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What in the world is wrong with my dog?


Barney's Mom
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I am at a loss for words....

After a lovely walk in the park this afternoon, Barney was asleep on my lap. My daughter was sitting next to me on the couch. Barney must have been awake, because she reached under her shirt to scratch her stomach and Barney sat up and lunged at her, snarling and baring his teeth! I think he would have bit her had she not pulled her hand away.

Then before bed I let him out to go potty. When I come in I wipe his feet with a towel. Well I gently pulled him toward me with the leash on him and went to wipe his feet and he snarled and snapped at me.

We have been using a chain collar to train him this week. He seemed to be doing better at sitting and walking. I have been using it to try to get him to "leave it", all very calm and not getting loud or angry, just firm.

But the thing that frightens me is that any time we try to get him to submit to us, all done very humanely and from instruction by others who are training dogs themselves, it seems to make him even more aggressive.

Question: does it get worse before it gets better? I don't know how much more I can take of his aggressive behavior. Despite all of this, he is constantly "stealing" things and then fighting to the death to keep them. I am growing very weary and fearful of his aggression when I try to correct him.

I am in tears right now and am seriously considering calling a rescue group to take him. I cannot risk anymore senseless attacks to my daughter or me.

All creatures great and small, the Lord God, He made them all!

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Barney's Mom,

Pardon me if the senility has the upper hand today, as you may have already mentioned this. Has Barney been vet checked to rule out any medical issues? My Cairn got very grouchy and grumbly and the next day I noticed frequent urination. One trip to the vet later, a UTI. When he had a couple of days meds in him his personality returned to normal. I've also seen dogs with thyroid problems that contributed to some ugly behavior.

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I have not had Barney checked for thyroid or other problems. That is my next step.

Our futile training history in a nutshell:

I tried positive reinforcement/trading to no avail. When he was younger and had something in his mouth, I would just let him sniff the treat and say "leave it". He would then lunge for the treat in my hand, almost biting me, and try to get back to the item he should be "leaving". Of course I did not allow this. But sometimes it does work IF what he has in his mouth is of lesser value than the treat. If he has something really good like a sock, forget it. No treat in the world is as good to him as a sock! Go figure....

Then I was told that when he won't leave something, I should scruff him and put him on his side. When I did this he would get really out of control and pee on the floor. Sometimes with him on his side if he still did not respond to "leave it", we would give him a squirt with the squirt bottle. I did that once and he got loose from my grip and bit me. I don't do that anymore. Nor do we do the scruffing and laying on the side. It only escalated his aggression.

Now we have moved on to the choke chain, also recommended by people with good trainers. We thought we saw some improvement, but today blew everything we had hoped clear out of the water. Whatever provoked this dog to sit up and lunge at my daughter for scratching her stomach when minutes before he was in a tranquil sleep on my lap......I am at a loss.

Now I just read online that you should never punish aggressive behavior! I never punish Barney in any way other than a good pop with the chain, or putting him in his pen away from the family. I read on another online site that this is what a dog pack does for unruly members. They isolate them from the pack.

But NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING gets Barney to stand down. And all the conflicting oppinions as to how to treat aggression have made me feel so frustrated and helpless.

All creatures great and small, the Lord God, He made them all!

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Breathe ! I'm 53, grew up with dogs, had dogs all my life, I can't think of a day when I haven't had a dog. I thought I knew it "all" as far as raising and training dogs. Then my boss's best friend brought in his dog "Mia". She was so so so good......I asked him who trained her ! He told me his teen daughter had done PetSmart training......I went and signed up Toby ASAP. It is the best 99.00 I have ever spent in my life. To be honest, it almost sounds like you are getting "second hand" training, when you really could use some firsthand experience with a trainer, along with it some true behaviour diagnostics.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I really don't think it's such a good idea to use a chain on these small dogs......too easy to damage their trachea to begin with. Things I did learn in class, harnesses incourage pulling.....leashes that retract and then move out as the dog moves forward incourages pulling....The final test...Toby got out into the parking lot at work today. He was about 25-30 feet from me and when I called him........HE CAME ! I thought for sure I was going to have a round of "you can't catch me", my heart was in my throat, but HE CAME ! I called him happily and merrily, just like I learned in class.......Please go to class with Barney, he is well worth it !

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It sounds like the only thing you are left with is some one on one time with a trainer. I don't think the petsmart program would be enough for Barney. You need a skilled person that can maybe even observe Barney a ome and help find those triggers. That and a vet exam...

Jack got pretty snarky again tonight, very much two steps forward and one step back. So I totally know how you feel.

