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Canine Behavior/Managing behavior between our two dogs


Benji-younger pup
Benji-younger pup  
Princess-older dog
Princess-older dog  
QUESTION: Hi Dr. Connor,

We have two dogs, an almost 6 year old shepherd/collie mix, female/spayed (she is perfect)-Princess, and an 18 month old, male/neutered, shepherd mix (problem child, we've worked a lot with him!)-Benji. The female is about 55 pounds and the male is about 65 pounds. Both were adopted when they were about 3 months old, so we've raised them both since puppyhood. They have both been through several obedience/skills classes, and know their commands. Positive training techniques always. Our girl, Princess, is absolutely perfect and we've had no issues with her. The question we have is in regards to Benji's behavior towards Princess, and how to better manage that.

Just to give more background on Benji's behavior, I wanted to start off by saying he's been a handful, but we are fully committed to him and have worked (with the help of several qualified trainers and a CAAB), through some issues. He is impulsive and has extreme prey drive. He also is very reactive towards motorcycles, bikes, big trucks, leaf blowers, etc. We are currently working on his reactivity and he is improving. As mentioned earlier, he is impulsive, and will go from being calm to extremely excited in a split second if something sets him off. When he is that aroused, he can become mouthy and loses all focus. We have learned to manage that, but just wanted to point that out to get a better picture of him. We  started making him sit for everything when he was about 7 months old and have continued that (which has helped immensely). He is currently in a fieldwork class and he is loving that. He is extremely smart, and when he has a job to do and has to think, he does wonderfully.

So to the issue at hand. He gets a wild burst in the evening when my husband and I are both home. My older dog will come sit with me on the couch, and Benji will come over and bark, and she will get off and walk away. He then corners her against the wall and barks at her and won't let her get away. If she runs away to her kennel, he barks and she will come out. He then continues to pin her against the wall, tugging at her collar/neck skin, and going for her back legs if she tries to run away. I do intervene when it gets out of control and my older dog is looking at me for help. We have been retreating to the bathroom and hanging out in there for a while until Benji calms down. But it's also an issue trying to escape Benji, like he tries to prevent Princess from running to the bathroom for cover. I fell like he is driving us off into the bathroom and controlling the family room. We use to put a light leash on him and would place him in the bathroom for 20-30 seconds, but he started to get a bit mouthy when I would try to grab the leash and place him in there during these times. We just don't know how to call him down. Our poor older dog doesn't seem to enjoy his obnoxious behavior. Our older dog remains calm the entire time, she just tries to get away. She also gives in always if he barks and she has a bone, she will walk away and he will take the bone. During the day, both sleep peacefully without these incidents. Most of the time, they are both calm and doing their own thing. I feel like as he's gotten older and bigger, he seems to want to be in charge and in control. He also notices if she gets a treat first and he starts that whole process of getting wild and pinning her against the wall and so forth.

I have some other behavior questions I want to ask you in regards to Benji, but wanted to start off with this. I have to say he is a great pup though, and having to work through his issues has made me learn a lot! I know I wrote a lot, but I wanted to describe their behavior as much as possible. Our main thing is figuring out how to manage both of them (mostly him). I don't like his bully behavior towards our older dog.

Thank you so much! I have learned a great deal from reading most of your answers on this site.

ANSWER: OK.  I can't see anything from here but this is an educated guess:

Benji (in the photo, btw, he is teething which accounts for his weird ear set) is a rank opportunist: he is running your entire household, literally.  NILIF works BUT....both dogs need to be on it in order to give BOTH dogs a clear signal who gets petted first, taken in/out first, fed first, etc.  Princess is reacting to the obnoxious adolescent Benji who is now attempting (successfully) to pin her into corners, chase her from a room, remove her toys, etc.  Now, there's nothing wrong with one dog BENIGNLY removing a bone or toy from another so long as it is peaceful; this is in the dog culture.

DO NOT RUN INTO THE BATHROOM.  Your instinct to isolate HIM behind a closed door is the correct one.  This is what I would like you to do: put a body harness on Benji when you are at home; every single time he BEGINS a behavior that you KNOW will end in Princess being pinned or run out of the room, pick up the lighweight leash attached to the harness and, no eye contact, no words, put him behind a closed door to the count of TEN (slow count).  Open the door, pick up the leash (from the harness end), go sit quietly for another count of ten with no eye contact, no words, release the leash.  Benji will TEST YOU.  He will repeatedly test you.  He will test you until you are sick and tired of putting him behind that closed door.  BUT....this should work.  The only way it will not work is if you (figuratively) "drop the ball" and give up out of boredom and just "OH THE HECK WITH THIS."  He's at an age now (and I'm assuming he is neutered???) where is making a strong social statement and he has learned he can control YOU, not just Princess, but everyone.  NOT GOOD.  He must begin to understand that these "wild intervals" are totally unacceptable for his place in YOUR SOCIAL HIERARCHY, not his.

