Jekyll and Hyde dog

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Re: Jekyll and Hyde dog

Post by Mattie » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:40 am

Taro's Mum wrote: Mattie - 'completely stressed out' is right! I've never had a dog this difficult, this tiring, this dangerous.
When I first met him, I took turns playing with him with my husband and adult son - a bit of clicker, a bit of throwing toys for him to fetch (or not...), a chat with the owner, a bit more clicker... so no, it wasn't 30 solid minutes of clicker drill!
He will teach you more about dogs than any other dog, try and think of him as a steep learning curve instead of a problem, you will be surprised how much difference it makes to change our thinking. :D
I did all the dropping food in the bowl, adding to it while he's eating, etc., stuff; when he's sane, there's no problem at all, he's like a normal dog.
Let him finish what is in his bowl before adding any more, you want him to to look forward to you walking towards it to add more food, he can't do that if he is eating when you add more. By the end of the first session with Merlin, he was starting to look happy when I approached.
When he's not sane, the trigger can apparently be, like this evening, the very thought of dinner, before it's even been put down in front of him. There's been no change in either his bowl or his food, no reason as far as I can see for him to lose it. Until a couple of days ago, we'd had quite a long period of normality and I'd thought we were doing quite well.
Is he in the same room as you when you put the food down? If he is try putting it down then letting him in to eat it, you can then add more each time he finishes. You can read his body language when he is about to go so watch for that.
I've also used the 'swapping one resource for a better one' tactic, usually to retrieve something he's stolen that he shouldn't have in the first place; but it only works when he's sane. Engaging with him in any way when he's 'gone' can cause him to go into a barking biting frenzy and even on a couple of occasions to lose control of his bladder. Now we make a point of giving him high-value treats like toys with goodies inside only when he's in his crate, so that if he does lose it we can shut the door, leave him alone to calm down and save ourselves from a bite.
As long as he isn't going to hurt himself I would walk out of the room when he starts to go, obviously listen to make sure that he doesn't hurt himself while you are out. This will be safer for you and he has nothing to tantrum about if you are not there. You are doing something similar when you give him the good things in his crate.
A house lead on a new dog is, as you say, a good idea....but he's been with us for nearly two years now. He's not a new dog any more!
Doesn't matter how long the house lead is on for, it makes life much safer for you and that is what matters.
Mattie wrote:open a bottle of wine and chill
Excellent piece of advice, which I'm going to take immediately! :wink:

You are already sounding more relaxed, often just writing it down helps and if others understand what you are going through that is a bonus. Have more than one bottle of wine if it helps or even a box of chocolates. Image

Joined:Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location:West Midlands

Re: Jekyll and Hyde dog

Post by emmabeth » Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:18 pm

First of all I do want to say, what a LUCKY dog your dog is, that he has found people willing to take the time and figure out whats going on - sometimes we dive right into telling folk what to do/not to do and forget that bit! So on behalf of your dog, THANKYOU, for taking the time and effort for him, a lot of people wouldn't.

When it comes to having a dog growling at you, lunging and even biting you, when you mean no harm, its very very difficult to get your head round it. Our instinctive reaction is 'OI! How very dare you!!!' and react back, for some reason we interpret growling as 'rude' and 'bad' and seek to DO something immediately about it, feeling that it should not go unpunished.

But this is wrong, and its this that sends most dogs down the path of actually biting, sometimes without growlign first (in dogs where growling has been punished so much they stop doign it, but STILL feel whatever emotion that led them to growl in the first place).

When hes gone off down the path of growling, snarling, biting to defend whatever or protect himself against the percieved threats, there is really nothing you can do at that point, except manage and stay safe. You cannot reward him for it (how can you reward fear!) and the only messages that will sink into his head at this time are those that back up his current emotions/feelings.

Thats because the brain, to survive, does not do well at taking in positive, 'good' lessons when its gone down the road of 'scary stuff, defend thyself', and thats for good reason.

Imagine if you are running away from a tiger - and you saw a tree covered in ten pound notes. If your brain allowed the positive reward (ten pound note tree) to override the 'scary, react' message your brain is sending you about the tiger, then youd stop to pick some some money, and get eaten by the tiger!

Again for pretty much the same reasoning, it can only take one scary event, for a dog to learn 'thats scary, do something', and many many repetitions of a positive thing 'proving' that this reaction was wrong, to change that - because it only takes once, for the black and orange stripy thing to be a tiger, and not a sofa cushion, for you to be eaten!

Soooo.. the only things that are going to make fear worse are more confrontation/stress/percieved threats - giving him his food when hes growling won't do that, but taking it away or witholding it until he stops might.

