Fostering rescued pit bull with mysterious past

Discussion in 'Dog Rescue Forum' started by j0equ1nn, Mar 26, 2012.

  1. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

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    Thanks everyone for so many replies. I didn't mean to be so offensive last time, but on the other hand I want to be free to say what I'm thinking when I go on here, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't times when I question how much the forum has helped. At the moment I'm feeling like there are a lot of people out there who want to help me so it couldn't hurt to listen to them.

    One thing I want to point out though is that up until the point where my dog snapped at me, I did very little but follow the advice I got on this forum. I was feeding him in small portions in a bowl, with my hand on him, in silence, and waiting for him to look at me each time before giving him more food. When I left for my trip I instructed my friend to just put his food down and leave him alone. He did this except also enforced a stay command. When I got back from my trip, the dog was sick and on a special diet. I waited until about a week after he'd returned to his usual diet before reinstating the training, and did the same thing as before. One problem is that sometimes as I was rushing out and running late, I did not have time for his feeding routing, and so I would just put down a bowl and make him stay for it, then leave. This is an example of one thing that might be an issue. Sometimes I need to do things like that. I work full time and go to school full time and most days if I sleep for longer than 6 hours I have to skip the shower. I'm not trying to be off-putting if I say I don't have time to read any books. But my fiancee would probably want to read it, so I'll mention it to her.

    So maybe the following was my error, but it is certainly not obvious that it would be such a bad move. Sometimes when I put the bowl down for him, I would be passing by and he would growl at me. Usually not, but if he did I would take the bowl and make him sit and stay again, then give it back. Usually it was successful and even ended the growling. But a couple of times he snapped at me. That's when I did the muzzle-holding business. I learned the muzzle-holding method from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, by the way, back around 1996. I know that there have been a lot of changes in dog training philosophy since then, but doing this is not such a barbaric alpha-male activity. It's not called for to tell me I'm doing it for my own sick pleasure of overpowering my dog. Maybe Freud would think that was in there somewhere if we wanted to turn this into a psychoanalysis session, but my point is it's something I learned from a dog trainer. I'm sure it must have worked in some situations to have been used for long enough for Guiding Eyes for the Blind to adopt it as a regular technique.

    Anyway, I'm open to suggestions. But keep in mind that almost everyone on here is a dog-expert and the way you talk sometimes you're alienating your audience. I don't know. That's why I'm here. If I thought I knew everything about this crap I wouldn't be on here.

    What I have done since the couple of biting episodes is I've made all meal times exclusively hand-feedings. I feed him big hand fulls so he doesn't have to feel restricted about his pace of eating, and I wait for him to look at me after each one before giving another. He has no problem looking right away since my fiancee taught him the look command (I don't have to say it either). I've been late for work a few times because I think it's important we do this consistently. He's made significant improvements in not being nervous and eventually even being excited about mealtimes.

    My fiancee has been reading books about dog training. One of them says that a food-aggressive dog should be exclusively hand fed, and that it's important the dog learn that all its resources come strictly from the owner.

    So I'll read any recommendations. However my ongoing criticism may be the main source of the whole problem here: there is never any advice about what to do DURING a time when a dog is attacking you, whether it's a mild attack or serious attack. The only response so far is to suggest that my dog bit me because I had touched the same sensitive area that made him bite the vet. Look. I was there. I wasn't touching the fella at all. My growing suspicion is that many people who handle a lot of dogs are in the habit of putting a dog down quickly after something like this happens, and that this is the reason for the silence. I am not of the opinion that my dog needs to be put down, at least the way he his now - he definitely has a chance at improving, and is sociable in every other way. So accepting that this is not my solution at the moment, what would you recommend. I know, obviously, we try to avoid having a bite ever happen. But let's say you're doing your usual routine, and suddenly for some reason the dog gets too nervous and bites you. What do you do? Provided you're capable of not freaking out and panicking, what do you do?
     
  2. Teal

    Teal ...ice road...

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    I don't believe, from what you have described, that you have the time needed to dedicate the proper training to ensure this dog overcomes his issues. You CANNOT be inconsistent with a food aggressive dog - EVER. And if you're rushing about in the morning and don't have time to follow proper protocol for feeding him - you are not going to make any long lasting changes in this dog's behaviour. If you can't be dedicated to training, why should he be dedicating to showing the results you want?