He does look like a hybrid of a Pointer or other such; you mention he is training "in the field" and I suggest you talk to your trainer about this.  A good field dog can be a hand full at home if he is not properly 'PUT' in his 'place'.

Try this for one week, every single day and night; take Xanax if necessary (LOLOL)....or just open a bottle of wine (not for the dog, for YOU LOLOL);  Whatever you do, do NOT: get angry, show frustration, laugh at him, make eye contact with him, use his name; simply pick up the light leash (he will be almost unable to mouth you if it is attached to a harness) and REMOVE HIM behind a closed door.  Princess will soon get the "picture" and begin to stand her ground without aggression.  We want Benji to KNOW that YOU (Humans) are in control and that YOU (Humans) decide where and when Princess goes.  REPORT BACK using followup feature, please.  I ask so many people to do this and so few actually do it.  I want to know what progress you're making.   TY!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dr. Connor,

Thank you so much for your reply!  Benji is wearing his harness now with a light leash (handle cut off) attached to him as I type this. I wanted to mention that he is neutered. He was neutered before we were able to bring him home at about 3 months of age.

One other thing I forgot to mention he does during these "wild times" is that he mounts Princess. He mounts her a lot. He also mounts her as soon as we put the leash on Princess and makes it so difficult at times to take Princess out to go to the bathroom. You can see she is extremely stressed during this. When he mounts when we are trying to take her outside or when he mounts period, do I also remove Benji and put him behind a door?

Both will be on NIFIL and I am going to re-read the protocol as a re-fresher. Do we make them sit before getting on the couches? They are always on them and that's where Benji sleeps most of the time (on the couch). Also, who do I pet/treat first?

And, I thought I would ask one more quick question. He will sometimes get the zoomies (used to do this all this time as a younger pup), when we take him out to go to the bathroom,. He starts jumping, punching us, mouthing us, biting the leash, and has grabbed my husbands leg/arms instead of the leash. He also can get like this (with me only) if I am walking him and becomes very excited, so as a result, my husband always walks him (I walk the other pup). How do we correct this? He rarely does it now, but when he does, I have no idea what to do.

Thank you once again for your reply. It's so greatly appreciated! I'll report back.

ANSWER: Mounting is not a sexual behavior (necessarily, and certainly not in this case): it is a statement of social hierarchy.  During your NILIF, pet Benji first, feed Benji first, let him in/out first, etc.  This will relax Princess who *knows* what the social hierarchy is and may be confused since Benji is on NILIF and she is not.  A double message to a dog that is more of a "scapegoat" than a "high ranking" individual causes a great deal of stress.  I would like you to teach Benji that the human furniture is NOT HIS, it is YOURS, and he is not allowed up there without your express permission.  But we'll get to that later.

The "zoomies" (great word for it btw) is a part of brain development and seen more commonly in dogs between 7 and 11 months; however, Benji has a scattered sense of "self importance".  Continue to use the harness outdoors also so he cannot "mouth" the hand that's leading him; use a strong, tightly woven (so he can't bite through it) leash (can be a training leash, a long training leash).  When he starts to jump, punch, attempt to mouth, bite the leash, or other obnoxious behavior, STOP.  Stand on the leash so he cannot jump, cannot go anywhere, cannot do anything but "sit".  Just stand there.  Say nothing, make no eye contact.  As soon as he is calm, move forward with a "come along" signal (verbal); praise so long as he does not attempt his obnoxious "control freak" behavior.  If, during a normal walk when he seems under "control", he begins this behavior again, walk to the end of the long training leash and turn your back to him.  Have your husband observe what he does next:  I suspect a great deal of this jumping, mouthing, pushing, is BULLYING behavior; I suspect Benji does not perceive you as "higher" in the social hierarchy than is he because you have, so far, given him mixed signals.  Using NILIF can be a long process; Princess doesn't need it but she will benefit from it; Benji might need it for quite a while.

