for learning. Using the time out is good, especially after he's been asked to SIT and is obviously just too excited to control his impulses!

    With the food issue, it does sound like a weird behaviour. Like you said, he's learnt from someone early on that when high-value food is around he needs to take it as fast as possible and then almost hide it. The growling is maybe just a nervous, habitual reaction- something he was forced to do in the past and has now just became common practice, without him really 'meaning' it.

    It may sound weird, but have you practised giving him the treats in a different environment, like outside? This may break the habit of him trying to hide away. I would drop the treat on the ground and as soon as he goes for it, drop another bit nearer you, then repeat, to teach him that he doesn't feel like he needs to run away with it. Instead, he would learn that there is another one coming after the first, so he'll stay with you, expecting another.

    The snapping could improve if the above worked as he'll not be in such as rush to get away with it as before. All hypothetical of course!
     
  12. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    He's afraid of loosing it, so the growl is distance signalling. As RF said, only have high value stuff about when you're working on it to avoid accidental incidents, wrong person in wrong place at wrong time.
    You need to slowly up the distraction level and keep him succeeding, in slowly tougher situations, with the sits. Collies can be very exciteable dogs and it's really good that he likes ppl.

    You might find capturing behaviour works well, for example you say a cue just as he goes to "lie down", and then reward to reinforce it (praise, food or play). That way you don't have the problem of the training reward, causing him to be too excited up front.

    Settling on mats and things, helps often, then you need calm rewards to, or you break the settle.
     
  13. lauz_1982

    lauz_1982 PetForums VIP

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    I will go and watch that video - thanks.

    I will try him with high value again when out and dropping something near me too.

    To be honest he hardly jumps on my Dad (an experienced dog owner) as he is firm and tells him 'down' right away and basically won't take any nonsense from him - just tells him no. My in laws and strangers he is worse with and I have told them again and again and again (it really does get to me) that they wont be firmer with him. My mother in law is a little bit more firmer but she is blind and Mac jumping up can come as a surprise to her if she's not prepared for it. My father in law has no experience of dogs and Mac just takes the complete mickey out of him. I have to take control and Mac is so focused on them that it's hard to get his attention and that's why he gets sent to calm down. To be honest when they are over I feel it's more their fault than his as he hardly plays up with my Dad! However, he has to learn to behave as not everyone that comes to visit is experienced with dogs! There is a happy balance to be found in there somewhere! Everyone says how much he has improved in the last 6 months though - he's a lot calmer as he's getting older.

    Again appreciating your time and advice - thank you!
     
  14. lauz_1982

    lauz_1982 PetForums VIP

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    I'm going to practice what RF has said with him and see how that goes. I know it will take time - like being able to be near him when he eats his dinner - at first I couldn't even wait in the kitchen with him! With patience I can potter about in the kitchen while he's eating and he's happy as long as I don't touch him. Big improvement as to what it was.

    At his puppy classes the trainer called him 'a very bold boy'! lol! I think she meant more but didn't like to say! He's never been a shy retiring type - loves cuddles, very affectionate and loving. Just the food thing he is like a different dog! He does loads of clicker training (and obedience) and we will be starting flyball this summer - he loves learning and playing and is a very clever boy.

    By Capturing Behaviour do you mean like just asking him to lie down and wait etc? He does that no problem without a treat any time but as soon as someone is in he switches his hearing off and does what he wants. It's very hard to get his attention back.
     
  15. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Capturing, is simply putting a cue on something as the dog does it. So you don't need to lure with a treat, but take advantage of natural behaviour to add a cue. Rewarding it with praise, or something fun.

    For instance when my puppy was running back to me, I blew 3 blasts on a whistle. Very soon, when I tried 3 blasts on it, with him not visible with other dogs, and he recalled, associating the signal with coming back to me.

    With my dog, it gives "free training" as part of games, in exciting high distraction situations like busy park with ppl playing around, other dogs etc.


    To get him succeeding, with someone else present, you need calmness, and then practice training with a stranger around. Perhaps doing some obedience, when around ppl on a walk, where he's less interested in them. Or someone who's been in a while. It's called proofing, because dogs tend to be very specific about what & where commands apply. That's the reason, a dog likely does things perfect where you practice, but then doesn't do it in training hall, or at roadside, or in park with other dogs about etc.

