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Background info

The dog is about 8 years old, male, Pekingese, but "huge" - unlike the rest of his family. He is very nice, until he is not. He has his own personal space, which he defends aggressively. What is worse, is that he craves for interaction / caressing, but if someone dares to humor actually caress him, he goes to defend his personal space.

He lives with my parents, which are almost always at home. He is walked several times a day, every day. He is not spayed, but vaccinated and seen by a veterinarian whenever needed.

A good reason for this behavior might be my father, who is not at all calm, or sometimes, even reasonable.


Problem description

The dog bites us, or anyone who does not know and respect his boundaries. Any object fallen on the floor accidentally is hos property, which he defends at all costs.

I am not complaining about playful bites. Those bites were almost never hurtful - except for a few occasions, when he was too enthusiastic playing. Recently he learned to only touch our hands with the sides of his lips while playing, instead of pretending to bite.

We have to be very careful to understand when he had enough play time. When we notice that, we must stop interacting with him, at the cost of punctures in out feet.


Question

Since we cannot really change my father's behavior, how can we change the dog's behavior? I have seen dogs in my life, where the people around them are much more aggressive / unreasonable, and those dogs are still calm and forgiving.


Note: I specified "impure" as an aid to understand the temperament of the dog better, in the idea that it might be relevant.

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    What exactly is your father doing that makes you think it makes the dog aggressive? – SerenaT Aug 15 '19 at 7:22
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    I'm not sure that "Impure" is relevant to this question. It might be an idea to remove this as it's implying that "pure" dogs don't exhibit this behaviour. – user8045 Aug 15 '19 at 9:10
  • @SerenaT: when my father starts moving for whatever reason, he is doing it fast - pretty much startling us and the dog. – virolino Aug 15 '19 at 9:14
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It sounds as though the dog isn't sure about what his status is and is taking the dominant role in the absence of any other indications. Defending the floor space/items seem to back this theory up.

Correct this by taking control. When you feed the dog, make him sit and wait for the food and only let him eat it when you "release" him. With our dogs, we ask them to sit and wait while the dish is put on the floor, and then let them have it with an "ok" command.

While they're eating/chewing bones, we sometimes calmly take the food/bone away. Ideally, the dog should be perfectly ok about you doing this - it's your dominant role that's allowing you to do this.

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  • That is definitely the case - the dog really dominating everybody and everything :) We know some ways to get him to cooperate, but he has the final "word" anyway. – virolino Aug 15 '19 at 9:14
  • Dogs are generally food-oriented, so you can use food to help orient their behavior - either by treating good behaviour or "allowing" them to eat their main meals rather than just letting them have it. – user8045 Aug 15 '19 at 9:21
  • One thing I was already suspecting to be not OK was that my parents (I assume, it is my mother's decision) always maintain a good supply of food, so the dog can eat as much as he wants, at any time he wants, any number of times he wants. And the food area is under protection too - although they (parents + dog) have some special protocol, when the dog allows them to re-supply. – virolino Aug 15 '19 at 11:06
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    @virolino Have a look at this related question. This happens quite often if insecure or anxious dogs feel like they have to fill the vacant position of pack leader. The solution is simply to claim this position yourself and you can do this in a gentle and completely violence-free way. But you have to be adamant or he'll reclaim the role of pack leader and relapse into aggressive behavior. – Elmy Aug 15 '19 at 11:36
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Since we cannot really change my father's behavior, how can we change the dog's behavior?

You can only change the dogs behaviour by changing its environment which includes your father's behaviour. It is important to realize that dogs are living beings and as such react to their environment. You would probably snap, too, if I came up in your bedroom while you are sleeping safe and sound and pinched you in the ear (just an example, I have no idea what 'humoring' means in this context). It is a perfectly reasonable response of a living being to defend itself when it feels threatened, so you have to work on building trust and removing threatening elements.

As a first step, try another kind of play with the dog. If normally you play with intense body contact, try something else which does not involve a lot of body contact. You can try to teach the dog to apport things or start clicker training. The key here is that all these activities should be positive, which can be achived by giving treats* during play. You can read into these techniques to see, if you like them. The goal here is to build trust and a positive foundation for your relationship.

To remove threats, make your family members aware, that the personal space of the dog has to be respected. If it lies down to rest, it is not kind to disturb it by touching. People that the dog does not know don't have to get down and start hugging it first thing when they see it. It is your right to ask people to respect boundaries of your dog. Seeing you doing this makes the dog trust your ability to defend it, so it does not have to defend itself.

Please be aware, and I don't say this because I want to attack you: Most of the time the problem is not the dog but the owner. Dogs are very sensitive about their environment. If you want a nice dog that follows your orders, you have to invest in this. I recommend using the 'nice' way using treats and positive reinforcement, but I know there are different approaches which might or might not work (better). It is very important, that the whole family knows about the training goals and is in the boat. This won't work if you come home once a week and train half an hour with the dog. You have to invest in the dog to make it trust and like you, so it does not have to bite to defend itself.

One more thing: it is probably difficult to solve this issue on your own. Maybe you should contact a professional trainer to help you.

*One important thing about treats: be carefull not to overfeed your dog and to chose treats it likes. If the dog normally eats dry food and likes it, you can use some of his daily portion. This has the advantage, that the dog also sees you as relevant for its live, because you are the one giving out food, if you give it all of its daily ration in training or play.

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  • Most of the time the problem is not the dog but the owner. - no attack taken. That is exactly what I mentioned in the question. – virolino Sep 26 '19 at 12:39

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