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Canine Behavior/Agressive behavior when stealing things


Hi there, I could use some help with my 1 1/2 yr old Karelian Bear dog... It all started when he was 6 months old. broght him to the vet where the tech did his temperature little bear was fine, she was petting him and all was well... When the vet walked in he immediately flipped the lights off and went to wrap his arms around the dog to look in his eyes with a flashlight type thing, the puppy turned to nip him, Since then he is sorta aggressive around strangers, takes him abt 5 mins to get used to them,once he knows they aren't a danger he is your best friend and will lick you till no tomorrow...Now getting tot he aggression when stealing things.... THIS ONLY happens when he has stolen something he isn't allowed to have, candy tissues etc.... Today he stole a carmel candy and he growled hair stood up on his neck and had his teeth showing, my daughter and I had no choice but to back away and let him eat it in fear of being bitten. Other than this he is a great dog, sits when we tell him and lays on command... well for the most part he does PS he doesn't not do this if I take his food from him, or histoys

You have an extremely rare breed/type that is not known for its ability to habituate well to humans in an environment where it is a companion dog without very serious and diligent preparation.

See this:

What you are describing is called "trophying" behavior and is/can be a learned response.  For instance: dog takes TV remote.  Everyone gets upset.  People start to chase dog, perhaps yelling.  Dog does NOT CONNECT TAKING THE REMOTE with the resultant behavior of its people.  Dog becomes afraid.  In some circumstances, dog will begin to guard/defend itself (why are they chasing me, why are they angry) without ANY connection to the object it "stole".  The behavior of the veterinarian was inappropriate but considering this breed/type I am not surprised.  I would not use that veterinarian again.

What the dog "is not allowed to have" is being determined by YOUR REACTION TO HIS HAVING IT.  Because of this breed/type, I suggest you find a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB) = NOT a DOG TRAINER.  You must determine if this professional has experience with this breed/type.  DO NOT TAKE HIS FOOD FROM HIM OR HIS TOYS.  You are setting him up for trophying behavior and not proving a darn thing to the dog except that you are not understanding of his culture.

Find a CAAB:

Meanwhile: what does this dog trophy (other than chocolate, find something)?

Put it in clear view of the dog.  Have all family members present.  This is a "set up".  It is deliberate and it will take time and it will most likely have to be repeated several times over the course of a month (at least twice weekly):

In sight of the dog, drop the article.  Sit.  Wait.  When he approaches it, ALL OF YOU GET UP AND LEAVE THE ROOM IMMEDIATELY.  Put yourselves behind a closed door away from the dog.  Even if this means you have to all squeeze into a bathroom (lol).  Count to ten.  Open the door.  If the dog has the object in his mouth, close the door.  Count to ten.  Repeat until the dog has DROPPED THE OBJECT and then leave the room.  IF HE PICKS THE OBJECT UP WHEN YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY LEAVING THE ROOM THAT ISOLATES YOU FROM HIM, GO BACK IN.  Wait until he has CLEARLY surrendered the object.  Redirect him to a trained behavior you can reward:  "sit" with a happy song and small food reward, go on as usual.  Repeat this as I said, two to three times a week using DIFFERENT objects (even empty candy wrapper is good, use that last) until the dog has begun to connect HIS IMMEDIATE BEHAVIOR with your withdrawal.  DO NOT ALLOW this dog to acquire any object that upsets you or, if he does, IGNORE IT.  You are in control here.

The overall temperament of this dog needs evaluation.  His experience in the social hierarchy in your home may be flawed; he may not have received appropriate positive reinforcement training; he may have been challenged by others in the household over food or toys or other objects.  I would suggest you teach "take it/leave it" but, in this case, I think this dog requires a more knowledgeable and sophisticated approach so that he can feel relaxed, at ease, protected in your social hierarchy, and become the companion dog he (hopefully) is intended to be. Remember: genetically, this breed/type is NOT a companion, it requires highly experienced and dedicated ownership.

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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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