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Canine Behavior/Unruly Dog Behavior


QUESTION: My dog has a few issues some which he has developed recently and some which have been there since he was a pup. He is a mixed breed, Shih Tzu Poodle, he turned four this February.We got him when he was 3 months old, he was the youngest puppy of the litter and the last to be given away. We are a family of 4, he is very pampered and given all the love and attention he needs from the 4 of us(probably even a little too much) We hardly ever leave him alone at home, he has the freedom to go anywhere he wants in the house. We even take him along for vacations.
The first and most concerning problem we are facing is a habit he developed recently, for the past 4-5 months. We have moved between 3 different houses since we got him, in the first 2 houses, even if he's sick he'd call one of us to open the door if he wanted to pee but in the third house(much bigger than the first 2, has a garden and a back alley with cats) he started to pee in areas where he felt threatened, like near the front door due to visitors and traffic noise and the back door where he could probably sense cats. 4-5 months later, he just started peeing everywhere, in the living room, in the study room, just where ever he felt like it. We usually scold him when he does so, he even bends his head down, growls very softly and walks in the corners of walls and furniture, that's what he does when he knows he has made a mistake. Once we even caught him right before he peed, but he just growled and peed anyway.
The second problem started after he had a major tick attack. We tried several things, tick belts, tick washes, tick shampoo, avoided taking him for walks in places where there was too much grass. Although the number of ticks drastically reduced, he still has them. He's in fact really scared of them, he's always frantically looking and sniffing around for ticks and gets alarmed even if he sees a random black dot on the floor. He has ticks in between his paws, and he doesn't really let us touch his paw. He has continuously bitten one so badly that it has turned red and slightly bloody. He has only let the Vet touch his injured paw.
The third problem is his behavior towards food, he has been this way since we got him. He just doesn't let us come anywhere near his food or the snacks that we give him, he is capable of biting if we do.
And lastly, he barks at visitors no matter how calm we stay, no matter what we do. He barks at them and wont stop until they come inside and sit down and let him sniff them for a while. Please tell us what to do contain this behavior. We're committed to addressing all the problems our dog may be facing.

ANSWER: I'm too far away to see this dog in action.  FIRST:  he has active aggression (resource guarding, growling when approached during "pee" events).  The resource (food) guarding is most likely a result of his food being handled by a human, or his early environment where he did not receive appropriate nourishment (this is a "designer" dog, breeders of same do it for money, dams are often unable to manage a large litter of puppies.)  By three months, when you acquired him, he had NO socialization by the breeder (of this I am certain).  Your window of opportunity was TWO WEEKS and I doubt you knew that.  So he is demonstrating fear toward "strangers" entering your home.

VERY IMPORTANT that this dog IMMEDIATELY be tested for lyme's disease.  If he has been vaccinated, the test will come up positive, but his behavior suggests he may have it anyway (the vaccination is largely ineffective).  He NEEDS TO SEE THE VET.

Second: you need an in person consultation and ongoing behavior modification from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB)....NOT a dog trainer.  Find one from the following sites or by calling the veterinary teaching hospital in your area:

Third: do NOT give this dog "run of the house".  If you are at home with him, he must stay where he can be seen; put a house tab on him (very lightweight leash) and a belly band (purchase at any pet supply warehouse, keeps dog from successfully urinating).  Make putting the belly band on a "party": have high value treats (diced chicken franks), laugh and sing him a song, do not bend over him, sit on the floor: apply the belly band, hand over the treats (so long as he is NOT growling or showing any signs of aggression or fear), get up and walk away.  Do this even when you take it OFF to take him outdoors.  

Fourth:  Go back to "kindergarten" with his house training.  Take him outdoors at LEAST five times daily.  AS he is urinating, say quietly "go pee, go pee" (after approximately 50 trials he will associate "go pee" with his urination; it will reinforce his housetraining, give you a command to use AND eventually generalize into "indoor" and inappropriate urination.

