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Canine Behavior/Dog Agression Issue


I have a small spaniel dog that has an issue with animal fur. Any piece of fur or anything made out of fur he will attack, even if it is on someone. He will lunge  and start biting it. He doesnít clamp on to it though, he will let out a series of quick, small nips. Iíve tried to get him used to it with scrap pieces but he didnít get it. He stares at any fur very intensely, like prey, and if I try to let him sniff it he starts his nipping and gets all wound up into a frenzy mode. Itís getting to be a big problem and is hard to trust him outside during winter. Can you give me some tips on how to desensitize him?

I'm unsure what you mean by "is hard to trust him outside during winter."  Either you live in a very rich area where there are humans wearing the skins of dead animals slaughtered for their vanity or your dog is reacting to "fur" of any kind, which would mean dog hair, cat fur, "fake" fur, etc.

When you reward the dog for his display of what appears to be a scent driven phenomenon that I have never heard of before (!), you are actually teaching the dog that whatever this response is that he is experiencing is GOOD and should be repeated.  The "frenzy mode" must never be allowed to develop under any circumstance.  Does this occur with visually "fur" like material or actual "fur" trim on coats, or actual "fur" coats themselves?  The nipping sounds more like frantic and confused social contact, but I can't see anything from here.

Purchase a fake fur item (sweater with fake fur, hat with fake fur) and "test" the dog.  Drop it casually in the center of a room, any room, where the dog is at rest and relaxed.  Then go away: obtain a distance (out of sight from the next room) and observe the dog.  Report back using followup feature.  It's very possible his first experience has now been greatly enhanced by your intervention.  We'll find out ASAP with this experiment.

PS: what breed or breed typ is this dog?  How old?  Are you the original owner?  Thanks.

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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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