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My wife and I rescued a Pomeranian 5 years ago from some pretty bad conditions. When we got him, he would show signs of aggression and nipped at us a few times when disciplining him. We knew he came from a bad home so we tried working with him. We took him to classes and he did well (although he NEVER shows aggression around people he isn't used to being around).

He becomes aggressive in certain situations, for example if we take anything away like a bone or toy. We have to be very careful when doing so because his attitude indicates he is willing to bite. Over the 5 years, we have had a couple of instances. The first was about a year ago; he bit my wife when she was with him on the couch and accidentally rolled onto him. We gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was scared and in pain, but my wife did have to see a doctor and we reported the bite. More recently though, he bit my wife again when she was giving him an anti inflammatory because he dropped it and when she went to pick it up he felt as though she was taking something away and bit.

At this point I am feeling like he needs to be put down but it is hard because 99% of the time he is a great, lovable dog and I feel like I have failed in rescuing this dog. I am posting this so I can get an outside opinion that isn't swayed by having had the dog for 5 years. We definitely don't want him in the house anymore because my wife is uncomfortable around him. Is there any place out there where I can find him an owner that works with these types of dogs or do I need to face facts and put him down?

Thanks for any input.

  • Does he mainly become aggressive when you're taking something away (or so he thinks)? What do you mean by 'disciplining'? – LMGagne Feb 6 '17 at 14:24
  • Yes, mostly when taking something away but he also becomes aggressive if he scolded. When I say disciplining, I mean that when we first got him he would pee in the house, so I would sternly say no and put him outside. He would always growl and become defiant. He will also get aggressive if he is under the bed and doesn't want to come out. – jteezy14 Feb 6 '17 at 14:38
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It sounds (from your question and comment) that your dog is more afraid than anything else. Resource guarding (becoming 'aggressive' when something may be taken away) is typically a fear-based behavior. The same goes for lashing out when your dog is hiding under the bed or other furniture and you're trying to get him to come out, as well as acting out when scolded.

You mentioned that you rescued him from a bad situation. It's likely your pup is a bit traumatized from whatever he went through before he was with you. He may have learned that the only way to stay safe, secure, and fed is to bite and growl when he feels afraid and now that has become a conditioned response.

Luckily, with some love and consistency you should be able to decrease these undesirable behaviors. First things first, no more scolding. You might be wondering how you'll get your dog to behave without telling him 'no' or otherwise punishing him. This is easily accomplished by reinforcing the desired behavior with something positive (like a treat or praise), and also by setting him up for success by not putting him in a situation where he will act out (at least for the immediate future).

A great trick for eliminating resource guarding is to teach your dog that every time you take something away he gets something even better. Get of his regular food and go through the following:

  • Pick up your dog’s bowl and make it look like you are filling it with his food.
  • Place the empty bowl on the ground in front of him. Wait for him to investigate, see there is nothing there and look at you. As soon as he looks at you, praise him and add a bit of food into his bowl.
  • After your dog has finished eating the food wait for him to look at you again and add more food into his bowl.
  • Again, wait until all the food has been eaten. Walk a step or two away from his bowl and then back and add a little more. This teaches your pup that your approach and presence at his food bowl means he is going to get more food and you are a positive part of the experience.
  • Feed your dog in this manner for several days and as your dog becomes more relaxed with your presence close to his bowl, gradually add larger handfuls of food until you get to the point where you can put down a full food bowl and he can eat with you standing right next to him.
  • The next stage is to practice walking by an empty bowl and throwing a piece of high value food such as chicken into it. Every time you approach your dog’s empty bowl your dog will see your approach as something good.
  • The last stage of this training is to throw a delicious treat into your dog’s bowl as he is in the process of eating. By this time he should be much more relaxed with your presence and able to accept you being close to him as he eats.

