Sunday, April 25, 2010

How to Teach Your Puppy not to Bite - Part 3

This is the third in our series on How to Stop Puppies from Biting. In a previous article we talked about how to prevent food and object guarding in puppies and here we talk about how to fix this problem if it has already started. Please note that the topic here is PUPPIES not adult dogs. If you have an adult dog that is guarding food or possessions or a resting place then we recommend that you hire a professional behavior consultant to help you. This is a very dangerous situation and we would consider this an emergency that requires professional help immediately. If you efforts to follow the instructions below with you puppy are not successful, then please get professional help right away. Once your puppy is cured and even if your puppy never shows signs of guarding, it is important to keep up with these exercises for the life of the dog and not to get into the habit of just taking things away from the dog because he seems to tolerate it.

This article is reprinted with permission from Jean Donaldson

Resource Guarding in Puppies
By Jean Donaldson

Dear Jean,

I just got a new nine week-old Rottie puppy. He’s stunning, smart and generally friendly but growls and snaps if I go near him while he’s eating. He also does this to my adult Rotties. I’ve never seen this in a puppy so young. Is he some sort of lemon? Is he a dominant dog? Is there anything I can do? Help!

It is indeed alarming for most people to see frank aggression in puppies. In the case of resource guarding – food, bone, bed etc. possessiveness – there is good news and bad news. The good news is you can start addressing it in a young, hopefully plastic, spongy puppy with weak jaws. The bad news is that there is some sentiment out there among trainers that aggression in puppies is an insidious sign of the problem having Deep Genetic Roots and therefore fruitless to tackle. I’m going to explore the whole nature-nurture debate later but for now will simply say that there doesn’t seem to be any overwhelmingly tidy correlation between behavior problems that are thought to have a strong genetic component and their susceptibility (or lack thereof) to behavior modification.

I recently had a similar case, in my own foster puppy. Buffy, a stray six week-old Chow, presented with object and food guarding against people and dogs. I elected to not touch the dog-dog issues, which is a relatively common approach. Her socialization and play skills were coming along nicely and she was developing good acquired bite inhibition. The guarding against people, however, needed to be actively resolved. The following is a summary of Buffy’s food guarding exercise regime. Incidentally, Buffy also presented with socialization deficits and severe body handling problems, which were also addressed, as was her object guarding. The key to good hierarchy design is small enough incremental steps that at no point do you see the original guarding problem. In the case of a puppy, such as this, there may actually be more aggressive increment jumps. I did a few other things in the can’t-hurt-might-help category. These included impulse control (stay, off and wait) and extra soft-mouth training.


When approached while eating from her dish, Buffy would freeze and, if approach continued, growl briefly and then lunge and snap. If touched while eating, she would growl simultaneous to whirling and biting. Due to the independent body-handling problem, this had to be partly resolved prior to combining it with food bowl exercises. Buffy did not guard an empty dish.


Step 1 (day 1): Installment feeding of canned food. I sat on the floor next to Buffy’s dish and spooned in one mouthful. Once she had swallowed, I spooned the next mouthful into her dish. By the end of the second meal, she demonstrated a clear happy anticipatory orientation to my spoon hand after each swallow.

Step 2 (day 1-2): Overlap. This was essentially the same as Step 1 except that I added the next spoonful to her dish while she was still consuming, always a much dicier proposition. We did this for three meals without evidence of guarding seen.

Step 3 (day 2-3): Approach overlap. I was now standing. I spooned larger installments, withdrew two paces, re-approached and added the next spoonful while Buffy was still consuming. So, this combined approach with the overlap exercise. We stuck with this for three meals, at end of which time a Conditioned Emotional Response (CER) had become evident – Buffy wagged and looked up on approach. We then repeated the exercise for one more day (5 small meals) with larger withdrawal distances and intervals.

Step 4 (day 4): Trumping. Now I spooned her entire puppy-sized ration into her bowl. I withdrew five paces, paused 15 seconds, approached and added a (hidden) marble-sized dollop of goat cheese. I had pre-auditioned the goat cheese out of context and ascertained it to be in Buffy’s Top Five All Time Foods. I withdrew to six paces and waited for Buffy to continue to consume – this was not immediate (typical of trumping – dog orients to handler rather than back to dish) – then repeated. On the third trial I got a clear CER– withdrawal from bowl on approach, orientation to me and tail wag. Clever little thing.

