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Canine Behavior/agression in my chihuahua

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Question
My 5 year old chihuahua goes for other dogs (barking incessantly and quite agressively)when we are out walking. Ive been told a few things to try, all to no avail as yet: distracting with a treat, when i see another dog, tapping her on the nose and saying no, pulling her back whilst saying no (this is extremely difficult as she is so small and once knocked into  a wall while i was attempting to do this!!)and lifting up. This actually works but i fear that in the long run i am doing more harm than good when i use this method, as she will never learn to socialise and see that alot of dogs are nothing to be feared. Im getting to the point where i would rather just let her out in the garden as opossed to taking her for a walk. But again this will not help solve anything and may actually may things worse. I cannot afford to see a specialist at this time but desperately need some advice.

Many thanks
judi ahwan

Answer
Socialization occurs before (approximately) 14 weeks of age.  After that, it's rehabilitation.  Your Chi is demonstrating a fairly normal behavior for the breed (for many reasons, none of which matter right now.)

First; the dog must be wearing a secure body harness, NOT being led by the collar.  Any jerk or sudden pull will hurt and the dog will associate it with the oncoming dog (possibly already does).  

Second: your own unease and perhaps even embarrassment (none of us likes it when our dog "misbehaves") is going down the leash and is on your breath (adrenaline).  Dog perceives both.

She will never learn that "alot of dogs are nothing to be feared".  One on one with the same dog and an experienced owner, yes she can be counter conditioned to THAT dog over time (weeks or months) of repetitive interaction "accidentally" on purpose.  Not likely to happen.  Plus, there ARE dogs to be feared out there and you will not know which they are (understandably so).

Here is what you do:

As you see another dog approach, you anticipate your dog will react.  Even if your dog has already begun to react (lunge, vocalize) simply change your direction immediately first into a circle away from the other dog, stop, circle back, do a figure eight, all the time saying in a calm voice "Come along now, let's do this right".  As soon as the other dog has passed, go on as usual.  I have counter conditioned my rescue Toy Poodle who was not socialized to other dogs in this manner (since moving into an apartment after selling my house) and it WORKS within WEEKS.  My dog now shows interest but keeps going; should she show more than interest I change direction as I told you to do.  The change in direction actually changes focus, changes brain waves (yours and mine as well, btw), and engages the dog's cognition.  

Meanwhile: there are some large dogs that are a direct threat to a small dog on the "street" on leash.  They are owned by ignorant people who do not socialize them, who do not take them to puppy class or obedience class, and may not even be aware their dog is a danger.  To pick up your dog as one of these approaches is to make yourself a target.  In my area, there are two small women both whom own enormous Am Staff or Pit Bulls.  Both these dogs exhibit body language toward other dogs that worries me.  Were these women to come too close to me, if I picked up MY dog I would be the victim as well as my dog.  SO: I calmly and happily redirect my dog in another direction way before she spots THEM.  

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

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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.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. 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.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
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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