On the positive side here, you have a dog who IS growling and making lots of facial changes that tell you how he is feeling, that IS a really good thing even though it might not feel like one! You can read him, there are warnings.

One tweak to your routine might be to prepare his food with him the other side of a baby gate, and put it down and then let him into the room. Have a think about that because you know him far better than any of us - if you think that might reduce the confrontation around food, try it. It might wind him up more so do think it through and stay safe. I say a baby gate because I worry that if you close the door on him to prepare his food he may start rushing into rooms in an agitated state expecting food when you have just shut him out whilst you prepare your own meals.

IF you get the ok on his blood results, i would work on 'food in bowls' in another room to where you feed him, and NOT at meal times (for meal times just put the food down and walk away) so that you are really reducing the value of food/bowls in the training sessions and then there less for him to get worked up about. But as i say thats for the future, not right now.
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

Taro's Mum
Joined:Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:54 am

Re: Jekyll and Hyde dog

Post by Taro's Mum » Wed Jun 22, 2011 9:47 am

This evening was a bit weird. Taro had been reasonably good all day, apart from a bit of a giddy fit while we were out walking. Lunch passed by without incident, he just gobbled it up. In the evening I put his food in his bowl and walked away. I didn't ask him to sit first like I usually do, or anything. Instead of tucking in, he followed me into the kitchen looking quizzical. I told him it was OK to go and eat, and turned my back on him. He went back to his bowl and I heard him crunching a few bikkies, then it was quiet.....I peeked and saw that he was lying down next to his bowl, which was still nearly full. He's never done that before.
I went back into the kitchen, and a couple of minutes later he came to me again. I asked him what he wanted, and he gave me the 'hard stare' and the beginnings of an Elvis lip. Uh-ho....I told him in a cheerful voice to go to his place (Go to your place used to mean Go to your dog bed and lie down, until he destroyed the bed - now it means Go and lie down in the place where your bed used to be) - and he did. No growling, no complaining, quiet as a lamb. Wow.
A few minutes later he was back again. I ignored him, and after a moment's hesitation he pushed his nose between my legs - he does this when he wants to be mollycoddled. So I gave him a bit of an ear scratch and a throat rub, told him he was a Good Boy and sent him off to lie down in the living room again. When I went in to check he was playing with a chew toy, peaceful as can be.
So tonight by walking away and not engaging with him, I/he/we were able to prevent an Elvis lip turning into a full-blown tantrum.

He left his dinner, though. When I cleared the bowl away there was still a good two-thirds of it not eaten. Normally he has a ravenous appetite, like any healthy young dog, so I think there was still something a bit crazy going on in his little head.

Joined:Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location:West Midlands

Re: Jekyll and Hyde dog

Post by emmabeth » Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:58 pm

He may not need as much food as you think/the dog food pack suggests/he looks like he ought to need.

I have seen the most EXTREME reactions to food in a dog once that was almost entirely caused by being free fed. This little dog would save food, cacheing it in various places around the home, and then really savagely, over the top, guarding it as if his life depended on it, so if anyone walked past that spot he would fly into a rage.

This dog was also losing weight and really quite thin, but constantly on edge, and if there were ever children in the house, or he was prevented access to his caches of food, he would go to extreme lengths to snatch food from them.

The two changes I made were to feed TINY meals, just a mouthful at a time, and not having any children over or eat within the dogs sight for a few weeks.

The simple fact was this little guy just COULD NOT handle having all this food available all the time, food was highly important to him, and he felt as if he had to store it, save it for a time when there might NOT be food everywhere. THe more caches he had, the more food he had, the more stressed he got as he was trying to spread himself so thin constantly guarding it all.
Once he only had as much as he could eat in one or two mouthfuls, he relaxed almost visibly - there was no excess, so nothing to 'save' and nothing to store or guard. Within a couple of months he could be given a normal meal sized portion in one go, and he didnt feel the need to steal food from people/children because he was no longer starving himself in the endless pursuit of 'saving food'.

Not at all saying that this is your problem, but it goes to show just HOW important food can be in a dogs brain and the extreme reactions they can develop over food, that really wouldn't occur to us to make sense.

Now that you have made some relatively small changes to your routine around Taro's food, he might be feeling a bit lost and 'what the.. oh... err??' Stick with it and if he is regularly leaving quite a lot of food it may be an idea to drastically cut down his meal portions - it wont hurt for a few days and if he starts clearing his bowl as there is less in it, you could always introduce a third meal if he seems hungry/is losing weight. It is worth bearing in mind that even changes for the good CAN leave a dog feeling a bit confused as to whats going on.
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

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