By Cesar Millan
Three years ago today, a company called SpaceX became the first private party to put a vehicle into the Earth’s orbit and then bring it back down successfully. This is even more remarkable when we remember that this happened only a hundred and seven years after the Wright Brothers flew their first powered airplane, while it took all of human history up until 1903 for that first flight to take place.
One small breakthrough can lead to lots of bigger ones. It’s true for technology, and it’s true for becoming a Pack Leader. In the case of your dog’s misbehavior, the first step is always to look at the problem from your dog’s point of view. Ask, “What am I doing wrong? How is my dog perceiving my behavior?”
Often times, the answer to those questions leads to that small breakthrough that turns into enormous progress in a short time. This week, to help you learn how to answer those questions for yourself, I’m going to answer some more questions from my fans
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My 7 year old Boston Terrier has some fear and anxiety issues. But he has now twice bitten family members, including my husband, in the face at random times. My husband was trying to pull him towards him for affection. He yelped and bit him. But there is no pain in the area that he touched. I felt all over afterward and could not get any negative reaction from him. I cannot trust him not to bite at random times and it worries and scares my family. Any suggestions?— Kelly P., New Jersey
Kelly: In the case of your husband, it’s pretty obvious why your dog bit him: he was not respecting your dog’s own boundaries when he tried to pull him over for affection, and so your dog defended itself from a threat in the moment. The mistake many people make with dogs that have fear and anxiety issues is to think that affection will calm the dog and solve the problem. It doesn’t. If you give affection to a fearful or anxious dog, then you’re just telling that dog, “I want you to always be this way.”
It can be counterintuitive, but the best thing we can do for dogs like this is to practice no touch, no talk, and no eye contact. This allows the dog to be present in the pack without feeling like they’re the center of attention. By just letting them be with us in the moment, we can help them gain confidence and reduce their fear and anxiety. You also need to practice calm energy, and try not to make sudden movements or loud noises around the dog.
Finally, you did not mention whether you’ve had this dog for most of his life, but if the biting is a new thing at this age, take a look at whether something in your household dynamics has changed recently. Is any member of the family going through something stressful? Anxious dogs will pick up on this energy in a heartbeat and become insecure and unstable.
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I have a 3 year old female Shih Tzu and she has some problems with sharing and begging and I am trying to get her to stop by using some different methods but I cannot get her to change. When my 9 year old male Shih Tzu is playing with a toy and she sees that she automatically takes it away from him and we can’t get her to give it back or take it from her. When certain people are eating she whines to get food and she doesn’t stop until that person is done. I would just like some tip or something to help my dog be a better dog, to stop her annoying ways. — Cassidy K., Quebec
Cassidy: You don’t mention it, so it sounds like your older dog is not trying to fight when your younger dog takes his toy away. This means that this isn’t really an issue between your dogs, but that you are projecting human emotions onto it by feeling sorry for the dog that loses the toy. The troubling part, though, is that your older dog will not allow you to take the toy from her. She is showing dominance. That’s fine for her to do to another canine member of the pack, but not to the humans.
You need to teach her to drop the toy and let you pick it up by redirecting her attention away from it. When she has the toy in her mouth, distract her with a treat, but do not reward her until she has dropped the toy and focused on you. Here’s the important part: if she drops the toy but keeps herself hunched over it, she does not get the reward because she is still claiming the toy. It’s only when she has put the toy down, sits and calmly looks at you, and you can pick the toy up without her moving for it that she gets the reward. At the same time, teach her the words you’d prefer to use to get her to eventually drop the toy without a treat.
As for the begging behavior, you mention that she only does it when certain people are eating. Have these people given her food from the table before? If that’s the case, then your dog has learned that she will get rewarded for her begging. To a dog, a behavior that has resulted in something positive, like free human food, becomes a behavior worth repeating, because the reward may happen again.
In order to stop this habit, the entire family has to claim their space and set up boundaries for the dog. This means, ideally, that she is not allowed near the place where people are eating, but has to wait patiently. To do this, you need to teach her “go to your place” and “stay&rdquo.
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I have a female 1 year 3 month pit bull. She is good with the kid, but we came to the point that we can’t keep her anymore. She has ruined our backyard fence. She has been chewing the fence to the point of breaking the wood and getting through our neighbors yard. They didn’t mind at first, but now it got to the point that it started to become every day that she is getting over, and they called the pound. Please help we don’t know what to do. — Veronica H., California
Veronica: This may sound obvious when I say it, but you need a better fence, especially if the only other option you think you have is to give up your dog. Adopting a dog is a commitment for life, and we owe it to them as Pack Leaders to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent issues like this.
You may be able to solve the problem by putting landscaping around the inside of your fence with a dense shrub, like boxwood. This will create a visual buffer between your dog and the fence. It may also help make your dog feel more secure in the yard and less likely to try to get out.
Another option is called a “redundant fence,” which is exactly what it sounds like — a fence within a fence — for example, a chain-link fence built just inside your wooden fence. Your dog shouldn’t be able to chew through the metal, and the appearance alone may make her stop trying. For more options, and ideas search “dog proof fence” online.
In the meantime, do not leave your dog unsupervised in the yard. You can let her play freely, but as soon as she shows any intention of trying to chew the fence, correct her and take her inside.
Ultimately, you’ll need to figure out what the attraction is in your neighbors’ yard. If they have dogs, find out whether you all can take your dogs on pack walks together, and this may reduce your dog’s obsession with getting over there.
If they don’t have dogs, you’ll need to get your neighbors’ permission to bring your dog over and let her loose in the yard. If she beelines toward anything, then that scent may be what’s luring her. If you can recreate that smell in your own yard and away from your fence, it may help move the attraction away from the neighbor’s yard and keep your dog focused on her own.
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That’s all for this week. Stay calm, and remember to look at your dog’s misbehavior through their eyes.