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TL;DR

How can a guest help an owner verbally discipline a dog when the owner's family gives inconsistent verbal discipline themselves? More background below.


My cousin owns a 2 year old male chihuahua. Whilst I was a guest in the house, I saw a lot of poor behaviour from the dog, namely:

  • Biting: I was bitten whilst walking past the dog's food. My main concern is that my cousin has a baby, less than 1 year old, and I am more concerned about her future safety
  • Growling: This was near constant, towards everyone in the house
  • Protecting food: Whilst the dog was a puppy raised on the farm it was bred on, it competed heavily for food, an issue that has not been addressed
  • Jumping onto furniture: This is a smaller issue, but the dog was constantly on the furniture, though my cousin permitted this

From what I've observed, the causes for the behaviour are:

  • Competition for food at an early age, as mentioned above
  • Conflicting verbal discipline from different members of the family, namely some will shout, some will make a joke about it, others will change the tone of the message part way through etc.
  • The dog decides when the punishment ends, as the punishment is being sent to his basket. The dog decides when it can come out and is not sent back
  • Lack of exercise
  • Has not been neutered
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It is not the dog that needs the training, it is the dogs family.

Some of the things you mention like being on furniture are personal choice, it would be inappropriate for you as guest to dictate on this.

Other things like biting and growling, can only be addressed through long term behavior modification. You can't change it during a visit. The family can be taught to modify the dogs behavior. If they are not willing or able to learn to modify the behavior, there is nothing a visitor can do in the short term that will result in long term modification of the dogs behavior.

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