    As for what to do when the dog is attacking you - Get the dog restrained and off you. I don't quite know what else you want here, because it shouldn't be acceptable that the dog is being put into a situation where he feels that attacking you is the proper answer. You're skipping straight to what to do during the problem, instead of trying to solve the problem so it doesn't occur.. and I just don't understand that. You're pretty much just saying, "I don't have the time to train the dog properly, so what do I do when he bites me because it's going to continue to happen." and I can't wrap my head around that way of thinking and give you an answer.

    Maybe it's because it's nearly 3 a.m. and I've been in photographer mode for the last 10 hours instead of dog trainer mode... but I'm at a loss for what good you think is going to come of this entire situation :-/
     
  3. Emily

    Emily Rollin' with my bitches

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    The reason nobody tells you what you to do when the dog is "attacking" you, and the reason nobody tells you how to "correct" him for that, is that we've been telling you, until we're blue in the... fingers?... that you shouldn't be pushing him that far in the first place! You should be working to raise his comfort level while slowly while avoiding provoking a reaction.

    So next to you make him snap, grab your own muzzle and hold yourself down until you learn better, then go back a step, and work more on counterconditioning. If a reaction happens, by all means, defend yourself, but don't see it as an opportunity to correct him. Just brush it off, go back a step, and keeping working on it. Don't take his food away when he growls. Do you know what that teaches him? "Wow, I was really afraid they would take my food, and when I told them that, they DID take my food." That's he stopped growling and started snapping. He had to escalate his defense because you punished him for warning you.

    Please, I just don't know how many different ways to say this, but stop thinking about this as something you need to discipline out of him! He's not challenging you, he's scared! So hand feed him, yes, and teach that hands near his bowl/food = MORE good food, not a reprimand or a threat, and he will get over this. Stop trying to punish him for this, please.
     
  4. Danefied

    Danefied New Member

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    Again, yes, yes, yes, to all of the above.




    Oh... right... you caught us. We’re just a bunch of wussies who euthanize everything that lifts a lip. Everyone that has posted here has no clue how to handle a dog as badass as yours, right...

    You want to know what to do when the dog bites you? You yell in surprise and pain, you remove your body part from the dog, you assess said body part and account for all pieces of it and perform first aid as needed.
    Then you take a newspaper, roll it up nice and tight, and hit yourself upside the head several times for missing the warnings and putting yourself in that position to begin with.

    What are you going to do? Yell at the dog? Tell him “no, no, bad dog, no biting!†Dog’s going to look at you like you’re a nut. He already bit you! He already KNOWS he can bite you and that his reflexes are faster than yours - you made sure he figured that out by pushing him to the point of biting. Congratulations.
     
  5. Emily

    Emily Rollin' with my bitches

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    :rofl1: You caught us.

    My god. This is just ridiculous. I have to leave this thread for my own mental health.

    You're right. Nobody can handle a dog like yours. Good luck!
     
  6. stardogs

    stardogs Behavior Nerd

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    I've not been in this thread because I don't like to give advice on serious behavior issues over the internet, but I just had to say: you do realize that the forum is not here solely to help people with training issues, right? It's a community where members help each other on all sorts of topics and there's supposed to be be both give and take, not just take.

    If you want professional advice tailored to your specific situation, locate a trainer or behaviorist and HIRE them to come out and help. I have clients who do just that and it works much better than internet advice because I can *see* the situation first hand.

    The internet is the internet - it can't know all the ins and outs of your individual situation, especially one that's as complex and serious as resource guarding with multiple bites!
     
  7. Kaydee

    Kaydee Guest

    Gah, sounds like a minefield...my three cents, please nobody flame me...I'm old...
    IMHO I would treat biting the way I did with human children. If you haven't had kids yet, some human toddlers bite too...hard...drawing blood hard...

    And you stop what you're doing with them and say " NO Bite No" and try to redirect them, they might laugh at you and test you doing it again. Stop what you're doing and a quick firm " NO Bite". I can remember Sophie trying to nip my hand once when she was really wound up and I looked down at her and said something like " NO, don't even THINK about it". I have a whispery speaking voice. But something in the tone, she dropped down head on paws.