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I also am against the choke chain my husband had taken my baby girl angel to a super petz and I went to one of the classes with him and they used the "jerk and chain method" with the dogs that might be okay for like dogs like boxers, pit bulls or whatever big dogs. I could tell Angel wasn't recieving it well she didnt want to listen at all def. the most stubborn in the class. I am taking Scotty to a place that only deal with behaviors and gives classes. They use the clicker and NILF. Scotty is doing just great with it responds to it VERY well. and trust me he needs LOTS of training! but hes been doing great so far.

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Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really." - Carlotta Monterey O'Neill

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I am so sorry you are going through this with Barney. It must be very frightening and frustrating for you.

I agree that medical issues should be ruled out first. I know that that when Cricket was a few months old she had a UTI and she was very grouchy and snappy.

Not soon after we brought Cricket home, we experienced Cricket getting snarky if she was busy with something either in the yard or in the house. If you tried to pick her up she got all pissy and growly or if you tried to take a high value item away from her she would get growly. I was very upset by this behaviour and immediately made an appointment with a trusted behaviourist where I trained Lucy. She gave me some great advice that was good solid training advice geared toward Terriers, not just blanket training advice.

I immediately enrolled her in puppy class and trained Cricket using positive methods only with a clicker. Rewarding behaviour that you desire and ignoring or preventing undesired behaviour from happening.

Have you taken Barney to training classes? Formal training classes can help establish you as a confident leader, give Barney a job, and help socialize him. Have you implemented NILIF methods? I would avoid harsh/ punishment based training as it can escalate aggression.

One thing about taking stuff away from Barney and getting upset by his stealing items. Cricket loves to steal stuff. I think most Cairns do, they are little thieves and pack rats. I don't let it bother me and I I don't make a big deal about it. The minute I have, it becomes a game for Cricket and a game I won't win. If I ran after her, got her all charged up, and tried to take something from her, I guarantee she would put up a fight.

So I don't. I get a treat, go over to her and calmly say, "hey whatcha got, Cricket?" and in the beginning I would nose tease her with a treat. She would drop the item and I would praise and reward. Then I would either give the item back to her...if it was a sock or a piece of paper from the trash, or I would trade her with something really good like a kong with a bit of PB if she had something unsafe or breakable that she stole. Cricket quickly learned that when people take things from her, good things happen and sometimes she even got to keep some of the itmes.. I practice this everyday.

Are there training classes in your area that train using clicker and positive methods? I think you would see a dramatic change in Barney using these methods.

Also, how much exercise is Barney getting? Is he getting enough exercise mentally and physically? I don't mean just letting him out in the yard. I mean engaging him in games, walks, etc. If Barney isn't getting enough exercise that could also translate into bad behaviour. One game that is great for wearing out a young dog is teaching "go find it" ..start be putting your dog in a sit stay in one room, showing the dog a really cool toy with a bit of food on it, and hiding the toy in another room. Then together, release the dog from a sit stay and say "find it Barney" and help him search out this great toy...when he finds it, make a huge deal about it, praise him up and down, and let him play with the toy or bone. Do this a couple of times a day and Barney will quickly learn it is a great game and as soon as you say "go find it" her will be off searching every corner of the house for that treat you want him to have. You can make the game harder and harder as Barney gets better and better.

I hope you can get some help with Barney. I don't think he is a lost cause...

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Busy week here, been meaning to email you. I agree w/ the others about having the vet check him out to rule out any medical condition, like hypothyoidism. I also would have had a neurologist check him over, being his heart stopped for so long back when he was neutered, just to rule out any damage.

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Beth, mom to Ninja (5), Hannah (7), Abbey (7 1/2), Kiara (10)

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I use a choke chain on Savannah and it works really well for her. As I have said before, different training methods work for different dogs. It is very confusing because there is so much conflicting information out there, one person tells you to do something, another person says not to do that, etc. All I can say is keep trying different things until you can find something that works for your dog and when you find something that works, stick with it.

When training, whatever the method is, most dogs will resist and backslide at the beginning. I don't think that any method is going to work 100% of the time forever. Especially at the beginning. I really understand your frustration. My trainer told me that dogs are like young children. You cannot just tell them once or twice to do a command and expect them to do it. Training a dog takes repetition just like teaching a child his ABC's takes repetition. If you have found a method that you think it working better than another, use that method for awhile, not until he acts agressive again. You will have to train something many many times over before it will become a learned habit or trait. One thing that I would suggest is to practice with Barney EVERYDAY on taking items away and when you do it, start out taking things away from him that you feel are less likely to cause him to act aggressivly. The more you do this, the more having things taken away from him will become a behavior that he is familiar with and used too. The more this is in his daily routine, the better he should become with it. Another thing I would do is NOT give him him anything that you KNOW will cause him to act this way. If it is a particular treat or toy or sock or whatever, don't let him have it at all. Until he can prove that he is going to act like a well behaved dog, he has lost his privledges to that item. I would also take him to the vet and tell him what Barney has been doing. Maybe he can run a test to rule out medical problems OR tell you another method that he knows or has seen that may be helpful to you.

