The Georgia Shih Tzu

Anger Management


shih tzu outline
Biting, Aggression and Fearful Behavior
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2016
I cannot say if there is truth in natural aggressive tendencies in certain breeds. I have heard in the past of a newly created breed that required a hole drilled in the skull at a certain age as the brain grew too large for its skull and the dog would go mad otherwise. Is there truth in the rumor? No clue. I can discuss and study all I want, but without hands on experience from birth to death for every breed I would not be a good source. Since that is impossible, my information will be based on non-hereditary reasons for aggression. The closest I will come is with hereditary diseases. The main reasons that I know at this time will be discussed individually and will be added to in future as my knowledge increases. I will list sources where available, as the rest will be from my own personal experience. These are just basic steps and may need to be added upon or changed depending on the dog and his or your reaction.

***Warning

... Please know that there are many methods for rehabilitating your dog and the methods I introduce must be used with caution and help when available. Do not attempt if you fear your dog and not with unaccompanied children in the room. If you are the parent, have another adult present whom must also not fear your dog. Never attempt to correct behavior regarding children with less than two adults available. When correction does not require the presence of a child keep them away. I only suggest these methods with your understanding that you are aware of the consequences of not using a professional and I am not responsible for the outcome. If you are afraid at all seek a professional and know that there are always risks. I give this information with the understanding that you are either unable to pay for help, are no where near available help or are seeking your last hope for rehabilitation. You must understand a dog that continually bites to hurt or does not respond to any training or rehabilitation is a danger to everyone and must be put down. Dogs that attack without prior warning and without known cause are an especial risk and should be taken to a vet for sedation and check up for pain, disease or injury. Should none of these be found he will have to be but down as he poses the biggest risk of all to everyone.

Mistreatment

Definition
Dogs will always have wild reactions. They are creatures that live with instincts and order. Time does not matter nor does it heal; actions heal. Mistreated dogs, for this purpose, include dogs that have been ignored, beaten, untrained (meaning they have no rules, never left alone, no discipline, no consequences, no boundaries and no order), under nourished, overbred, verbally abused, and terrorized by children or harmed by vet or groomer. These dogs have not been treated well and, like humans, are more susceptible to aggressive reaction in an act of fear as each day of abuse continues. Also, like humans, these mistreated dogs may react in one of only two ways. They will either retreat to cowering and or attack. There is no way to predetermine what the outcome will be and there is no assurity that cowering dogs will not eventually resort to attack. There are also no assurities that lesser forms of abuse will bring on lesser forms of aggression or that aggressive tendencies will take longer to manifest. Severely abused dogs will not become less aggressive with time nor will they ever be normal again. Their lives, once deeply scarred, are permanently distorted and only love and patience and permanent change will make any difference. If you know or suspect your dog has been mistreated at any time and for any length of time the first step is to learn what his boundaries are and work within them. You cannot start making changes right away. You first have to establish the severity of mental damage to your dog. I will first discuss minor damage and move into deeper damage.