    Bullies as a breed want to please people more than just about anything. You can work with that, it takes patience n' persistence...and perhaps some private sessions with a professional. Meanwhile keep them bandaids and neosporin handy...
     
  8. yoko

    yoko New Member

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    This sounds like a good idea for a dog that maybe doesn't understand bite inhibition.

    But this is a dog he is constantly provoking. Setting a dog up to fail like this can't be fixed by simple redirection.
     
  9. Danefied

    Danefied New Member

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    This isn’t a bandaids and neosporin situation unfortunately.
    Its an ER and stitches.

    And a full grown dog with dog reflexes and canines is no toddler.
     
  10. Emily

    Emily Rollin' with my bitches

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    This isn't puppy biting. And it's not a dog being "naughty" and it's not a dog that's "testing" anybody or anything. It's a dog that's afraid of having its food stolen that has been repeatedly provoked. Telling it "no bite" after you've provoked isn't doing anything to remedy the cause of the bite.

    ETA: I'm not trying to flame you, I know you mean well, but that advice isn't really relevant to this situation.
     
  11. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

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    Well the problem started with not getting solid advice on what to do when he was growling. If you recall, or if not if you skim this thread's history, you'll find multiple cases of me asking what am I supposed to do when my dog growls at me, and received 2 answers:
    1. Back away from him because this will show him his growl worked so he knows he doesn't need to escalate to something more serious, and
    2. Whatever you do don't back away because it will show him his growl worked and that he can intimidate you.

    Deeming this insufficiently consistent to replace my prior training at guiding eyes, I continued to follow my instincts based on that. Apparently it was the wrong way to go because the dog started snapping. In hindsight I think I should have listened to Maxi24 and gone with option 1. His advice was effective in almost entirely curing my dog of guarding toys. Also what Emily said this last round is making sense to me too. What stardogs said also rings true. We have been exploring the possibility of hiring a trainer. We have a friend involved in animal rescue who hooked us up with a trainer in the area named Rex willing to work with us for free and he turned out to be a lunatic. If you think I am an abusive maniac for physically restraining my dog and trying to correct him for biting me, you should talk to this nut, but I posted about him already. And he calls himself a professional dog trainer too. I know it's easy to blame me for any problems going on but the information I get on this end is pretty confusing and hard to sort through. Also, 99% of the time or more, I get along with my dog like an old friend. Perhaps I am overstating my problem and welcoming these personal critiques, but there's no point talking about the stuff that isn't a problem. I resent being accused of wanting to dominate my dog or enjoying these encounters, to me these comments come across as nothing other than an inability of posters to prioritize the point of all this over their own egos, and feeling a need to hurt the feelings of people saying they didn't give good advice. I hate seeing my dog get nervous. I hate when he acts guilty, I hate having to discipline, but I know that sometimes it's necessary, I just don't know exactly how all the time. I like when my dog is hanging out and having fun. The idea I have to explain this is ridiculous.

    Anyway yes, the internet is the internet, and anything I hear is filtered first by my ability to describe the situation, then by the ability of the reader to understand me, then by their ability to communicate their ideas to me, then my ability to understand them. I often feel I'm making this sound worse than it is. I also get a lot of conflicting information. I suppose you could accuse me of being here just to take, in fact it's true, I joined the dog forum because I wanted advice on how to help this dog. If I wanted to, I could instead list my chosen kill date for my "food-agressive pitbill with mysterious past" then have a little count-down and it would be everyone's fault but mine. But instead I am taking personal responsibility and I still think I can help this dog. And I am honestly listening to you. I agree after considering what was said that trying to punish him for biting was a mistake and I will not make that mistake again. Additionally, the times when he snapped I did not honestly feel like I was in danger or out of control, I just honestly thought I was doing the right thing. I do not think it's too late to alter my approach before it gets to that point.

    Obviously I am more interested in averting the need to deal with my dog trying to bite me, but it also seems obvious to me that one should be prepared with the knowledge of how to behave if it does happen. Just like one should be prepared with how to act in the event a dog growls while working on preventing that. If I had been prepped with how to react to the growling, I would not have to think on my feet and rely on dated and possibly damaging dog training techniques, which lead to the biting.

