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Lisa, Certified Veterinary Technician
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 16405
Experience:  CVT with a special interest in behavior modification through structure, boundaries and limitations with positive reinforcement.
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I adopted my dog 18 months ago. He is a six year old shitsu

Customer Question

i adopted my dog 18 months ago. He is a six year old shitsu cross and was very badly mistreated and neglected before he came to me. He knows he has a very safe home now and is a happy, healthy dog EXCEPT whenever anyone tries to pat him. He hates it and growls and tries to bite. He is very vicious and I have no idea why. We love him so much and have never mistreated him. Recently I moved in with my partner and his children stay with us on the weekend. They are very kind to him also but I am so worried that he will get angry and bite one of them. How can I stop him being so angry?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Lisa replied 1 year ago.

Hi there! My name is ***** ***** I'm happy to help you with your question today. Just like an in person consult, I have some questions of my own to help ensure I give you the best advice possible....

Does he always act out when being petted?

Is he crate trained at all?

Have you taken him through obedience classes at all?

Does he sleep on couches or in your bed?

Is he on any sort of schedule at all?

Can you take toys, treats, ect away from him with no problem?

Does he bite at you?

Expert:  Lisa replied 1 year ago.

How old are your partner's kids?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Lisa,
He has been worse since I moved in and now it's pretty much all the time. He likes the kids and likes to sit with them and be petted but only when he gets up on his own then he is fine. But if someone approaches him then he gets angry.
He hasn't been to obedience classes but he knows how to sit, walk, stay, basic commands etc.
I have never put him in a crate. He sleeps on the floor beside my bed on a sheepskin.
My partners kids are 12 and 14.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
With schedule, they get fed twice a day. Yes I can take toys etc away from him no problems. It is literally just if someone touches him or goes close to him.
Expert:  Lisa replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for the additional information. I really appreciate it.

If this were my dog, the first thing I'd do is to immediately implement the NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) program in your house. In my opinion, the NILIF program offers the best payoff for most dogs and their owners. With NILIF, your dog complies with your commands and you do not need to bully or use physical force (such as 'telling him off'). The idea is that you bolster your leadership and cultivate your dog's respect for you by controlling all his resources. Specifically, you determine when you put his food bowl down and when you pick it up. You set the time for playing with toys and when that game ends. You initiate grooming and petting sessions.

By controlling his resources, you elevate your status in the eyes of your dog. I particularly like this method of training because it works on a wide range of canine personalities, including shy, easily distracted, high energy, and pushy dogs. Shy dogs gain confidence, distracted dogs develop focus and patience, pushy dogs learn manners.

Here's how NILIF works: start by giving your dog the cold shoulder when he demands your attention. Ignore him if he paws at your hand, barks at you or brings a toy to get you to pet or play with him. Don't utter a single syllable or push him away. Just act as if he is invisible. This is not meant to be rude or cruel. Rather, you are training him to understand that he cannot demand your attention any time he desires. The light bulb will turn on in his brain as he realizes that it is you, not he, who calls the shots in the house.

NOTE: Be prepared for an increase in unwanted behavior as you implement your new strategy. Your dog is going to try even harder at first, probably misbehaving even more things, since his tactics worked in the past. Do not give in!!

All members of the family must participate in the new house rules. Let them know that from now on, your dog must earn his paycheck (praise, treats, playtime) with proper behavior. At mealtime, ask him to sit and wait before you put the bowl down. When you want to play one of his favorite games, such as fetching that tennis ball, tell him to lie down before you toss the ball again. When you are done with the game, tell him game over, pick up the pall, and put it out of his reach. Do this calmly and walk away. The key to success is being consistent. Every time you want to toss your dog a small treat, have him do something such as sit or do a trick, before you hand over the tasty morsel. When you approach the front door to walk him, make sure he knows that you always exit and enter doors before him. At your dog training class, your dog must do what you've asked before he gets a treat.

The bot***** *****ne is that NILIF establishes a clear ranking in the household with the adult humans in the number one spot. It is done without meanness or punishment, but rather as a simple fact of life. In time, your dog will stop doing anything that would be considered an insult to a pack leader...such as putting his mouth on anyone.

I would also start using a crate with him and make it his safe spot. Luckily the kids are older and can understand that when your dog is in his crate, they need to leave him alone. In the wild, dogs live and retreat from threats in a den. A crate will mimic a den and give him somewhere to be when he doesn't want to be touched.

I'd also start using a lot of positive reinforcement with the petting. When he comes anywhere near someone and allows them to pet them, give him lots of verbal praise and some tasty treats (I love using freeze dried beef liver and the only time my dogs get it is when we're training). In time, your dog will equate the petting with the treats and will allow it. However, he may always been the kind of dog who wants attention on his terms, so your family may need to understand that and respect it and only give him petting when he seeks it out.

This is not an easy road or a simple fix for a problem. Getting your dog back in line is going to take time, dedication and commitment from everyone in the house, but I have no doubt that with some patience and some training classes, you'll be able to get this behavior stopped.

I hope this helps.

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