Single Item Aggression

Cause
Reasons for aggression toward items usually stem from regular beating with the item or having it thrown at him regularly. There is a very old method of training that recommended the use of a rolled newspaper for hitting when a dog misbehaved. This form of training has long since been abandoned, but many owners use only what they have seen used and do not seek modern methods. There is also the possibility of the item being used to routinely beat for little to no reason other than the owner's anger. Dogs that react badly to leashes, leads, choke collars, pinch collars or stakes have been mistreated in any number of ways. They may have been dragged routinely through dangerous areas and have never had faith in their owner. They may have been routinely chained outside on a lead and ignored or abused while outside. It is also possible they may have come close to fatal harm on their leads or leash due to their own design and owner incompetence or they were placed on a lead with too much distraction and no safety. Any terrifying experience where the owner fails to bring safety or control may result in aggression or fear toward that object, even if the owner is not at fault.
Reaction
Dogs with smaller reactions to past abuse may always attack a certain pair of shoes, newspaper, sticks or straight and thin items, books, or anything previously, routinely punished. They may always attack the leash or growl when one is brought near. They may only react to men, children, certain age groups or certain clothes. The key is to learn just what item or character they are reacting. Make notes of everything your dog looks at or stands in front of when growling, or the fixated "stare" manifests and keep your noted faithfully. You will begin to see patterns and you may be able to guess at the types of abuse your dog endured simply by noticing to what they are reacting.
Reactions to shoes, newspapers, sticks or stick-like items, books and other similar items can be corrected rather simply. Take the item your dog fears and place it on the ground. Expect a mess! Leave it within his reach and avoid using other similar items. Leave it where he can get to it and will see it simply sitting there untouched regularly. He may sniff it, walk to it then run, jump it, chew it, growl at it, paw it; the reactions are fairly numerous. Leave it there until he is able to ignore it for a significant length of time- several days or weeks. If he destroys the item have it replaced to the same area. After the second or third replacement or when he regularly ignores it hold your dog and sit near the item. Do not touch it yet. Sit very close and play or pet him. After a short while place your hand on it and watch his reaction. Should he bristle or become fixated slowly remove your hand and see if he will allow petting. Take it slow. Continue this for no more than an hour then continue the next day. If progress is swift you may try picking the item up and slowly and talking in a calm voice offer it to him. If fixation or growling occurs slowly put it down while soothing and return to petting him if allowed. Continue this for no more than an hour and continue the next day. Once you are able to hold and offer the item to him without reaction try using it. Always keep an eye on his behavior and be prepared to stop when there is a reaction and never test him for more than an hour. Less if the behavior is violent.
Leashes can be a problem for many reasons. He may yelp, growl, bite or cower when one is brought near. He may fight or fidget or refuse to walk when one is clipped. He may howl, bark, run in circles, or worry the lead when chained outside. If you own and outside dog and your yard is not fenced he needs to be kept inside until a fence or large pen can be constructed. Having a fenced yard or pen for an outside dog should have been your first priority before getting a dog and you should have been prepared to keep him inside should the pen or fence not be possible. Pinning a dog unsupervised to a lead outside or in is never humane or safe and should not be attempted. Should you choose to keep him inside and would like the use of a lead while children are playing in an unfenced yard and a pen is not available you may train your dog for the lead once you have trained for the leash. Until then keep him inside. The best way to improve reactions to the leash are to start from the very beginning and treat your dog as a puppy. Leave the leash lying around and let it sit there. I would purchase a very inexpensive leash and expect to replace. Allow him to attack it, chew, throw, drag or otherwise act against the leash. Once he can walk past it routinely and ignore it you may move on. Pet him, give him a treat and/or talk very soothingly as you clip the leash to his collar. If you are having similar problem with the collar start with step one for the collar and then start over again a month or so later with the leash. Move slowly, you had better have nothing but time. Once clipped let it go and allow him to react in any way he sees fit. Leave it on while supervised, do not let him out of your sight!, and allow him to remain for as long as you are able to watch him or until he wears himself out. Using soothing tones or a treat if you wish slowly move toward the collar and unhook the leash then drop and leave it. Try calling your dog or encouraging him to move to make him aware he is no longer clipped.
Do not continue until the next day. Keep this up daily until he no longer reacts when the leash is clipped. Once he is comfortable with the accessory hold it in your hands while you play, pet hold or spend time with him. Stay in one spot and do not allow him to attempt to leave the confines of the leash. Allow him to react once he realizes he is confined and when he has had enough call him, entice with a treat and pet him very carefully while he is being unclipped. Again, encourage him to move and discover he is unhindered. Continue once a day until he is calm for this procedure and stops fighting. Clip him and move outside then and start playing this very mild version of tag. Allow him to walk without being hindered while you are holding the leash, then when he is relaxed start cutting his wandering short. When he allows this and moves in another direction without reaction slowly start walking away from him in a direction that will pull him along gently. Keep his moods in sight and stop the activity when it becomes too much. Feel free to go back to following him until he is calm and you can pick him up to take him inside and unclip him. Praise him for what he has accomplished as often as possible. Continue your daily games until he is willing to follow your lead and you are ready to teach him to heel. At this time you are also ready to clip him to a lead outside, but he must never be unsupervised and must be given attention and love regularly to give him constant encouragement and peace. You may be thinking this is not possible if you are living where there is no fenced yard or pen and walking for the dogs sanitary relief is necessary. Should this be the case, you really should have thought this through before bringing the dog home. You may use potty pads or separate a hard floor space for sanitary needs until you have resolved the issue, but this is far from sanitary and you will pay for it later when you will need to retrain him to relieve himself outside. I would really reconsider your plans before you attempt to leash train an adult, abused dog without the help of a fenced yard or dog run.