    It is easy to start pointing fingers in this situation. I see a lot pointed at me and it's tempting to turn it around and say I've been asking questions about anything related to what's happening well in advance, anticipated any possible situation, and have gotten more holier than thou criticism about what I should NOT be doing than I have received encouragement and help with what I SHOULD be doing instead. If you find what I'm saying nothing but an affront on your ego then yeah do me a favor and stop bothering with the thread because I don't care about your ego.

    You can choose to be offended by my suggestion that most dogs like this may be too quickly put to sleep, or you can just appreciate that someone has the honesty to share that this is what's going through their head. I'm not saying anyone in this conversation is guilty of this, or of anything, but if you can't accept that this is a natural thing to go through the head of someone like me and take it in stride you might want to double-check your credentials.
     
  12. Teal

    Teal ...ice road...

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    Funny, because I know at least *I* told you what to so the dog WOULDN'T growl... you said you started it, and that it was working.

    You LEFT the dog with someone else at a CRITICAL time in training. Now, you need to start over.

    Please go back to page 1 of this thread and go from there.
     
  13. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

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    I've been reluctant to check this forum again after seeing how easily a conversation can devolve into personal issues, but here I am. Seeing how many views the forum gets I feel like if for no other reason it could be constructive to post about Sam's progress for the benefit of other readers. I'm disgusted by the people who came out and said things suggesting that my dog was going to fail or end up being put to sleep just because their feelings got hurt by something I said. This is extremely unprofessional and, in my opinion, strips you of any claim to being a "professional" on this matter.

    I maintain that an important element of the knowledge one needs to have in my situation, is what is the appropriate way to act in the event that the behavior you are trying to eliminate does happen. It is crystal clear that the best course of action is to prevent the behavior from happening. But in the absence of any knowledge about what to do if it does, a person is in danger of reacting to it in the wrong way, as I did. Please take this as a lesson and learn from it in advising people in the future if you're going to be a "professional" on advising people about training dogs.

    Sam has been doing very well. I decided that I was going to hand-feed him all his meals for a couple of months, and not worry about trying to teach him much on the topic, just get across to him the idea that his food comes from me. Also, we taught him a command "Look" which just means to look me in the eye, and used this to teach him that after each handful he has to look at me to get the next one. He learned this well and looks at me right away when he's ready for more food. There have been no incidents or problems related to food since the last one I described.

    I will post occasionally about his progress, and read whatever anyone else wants to contribute. And all those people who predicted this dog would fail, I'm going to prove you wrong and ask you to shut the hell up.
     
  14. Danefied

    Danefied New Member

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    LOL you’re quite the gem aren’t you?

    The fact that you feel any failure would be the dog’s says a lot don’t you think?

    Though that’s not what this is about, I for one would LOVE to see you “prove us wrong†as you say.

    Good luck to ya.
     
  15. yoko

    yoko New Member

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    I agree prove everyone here wrong!

    And for anyone who is lurking or a guest here who stumbled on this thread:

    Please please please ask questions and help your dog correctly.

    This guy may have gotten by intimidating his dog for so long before actually trying but in the time that he wasted you may have an incident and lose the dog. If you have any questions or need anything clarified just ask.
     
  16. Majii_Kins

    Majii_Kins New Member

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    I'm a cat owner, not a dog owner in part because I feel I cannot meet a dog's immense needs. I realize I'm late to the thread but if you guys would please humor my one inquiry. . .

    If I were to theoretically bring a 3 1/2 year old into a household like the one Sam is in, would that be a good thing, or a bad thing? I don't get a very "child-appropriate" vibe from the descriptions of Sam's behavior.
     
  17. JessLough

    JessLough Love My Mutt

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    It's not the dog's fault, silly, it's OUR fault for not giving him the right advice.
     
  18. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

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    Sam's anti-pulling training

    Once you start looking to figure out who's fault something is, it usually means you've stopped focusing on the solution. I'm not there right now, and hope to never be. But anyway, I'll take as much blame as you like (of course that also means I get all the credit when my dog becomes the best dog in the world). After all it's up to me to do the right things here and turn this into a success.

    I also want to say for any readers, that the things that I'm going to describe as working are just things that worked for MY DOG. I advise you to talk to an actual dog trainer or someone with more experience than me before trying this stuff with your dog. My techniques are coming from working with my dog's personality. And in my opinion my dog is a little eccentric. So here goes..