Fifth:  DO NOT GET ANGRY if he lifts his leg indoors and DO NOT CHASE HIM.  You are creating fear aggression; he will eventually stop urinating on leash, fearing your anger.  If you observe him sidling up to something, know that he is wearing the belly band and will quickly learn he CANNOT freely urinate; pick up the house tab, don't walk directly toward him with eye to eye contact, approach on a CURVE, and using the house tab take him out; remove the belly band outdoors (with the "party") and give him ample time to urinate, then praise/reward.

You will require three to five visits from a CAAB to straighten this mess out.  Too much free attention confuses a dog and all that moving around has left him very insecure.

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

QUESTION: Thank you Dr.Jill,
Regarding contacting a CAAB, I could not refer to either of the links as we don't live in the US. I'll be sure to ask my vet regarding that, i'm sure she'll know someone.

And the growling noise during the pee events, it's clear that it's only out of fear. And his food, if we pet him and approach him slowly and calmly, he sometimes lets us touch his food. Would it still be considered active aggression?

And regarding re-training him? how exactly do we do it? Because, despite peeing in the house, he often asks us to open the main door to go pee outside. He knows he is supposed to pee outside and yet he pees inside the house. Would the belly band and your reinforcement method still work?

I'm so sorry I didn't notice your country of origin.  Here is a link which purportedly presents names of Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists around the world.  I doubt your vet will know one:

If you are in Britain or Australia, I have additional links; use followup.

DO NOT PET THE DOG OR HANDLE HIS FOOD ONCE YOU HAVE PUT IT DOWN FOR HIM.  In the dog culture, once I give it to "you" ("you" being the dog, "I" being another dog or a created conspecific), it is YOURS.  NEVER interfere with a dog when it is eating.  This dog most likely has residual issues from improper care by the "breeder" as a neonate.  Put the food down (twice daily) in his sight, and walk away.  Leave it there for 20 minutes.  If he does not consume it, or consumes only a portion, distract him to another room (use a squeaky toy and "toss" it for him while having a short "party") and, as he is preoccupied with the toy (which he receives ONLY for this purpose), remove the bowl.  He is resource guarding; this is active aggression, and totally unnecessary.  Within a few months, you will be able to casually move around his bowl as he eats without seeing any guarding, but never, for any reason, touch him or interfere with his food or you will find yourself at the other end of a set of teeth.

Re: house training.  Belly band will totally eliminate indoor urination (btw....urinating in front of doors, windows, places where "important" members of the household sit, is "Marking").  And yes, you do need to go "back to kindergarten" when he goes outside.  If he asks to go out, go out with him, calmly; no eye contact; look up at the sky if you have to, but keep your eye on him surreptitiously.  When he urinates (and it should be a good, long urination, not a two second "marking") praise him softly, "Good boy, good pee" and hold out a tiny treat (he will come to you for the treat).  This is reinforcing his house training: OUTSIDE earns praise/reward, inside is impossible because of the belly band.  Food reward should then be staggered: every second time, every third time, every fourth time, then first time, then fifth time, until it can be eliminated totally SO LONG as he "gets the picture".  Staggering food reward enhances memory: short term memory becomes long term memory and the behavior is then "set".

You don't mention if the dog WAS vaccinated for Lyme's.  This will make a positive diagnosis quite difficult, if he has been.  However: Lyme's disease is insidious and presents in various manners.  It can actually effect a dog (and Human) neurologically, cognitively, as well as biologically (organ function).  So a Lyme's test is important.  Ask your vet about TOPICAL PRESCRIPTION APPLICATIONS (such as activyl: US brand name) that will REPEL fleas and ticks.  If a dog carries a tick indoors, and the tick becomes engorged and releases, that tick can then attach to A HUMAN in your household.  If it is carrying the spirochete for Lyme's and its head is imbedded in any flesh for a sufficient amount of time, a HUMAN can then acquire Lyme's.  This is no picnic.  It is a very long term treatment requiring ongoing IV antibiotic treatment and can leave behind a host of horrible disorders.  Does the application article present possible harm to the dog?  Since its label suggests we do not allow it to touch our skin, my answer would be "yes". BUT....Lyme's will kill a dog and it can kill a Human if not caught in time.  DO NOT use over the counter stuff; your vet should have topical applications like Activyl on hand.  

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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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