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 to.do. 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.
Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist