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Canine Behavior/Dog Attention Seeking Behavior

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Question
Hi Melissa!

Our very sweet YorkiePoo Delilah has recently started to do something that I want to break her of. About once a day, she gets a small (choking hazard sized) non-food item that she holds in her mouth. Because she could choke on it, we are eager to remove it from her mouth. When we try, she won't let us open her mouth and has tried to bite us. We usually try to switch it out for a treat but it doesn't always work.

Any ideas on how to stop this? We are about to have a baby and I don't want this to be an issue.

Thanks!

Answer
With this being a sudden change, I'm wondering what kind of changes are going on in the household as you mentioned you are going to be having a baby. She could be doing this as an attention getter, which is common in this kind of situation. One solution is dog-proof the house and prevent her from having access to other objects. I'm wondering how exactly you're reacting when she does this, meaning do you make a big spectacle of it, which is what I"m assuming may be going on. Since something is going on in the house, she could be doing this as an out-reach because she has no idea how the handle the situation and if you're acting anxious about this behavior, this causes her to get anxious aggressive.

One thing I want you implement is earn and reward. This process will retrain her and remind her her role in the household as well as reward for good behavior. All you'll do is make her perform a command before she gets anything; food, treats, attention, walks...you name it. And she does not get the reward until she fully performs the command. And it can be as simple as stay, sit, shake, etc. Another thing I want you teach her is "leave it." This will let her know right away what she can and cannot be allowed to touch or carry. You can definitely incorporate this into the earn and reward.

Keep me posted.  

Canine Behavior

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Melissa Burg, RVT/Behavior Consultant

Expertise

I have experience with multiple obedience issues, including anxiety, different types of aggression, introductions to a new pet and basic obedience situations, such as housebreaking, excessive leash pulling and excessive barking. There are several approaches to each behavior issue, depending on the animal's environment, as well as the breed, sex and age. I can also help you decide whether the problem sounds medical or behavioral.

Experience

I recently graduated with a Veterinary Technician degree with an emphasis in behavior and obedience training. I spent 5 years working in animal shelters where I trained shelter dogs in basic obedience and corrected behavior issues and educated adopting owners how to continue the training at home.

Publications
"Pawfect Pets;" a weekly column on canine and feline health and behavior tips.

Education/Credentials
Associate's Degree in Veterinary Technology from Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa.

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