Character Aggression

Cause
Some dogs have an uncanny ability to sense good character from bad character. They normally react only in a cowering and avoidance form. If they have been previously abused by such people they are capable of attacking instead of backing away. Other dogs will react to all women or all men. Others to all children or children of certain size or age. This is easy to separate from other behavior if you are keeping your eyes open and taking mental note of all your dog reacts to when meeting other people or family.
Reaction
Reactions can be pretty much the same as you would notice with fear. They may pee where they stand, growl, attack, bark, whine, back up, cower, or run away. If you cannot find much rhyme or reason for this behavior, or if it does not seem to center around a typical type of person, it may be that uncanny sense for good and bad people. Use this to your advantage in this case. Do not allow your dog to attack and train accordingly, but all other reactions may be to your benefit if you are willing to listen to your dog. If you are certain the reaction centers around a particular group of people the best you can do is gather one such person and, keeping your dog on a leash at your side, have the person spend time with you in the same room. Do not push this more that 30 minutes. Do this a few times each day. Next have this person sit with a treat in their hands closer to their dog and have them offer it without trying to touch the dog. If you cannot get the dog to accept the treat have them try putting it on the ground in front of your dog and walking away first. Next hold your dog in place and have the person offer a treat and then pet your dog when it is taken. Do this for a few days then move onto having them hold out their hand to sniff before petting. Take it slow and they will improve. For children, be extra careful and have the child know what they can and cannot do and be sure they will obey before letting them near the dog. Use calm children, not overly active children that cannot sit still. You have to take it slow and cannot rush your dog into uncomfortable situations. While working with your dog, do not allow yourself to worry. You must be calm and firm and your dog must be aware that the situation is non threatening.

Food Aggression

Cause
Aggressive claims over the food bowl can stem from many sources. He may have been starved previously, allowed to react badly when he felt threatened, previously or currently teased, or there may be or have been too many dogs fighting for the right to eat. If you have too many dogs now, then at least one is refusing to let the others eat and you will need to add more food bowls to relieve the fighting.
Reaction
Signs of food aggression will be growling when other come near the bowl and attacking when the other does not back away from the growl. They will snatch at food offered and nip at the fingers holding the food; they will take it and run and not let others near. It may seem pretty harmless, but can turn into a very big problem. To stop this problem you need to put your dog on a leash and pour their food or have a large scrap of a treat in your fingers. Keep a very tight hold on the leash and offer the food. If they jump towards it tug on the leash and keep them from it. Let them try again, tugging on the leash if they leap towards it. Continue this until they come towards the food calmly and slowly. If they snatch at your fingers at the last second you have not lost, you will just need to continue this exercise once or twice a day until he is much calmer about taking the food. The food bowl is the same concept. Hold him tight on the lead and let him near his food. If he jumps at it then tug him back. Continue this until he calmly walks up to it to eat. Once this step has been achieved then move on to the next step. Again use a leash and offer a large scrap of food. When you dog goes to take it move your hand back at the last second and tug on the leash and say no. Then offer it again saying no as you offer it and snatch it away right before he can take it. Keep this up until he hesitates to take it and then say something like yes, now, take or whatever one word command works for you and let him have it. Continue this once or twice a day until he waits for your command. With the food bowl you can do the same thing if you dog is on a schedule and you do not mind giving a command every time you feed him. If you are like me and would much rather not then step two is different from offering a treat. Put him on his leash and place the food bowl in front of him. Once he starts eating move to place your hand on the edge of the bowl. If he turns to look at you, stops eating, growls or makes any other noise, tug on the leash to pull him away from the food. If he fights you, take it away for a few minutes and try again. Do not let this go on more than 30 minutes. Once he allows you to put your hand on the edge of the bowl the follow the steps to take the bowl away while he is eating and repeat the process. When you can do all this without him attacking or acting in any other manner but begging or patience, you have won and can leave him be.

