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Canine Behavior/boston terrier


Dear Madeline,          My mom owns a Boston terrier who has a history of abuse. The former owner was a heroin addict and when she went to rehab her boyfriend kept it in the basement where it was neglected. I don't know if he was physical with the dog, but i assume he was. The dog (Romeo) is very protective of my mom and will not allow me to come between him and her. He is constantly barking at me and has nipped me several times as well as our plumber, my friend (who is male), but also my niece who was only 5. He had scratched her face badly. If my mom would leave and i had to watch him, he would become depressed, not eat drink or go outside unless me using a leash to almost pull him outside. He would be completely passive, but when she is around he is very dominant and controlling. My mom has had brain surgery and now I need to help out, but I can't get near her without him freaking out. He is 6 now. This has been going on since she had him for the past 3 years. Any suggestions? BTW she thinks I am the problem!


I was responsive and and replied to your question. I advised you to seek further help from a professional, and explained in the meantime how to protect people from further bites until you can get the help required. I see that you asked the question of another expert on this site, and received basically the same response as mine, though in less detail in some areas while she rpprovided a specific contact, and you took the time to rate her answer, but not mine. I disagree that she says the dog has "lost bite inhibition.". It is unlikely the dog ever had bite inhibition. Second, as a trainer who majored in Animal Science, and not a CAAB, I provided on face the same response as the PH.D. Who suggests you not work with trainers. We'll trained and professional trainers everywhere should be appalled at her response. While there are some awful trainers out there I'll equipped to work with dogs, many are quite professional and excellent at what they do. I resent that she attempts to put down ALL trainers and, frankly, I resent that you did not rate my answer when I provided a more detailed answer than did the other party and what amounts to the same information, yet you ignore my response and refuse to rate it. I can't even express here what your behavior says about you as a person. Trainers everywhere who know they are educated professionals should take serious umbrage at this woman who seeks to ruin their reputations and take work away from them. I think that is just awful, and quite unprofessional of her, and that is my rating of her remarks and behavior. As for you, I intend to report what you did to the technical staff here as well as the other "expert's" remarks. At this point, don't even bother rating my response. If you provide a poor rating, I will have it removed, as it would be undeserved. Next time you intend to troll for various responses, you should say so up front, and AT LEAST have the decency to thank someone for the time they put in to responding to you. The other expert gets paid for her responses as she's answered over the number of responses required to be paid. I VOLUNTEER. I sorely regret now that I put any of my valuable time responding to your question.

Hi Rick,

Thanks for sending such an interesting question and detailed description. I'll do my best to explain my response and what I perceive based on what you wrote.

My experience with rescue groups. For which I have volunteered many hundreds of hours for different rescues and shelters, is the following: Some are quite reputable and comprised of volunteers educated about canine (and feline) behavior. However, the majority of rescue organizations and shelters are comprised of staff who hold their positions mostly as political appointments, and of volunteers who genuinely care about animals and helping them, but no very little about canine behavior and handling.  

I'm saying this, especially the latter part of it, because some of the less reputable shelters and rescues use emotional blackmail in order to get people to adopt problematic dogs, because doing so gets people to feel sorry for the animal. I'm not saying this is what occurred in the case of the placement of your mother's Boston terrier, but, unless you know for sure that the story presented to you and your mother about the dog is factual, I would be suspect about its truth.

However, given the details you've provided, what I am pretty sure about is that the dog sounds as if he lacked proper socialization to people as a puppy during the critical developmental periods when he should have been. This critical socialization is difficult, if not impossible, to make up at a later time, because the critical developmental time for this is only up until the dog is 14 - 16 weeks of age. After that, this type of socialization becomes progressively more difficult. A mitigating factor for such lack of socialization would be a genetic (natural) predisposition to having a wonderful temperament which would compensate for the lack of socialization - but, sadly, it does not sound as if your mother's Boston terrier got this factor.

It would be impossible for me to outline a program of remedial socialization and training in this format which would take months to employ. What I suggest is that you reach out to an experienced and completely positive methods trainer who will help you gain this dog's cooperation through training and trust over time. I would also suggest that this person be someone who is savvy about pharmacological interventions with dogs who exhibit the anxiety and depressive behaviors your mother's dog is exhibiting.

Realize that it could take six weeks or more for medication to have a visible effect, though sometimes effects can be seen sooner. Also remain aware that medication is not a "fix" in and of itself and on its own. What medication does is open a window of opportunity to modify a dog's behavior through training while the dog's neurology is being "opened" by the medication for such a behavioral/training intervention. Many trainers work with veterinarians as a veterinarian is the only person who can prescribe and recommend the appropriate medication.  

Another option is to find a veterinarian behaviorist. Such a person is a veterinarian who has specialized in behavior in vet school. There are only about 50 of these in the country. Most veterinarians know little about canine behavior unless they have specialized in this area. Keep in mind that a veterinarian behaviorist will recommend protocols and, quite possibly, medication, but you'll still need a trainer to help you apply any training and behavior protocols, as most vet behaviorists don't have the time to do so. Some vet behaviorists will not have a problem filling a trainer in with details, and some won't. I hope you can find one who will if you end up going that route.