Call me crazy but how is Barney with other dogs? Does he show aggression towards other animals? I have heard several people who said that getting another dog made there bad dog good because the dog had a playmate and was not bored anymore. That is why I have heard that dogs are destructive is boredom. If Barney could not be watched, I would put him in his crate or teather him to me just like he was a puppy.

Here's wishing you the best of luck and I wish there was more that I could do for you. If at all possible, get him in a formal training class. If that is not possible, go to the local bookstore and try to find a book on aggression. I am sure there are books that you can read to try and do the training youself. Good luck and please don't give up on Barney. Keep us posted!

We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.

-M. Acklam

Savannah's Dogster Page

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I too would seek profesional help. I think this is beyond a "training" issue (as in trying to fix it with treats and things of that nature) . Barney has some serious dominance problems and I think some training for you and him would be a good thing.

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I don't think I really have any great advice. I know when we went through a mini phase with Hollie snaping and biting me that one time over a bone I was terrified she'd do it again. She will continue to be a work in progress - although she's never done it since - she gives me this glazed look sometimes like she wants to think about it - but I never back down and I never let her know that I fear she'll do it. I'm not sure what to think about a dog that lunges for no good reason, not over a toy, not over a bone or a meal - I'm not a fan of the choke chain - especially on a little dog like a cairn - maybe it works for some - I don't really know - I think maybe someone coming into the home training wise might be beneficial since Barney is having issues with all family members. They could come in and evaluate the environment and what might be setting Barney off. I've also heard that some dogs that suffer traumatic circumstances like Barney did when he was neutered that it often leaves them with agresssion tendencies - now if that's really a scientific fact I don't know either - only a qualified vet could probably give you accurate information on whether that's actually a possibility or not. The most I could really say is consult a vet and a in-home trainer. As it sounds like you've already tried everything I would have come up with. Good luck and hang in there.

Hollie Edelbrock & Brystal Sonoma
Chris, Stacy and Little Noah
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I am so sorry you are are going through this awful time with Barney. I agree totally that a vet checkup is needed. I would insist on a complete blood chemistry profile just to rule out any medical conditions.

Please keep us posted on Barney and hang in there. I'm sure your vet can steer you in the right direction if the problem is not physical. I will be thinking about you.....I remember only too well how I felt when Elliott was going through his demon spells and it's awful.

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Definitely have the thyroid level checked. Also, I have heard of dogs being put on SSRIs (anti-depressants) because they can have a chemical imbalance in their brain. Most rescue groups won't take a dog if he is biting. Hopefully it is a correctable medical condition. Some of it could be a genetic issue. Also, if his brain was deprived of oxygen whe he was neutered, he could have suffered a traumatic brain injury which can cause aggressive behavior. A vet should be able to rule all of this out. Make sure you and your family are up to date on your tetanus shots. I have been bitten a couple of times and get a tetanus every 5 years. Wishing the best of luck to you.

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Is Barney your first dog?

Edited by Janet

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It has often been said if you have a Cairn Terrier in your home for a year you will have one for the rest of your life

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Good luck with this! I feel for you and I hope you and Barney can get this problem resolved.

I would also agree with the others about getting a vet to check him out and also about the training classes. All dogs react differently, but training can really do wonders!

I hope it helps!

Jack's Mom
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After you rule out any medical problems, try the old fashion method...newspaper! I wouldn't hit him with it, of course, just make him afraid of it. I just rattle the paper alittle and it gets Tuckers attention. He needs to be fearful of something.

I feel so sorry for you - we love these animals so much, I am sure it is crushing when he acts like that. I hope things get better for you soon!

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I would suggest that you get in touch with a behaviorist in your area as well as a good trainer. A behaviorist would be a good way to get to help you get to the root of his temperment issues and help you solve them if they are solvable.

Take him to the vet and rule out any illnesses.

This could very well be a genetic temperment issue too, you may want to check into that as well.

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Hello, all!