Toy Aggression

Cause
Toy aggression will have the same history as food aggression. He may have been attention starved previously, allowed to react badly when he felt threatened or when learning how to play as a puppy, previously or currently teased, or there may be or have been too many dogs fighting for too few toys.
Reaction
Look for growling when others come near the toy and attacking when the other does not back away from the growl. They will snatch and nip at the fingers holding the toy; they will take it and run and not let others near. Like with food it may seem pretty harmless, but can turn into a very big problem. The solution is to put your dog on a leash and place the toy at his feet. If he jumps at it tug on the leash and keep him from it. Let him try again, tugging on the leash if he leaps toward it. Continue this until he comes to the toy calmly and slowly. You will just need to continue this exercise once or twice a day until he is much calmer the first time it is offered. Once you mastered the first step move on. Again use a leash and offer the toy from your hands. When he goes to take it move your hand back at the last second and tug on the leash and say no. Then offer it again saying no as you offer it and snatch it away right before he can take it. Keep this up until he hesitates to take it and then say something like yes, now, take or whatever one word command works for you and let him have it. Continue this once or twice a day until he waits for your command. After this has been accomplished change to giving him the toy and then moving to take it away. Put him on his leash and give him the toy. Once he starts playing move to place your hand on the toy. If he turns to look at you, stops playing and holds his stance, growls or makes any other noise grab him and shove him on his back in a submissive gesture and take the toy away hen you know you are not going to be bitten. Wait for a few minutes and try again. Do not let this go on more than 30 minutes. Once he allows you to put your hand on the toy and take it away, give it right back and praise him. Continue until he always allows you to take away the toy and return it.

Owner/Family Protection

Cause
Causes for dangerously protective habits can stem from witnessing or surviving serious abuse like child beating or watching a previous owner harmed, but not always. It can also stem from lapses in training such as poor socialization, never leaving home, or never knowing outside company.
Reaction
He will bark or jump or attack when there is noise, when someone is being physically teased (like tickling or chasing), or when someone comes to the door. The best way to control the protection is the same with everything else; practice and love. Work with each behavior individually. For bad reactions to the door get someone to help you. Put him on a leash and have that someone ring or knock on the door. Do not move to answer the door. They should wait a minute or two and then knock or ring again in which time you will be working with your dog. When your dog barks, whines, jumps or stiffens then tug at the leash and make his attention revert to you and not the door. You must remain calm yourself. Continue this until you have got control of him and answer the door. If he is calm once he knows who is at the door, you can go back to working on the sound of a knock or the bell. If he goes insane once the door is open you will need to go through the next step, but only after you have worked past his reaction to the door. Once accomplished invite someone your dog is not familiar with to again knock at the door, but make sure they know not to pay your dog any attention when they are invited in. Make sure your dog is leashed and then with a tight grip on your dog answer the door. Do not allow him to jump or growl or bark; make him refocus on you rather than the visitor. Once you have him under control have them go back out and knock again then answer the door. Be sure they pay your dog no attention at all. Continue you this for no more than 30 minutes and repeat the next day until your dog becomes used to the experience.
If he gets upset during chasing games with your spouse, friends or children the tactics will be somewhat different. Stage a chase or a tickle war or whatever practice gets a reaction from your dog and have someone in the family hold him on a leash. Start the play in his view and have the person near him pet him, talk to him and keep him on a very tight leash. Do not allow him to go near the play. The person holding the leash should have a good relationship with the dog and should be able to continue to work to keep the focus off the play and on themselves. Continue until he can lay down and relax. Repeat this regularly for a few days until he fails to react then try the play off the leash. If he reacts badly again he will have to go back on the leash and you will need to keep going back and forth until he learns the lesson.