Step 5 (day 4-6): Covering High Value Base. To up the ante, I tried some approaches while she was consuming a top food (bowl of treats), rather than normal meal ration level food. I trumped it with higher value stuff (gorgonzola). In two trials, I once again saw her happy anticipatory CER, a very rapid curve indeed.

Step 6 (day 4 onward): Cold Trials. To better simulate real life, I initiated random trumping. At least once per meal, from a random direction, at a random time and with one of Buffy’s top foods, I approached and added the bonus. Better than 80% of the time, I got an evident “yippee” CER. At no point did she guard.

Step 7 (day 8 onward): Generalization. I recruited my husband, colleagues in my office and a neighbor to do some random trumps, with careful monitoring for any evidence of regression, including the absence of “yippee” CERs to their approach. Had this been an adult dog, the hierarchy – and, notably, a much more gradual one too – would have been recommenced at the beginning by each new recruit, with likely accelerated progress rate for each successive person.

Step 8 (day 15 onward): Body Handling. It was only here that I commenced patting, grabbing or pushing her around while she was eating. In most cases this would come earlier (prior to cold trails), however with Buffy it took me this long to get the independent body-handling problem up to speed. The handling during eating exercise consisted of the body touch (later handling) followed by a trumping addition, repeated until the body touch/handling elicited the “yippee” CER. Buffy’s CER consisted of a wag as well as orientation to my hand. If I stored the bonus in my other hand behind my back or my pocket and reached with a blank hand, she would wag and orient to my face.

Buffy is now on maintenance with a cold trumping or body handling trial usually once per meal and use of other people whenever an opportunity presents itself. I ended up adopting her.

Reprinted courtesy of Jean Donaldson

More from Jean Donaldson:

Mine! A Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs by Jean Donaldson

Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson

Read the rest of the articles in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Click here for help in finding a behavior consultant

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dog Bite Prevention Week 2010

Dog Bite Prevention Week is the 3rd week in May and now is a good time to plan your activities and order any materials you might need.

Doggone Safe offers a press release that you can customize as well as many free downloads and products for sale. Additional resources will be added to the website soon!

Click here to see what is available for free download.

Click here to see what is available in our store.

Liam J Perk Foundation

We were greatly saddened to hear of the death of 2-year old Liam J Perk in December 2009. To honour Liam's memory, his parents and aunt have created the Liam J Perk foundation with the goal of educating parents and kids about safety around dogs and how to understand dogs better. These goals are shared with Doggone Safe and we look forward to working in partnership with  the Liam J Perk foundation.

Click here to find out more and read Liam's story. We will let you know when the official web page is posted.

Here is the Facebook page for the Liam J Perk Foundation

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Recommended Product - What is My Dog Saying? CD

What is My Dog Saying?

CD produced by Carol Byrnes of Diamonds in the Ruff

This CD (also available as a download) contains a well-organized PowerPoint presentation about dog body language. This explains how to interpret the signals dog send to people, other animals and to each other. There are over 100 slides in the presentation and many videos to help explain how dogs communicate. This CD would be great for dog owners who want to understand their dog better, trainers and dog professionals who want to update their knowledge or provide staff training. The PowerPoint format means that you can use the presentation or its contents to offer presentations of your own to staff or the public.

This is available from  Dogwise

Doggone Safe earns commission on sales

For the month of April 2010 you can purchase this for a $5 discount from Diamonds in the Ruff using the code DGsafe at checkout. This discount is available only through Diamonds in the Ruff and only until the end of April 2010.

Photos and Videos of Dog and Baby/Toddler

Dogs and babies or toddlers often make adorable subjects for photos and videos. Examples of these abound on the web. Proud parents post cute videos of dogs with babies and toddlers. You can find dozens of these by doing a search on YouTube. It is difficult to open a magazine without seeing a "cute" photo of a dog being hugged by a child. We will talk about this more in a future blog post.

Here is an example of a popular video that has circulated several times:

This is a lovely dog and is not threatening the baby. What we want to point out is that the dog's intentions are completely misinterpreted.

The dog is uncomfortable with the actions of the baby. The dog is unsure about how to react. The dog is not showing love or concern for the baby. Note that the dog flicks it tongue, yawns and turns away from the baby. Parents should intervene when they see signs like these that indicate that the dog is tolerating, but not enjoying the attentions of the baby or toddler. It is not fair to expect a dog to tolerate this type of situation and in fact the dog may not continue to be so tolerant if this type of interaction continues over time.

