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Canine Behavior/pomerainian help


my wife and i took a pom from a friend,his name is bashful we have had him almost 2 years now he bites at the air like he is trying to catch a fly but there isn't anything their ,and lately he wakes up growling and barking and attacks the other dogs as they sleep when he wakes in that mood sometimes even trying to bite us when we try to calm him after a few moments he is fine now we did get him from a friend as i mentioned but she got him from a lady who bought him and then didn't want him he was scared and shy when we first got him hence the name bashful took almost 6 months for him to even let me hold him but the wife he took right to her  is there anything we can do to help him ? thank you

First stop: veterinary neurologist or veterinary internist.  "Biting at the air" is a symptom of possible temporal lobe seizures as is is waking up "growling/barking/attacking" and "biting" you.  This dog has some loss of cognition.  It could be complex, it could be as simple as the wrong diet (just as some children respond to dietary changes when they are being treated for ADHD).  The following article was written specifically for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels but applies to any breed domestic dog or hybrid.

Diagnosing a dog with temporal lobe seizure is not easy and it isn't cheap.  The veterinarian might just put the dog on a trial dose of phenobarbital.  This is a harmless drug but, if what you describe is neurological and seizure related, it will help.  

You can find a specialist by calling the veterinary school in your area and you must be prepared to drive whatever distance it takes.  You may need a written referral from your primary veterinarian.

Meanwhile: put a house tab on this dog (only when you are at home): this is a very lightweight leash.  If he begins to "bite at the air", simply pick up the house tab and sit calmly and allow him to calm.  Leash restraint often helps a dog through a bout of hallucinatory experience.  I suggest he be separated for sleep from the other dogs.  If he wakes "in that mood", your attempt to CALM HIM may be actually construed as REWARD.  Pick up the house tab; hold the dog at arm's length; wait for him to calm (no matter how long it takes); get up, circle the dog as if following a large hoola hoop, right, then left, ask for "sit", praise calmly but lavishly, drop the leash.  You are now disabling him from following whatever is causing this fight/flight response, you are calmly in control until his fight/flight response STOPS, you are then (by circling) engaging cognition (he must "think" through this procedure) and then asking for a trained behavior (benign: "sit"), and rewarding with calm praise.

If you are unable to find a specialist close enough to get to, ask your veterinarian for a course of Propanolol, this is a beta blocker which truncates the flow of adrenaline and might just help the dog not to be over reactive.

This dog appears to have had a serious lack of socialization and may very well have come from a puppy mill (meaning: inherited fear problems among others).  Please let's try the veterinary approach first.  Then I will refer you (or attempt to) to a certified applied animal behaviorist because the dog must be seen in person and professionally evaluated in order to put a course of behavior modification in place (if possible, based upon veterinary report).

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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