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Canine Behavior/My Dog Attacks Feet When Startled From Sleep

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Question
We have a wonderful and loving little Cockerpoo Mix who sleeps in bed with us. Recently he has started to attack our feet when he is just falling asleep and is awakened suddenly by the movement of them under the cover. He doesn't really bite, but rather he mouths them. Other than not having him sleep in bed with us, is there any other remedy that we can do? Please help us!

Answer
I suggest you talk to your veterinarian regarding the dog's diet.  Diet can provoke a dog into aggression upon being awakened.  Also: I suggest you do not allow the dog ON YOUR BED until the vet has had an opportunity to evaluate what her diet's contribution might be.  Food allergies are often said to be "non existent" in dogs; many vets KNOW NOTHING ABOUT NUTRITION; but dogs DO react to certain food ingredients (especially low value protein, fillers, additives, etc.)

So: first stop: holistic vet or one who understands nutrition and its contribution to aggression upon awakening.  Second step: remove the dog to another location (not your bedroom) where she is comfortable and safe.  Expect a vocal response for a few nights.  Once you have seen a vet and the food has been addressed, (this will also require a comprehensive blood chemistry to see if all her levels are normal, if it is food related there will be some, even minor, problems with blood levels), you can then re-introduce her to your bedroom.  At that point, use followup feature and I will teach you how to teach HER to get "on" the bed ONLY when invited and get "off" the bed when told to do so.  It's not as hard as it sounds; the strongest feature of "on" and "off" is that, if the dog even begins a behavior you do not approve of, you can cue her to "off" (at which point she will have learned to do it on request).  If she persists, she can then be removed to her other sleeping location with no comment from you, no excitement, no nothing.  This is the approach I call "And now for something totally different".  Most dogs respond well to this approach once it has been repeated a sufficient number of times.  They associate it immediately with THEIR behavior, but not if the dog is asleep and coming up in a fear response from a dead sleep.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

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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