If Benji mounts Princess, stop what you are doing and remove him immediately to a socially isolated place behind closed door for ten seconds; then go back to what you were attempting to do.  I suspect Benji is overly concerned about Princess being TAKEN where he is not, or being TAKEN first.  Benji will need some degree of work; this will take a while.  At some point, you will no longer be allowed to use followup feature but I think you and I need to spend some weeks working on this dog.

I would like you understand fully the reasons behind NILIF:

::::::::::::::::::::: start source, Debra Horwitz, DVM ::::::::::::::::::

Changing the Owner-Pet Relationship
Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB
Veterinary Behavior Consultations
St. Louis, Missouri
When an owner is having problems with their pet, there are both owner driven factors and pet driven factors that are contributory. Some animals with problem behaviors are normal but have learned that certain behaviors are tolerated and beneficial for them. Other animals may be abnormal and respond to owner interaction in a different manner than expected1. In some situations the owner is interacting with the pet in an inappropriate manner that although unintended may prolong, worsen, or facilitate the problem behavior. The pet on the other hand, is often unaware of what the owner considers proper behavior and therefore is choosing behaviors that it feels are the most appropriate responses. What commonly occurs is miscommunication between the owner and their pet. The owner is using a human form of communication, reasoning and language, something most pets do not understand in the same manner as intended by their owners. The pet however, is communicating in the manner most appropriate for its species, and therefore often misunderstood by the human. The first step in behavior therapy is changing the pet-owner relationship and creating clear rules and expectations. This must be done in a manner that is understood by the pet. The goal of changing how owners and their pets communicate is to create an environment where it is easier for the owner to control the pet and thus elicit good behavior. This step is most useful in treating behavior problems in companion dogs.
The Theory
The theory involved in changing the pet owner relationship is that cross species communication often results in misunderstandings and thus problem behaviors. Therefore, clearer communication is needed. Owners frequently misunderstand a dog's expectations in social communication and group living. Communication is a behavior that has a goal and a function. Communication is an action that takes place between a sender and a receiver. 2 For communication to be functional, the receiver must understand the message. The information that is transferred between sender and receiver can have 4 possible outcomes: 1.) benefit the sender and receiver, 2.) benefit the sender and manipulate the receiver, 3.) disadvantage the sender and benefit the receiver (eavesdropping), 4.) disadvantage the sender and the receiver (spite).2 Although owners often feel that the fourth option spite is taking place, most likely what is occurring is a miscommunication between species. Without clear communication problems can arise. The goal is to give the pet clear signals of what is expected so that behavior can begin to change and conform to owner's expectations. By bundling a series of learning and control tasks together, the owner can create an environment for clearer communication.
When owners seek help with their problem dog, the problem may be labeled a "dominance" or leadership problem, which can be a simplification of the issue. Practitioners of applied animal behavior interpret dominance hierarchies, ranking and how they interact in the human-dog relationship many different ways and may use varying criteria to define dominance 3, 4, 5. The concept of dominant and subordinate relationships between animals was developed from observation of animals (wolves, baboons, chickens) living in social groups. 6 Social hierarchies arranged around dominant and subordinate relationships decrease the conflict associated with the allocation of critical resources, i.e. food, shelter, mates and territory7. When living in social groups, canids will establish dominance hierarchies that may dictate access to certain resources such as food, resting places, favored possessions, territory and mates but may or may not involve aggression 8. These social relationships can be extended to the human members of the household9. However, a case could be made that dominance behavior may occur without aggression and instead be about control of the outcome. In domestic canid groupings, overt aggression is rare and deference common8. Owners often inadvertently reinforce a dominant outcome for the dog by deferring to the dog's demands. This sets the dog up as the one in charge, and each interaction that ends with deference to the dog reinforces that assumption. So perhaps the issue is not always one of "dominance" as much as one of control. The animal has learned that certain behaviors result in certain outcomes, which are favorable to the dog. In addition, often a behavior occurs because it can, in other words, the owners do not prevent the dog from engaging in a certain behavior and that in and of itself can be reinforcing. Some dogs that control their environment may do so because it is important to them to be in control. Others may control because they can but yet are anxious about the outcome. Changing the pet-owner relationship focuses on "control" of the dog, which often prohibits the dog from engaging in behaviors that "control" the environment and thus the owner. This alone can have an effect on the expression of problem behaviors.
The Program
None of the elements in this program are new. They have been used before and discussed many places in the applied animal behavior literature. The goal of this program is to place them together and counsel the owner on how and why changing the pet-owner relationship is beneficial to them and their pet. Initially, the owner is educated about canid social structure. Second, the owner is told how dogs communicate and what dominance and subordinance mean to dogs. Third, how animals learn is briefly explained to the owner. Finally, owners are told of how increasing their control over their dog is a positive action that can make their dog more relaxed and compliant in the long term.
