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Canine Behavior/dog insecurity


I have a 4 year old terrier mix. She is a good dog but when I take her out for walks she has a total melt down. She will weave in between my legs pull ahead or pull me backwards. I've tried walking with our other dogs but the results are the same. She has also become territorial of my bed and even nipped at my mom. I've keeped her off the bed unless I invite.her up but if someone comes into my room she jumps on the bed and growls. She wont make eye contact with anyone but she continues to growl. I don't know what any advice will be appreciated. Thank you

Thank you for your question. You have two separate issues that you've mentioned.

First, her behavior when walking on leash: Without seeing it, I'm not sure if this is simply an issue of not having learned how to walk on leash, or if she's reacting out of fear, frustration or anger when she sees other things such as other dogs, strangers, cars, fire hydrants, etc. So, the first thing to do is to teach her some good leash skills.

If you have any positive reinforcement/force free trainers in your area, I encourage you to seek a few sessions so they can teach you how to work with your dog cooperatively and teach your dog that it's worthwhile to walk politely with you.

You can start with a series of blogs by Dr. Sophia Yin - a veterinary behaviorist.

The first blog is titled Reactive Dog: Foundation Exercises For Your Leash Reactive Dog , but I actually teach this as a first leash exercise for all dogs when teaching them that working with their person when on leash is useful and beneficial. This blogs teaches you to do an exercise called "Repeat Sits Backwards". Though I didn't find a blog for it, she also encourages an exercise called "Repeat Lateral Sits". It's the very same exercise as the Backwards exercise, except that you're moving to your left/right with the dog moving with you, rather than backward - away from the dog.

She also has a 4-part series of blogs about walking on a loose leash:

And a blog about incorporating various leash exercises into the actual walk

This will be a good place to start. If you feel you're unable to figure these exercises out or need help in finessing them, then seeking out a local professional who is familiar with thees techniques will be useful.

Second, the issue of her behavior with your bed. This sounds like Resource Guarding. It's a behavior that is based in fear, and she is being quite clear that she's acting in fear when she avoids making eye contact while continuing to growl. Growling, barking, snarling and snapping are all behaviors that we call "distance INcreasing signals." They're meant to avoid conflict by forcing a greater space between the dog and whatever is bothering it at that moment. Avoiding eye contact further communicates that she doesn't want an actual conflict, but the growl tells us that if she's pushed to further discontent, she will protect herself.

Our job is to fully understand that she's trying to communicate with you, she's trying to avoid conflict, so the last thing we want to do is press the issue by moving closer to her, scolding her, physically handling her, etc in that moment. But, we absolutely CAN address the fear that's prompting the behavior. Treating resource guarding is a bit counter intuitive because most of us would like to tell a dog "No" or otherwise scold or physically correct a dog for growls and snaps. But, in the case of any fear issue that's prompting those behaviors, our instinctive response only serves to confirm for the dog that she has good reason to be concerned. This leads to an escalation of the behavior - it happens more often, under more circumstances and sooner in the process (when Mom gets to the bedroom door, rather than when Mom gets to the bed).

Resource guarding happens when the dog feels there is something valuable enough that it's worth guarding, and fears that someone else might try to steal it. It doesn't have to be rational. Your mom is not going to take your bed or usurp her sleeping spot. But as long as she believes it's a possibility, she's going to guard it with her life.

We help her see that not only is your mom not a threat, but that she's the bringer of wonderful things and this will ease her concern. So, while your dog is in your room, Mom can do an exercise called "pass-bys" Your mom will walk past the room and toss/drop a bite of your dog's very favorite dog-safe human food and just keep on walking. She won't stop to see if your dog gets it. Just drop/toss the bite of food as she walks past. Initially, your mom should avoid even looking at your dog. The point here is to be as nonthreatening as possible, while teaching your dog that your mother's proximity is a good thing. Once your dog is happily anticipating your mother's presence in the door, then we can increase the criteria just a bit. At first she'll just stop for a moment in the door, watch the dog eat and then leave. Then, when the dog is happily eating and waiting for more, then your mom can take a single step inside, toss the treat and retreat out of sight... Build up just a step at a time until your mom can hand feed the dog while the dog is on the bed. Then begin having your mom sit in a chair next to the bed and hand feed. Then graduate to your mom sitting on the bed hand feeding the dog.

The key to this working is that the ONLY time your dog EVER gets this most magnificent treat is in the bedroom and from your mom. Nobody else, at no other time will ever give this treat to your dog until you are completely past the guarding behavior in your room. So, if her favorite thing is chicken breast or hot dog or cheese, don't use that for any other training until you've had no guarding issues of your room for at least 90 consecutive days (that's 13 weeks).

Jean Donaldson has a great book called Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs It explains the motivation behind the guarding and walks you through step-by-step how to address it. The example in the book, I believe, uses the food bowl. But the process is the same no matter what the dog is guarding.

I hope this proves helpful for both issues. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

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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