    I've found that it takes a lot of stress off if I can systematize my approach to training Sam. Like, I come up with a set of rules for what-happens-when, and then I don't have to constantly struggle with how to react. And if something seems to not be working, I tweak the rules until it seems to be improving. So, more specifically, when I walk him...

    I put his harness on him as well as a pinch collar, and I hook the retractable leash up to the harness with it locked at about 4 feet of slack. For the first 3 months I did not use the pinch collar at all because I didn't like the idea of it. But basically, I have been the only one who can walk Sam. My fiancee is usually here but she can't help me with this chore even though she wants to, and it can be really annoying. Also he seemed to have no negative associations with the pinch collar even though I know in his prior home it was the only thing that was used - he sees it, like anything associated to going for a walk, and gets very happy and positions himself to have it put on him. So, read on and see what I do with the pinch collar. Note that at the start of the walk, the collar is on him but not being used.

    So we go outside and start walking. If he pulls on the leash, I stop and make him sit and wait for a "Let's go" before continuing. Sometimes it takes several in a row, but this usually works and reminds him not to pull. Also, the handle of the leash makes a clicking sound when the leash is pulled on, so sometimes when he's nearing the end of the leash I just jerk it back slightly to make that sound, and this will be enough to remind him not to pull. So, we walk around like that, and I count my steps. If I can take 100 steps without him pulling at all, I make him "Come here" (come to me and sit facing me) then "Look" (look at me and wait for what's next), and if he does that he gets "Your free," which means I unlock the leash and allow him to run around up to the full 30 foot extension. Sometimes I wait a little longer to get to an area where it's safer to do this, but usually it's not necessary - he knows fully not to go in the street after sitting at every curb for 4 months. Also the commands "Come here" and "Look" he almost never botches because he knows what comes next if he does it - he can be pretty **** smart when he knows it'll get him what he wants..

    If, on the other hand, he continues to pull when I stop and will not sit when I tell him to sit, I switch the leash to the pinch collar, shorten it to about 2 feet, say "Let's go" and continue walking. I make it this short so that if he does dart at something he won't pick up too much momentum before the collar tightens. It only took a few walks for him to learn to never pull when he's on the pinch collar. If he can go 100 steps without pulling like that (which at this point is usually automatic), he goes back to the 4-foot leash on the harness, same policy.

    Once he's on the long leash after the "You're free" command, there are some new commands he has to heed. If he heads in a direction I don't want him to go in, I click the handle of the leash like I described above, which just means not to go that way. If he walks around the wrong side of a tree or utility pole or just goes off in the wrong direction, I say "This way," and he has to come around to where I'm walking (but does not have to stay next to me). If he hits the end of the leash and does not immediately stop or turn around, I say "Come here," and he has to come to me, sit in front of me, and await instruction (which if he does well is just another "You're free"). If he fails to do any of these things, I usually repeat the command once or twice and if he's not listening he loses his freedom and goes back to the harness with the same policy described at the beginning. He is very very good at following the commands on the long leash because he does not want to lose his freedom. It's harder for him to behave on the short leash because he has to contain his boundless excitement, but he's improved a lot.

    One thing I like about this system is that he almost never has to even feel the pinch of the pinch collar, just having the leash hooked to it is enough. Another thing I like about this system is IT'S WORKING! At first he would just go back and forth from harness to pinch collar whining the whole way. Now a typical walk is just a couple stops and sits on the harness as we walk toward the park, then "You're free" and he maintains his full leash privileges for most of the walk. When I have to down-shift him to the harness, or (rarely) the pinch-collar, it's usually just once now. Also, when I need to walk him on a short leash for longer periods (like on a crowded sidewalk) there is very little pulling. He's even responding to "Leave it" when there's another dog close-by, which a couple months ago was impossible. I think another month or two of this and my fiancee will have no problem walking him, without even needing the pinch collar.
     
