Why Does My Dog: Bite Me?

Q            My puppy Jack Russell is very boisterous and goes mad when I put a collar and lead on her. She’s ten weeks old and bites me when I pick her up. Perhaps I got the wrong breed? Will she always be so aggressive?

A            Our approach to puppies of any breed is generally the cause of them biting us. They’re cute and cuddly, so we want to show our affection and give them everything we think they need to make them happy and love us. It’s a sad situation when puppies bite their adoring owners, but all is not lost. I would suggest that you take a step back and let her see that biting you won’t work. It’s her way of trying to control you, just as she would have done with her siblings in the litter. Handling/touching a dog is reward in itself; it is in fact our primary means of giving acknowledgement, praise and affection. It’s really high value to a dog and if we give attention that is not earned we are falling into the trap of reducing our status in the dog’s mind. Expect your puppy to earn everything: her meals, cuddles, playtime etc. Ask her to “sit”, “come” or give you her immediate attention – “watch!”. That will put a higher value on you and what you give her. In addition, ensure that she is adequately socialised with other dogs and people.

Contact Sue at Essex Dog Academy if you need more help on 07867 988 711

Why Does My Dog: Ignore Me?

Q            I give my dog everything she needs: love, care, the best food, exercise – she lacks for nothing, yet I feel there’s a missing link. It’s as if she decides not to hear what I tell her and she sometimes chews things like my shoes or chair legs! I just don’t know what more I can do.

A            Sorry to say so, but it sounds like your dog doesn’t respect you, despite being the provider of everything she needs. Dogs test our limits, treating us as equals and sometimes they are totally perplexed as to what we want of them. We need to be the decision-makers; be decisive and correct unwanted behaviour to enable the dog to have clear guidance. Many dogs are confused by our actions and body language; when they do things we don’t want them to we are often afraid of hurting their feelings, which perpetuates the confusion. We get frustrated, we may shout or get angry, but all this serves to do is perhaps stop the behaviour at the time, not solve the problem. This is the route to long term bad behaviour and the breakdown of communication between us and our dogs.

For a dog to adopt good behaviour, manners and respect for us, we must show sound leadership, just like a good manager does in the workplace. Making calm, measured decisions is essential for any company to function at its optimum level; similarly so, we must be calm and confident so that what we do radiates to our dogs. Assertiveness illustrates that we are in control and your dog will thank you for it. Very few dogs want to be leaders, in fact most prefer to follow, similar to the number of employees in relation to employers. There has to be a decision maker in families, companies, government, schools and of course amongst dogs.

So as well as providing all your dog’s physical needs, go one step further and provide the missing link, that is, make the decisions so that your dog will feel protected and show that you are trustworthy. Set down some rules and boundaries within your home and relationship. Take the grey areas out of your relationship and I am sure that when she knows exactly what you want she’ll give you the respect that she wants to give you and you deserve. She may love you even more!