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Canine Behavior/dog behavior


I have an pomerian age 7 years old. For the last 6 months his action are so unbeilable  He acts like some is going to hit him, if u say no to him he squats low head down and tail between his legs, if you drop silver ware, close a door to load then he would shiver etc. My nerves are about to the end. I think my son may have caused a lot of it, when ever the dog did any thing like go for a walk with him, after ever meal we would have he would give him a treat. The dog got so he wouldn't listen to me. So I stopped the treats. Now he sits at the door waiting for my son to come and take him for a walk, then when he leaves then the dogs behavior starts again. What do i do???? I need some advise before i break down!!!

Thank you for your question. Your son was on the right track, using treats as a way to positively reinforce behaviors that he liked.

Many dogs are very sensitive to our tone of voice as well as our volume - not to mention body language. If we are using a harsh, aggravated or "ugly" tone of voice, if we raise our voice in anger, if we use antagonistic body language (lunging toward the dog, reaching out aggressively, charging at, staring hard in their eyes, etc), many dogs find this unpleasant and even scary. These dogs will then being offering all sorts of appeasement signals that are designed to defuse tension and avoid conflict.

If you're telling the dog "No!" and pointing a finger at him, or using a harsh tone and his response is to cower: head low, tail tucked, avoid direct eye contact - possibly squinting or blinking his eyes faster than usual, then he's telling you that your actions are making him nervous and he's trying to calm you down in order to avoid any kind of conflict.

Trust that if your dog truly understood that a behavior of his was unacceptable, then he would not do it in the first place. It's not his aim to annoy you. Dogs have no concept of spite, so if he really understood what behaviors you don't want him to perform, then he would stop performing them.

At 7 years of age, he's entering his senior years. With age come changes. He may be having hearing issues, vision issues, joint issues that make him feel less able to create distance or defend himself quickly if the need arose. So he may be compensating by offering more appeasement signals as his best defense. Any time we see a major change of behavior, with no clear cause, we need to get a complete physical exam, including blood work . There are several conditions, including changes to the thyroid, that can manifest with behavior changes, including heightened fear response, sound sensitivity, etc. So, my first and primary suggestion is that your dog needs to see his vet sooner rather than later. It may be a health condition, which may be easy to treat and then you'll see his behavior settle back to normal.

Assuming a clean bill of health, environmental changes can cause a behavior change as well. While you don't say one way or the other in your question, I wonder if your son has moved out, and if that happened around the time this behavior change took place. Have their been any other changes to the dog's world? Anyone else move in or out? New animal in the house? Children/baby? Did the daily schedule/routine change - even by just a couple hours? Are you experiencing any increased stress or emotional trauma which may be making you tense and short-fused?

First and foremost, you must have a complete exam, including bloodwork with a complete thyroid panel to rule out any medical issues that could be contributing to this behavior change.

If the vet determines he's healthy, then we look to the environment. My biggest suggestion here - no matter the outcome of the vet visit - is that we look for opportunities to tell him "Yes!" rather than waiting for him to mess up so we can tell him "no." Providing positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of the behavior occurring again in the future, creates a much more long lasting behavior change, and increases the dog's confidence all at the same time. Looking for the failed behavior to correct tends to "shut the dog down" because they never know what behavior is allowed, so they stop behaving altogether.

Right now your dog is communicating to you as best he can that something is not OK. So, we have to be a detective and determine what the problem is and then help him through it, either by adjusting the environment, adjusting our behavior in his presence or by helping him regain his confidence (or a combination of all three).

Some books that may help you with this include:

On Talking Terms with Dogs - Calming Signals , by Turid Rugaas. Excellent explanation of those appeasement signals that your dog is doing, what they mean, when they're likely to occur and what we can do to help the dog feel safer/more secure when we see those cues.

The Cautious Canine - How to Help Dogs Conquer their Fears , by Patricia McConnell. Walks you through a basic counter conditioning protocol to help your dog build up his tolerance for the things that scare him, and to help him change his fear reaction to one of happy anticipation

Behavior Adjustment Training: BAT for Fear, Frustration and Aggression , by Grisha Stewart. Walks you through a protocol using environmental reinforcers such as increased space from the scary thing, to help your dog overcome his fear.

Please start with the vet visit, as being 7 years old brings with it potential medical issues that could be at the center of this behavior change.

Good luck. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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