  19. j0equ1nn

    j0equ1nn Sean Smith

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    latest on Sam's food agression

    Okay, now about the food aggression. I hand-fed him every meal for about 8 weeks, hoping this would help him understand that the food comes from me. In between handfuls he had to look at me to get the next one. He didn't have a problem doing this, but he always looked worried the whole time. He would often stop eating 1/4 to 3/4 of the way through and just look too nervous to continue. That didn't change much even though I did it for 8 weeks. Eventually I decided to move to letting him have the bowl, but keeping my hand on his back while he ate. As long as my hand got there before the food did he did not growl. I decided to test to see of the growling had gone away. No. Any time I gave him his food bowl, then touched him, he would growl at me. He also stops eating before the food is done, and hangs out in the room lying on the floor a nervous wreck, and runs over to the bowl any time someone gets near it. No change AT ALL.

    I decided to try giving him treats while he was eating. But I wanted him to know the treats were coming from me. So I would try to get him to look. He's okay with coming to me when eating and leaving the bowl behind (though he's nervous when he does it), but I can't get him to look at me in the middle of eating. By trying to give him treats I just was making him more nervous about what he's supposed to be doing, and what he wants, etc. He also started acting a little more nervous at other times, like he would be lying in my bed, and I need to move him out of the way a little so I could lay down, and he would growl slightly. Whenever this happened he got kicked out of the bedroom. But I was feeling like his trust for me was starting to break down a little and that is surely a road to ruin.

    So a couple weeks ago I was flipping through a bunch of dog training books in a book store and a couple paragraphs (incidentally from Dog Training for Dummies) stood out to me. It said that if your dog is food aggressive, the most important thing is that you get the dog to trust you that you're not going to take away his food. The method it suggested was very different from what I've heard elsewhere. It said to give him his food in a room by himself, or in his kennel, and leave him undisturbed while he eats. It said that if your dog stops trusting you about his food, he's going to stop trusting you about other things.

    I thought about this and my thought process was like this: Suppose someone does not trust you and you want to gain there trust. How do you do it? You do not do it by taking complete control over the thing they treasure most and make them seek and gain your approval for every iota of access to it. The idea seemed worth a try.

    He does not have a kennel, just his dog-stroller, but that's not big enough for him to comfortably eat a bowl of food in. I tried having him eat alone in a room with the door closed. He took a few bites then begged to come out. So I tried leaving the door open and just staying away from there for a while. When I checked up on him, he had just eaten a few bites of food and was back to guarding it. One day I was at the point where I really just wanted him to eat so he wouldn't be hungry. I tried giving him a can of wet food with no dry, and he gobbled the whole thing up and came back to me with his tail wagging. On the other hand if I give him dry food by itself, he barely touches it and guards it.

    Compare this with: I was eating some cashews one night. Sam was begging for the cashews. I don't award him for begging, and had been giving him no treats at all since he wasn't finishing his meals anyway. But by the time I finished eating them, he was being good (and clearly still wanting one) so I had him sit and gave him a cashew. He does not like cashews. But he will not admit this. It's like he wants to eat them to be cool because I am eating them. So he puts in on the ground and starts guarding it, just like his food, even though I know he does not want it.

    So what I decided to do was back down a lot about controlling the food. I started preparing the meals differently. Instead of mixing together the wet and dry, I put the dry on the bottom with the wet spread on top. I have him lie down and stay for the bowl, then just give it to him and go about my business. Every time, he eats the wet layer, and then some of the dry layer, I think just depending on how hungry he was. So I take the leftover dry food and measure it, and top it off to his usual amount and use it in his next meal. If he eats the whole thing, he gets some special treats. After a couple days of this he started finishing his dinners entirely in one sitting, and not acting nervous or weird at all. He still will not finish breakfast. I enacted the policy that he can't have any treats unless he finished the last meal he was given.

    I noticed that the other growling instances disappeared completely. In fact, he became EVEN MORE cuddly, which previously I did not think was possible. He would rub up against me more readily, lie on his back for a belly rub more readily, and just seemed happier. I've been doing the meals like this for about a week. Even his behavior on walks has improved.

    I'm not totally sure this is the right thing to do indefinitely, but the important thing seems to be that I provide him with food that he likes, and not make him feel like he has to compete to get every bite. I feel like I could live with having a dog where I just have to tell people to leave him alone when he's eating. Even the odd time someone might touch him, he's not going to bite or even snap, just a little growl... But I'm still researching and trying things.

    And finally, yes I am a gem.
     
  20. misfitz

    misfitz Ruddy Buttinski

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    Whatever happened with calling the number on his tag? Did anyone every try to contact the owners??
     

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