I guess you can’t reason or guilt a dog into good behavior. Recently, our sweet Toast has shown a few signs of teenage defiance (in dog years of course). On three recent occasions our normally docile dog has show the first signs of aggression we have seen in the year we have known her. On a side note, it is hard to believe we have only had this little pup in our lives for a year. At times she seems like the best friend we have had all our lives, and at times she is so quiet we forget she exists… hmmm… But recently, she has been a total brat. She has snarled and snapped at three dogs (two puppies) on walks and at the dog park, in the last two weeks. We can attribute her behavior to three things:
1. Our next-door neighbors have their in-laws come by at least a few times a week to care for their young daughter and with them they bring Titus. Titus is an asshole dog. There is really no other way of putting it. He is a total aggressive asshole. This dog barks at every living creature (human, dog, cat, whatever) that walks near the house. When I go out to my car he charges the fence and snarls and barks at me like I am an evil, threatening criminal. I hear him as early as 6 in the morning when the parents come over because they let him out in the yard instead of keeping him inside where he would be less aggravated. Anyway, since our fence butts up against theirs Titus and Toast have been “fence-fighting”. When our little guard dog hears Titus, she runs outside to the small section of chain-link fence that adjoins our neighbors and those two go at it. I hate that she has become so aggressive in reaction to this other dog. When yell at her to stop she comes in but she is super agitated. I can only imagine how she feels when she is at home alone when Tim and I are at school. Poor pup. The long overdue solution is that I need to talk to my neighbors. Maybe we can coordinate different times when the dogs can be out in the yards or erect some barrier or something. In any case, I bet the fence fighting has contributed to her bad behavior.
2. This is an easy one. Exercise. More, more precisely, lack thereof. We have been lax about taking this dog out for walks and jogs. She is young and super athletic and needs to get out and run. We were good about taking her for regular walks when she was a puppy but schoolwork has gotten the best of us and we have been seriously negligent. I think a few weeks ago she went a whole week without a proper walk. I can only imagine that her pent up energy contributes to her recent aggressiveness.
3. Dominance. We have to remind Toast who is boss. I can’t say I prescribe fully to the Cesar Milan theory of dog training but I do know that when I show Toast that I am the pack leader she is much better behaved. When we went to dog training we learned a bunch of things to do to assert human dominance that, frankly, we have been slacking off on. For example, the humans are always supposed to walk in the door to the house before the dog barges in. When we give her a command she is supposed to obey instantly. We must invite her up on the couch before she is allowed to jump up herself. In the past few weeks we haven’t been asserting these rules and I think that her behavior suffers as a result. So we are cracking the proverbial whip with this dog. The technique that has been working the best has been putting her down. No, not putting her to sleep. Just forcefully rolling her onto her back and holding her there for a moment. Dogs do this to each other to assert dominance and it has been very successful, especially when we put her down immediately after she has shown any signs of aggression. Interestingly enough, the skills necessary to get a submissive dog are the same that Tim is practicing in his classroom with his students. He has been told he needs to work on his classroom management (I can only imagine that he is too rational and forgiving). It appears that in order to have consistently well-behaved puppies and teenagers, it is important to be consistent, assertive, disciplined and firm.
Anyone out there have any thoughts or experiences with working with suddenly aggressive dogs (or impudent teens?)?