    With Collies especially, there's really little need to be dramatically "firm" just clear, they are eager to work and understand reprimands by issueing a command that interrupts their intended deed. They tend to be very sensitive, so raised voices (unless they're 50 yards away or more) tend not to be necessary and may cause the confusion and exciteability. Because you could easily be doing the equivalent of barking!

    Once the dog knows a command and can do it in the place you're trying it, if he tries not to listen, generally to correct, just gently insist on it eg) if he's meant to wait and starts to shift forward, the correction is simply to replace him where he was, and tell him again. An "uh oh" no reward marker works quite well rather than the kind of yelling you tend to see out and about.

    To avoid uncalm jumping up, barking and so on, getting attention and requiring a sit, or lie down, with short pause. Mostly for over-excited behaviour, the best is ignoring it, as the dog wants attention, so I just wait a short while and look when it's quiet and normally he's sitting and looking at me, at which point I call him, or praise the calmness.

    Quite frankly, when I open door in afternoon to take lonely dog out, with noone to police the excited greeting, no amount of "Off!" is ever going to stop him trying to jump. My dog is just too excited he's bursting with energy and getting psyched for activity.

    So what I did, was put the jump "Up!" on cue, then I started having him sit and reward the sit, to jump up. A few days later, after ages doing the "Off!" to little avail, dog was auto-sitting but very excited, telling me he wanted to jump. I praise that, and then let him jump; extending the praise time isn't too easy, but if I need to I just "work him", so he's doing alternative activity.
     
  16. Rolosmum

    Rolosmum PetForums VIP

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    Just one thought how is he if the treat is on the flat of your hand rather than held in fingers, the way he has to take it from your automatically makes it more gentle, which you could then give him praise for instantly and may make a difference. One of our springers is very hard taking treats when held in fingers and he senses my 'fear' of him catching me cos it bruises my thumb! When I give it to him flat he is much gentler and me less wary, although I forget often!!
     
  17. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    To avoid uncalm jumping up, barking and so on, getting attention and requiring a sit, or lie down, with short pause. Mostly for over-excited behaviour, the best is ignoring it, as the dog wants attention, so I just wait a short while and look when it's quiet and normally he's sitting and looking at me, at which point I call him, or praise the calmness.

    Quite frankly, when I open door in afternoon to take lonely dog out, with noone to police the excited greeting, no amount of "Off!" is ever going to stop him trying to jump. My dog is just too excited he's bursting with energy and getting psyched for activity.

    Absolutely Rod -well read and well said.:thumbup1:
     
  18. edidasa

    edidasa PetForums Member

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    personally, clicker and food rewards are great, but it will take you only so far.

    can you teach your dog to 'catch' food. e.g. throw high value rewards at him

    prob. your dog growls - you back away. your dog understands that his growling makes you go away. <------reinforced many times ( i assume).

    the best response is to have no response (though this should have been done when he was a puppy). if he bites you now, it'll hurt, so you COULD wear equipment (thick gloves etc.) so that you have no reaction.

    this however won't guarantee he'll stop growling/bite you. but it could help.

    It would be interesting for me (research wise) to see if it CAN be reversed, but personally, I wouldn't risk it. Dogs are animals, and animals can bite.

    I've 'researched' this myself (not documented) on quite a few dogs, and the results: are very unpredictable. One owner decided to re=home his dog (he had kids and didn't want to risk it).

    Have you tried 'not saying no' - just ignoring his growling?
     
  19. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    No, that's not really addressing the core problem. The problem is not the growling.


    The problem really is that the dog fears losing the treat, so it is growling and avoiding them to gain distance.

    Someone possibly following Cesar Milan's advice, was taking food away from the puppy most likely, or perversly giving and snatching things to check they could. The pup was returned to breeder, perhaps blamed and from sound of it, the OP's family did not do immediate counter-programming of "aggression around food bowl" to reassure the puppy.

    This is a good example, why most on forum here, are very against dominance theory, as it gets you into conflict with the dog, rather than develop the cooperative relationship with the dog "Man's best friend" we're supposed to have according to all the folklore.
     
  20. metaldog

    metaldog PetForums VIP

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    I can't help with the food thing, but when you have visitors have you considered having him on a lead so you have more control? I agree that working on the sit stay will help in the long run but having him on the lead may help you to manage the behaviour in the short term, especially as you have a disabled MIL. As he gets better you can have him on the lead with it just trailing on the floor just in case of relapse.
     
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