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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 19660
Experience:  Behaviorist /Trainer and Dog breeder 18+ years
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We rescued a Havachon in August 2015. He will be 2 years old

Customer Question

We rescued a Havachon in August 2015. He will be 2 years old in April 2016. He is dominant-aggressive but is getting worse rather than better with time. Although we treat him well, feed him well, and give him a large kennel to sleep in (big enough for a lab or other medium to large dog), he still growls at us periodically, and has bitten me twice. This last time, was to my thumb in what I term a vicious attack as I gave him a shove off my lap. He was shipped up to Washington State to a lovely rescue shelter that caters to troublesome dogs. He was on a California kill list because of his behavior and when that shelter called and pleaded with K9R&R in Auburn, WA and pleaded with them to take him because he was only a year old then. K9R&R worked with him a great deal but advised he was still dominant-aggressive and would have his "Cujo" moments. So I am writing this with a very mangled thumb in a large bandage, wondering how we can possibly keep this dog and not complicate his life further by returning him to the shelter. We are extreme low income but treat our pets like children. I am wondering if he would benefit by some type of medication to help with his near bipolar, Jekyll and Hyde behavior.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

Hi JaCustomer,

My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient.

Has he had any obedience training?

You do let him on your lap, correct?

Is he allowed on the furniture?

Do you have any other animals?

Is he neutered?

Has he had any medical testing done?

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 1 year ago.

I was hoping you were still online but hopefully you will read this when you are back online. There are some medical conditions that can cause sudden aggression and those may be a factor. Unfortunately, these would not be able to be ruled out without testing.

However, with many small dogs, the problem is behavioral and not medical. It sounds like your dog may be having issues with dominance aggression. Many dominant dogs are described as well behaved until you try to get them to do something they do not want to do, and then they reprimand you either with a growl or bite if you don't heed the growl. Things like taking away something they want, making them move when they don't want to, waking them up, etc can cause them to reprimand (bite) you. I bet this sounds familiar to you.

Dogs that are allowed on furniture (even if put on the furniture) tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level or higher if on your lap, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. Keeping them on the floor can help lower them mentally back to a submissive position in the pack. So the first thing is to not allow him higher that the humans or even on the same level. In addition, humans shouldn't be on the floor with him either. A small short stool is enough to keep them higher than the dog when petting the dog. Attach a leash and use it to remove him from the furniture. Give a correction in the form of a quick tug and firm "NO" when he attempts to get on and a treat when he starts not trying to get on the furniture. Thus you are providing negative reinforcement for the getting on the furniture and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior (not attempting to get on the furniture).

Once he is obedience trained you can let him on the furniture by invitation only after he has performed to earn the right BUT he always has to get down on command to do so. Be sure to train him with a specific command to get down or off the furniture. He should never have the right to get on without your permission.

There are other ways to regain the dominant position in the house as well. The best way is to start obedience training. While a formal training class is great, you can start obedience training without a formal class. Before you can get into classes, the following site is helpful in helping owners train their dog. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.

Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.

You will also want to keep a leash on him at all times initially to grab if he should disobey. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with training. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. Give this a try and see how it works for you.

Additionally, I would suggest you get a basket muzzle and make him wear it anytime children are around or visitors are there. Be sure to use the leash to make him obey you. If he growls give a short tug to get his attention and a firm "NO" to let him know, you are not going to allow his aggression. If he is sleeping, give a little tug to let him know that someone is there so he isn't startled when being woken up. .

In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques on the previous website, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.

I'm confident that if there is no medical issue you will see improvement in just a couple of weeks of training. I hope this information is helpful to you. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have . If you do find this helpful, please take this opportunity to rate my answer so I am compensated for my time.

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