The first step is a program that requires the dog to comply with an owner command to obtain anything the dog wants. This has been called numerous things since its inception. ("Nothing in life is free" by Dr. Victoria Voith10 and "No such thing as a free lunch" and "Learn to earn" by William E. Campbell11) In essence, the dog is required to follow an owner command, such as "sit" to obtain anything that the dog wants. This could be access to the outdoors to eliminate, food, petting, a ball the list is endless. The goal is for the dog to "earn" everything they desire by deferring to the owner. Deference is accomplished when the dog follows the command to sit or down. If the dog performs the command prior to being asked, it must do something else. This is critical. Unless the owner gives a command and then the dog complies, the dog is still controlling the situation and deference has not occurred. The goal is for the owner to have control. Although many owners have been told that they should control their dog, usually they are counseled to use physical control methods. While an owner can have control by trying to physically control a dog this can be difficult and potentially dangerous. Instead, in this program the owner uses their ability to physically control the environment and the resources to control the dog. By using benign control of resources and deference for access, the owners place themselves in a "dominant" position. It is not necessary for the owner to physically control the dog, merely to control access to things the dog wants. If the dog will not obey the command, the resource is withheld. In essence the dog is offered a choice-do you want the resource enough to comply or not. For some dogs the answer is yes, for others the answer may be no. Once the dog has learned to comply, if they defer by waiting quietly, the resource may be given.
The second step is control of attention. Many dogs with problem behaviors engage in numerous attention seeking behaviors. These include nudging the owner, pushing, leaning, barking, whining, pacing, scratching the owner, bringing toys and climbing on the owners lap to get attention. The attention can even be "negative" attention such as pushing the dog away or yelling at it; the desired response is an interaction. Some dogs use attention seeking behavior to control the owner, while other may have underlying anxieties which stimulate them to constantly seek information about their environment and social status12. In either case, the owners are told that they must ignore all attention seeking behaviors. If the dog approaches them for attention, they must ignore the dog. If the dog persists, then they must leave the room. Again, their response is to be benign. They are not to allow the dog to engage them in any interaction. However, this is not a prescription for ignoring the dog. They can give the dog attention, but with certain rules.
 They are only to give attention to the dog on their initiative.
 The attention should be given when the dog is calm and quiet.
 The goal is to reward calm, quiet, good behavior with positive owner-pet interaction.
They can call the dog over, request that the dog sit or lie down and then pet the dog. However, it is also critical that they end the interaction and send the dog away. If the problem is aggression, the type and amount of interaction are structured and detailed for the owner. This program of controlling attention has been used in other treatment plans for various behavior problems. 13, 14, 15 These rules also extend to how they are to play with their pet. The owner is instructed to only play with the pet when they initiate the playtime and end the game when they are done. The owner is encouraged to play games such as fetch, or engage in a walk with the dog if they can control the pace of the walk.
Finally, the dog is taught to sit/stay or down/stay on a verbal command. Eventually the dog should be able to sit while the owner leaves the room, returns and releases the dog. Once the dog can do this well, the owner is to introduce a verbal phrase to signal relaxation such as "chill", "relax" or "easy". Again the goal is to teach the dog to take contextual cues from the owner. When given the "chill" command, the dog is to be watching the owner with a calm, relaxed facial expression and body posture. If the owner tells the dog to "chill" the dog learns that this means to focus on my owner and wait for the next command. To facilitate learning this task, food rewards are used. This task is useful as a basis for counterconditioning, which is often used in behavior modification programs for other problem behaviors.7, 16, 17, 18 This program has also been called "Protocol for relaxation: behavior modification tier 1" by Karen Overall. 19
The techniques described have been combined various ways in treatment protocols for separation anxiety, dominance aggression, fear aggression and compulsive behaviors7, 12,13,14.
Potential problems and pitfalls
This plan is not without its problems. Many owners have difficulty ignoring the attention seeking behaviors. What they like about their pet is the persistence and the perceived "need" the pet has for them. These owners are unaware of how their actions are reinforcing behaviors that they do not like or may be contributing to the problem behavior. It is imperative that the concept of control be explained to the owner and how their behavior can change the problem behavior exhibited by their pet. In addition, it is important that the owner not feel as though they are neglecting their pet. Therefore, they must be given guidelines for appropriate interactions. This can include a list of appropriate games, walks, and number of times that they can call the dog and pet it. Each case will be different and have different needs to encourage compliance. If aggression is the major problem then the owners must also be given instructions for safety around their pet and avoidance of further injury.
Another problem area can occur 10-14 days into the program. Many animals will initially respond well to the new rules for interaction. However, once they realize that the rules have changed, some dogs will increase their efforts to get the owner to interact in the old manner. This usually results in the dog engaging in attention seeking behaviors at even a higher level than previously exhibited. This is an extinction burst. If owners are warned about this phenomenon, they are prepared and ready to continue the program and wait out the pet. Many dogs will then return to compliant behavior if the owner persists with the plan.
This is not meant to be a stand alone treatment plan for any and all behavior problems. Neither does it replace the need for complete behavioral histories and diagnosis of behavior problems. Nearly all dog owners are given this plan as an adjunct to a more complete behavior modification program designed to treat their specific problem(s). In each case this plan can act as a framework for beginning to change problem behaviors. Each environment and problem will be different and require modifications to this plan as well as a more in-depth behavioral treatment plan. However, what often is surprising is that many dogs improve greatly as judged by owner reports with only these three steps. What this plan seems to accomplish is to allow owners to change the way they interact with their pet with easy to follow and understand steps. Once owners see that they have the ability to control their pet, and in many cases still have a satisfying relationship, they are often empowered to continue to shape behaviors in more positive directions.
Changing the pet-owner interaction is the first step in behavior therapy. It allows owners to be in control of their pet and its behavior in a benign way. When done correctly it empowers the owner to change their pet's behavior. This will often encourage them to go further and work on specific problems. When explained correctly owners gain a better understanding of canine communication and learning and can use this information in all their interactions with their pet.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::: end source :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