If you think that you would be quick enough from behind the camera to prevent a bite if your dog did get to the point of being so fed up with your child's attention that he finally did decide to reprimand the child, take a look at this page which contains a video that shows how fast a dog can be. Imagine that the puppy in the video was an child annoying the dog. This is a typical doggy reprimand. It did not hurt the puppy because he has a lot of fur and the adult dog did not intend to hurt him, but it would have done a lot of damage to a baby or toddler. This page also shows a number of other videos from YouTube that illustrate inappropriate interactions between dogs and babies/toddlers. You can read more about some of these at the Dogs and Storks blog.

Parents, do yourselves, your child and your dog a favor by having your own hands on both the dog and the baby/toddler if they are close by each other. If there is no adult in the photo or video, then this is an unsafe situation and the supervision is not close enough. Both dogs and babies/toddlers are unpredictable. Don't take a chance!

Even if you are certain that your dog would never hurt your baby or toddler, surely you wouldn't want your canine family member to be full of stress and anxiety - such as we see above with the boxer. Your dog needs protection from this type of situation.

In the words of Doggone Safe co-founder Teresa Lewin: "trust is a dog's worst enemy". Think about that.

Listen to an interview with Jennifer Shryock of Family Paws in which she refers to the video included above and gives important information for parents of young children who have a dog in the house.

Visit the Doggone Safe site for more information for parents about safety around the family dog for kids and babies.

Visit our body language pages for photos and videos that teach kids and parents how to understand what the dog might be thinking.

Prevent Urban Shocks

There has been an increasing number of reports of dogs (and people as well) being shocked by manhole covers, street grates, lamp posts, fire hydrants and other metal objects while walking in urban areas. Horses, dogs and people have been killed or injured by stray voltage.

Doggone Safe is concerned about the welfare of dogs and also the welfare of people who may be around dogs. Dogs are more likely to bite if hurt or afraid and so the presence of these shock hazards increases the bite hazard potential as well.

Since many people may not be aware of this issue we would like to highlight it here so that those of you who walk dogs in urban areas can be careful and can spread the word.

Thanks to Blair Sorrel of Street Zaps for providing the following information. Please visit the Street Zaps site to find out more or to report an urban shock incident.


Of course, you want a worry-free walk year-round, so adopt this simple strategy:


Take just a few seconds to survey the immediate surroundings and make your trajectory toward a non-conductive surface, ie., plastic, wood, cardboard, rather than risking any metal or electrical fixture. The lowly, free-standing garbage bag, is you and your dog's best friend, most of the time, unless it's snowed and salted. Then you might contemplate indoor products. Consider the safer, hardware-free RopeNGo leash and harness to help shield against a possible zapping and for greater peace of mind.


Your pooch's sex is irrelevant. True, the most gruesome scenario is that of a male dog electrocuted by its own urine. Our poster girl sidled a hydrant and limped for five days.Intuit your dog's cues, if resistant to an area, choose an alternative route. Elude potentially live work areas or carry your canine, if necessary. Opt for indoor products such as The Pet Loo, Hammacher Schlemmer's Indoor Restroom, or Wee-Wee Pads, if external conditions are ominous. Dog booties can leak and make your pooch even more vulnerable.


Any of these fixtures might be dangerous, so again, choose non-conductive where and when possible.

  • Street & Traffic Lights can leak if damaged internally, even if the compartment is fully closed and the light is not illuminated
  • While wooden blocks anchor Scaffolding or Sidewalk Sheds, be aware that sloppy wiring by a contractor and/or the use of lighting equipment which is NOT WATER-PROOFED or even suitable for outdoor usage, may still shock a passerby.
  • ATM Vestibules
  • Decorative Lighting
  • Dog Booties may increase the risk of a shock
  • Electrical Boxes
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Fire Police Call Boxes
  • Manhole Covers
  • Muni Meters
  • Phone Booths
  • Service Boxes
  • Street Light Boxes
  • Traffic Boxes
  • Work Areas
After all, why chance it when there's a choice?


Tampered equipment can become pernicious so please map (Report Form) damaged fixtures and known hot spots to admonish other pedestrians and alert the utility and transportation department.

Find out more at Street Zaps