If he is never aggressive about food, but more about toys try the following:

  • Get one of your dogs toys or bones (something you won't mind getting food on) Place it on the ground in front of him. Wait for him to come over to it, when he does praise him and drop a bit of food onto the ground near the toy.
  • After your dog has finished eating the food wait for him to look at you again and drop another morsel.
  • Again, wait until he eats his treat. Now, take a step or two away from his toy and step back and drop another treat. This teaches your pup that your approach and presence near his toys means he is going to get something good and you are a positive part of the experience.
  • Do this every day for several days and as your dog becomes more relaxed with your presence near his toys.
  • The next stage is to practice walking by you pup while he is already playing and throwing a piece of high value food into the action. When you do this, don't look at or interact with him. Continue walking as you gently toss the treat.
  • The last stage of this training is to be able to trade your dog a treat for his toy. This may take a lot of patience and practice, but the culmination of any resource guarding training is teaching "drop it". For this you should do in person training with a qualified positive reinforcement only trainer in your area.
    Since you mentioned he is more timid in front of strangers, try to get a video of the behavior to show the trainer. You could even set up your smart phone, computer, or tablet to record your living room (or any other room) and capture the entire interaction from start to finish.

Good luck!

  • First, thank you for the great suggestions and detail. Second, my dog also tends to mark in the house when I'm not looking, never while I'm watching. Is this related to or caused by resource guarding as well? Thank you so much! – jteezy14 Feb 7 '17 at 1:59
  • Is your dog intact or has he been neutered? – LMGagne Feb 7 '17 at 14:26
  • He has been neutered. – jteezy14 Feb 7 '17 at 19:33
  • It's likely that the marking is an additional behavior associated with the resource guarding. Marking is exactly what it sounds like - a dog 'marking' an object/place as theirs. Working on the other resource guarding behaviors may alleviate this as well. Something you can do immediately is make sure you're cleaning the areas with a solution which removes all scent like Nature's Miracle (amzn.to/2kKfOtj). – LMGagne Feb 7 '17 at 20:53
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Did he see the vet ? Why did he take AI ? Does he have some dolors ?

Seems like he's very stressed by your wife (it can be explained by bad communication or/and some dolors) and do ressource defensing. He doesn't have to be murdered for his stress.

The best you can do is working with a pro on positive reinforcement on his ressource defensing and reduce the stress. All his behaviour can be explained.

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It sounds like you need to enlist the help of a positive, force-free trainer to help you relearn how to care for and bond with your dog. Fear can be one of the hardest issues to deal with and is actually the number one reason for dog bites. You don't have an aggressive dog, you just need to understand your dogs perspective.

Taking a high value object without reason only initiates defensive behavior. Another method would be to keep extra small sized treats or a similar toy and trade each time you want to take away the item your dog has at the time. This over time will teach the dog that nothing negative will happen when you remove the said toy. Over time you may even be able to phase out the trades and just simply give a quick pet and praise.

  • Thank you for the reply. I'm not sure it is entirely fear based. Just this morning, he jumped onto the bed (which he is not allowed on) and I very calmly went to pick him up and set him on the floor and he became very aggressive and attempted to bite me. What can you make of that? – jteezy14 Feb 10 '17 at 5:49
  • Without having been there to asses the situation firsthand, it could be resource guarding. But another likely scenario is your dog may have been startled or due to previous mistreatment (not necessarily by you, but others) has a strong aversion to hands. The fearful and what seems to most people as aggressive behavior often doesn't show until much later as most dogs revert to that state over time. This is typical with dogs that have a lot of anxiety and, or fear. They appear to be very docile or loving and then start displaying these traits later on. – dSKzy Feb 15 '17 at 22:58
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    My original recommendation of a force free, positive trainer still stands. Often most dog owners aren't savvy to the very subtle cues being given by a dog's body language and what triggers the dog may have. This comes from years of the mainstream media promoting negative, punishment based training. Some good resources on general dog behavior and psychology to start with would be books and resources from Dr. Ian Dunbar and Pat Miller. – dSKzy Feb 15 '17 at 23:02

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