If my dog bites another dog over food, can that behaviour lead to biting other dogs and/or humans?
Aloha! You're speaking to Dr. Michael SalkinYes, you'll need to be particularly observant of Mika whenever a food bowel, chew toy, or even a person, pet, or place may incite her possessive aggression. Possessive aggression may be associated with dominance aggression but this is not always the case. A dog that is highly motivated to retain a possession may exhibit possessive aggression, regardless of its hierarchal status with respect to the person or pet attempting to remove the object. In a sense, the drive to maintain possession "trumps" the need to defer. This is a complex behavior to manage and I would encourage your soliciting the help of a behaviorist. Mika's vet should be able to refer you to this specialist or you can find one here: www.dacvb.com Behavioral modification techniques are the cornerstone of treatment but must be individually tailored to the dog. Most important is identifying all situations in which aggression might occur. You then do your best to avoid these situations or prevent them from occurring until you have more control over Mika and the situations in order to handle them safely. Leadership exercises, teaching her to relinquish objects on command, and exposure exercises to reduce aggression when she is approached while near an object she guards are all important for treatment. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
What are your feelings about using a shock collar ?
Shock collars - or any aversive punishing stimulus - are contraindicated in cases of aggression because they're usually unsuccessful as a training aid and often result in undesirable responses (e.g. fear, escape and aggression). A remote citronella collar may be more successful at interrupting the undesirable response without causing excessive fear or anxiety, so that the desirable behavior can then be reinforced. Be wary of easy fixes for aggressive behavior. These require quite a bit of time and effort - even under the guidance of a behaviorist.
What type of credentials should we look for in a good behaviorist?
I prefer the board certified behaviorists. They're usually veterinarians who specialize in behavior and belong to this organization: www.dacvb.com They're not "dog trainers" who are better suited for training dogs for rescue, cadaver search, patrol, etc.
Thank you! I'll check back with you in a week for an update.