You now should understand more fully why NILIF is so important with dogs who are RANK OPPORTUNISTS, such as Benji.  However, in Benji's case, he is a created rank opportunist, it is not his *idea*; he is also intellectually scattered and that is a sign of stress. NILIF should alleviate that.

Go to  This is Dr. Ian Dunbar's site.  There are many articles on positive reinforcement training, changing dog behavior, etc., such as the following:

Let's go forward as planned along with your further learning from Dr. Horwitz' info and the sites sent from Dr. Dunbar, as well as other reading and instructions you find there.  Perhaps you should cease any other training right now (field training); this is a hybrid, a hybrid of what is impossible to say since he appears to be a multi-generational hybrid; this might mean that his inherited "drives" are at odds with one another and that encouraging him toward one in particular, when he is demonstrating obnoxious behavior, might not be the smartest choice.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Dr. Connor,

I haven't forgotten to given an update, I just wanted to give some time to work with Benji (and Princess) using the suggestions you gave me. I wanted to mention that the videos you had included in your response, I had actually just looked at a few weeks before your response! Great videos and I have "settle" down with Benji, just working on making him understand that he needs to stay "settled" until I release him instead of popping back up.

So some good news, Benji's behavior has improved. One thing we are is consistent, so that really has made a difference. As soon as he starts an outburst, I grab the leash (without giving him attention or saying anything), and place him behind a door. When he comes back out, he is more relaxed and goes and lies down (no longer bugs Princess). Also, I have noticed that even when I put the harness on him with the leash attached, he sort of calms down, like he knows what happens if he has a wild outburst with Princess. Sort of like it's clicking, maybe? Of course, it's not always sunshine and rainbows, and we will have to work with him A LOT, but it's worth it. I should mention that after a few weeks of putting him behind the door when needed, there was one time when he was extremely wound up, and it was hard for me to get the leash without him grabbing my arm instead. My husband ended up helping me with that. I am still working on staying confident and not getting scared (I can feel the adrenaline rush when I am scared which I am sure he can sense). He didn't grab my arm, luckily.  Of course, along with all of this, we are also doing the NILIF with both of them. It has made a difference to pet him first, feed him first, etc. What other things can I do to make it clear I am the leader?