Well, after a very sleepless night last night, we had a pretty uneventful day in Barneyland. Although he did do something that cued me in to how he views me and I put a quick stop to it. I was sitting on the floor and throwing his rope toy and he would retrieve it. Of course he tried to grab it when I went to throw it, but I just wouldn't throw it until he willingly let me have it. I made him sit and then I threw it. He then brought it back and was on my lap chewing the rope, then all of a sudden he tried to hump me leg!! In the loudest, growliest tone I could muster, I said NO!!! He growled and I threw him off me, picked up all his toys and put them away and totally ignored him. As I walked over to the refrigerator he followed me. I was standing by the counter and he was gently pawing my leg. I stared him dead eye in the face and said NO! in a commanding voice. He stopped pawing me and went and sat in the corner! Hurray!!! I won, you little stinker!!! OK, I did feel kind of sorry for him, but only for a microsecond!! :twisted:

I spoke with a very reputable dog training place near our home. I talked with the man at great length and he gave me some advice, a repeat of some I had already heard. He has one of those Cain Corso (sp?) dogs, one of the most aggressive dogs there are, and he said he has trained it to be like a big docile teddy bear. I explained Barney's situation and he said we MUST calmly scruff him and put him on his side EVERY time he shows aggression toward one of us. And don't talk at all when we have him in this position. He said sometimes it can take up to 30 minutes to get him to let go of something or settle down, but we must do it. I am going to let my husband do this from now on, because I am so scared of getting bit. My husband is a construction worker and can bench-press upwards of 300 pounds. He is NOT afraid of this little 20 pound pipsqueek!! That is part of the problem, because I have a very passive and non-confrontational personality. I am praying that God would give me the confidence to not let this dog terrorize me. Or should I say terrierize!! Maybe I can send him over to the local enlistment office and they can put him into milliitary service! All he would have to do is pitch a fit in Bagdad and there would be a peace treaty signed!!! :lol:

The trainer also said that it takes several weeks to see results, but we will see them if we are faithful to do what we need to do to put Barney in his place. I have enrolled in a beginner class with him starting at the end of February. I hope and pray we are on the verge of overcomming this obstacle with Barney. And I am going to take him to the vet and get him checked out for sure.

I want to thank all of you for your devoted support in offering advice. Oh boy, here come the tears........ I wish I could just hug you all. I am so thankful for your kindness. This forum is a Godsend.

Mary

All creatures great and small, the Lord God, He made them all!

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After you rule out any medical problems, try the old fashion method...newspaper! I wouldn't hit him with it, of course, just make him afraid of it. I just rattle the paper alittle and it gets Tuckers attention. He needs to be fearful of something.

I feel so sorry for you - we love these animals so much, I am sure it is crushing when he acts like that. I hope things get better for you soon!

I wouldn't use newspaper , scruffing, water pistols etc this could make matters worse and make Barney fearful. Dogs can become aggresive if frightened and will attack first. Barney could be becoming jumpy to sudden movements like when your daughter scratched her tummy. He may have misread what was happening.

Edited by Janet

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It has often been said if you have a Cairn Terrier in your home for a year you will have one for the rest of your life

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The trainer gave you excellent advice. Scruffy has tried every form of "dominance" and "aggression" that her little mind can think of, ONCE! I paid the money for an "in home" trainer and it was well worth it. Every time Scruff shows any kind of "aggressive, snappy, growling attitude, on the side she goes with my hand firmly on her neck. The Dog Whisperer will advise this too. If you can not get the Whisperer on TV, google him, get his tapes and newsletter. The biggest improvement in Scruffys behavior came from Caesar. He emphasizes the walk and the importance. Always always always walk out the door first. Scruffy must sit, in a calm submissive state before one paw moves. It is very important that your dog stays behind your or too your side as the pack leader. If you allow your dog to lead you, you have lost. Scruffy goes on a minimum 1 mile walk to different places every morning. After 2 weeks of a walk that I had full control of, 99% of her little attitude problems vanished and she is a happier dog. I use a choke collar and it works great. I know Caesar sells his recommended collar on his site. The important aspect of any collar is that the owner knows how to use it.

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Barneysmom,

Glad you talked to a pro! And I agree totally except for one thing. Having your husband do it probably will not change the dogs attitude towards you much. Every one has to be a pack leader to the dog. You took some awesome steps the other night - especially by ignoring him and putting all his toys away. I would add to that by advising that when you come home or walk into a room ignore him then as well. Especially if he gets excited when you come home. No eye contact, no talking, just calmly hang your coat, talk to your husband/kids etc...

At some point the excited activity when you come home will stop or greatly reduce. Chewie pretty much greets us at the door waggin his tail now. No barking, jumping up or pawing at us and if he even gives a hint of it it's an imediate correction.

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HUGS ! It sure sounds like you are heading in the right direction, but I do agree with a prior post about hubby doing the scruffing. It's almost sounds like a mommy who says "wait until your father gets home". That mom just gave up her authority ! I have scruffed Toby a few times for the sin of chasing cats. I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms/hands, but I was still able to hold Toby firmly until he relaxed. I wonder if maybe you could try it when needed and just have your husband as backup ? I hope you enjoy your training classes as much as I did, I was amazed at what I learned and was able to teach Toby.

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