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I have a 1 year old Morkie that is sweet as can be. However,

Customer Question
I have a 1...

I have a 1 year old Morkie that is sweet as can be. However, when sitting on the couch or walking from one room to another, she will often nip at me and sometimes growl. I put her down from the couch, but she gets right back up. This goes on and on until I stand up and walk away. Why is she nipping at me one minute and giving me a kiss the next?

Veterinarian's Assistant: I'm sorry to hear that. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Expert will know how to help the dog. What is the dog's name?

Olive

Veterinarian's Assistant: Is there anything else important you think the Dog Trainer should know about Olive?

She also still gnaws at my hand like she did as a puppy. That part I can deal with, but the nipping and lunging has me totally boggled.

Submitted: 9 months ago.Category: Dog Veterinary
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Answered in 9 minutes by:
9/19/2017
Dog Veterinarian: Scott Perry, Dog Veterinarian replied 9 months ago
Scott Perry
Scott Perry, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 3,035
Experience: DVM
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Hello. My name is***** and I am a veterinarian that can answer your question. I understand Olive is nipping at you at various instances and then giving affection the next. This can be caused by a few different reasons including fear, possessive/territorial, or dominance. Can you tell me when exactly the nipping behavior occurs on the couch? Is it when you first sit down that she nips or after petting her in certain places that might be vulnerable (i.e. abdomen)? When you are walking from one room to another, where is she before she nips at you? Is she startled when you pass by her, is she showing any signs of anxiety before you leave the room such as panting, pacing, or lip licking behavior?

Let's start with the couch and then we can move on to the other places in the house.

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Customer reply replied 9 months ago
The couch nipping starts when I sit down and am watching tv. She'll jump on the couch with me then start in.
When walking from one room to another sometimes she's with me in the same room to start and was just sitting there. No anxiety, licking, panting, pacing or anything else. "Just feels like it" would be my description.
Dog Veterinarian: Scott Perry, Dog Veterinarian replied 9 months ago

As long as there is nothing on the couch that she could be showing possession (i.e. toys, food, etc.) that you are sitting next to then this seems to be a dominance display. While this type of presentation was once termed "Dominance Aggression" it is now recognized as an anxiety disorder. These dogs have problems with impulse control and as you say, Olive's behavior can change quickly.

The first thing to do is to identify the triggers and avoid them. Sitting on the couch appears to be one of them. In the short term, Olive should be managed to avoid as many triggers as possible. This may mean that she not be allowed to be on the same couch as you or any of the furniture for the time being. Ideally, she will have a "safe place" like a kennel or bed she can lay. If she does become aggressive then you should move away and close a door between yourself and Olive if possible. In addition to not being allowed on the couch, she should definitely not be allowed on your lap at any time because this position is considered a dominant posture.

The next thing is to be able to redirect Olive to learned behaviors when she begins to act out. This is the staple of treatment and is called counter conditioning. The basics are her being able to perform sit and stay commands. You can add to this later with lay down, shake paw, etc. Positive behaviors must be rewarded, undesirable behaviors prevented, and punishment and confrontation entirely avoided. Once she knows how to sit then do this with almost everything that you do. Before she goes outside, put on a leash, feed her food, etc. she must sit first. By consistently insuring that Olive sits before interacting, she learns that settled behaviors gets her what she wants. It also establishes you as being the more dominant individual.

Spaying her will help if that has not already been performed and anxiety medications can also be used. Usually this behavior improves once other dominant positions have been removed (i.e. sitting on couch/lap) and basic positive-reward behaviors are introduced.

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Dog Veterinarian: Scott Perry, Dog Veterinarian replied 9 months ago

Please let me know if you have any other questions. I am here to help. If you have no other questions, I would appreciate very much a positive review. You may leave 1-5 stars. Your review helps connect Experts with other customers, so your input is highly appreciated. Thank you.

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