Do you have suggestions on not letting him on the couch? This one is a tough one, because the way our house is set up, he has access to the couch when we go to bed (can't block him off from that area). Or do I just teach him he can't get on the couch in my presence unless he is invited? Does it matter if he gets on at night when we aren't there to tell him otherwise. We are moving, so it will be easier once we have a house vs our townhome.

Another thing I wanted to mention is his extreme reactivity to cars that drive by in front of our house. He lunges, barks, etc., so what we do now is take him out back to go to the bathroom to avoid that. We do practice standing in our garage (far enough where he won't react) and say "yes" and treat when he sees a car drive by and he doesn't react.  Do we have to do this for months to extinguish this behavior? It's weird also, that we can be at the park where there is a busy road, he won't care at all about the cars driving by. Now in broader terms, he is extremely reactive to bikes, motorcyles, big trucks. He's ripped the inside part of our car when he gets a reactive outburst. He know wears a calming cap in the car and we practice "down" so he stays down in car rides. The calming cap has helped, but not always, as he can still see/hear motorcyles. Just so you can get an even better picture of him that sort of ties in with his reactivity and drive, he chases reflections/shadows in the house, so we have to make sure all the lights are on and that we don't make a reflection. He will bark and become very aroused. We just have to manage that, not sure that can be extinguished.

Training-wise, do you suggest we continue we obedience or something along those lines? He has been through all of those classes already, but I was thinking if we keep him learning, that will help him as well?

He is a handful, but as a result of having him, I have learned A LOT! I can't thank you enough for all of your work and advice. I will always have questions, so I'll see how many more times I will be able to follow up. Thank you once again!

Benji is rapidly accepting the harness/house tab (indoor leash) because it is a psychological and emotional restraint THAT REASSURES HIM.  You are doing a very good job of extinguishing his reaction and assault upon your other dog.

Keep it up.

In terms of furniture:  you say you are moving. First, if able, you must take both dogs with you to your new home every day for at least two weeks as you move certain portable items (pictures, lamps, etc.) to habituate them to this "new environment".  A dog should almost always acquiesce to a bitch but, in this case. Benji seems not to be doing that.  So during NILIF: feed him first, pet him first, greet him first, let him in/out first, and let's see what happens.  But one important thing: NO DOGS ON FURNITURE in the "new home".  You can easily prevent this by turning couch and chair pillows up on a tilt: dog cannot get on.  You can then teach "off" very gently.  See this:

Again, re-training for both dogs may take weeks (or might occur quite quickly): in new home, when dog gets up on couch, say "OFF" in a startled manner (do not look at dog) and get up and walk away.  Dog will get off to follow you; praise, ask for "sit", small food reward, go back to couch.  Dog will connect your startled "OFF" with HIS or HER behavior of getting ON the furniture.  Dog will connect your instant removal (chained behavior) to his/her getting on the furniture.  With approximately fifty trials you should be able to say "OFF" and dog(s) will immediately remove themselves from furniture for PRAISE; then ask for "sit", small food reward (which you will then stagger and ultimately remove).  You now have a command: "OFF" which, when persistently used, will slowly tell the dogs that IN YOUR PRESENCE they are not allowed on the furniture.

WHY do your dogs have free run of the house when you are asleep?  Do they deserve it?  Benji certainly does not.  In the "new" home, create a safe and comfortable place for your dogs to sleep (ideally, separately at first): kitchen, laundry room,.....anywhere where this is no couch or chair).

As for prey drive:  Benji reacts to cars and motorcycles, et al, coming CLOSE TO HIS LIVING SPACE and does not seem bothered when these things appear elsewhere.  This is a result of his rank opportunistic behavior; "shepherd mix" is a whole basketful of variables but let us review what the purebred GSD was designed to do and how it used in present day:  INDEPENDENTLY GUARD ITS HERD, independently "think through" a perceived problem and ACT.  Your dog is perceiving approaching traffic toward "his" place as dangerous, predatory and to be addressed (chased, eliminated).  This dog has a very high prey drive.  I can't fix this from here.  I suggest you contact the CAAB with whom you have worked and do a heck of a lot of redirection of the prey drive.  Presently, the obedience "training" he has received is not addressing this problem.  Should you persist with it?  Yes so long as there is absolutely NO negative result if he "fails": no punishers.  But you also need to harness this prey drive and teach him that an oncoming car, motorcycle, bicycle, etc. is not only a non-threat but an opportunity to 'work' for very high food reward.  For this, you need in person assistance.

Good job so far!

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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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