What a trainer or vet behaviorist can do immediately is give you suggestions for managing the dog's behavior so that no one gets bitten again, as that is a serious issue. Management is utilized until the dog is trained, or if, for any reason, the dog can't be trained. Management includes items such as keeping dogs crated or gated away from people so they can't bite, or kept on leash, even in the house, attached to a person who can supervise them at all times, for the same reason -so the dog can not bite. Management also includes safe and appropriate use of equipment such as muzzles and head halters. Again, do not attempt to use equipment without the assistance of a trainer or vet behaviorist who can show you how to use the equipment correctly. A muzzle or head halter should not simply be put on a dog - there are methods to habituating a dog to the equipment so that the dog will feel comfortable with it.

So, to quickly review: a vet behaviorist and/or a very experienced and positive-only trainer; possibly medication along with ongoing training; and, management which may include equipment.

Best of luck to you and also with your mother's surgery and my wishes that everything goes very well.

Best regards,
Madeline Friedman, M.A.
Hoboken Dog Trainer
NYC Dog Trainer
Delray Beach Dog Trainer

Canine Behavior

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Madeline S. Friedman, M.A.


I respond to public questions only. I'm not a veterinarian & do not respond to medical questions.Suggestions: Submit a question in one area of priority, as what I am able to address in this venue is limited. Provide as much detail re: the behavior & issue as you can. Tell me how & if behavior is a change from previous behavior & when the changes occurred. Let me know what you think may have triggered such changes & what you have tried so far to resolve it, & what the results were. Let me know what you want help with & what are your concerns & questions about the behavior. I have set up a payment/donation to myself for responding to questions. I donate most of it to animal shelters & rescues. I keep a small portion for my time. The minimum donation is $25.00 on PayPal. When I see that a donation has been made, I will respond to your question. You will be prompted to make the donation before submitting your question. When you have read & rated my response fairly, which must be at the time you read it, I will refund $5.00 back to you IF YOU REQUEST that I do so in your rating comments. If I ask for more details, please respond as a "follow-up" & not as a new question. If I don't respond to your question, I will refund your donation less $5.00. DO rate me fairly at the end of our exchange. I will be pleased if you DO nominate me for volunteer of the month - why not, if I was generous in my response? I may suggest something you were not necessarily ready to hear, but I am honest in the interest of helping your dog, & that is my goal. Please keep that in mind. Please do NOT contact me privately about Allexperts questions through my e-mail or website unless I have invited you to do so. That is an invasion of my privacy - thank you for respecting it. If you would like to contact me for actual dog training & behavior consulting, you may contact me through my Web site.


Own & operate dog training & behavior consulting businesses, Hoboken Dog Trainer, and ny-njDogTrainer, in the NYC & NYC Metro areas since 2002. Work with thousands of dog owners & their dogs, & shelter & rescue dogs. Active volunteer in dog shelters and rescues (rescues being "no kill" and shelters being municipality-run urban shelters that can and do euthanize dogs). AllExperts volunteer in "Dogs, Category 701" and "Dog Training" and "Canine Behavior" since 2006. When you submit a question, please make sure it's being submitted in the appropriate category as I volunteer in two different categories. Make sure you agree to the Virtual Contract (the instructions I outline for question submissions) and agree to read and rate my response when I answer in the body of your question. I make donations to various animal non-profits based on YOUR ratings. If you don't rate my response, or rate it unfairly, you have just denied a dog rescue org or shelter a donation. Keep that in mind.

Professional Member of APDT for five years Founding Member of Animal Behavior Associates Behavior Education Network Former Board Member of IAABC, appointed by Founder Former Member of IPDTA in Canada Founding member of Behavior Education Network

Chronicle of the Dog (APDT, peer publication, numerous articles) Popular Dog Series magazine, numerous entries AOL in Tonowanda News Morris County News Vermont News Boston NOW New York A.M. Polo Trace Newsletter The Dodo AOL

Counseling Psychology, Caldwell College Animal Science, Rutgers University Master of Arts Degree Permanent New Jersey State Teaching Certification (teach public school and university level) Numerous workshops, lectures, and seminars on dog training and behavior Ongoing self-motivated study in my area of expertise

Awards and Honors
Best Canine Coach Award, 2006, Rondout Valley Instructor's Training Course Society of Illustrators, second place international competition Jellybean Photographics, second place international competition Fashion Institute of Technology "Commitment to Illustration" award

Past/Present Clients
Testimonials from a number of clients appear on my Web site at under "Reviews." My customers include: Puppy owners wanting to get their puppies off to the best start; owners of mature dogs who want their dogs to have more obedience skills; fosters and owners of rescue dogs or shelter dogs; customers with special needs who need to train or retrain their dogs; housetraining and housebreaking; owners who have behavioral issues with their dogs such as house accidents, aggression towards humans, aggression towards other animals, inattentive dogs, unmotivated dogs, overly-exuberant dogs; and, more.

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