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Canine Behavior/How to a change aggressive and biting behavior in my recently adopted adult chi/minpin mix?


Since i have already read all the information you need to properly asses and give advice this is will end up being long. I recently apodted a female chihuahua pinmin mix who is 1 yr old. Her previous owner was a female and said shes had her since she was about 8 weeks. She has a fiance, small children in her family, and several larger dogs, and told me that she has reactted well in all of these situations. I got her three days ago. The girl handed Ella to me and she was fine. We placed her in her kennel in the back of our vehicle and went into the store to buy supplies for her. When we returned i opened the kennel and went to grab her and she growled at me. I attempted once more and she became more vicous so i closed the door and got in the car. When we stopped again, my husband went to get her out she reactted the same but actually bit him. I told him to put the kennel in the back seat with him and to open the door to it so she could get out when she was comfortable. She came out immediatly and got in both of our laps and allowed us to pet her. I should also add that she was incredibly malnourished when i got her, literally all bones visable. The pre owner said she quit eating when she went into heat the previous week and had lost a considerable amount of weight but im not sure if this is the truth. We were concerned, so my husband got out the treats we bought and she was so hungry that she bit him while trying to take it, i have learned since that this is not normal behavior and she does know how to properly get a treat out of our hands.  We filled her bowl and she scarffed it down. She was starving. It was so sad. Before coming home any time either one of us would try to puck her up she would immediately become aggresive and bite sometimes.  When we got home she became aggressive when we fed her if you got too close to her or the bowl whole shes eating. She has gotten to where she isnt aggressive with me most of the time but still is sometimes and is frequently with my husband, 9 yr old niece, my mother, and her husband. But the aggression isnt all the time. Several times her aggression is centered around someone trying to pick her up. Shes runs from us frequently so it is nec. To at least grab hold of her to take her out to use the potty or to fasten her leash, but shes not leash trained either so its easier to just pick her up put the leash on and carry her out. I can now usually pick her up without aggression, but she still does it randomly with other family members. Xin the mornings, my husband and niece both get up before me to go to work and school. If my niece enters the room Ella immediately becomes aggresive barking and growling and even charging her to intimidate all while ella stays on the bed. She will charge on the bed, but usually doesnt jump down. She will bite if she is close enough to get my Niece. My niece usually wants to take her out to use the potty so i pick up Ella put on the leash and hand her to my niece, she is fine at this point with my niece. Whike outside, mind its cold amd ella is only 4lbs, she will allow my niece to pick her up with mo incident, but i think it is only bc she is cold. Once back in the bedroom, this morning, my niece put her on the bed and went to walk to the other side to hand me something and Ella immed. Became aggresive again barking growling and charging her.  An hour or two later we went through the same thing with my husband attempting to take her out. Ella was laying on my chest when called for her she didnt move, he then tried to hook the leash and she growled and tried to bite him. After several futile attempts on his part i grabbed her put the leash on and handed her to him, she was fine. She hasnt actually drew blood on anyone but she is fully intent on hurting them. I have also noticed a link between people entering my room with me with her and if they have a coat or any tyoe of hood or hat she becomes aggressive.  She does know her name, but doesnt always come when called though she will look at you acknowledging that shes heard you. She seems to be apprehensive about the other dogs in the home but im not sure how to properly introduce so most of their contact has been with her in her kennel and them coming up to it sniffing her. She is quite smaller than the others and im scared if she was to become aggressive bc she can be unpredictable at times that she could get hurt even though the others arent aggressive in the least. I also have a problem with her running away from me and hiding under the bed. She can get aggressive if you try to reach in and grab her. She will come up to the side of bed if im on it and stand up as if she wants me to help her up but when i go to grab her she runs away. I want to properly train her and keep her im just not sure how to. Im 7 months pregnant and worried that i will have to give her up if she wont stop being aggressive once the baby is here. I dont want to get rid of her because I feel like it would be traumitizing to her to be moved owners and homes so many times. Please help, i would truly appreciate some advice as to how to handle her aggression in the moment and how to get her to stop being aggressive and biting all together.

You don't mention where in the US you live but this dog has suffered enormous neglect, mistreatment, perhaps cruel and unusual (especially when being picked up, as children often do, then drop the puppy)  At such a small size, the fact that she was still alive when you obtained her, despite the fact that was "skin and bones", is a miracle.  A dog that size can go down with hypoglycemia so fast you can't get her to a veterinarian in sufficient time to save her life.

Every single description you offer regarding her aggression is absolutely FEAR BASED, some strongly conditioned fear response, other environmental (she has food available for the first time, she trusts only you and to whom you hand her off to, etc.)

You can't "give her up"....there's nowhere for this dog to go.  You've made this commitment: will it be a problem for your newborn, no; will it be a problem for your toddler, OH YES unless you immediately enlist the aid of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (NOT A DOG TRAINER).  

PEOPLE LIE and the people who dumped this dog on you lied.  They created a fearful, aggressive dog from an innocent tiny puppy.  God help their children!  Your dog has lost bite inhibition (most likely never had it since a full grown dog at 4 pounds did NOT have a sibling or, if she did, the sibling - could not have been more than one - was larger and fed from its dam more freely).  This dog is SALVAGEABLE and can live a normal life as a companion ALTHOUGH children and "strangers" may never be easily accepted without serious work on behavior modification on your part.

Remember: this dog is innocent.  When you brought her home, the best thing would have been (after seeing her fearful reaction to the attempt to remove her from the crate) better off with the crate just put down in your kitchen with the door allowed open, so she could come out when she felt it was "safe".  But NOTHING is 100% safe to this dog.  She is a victim of the stupidity, incompetence, lack of empathy of her former "owners" and their inability to supervise their children and other dog(s).  

You need to find a CAAB ASAP:
Call the veterinary teaching college in your geographical area and ask for referral; if you get some names, be certain to explicitly describe the situation you are in.

Or: go to the following sites and look for someone in your area, again explicitly describing problem behaviors AND ASKING FOR REFERENCES, including ONE SOLID VETERINARY COLLEAGUE.

This dog really belongs in the home of an experienced rehabilitator but YOU WILL NOT FIND ONE given the tragic fact that there are so many dogs who are neglected, abused, dumped, actively aggressive from fear, and the BONA FIDE rescue groups (plenty of nutjobs out there calling themselves "rescue") are overwhelmed.

It's only been a few days.  
1.  The dog should be moved to a soft bed in a safe place: kitchen area or downstairs bathroom with gate (available at Walmart providing she can't squeeze through the spaces in it or chew through what it is made of, like plastic)
2.  The dog should be wearing a harness (day and night); the harness should be used to attach a "house tab" (very lightweight leash, cat leash) which can be used to attach her actual "going out" leash without hands on.

I would suggest NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) but this dog has food aggression problems (and I don't blame her) so without EYES ON, in person, I can't do more than what I have just done.  I'm so sorry.  I wish I could help you further.  God bless.

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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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