Peer Aggression

Cause
Overcrowding and poor socialization are the biggest probable causes for this type of aggression.
Reaction
Correcting peer aggression will be much like correcting overprotectiveness. Stage his appearance among other dogs with owners that are willing to help you. Sit calmly with your dog securely leashed and have one dog brought around, not to be brought any closer than just in passing. If he does not mind this you can move on, but if he does you will need to stay very calm and tug on his leash and talk to him to revert his attention to you. Continue having dogs pass one by one or the same dog back and forth every few minutes until he can lay down and not be bothered. Move onto closer contact. Have the other owner bring his dog closer to yours, be sure his dog is a clam one that does not react to other dogs. Have them come close enough to chat with you while you keep calm and your dog on a tight leash. Do not allow your dog to focus on the other dog. Keep petting, talking and claiming until he can lie down and relax. This will need to be repeated several times with different, nonthreatening dogs until he can be in their space and not feel threatened.

Poor Training

Definition
Next to abuse, this is the most likely cause for aggression. When a dog is not properly given a strong alpha to follow, with strong and definite rules to follow the result is a dog seeking to take over and fighting for dominance. Go back to the basics, yes, that means a crate if possible. Set firm ground rules and teach your dog to live by them. Breaking the rules must have a consequence and following the rules deserves extra attention. Both consequences must take place at the time of the incident or you will only confuse your dog. Take advantage of teaching all the basic commands like sit, stay, heel, and so forth. Giving your dog boundaries lets him know he has a solid alpha to follow and he will be much happier.

Biting

Cause
Biting stems from many poor owner behaviors. Lack of training, abusive consequences for bad behavior, encouraging puppy chewing play games, and hitting your dog can all lead to severe problems with biting. But, lets not forget medical reasons. Dogs in pain, especially severe pain, will resort to instinct when ever pain increases.
Reaction
If you do not believe any of the other causes to be a culprit you must visit a vet to look at any medical causes. Biting is going to be their first defense when they feel threatened, but if it is an encourages behavior it will also be the only reaction they see as acceptable for any situation including play, fear, dominance, and reactions to pain. Be sure you know the behaviors of everyone in regular contact with your dog and correct any mistakes being made in his handling.

Professional Aggression

Cause
Harmed by vet or groomer, these dogs have been harshly dealt with. They may have fallen from a table when the professional was too much in a hurry or had inadequate help when working with your dog. These instances are a bit more common than you think and my first advice is to stop leaving your dog alone with anyone you do not know well enough to be able to promise your dog they will be appropriately and lovingly taken care of. In some instances, such as surgeries and emergency care, you have no choice but to trust the professional in charge of your dogs care, but limit this as much as is possible until you know your care provider well.
Reaction
If the damage is deep and the dog is very mistrusting you have to establish peace and trust before you can do anything else. The cage will be your best friend. Take everything very slowly. Be sure you are not using any sudden or aggressive consequences for behavior faults, keep hyper children and exuberant adults away until you have established a bond and trust between you and your dog. Then go back to the basics and expect any training to take longer than usual and expect to need extra methods of positive reinforcement to encourage the good behavior.