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Tips for “Jealous” Dog that acts Aggressive

March 14th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

My dog is becoming very aggressive and I don’t know what to do. He growls and barks when I’m talking on the phone, loading the dishwasher, or sitting on the couch when I’m nursing my baby daughter. He’s worse when I scold him or send him to his crate. Not only does he carry on, but he’ll also attack the furniture or pee in the house. He’s gentle with the baby and shows no aggression towards her; he’s just acts jealous when I’m with her. What should I do?

I always recommend referral to a veterinarian who specializes in treatment of behaviour problems for a case as complex as this. I’m not a specialist, but I can offer a few suggestions.

It sounds like you have accidentally trained your dog to act this way. How?

First of all, many dogs do things to get noticed. When we scold them, we’re actually giving them what they want: attention. We may think we’re punishing them, but we’re actually rewarding the bad behaviour.

I recommend you ignore your dog when he barks and growls. Ditto when he’s eliminating in the house or chewing on the couch. Yes, I know that’s going to be very hard and sounds crazy, but bear with me a minute here.

You want to teach your dog that if he wants your attention, he has to show some doggie manners. You’re going to teach him to sit and “look at me” to get what he wants. I’ve written about this in other columns and have posted them on our web page for your review:
How to get your dog to Stop Jumping at Guests and How to Stop Dogs from Barking at Doorbell

In a nutshell, you first teach the “sit” command. Clicker training is a good way to teach this. You can use the word “yes”, instead of a clicker, if you’d like. Once your dog is sitting well on command, you take a treat and put it on your nose. When the dog is looking at you, give him a reward. Repeat this exercise, in several 5-minute sessions per day, until he’s got it.

Think of sitting at your feet and gazing at your face as a dog’s new way to say “please”.

Any time your dog misbehaves, ignore him. Only when he stops what he’s doing, ask him to “ Sit, Look at Me” and then give him some attention.

If simply ignoring him while he’s in the midst of misbehaving is more than you can bear, or if you’re worried about your baby, leave the room with your child. Shut yourself in another part of the house for 10 minutes or so. Your dog will quickly learn that not only will he not get any attention at all from you when he acts this way, but even worse, he gets the very opposite: you on the other side of a door.

I suggest you use baby gates to keep him away from the furniture and areas where he’s peeing in the house. Also, put him in his crate before you start loading the dishwasher or feeding your baby. By planning ahead, you can prevent obnoxious behaviour before it even starts. Then your dog has lots more chances to get things right, and to get your attention for being polite.

Before you do that, however, I want you to teach him to like his crate once again. Never use it as a “bad boy place”. Buy a big rubber bone, drill large holes in it, and put Cheez Whiz in the holes. Make the holes big enough to make it easy to clean it in the dishwasher once a day. Never give him the bone anywhere else, just when he’s in the crate, so it’s a special treat. Lure him to his crate with the bone and let him lick the cheese for 5 minutes while he’s in there. Then let him out. Slowly extend the time in the crate until he’s happy to be in there for a few hours at a time with his bone.

Now, when you’re ready to put dishes in the dishwasher or give your baby her bottle, your dog can go in his crate for a short time and be happy as a clam.

Dogs are eager to please and learn quickly when they’re rewarded for good behaviour. I hope these tips will help you teach your dog right from wrong.

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