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Canine Behavior/Food anxiety and fear of other dogs


Hi, my boyfriend and I adopted a puppy a month and a half ago, i really don't know much about her background, i was just told, the mother was found injured and died, so the puppies had to be nursed with milk substitutes. She is approximately 3 months and a half old and looks like a Malinois mix, since the first day, we noticed  is she eats very fast, barely chewing and doesn't seem to get full. We started asking her to sit before putting her plate on the ground and she obeys, but starts shaking, anticipating her food, we also feed her with the bowl upside down so it gets a little bit hard for her to reach the food and divide each meal (3 meals a day) in two so she can slow down, but it doesn't seem to work very well. I know eating fast can cause problems when she grows up so we are concerned.

She finished her vaccination calendar and we were told she could start going outside, she does good on a leash, but every time another dog gets close, she gets very scared and sometimes even pees,it doesn't matter the size the other dog is. We own another 8 month old puppy and they get along pretty well, they even play a little rough at home, so we were a little surprised to see this fearful behavior, we want to know if there is a way to introduce her to dogs, so she feels comfortable around them and even starts playing with them, our other dog is very extroverted and usually plays with any dog.

I hope you can help us.

This puppy STARVED at her Dam's teat; human feeding of neonates has to be done expertly; puppies need to be weighed EVERY DAY to insure proper nutrition/growth.  It appears she was not so expertly fed and most likely abruptly weaned.  DO NOTHING WITH THIS DOG'S FOOD; DO NOT ASK HER TO "SIT".  Put the food down, normally, walk away.  At three and one half months, she can be fed a high quality kibble (very high quality: do your homework, don't buy off supermarket shelves, ask your vet for suggestions) three times daily ONLY to reduce the threat of bloat (due to rapid ingestion of food).  Moisten the food slightly with hot water so it is softened and thereby more easily digestible.  She may not "get full" at every meal but if she is receiving a sufficient quantity of food over the course of every day (again, vet can suggest quantity of each meal) she is acquiring the calories necessary to grow and thrive.  DO NOT SHOW ANXIETY TOWARD THIS DOG WHEN SHE EATS and stop obsessing about it, your anxiety is going straight to her and the last thing you want is a food aggressive grown dog.  At six months, cut food into half portions, twice daily.  By making it "hard" for her to "get her food" you are, in fact, teaching her that food is a commodity she must fight for; DON'T DO IT.

You CAN purchase a Buster Cube; this is a device that allows a dog to "forage" for its food by rolling the ball around (food dispenses as dog rolls the ball).  ONLY FOR ONE MEAL.  Dog's instinct is to forage; rolling the ball engages her cognition and teaches her she is IN CONTROL of the food that comes out.  When you go to two meals daily, keep the Buster Cube for one meal (I suggest late afternoon meal).

There is really no need to keep any puppy from interaction with other dogs after the second set of vaccinations; vaccinations in puppies are given in three sets to catch the "drop" in titer provided by the Dam.  If your vet suggested this dog be kept from other dogs and places other than your home, then he most likely suspected the dam had NOT been vaccinated properly therefor little or no protection from dam to pups.

IF she is really 3-1/2 months old, your window of opportunity for socialization is slamming shut.  HOWEVER, remedial intervention can and will work.  Her urination on sight of a "strange" dog is a demonstration of submission.  ALL dogs recognize this.  But YOU must be vigilant regarding the approaching dog since not ALL dogs will respect this signal.  I suggest you look around in your area for a very good positive reinforcement training venue.  Ask for credentials of the trainer and SEE them (they should be posted); observe a puppy kindergarten at least once, be certain it is being conducted properly.  See this:

The puppy kindergarten, if done properly and with close knowledgeable observation by the trainer, will help you puppy to learn to interact without fear and submission with dogs her AGE and SIZE.  You can then move into first level "obedience" but, again, ONLY positive reinforcement.  In a group "obedience" class, your puppy (entering adolescence) will learn to work for high value food reward among other dogs who are also working, and "strange" people.  This will further enhance her cognition, reduce her fear, and teach her that other dogs are rewarding since, among them, SHE is rewarded.

You have a "soft" dog: this means a dog with a very "soft" temperament, easily intimidated; she "wolfs" down her food because she may have been among the smallest in her litter at the teat of her dying dam.  As time passes and she learns the food is always coming her way at regular intervals (and especially using the Buster Cube which encourages her to be in control of her own food), the "wolfing" down of food should stop.

Ask your vet for the signs of bloat and keep a close eye on this dog for the next year or so; if she continues to "wolf" down her food, this does NOT mean she will develop bloat, but your vet will advise you regarding what sort of exercise, and how long to wait after a meal, the dog should receive.  Avoid "puppy" food since it forces bone growth and can exacerbate underlying conditions (orthopedic). Your vet might suggest you supplement one meal with some whole fat cottage cheese for a few weeks.  Vets don't always know as much about nutrition as they should since it is a specialty, however the vet should know brand names that provide optimum nutrition and energy and quantity to feed.

Offer low calorie treats when she comes in from outdoors: ask for "sit", pop it into her mouth.  She will then see you as the source of high reward.  NO DOG will STARVE itself and there are many, many dogs who 'wolf' down their food.  Bless you for giving this poor baby a good home!  To see how positive reinforcement puppy training works and what it is, look at Dr. Ian Dunbar's free site:

Keep your "eye" on the adult dog that YOU WANT. Have friends over even for a few minutes (or neighbors); ask them to ignore the puppy at first, no eye contact, no use of her name; sit for a minute and as puppy approaches speak calmly in low voice, have them hold out their hand, palm up, with treat you provide them at the front door.  Let's teach this puppy that everyone who comes through YOUR door at YOUR invitation is a most wonderful thing.  

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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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