Benji the Beagle was friendly. Too friendlyhe'd straddle your leg to show it. Thebehavior wasn't a problem for Benji, but it embarrassed Benji's owners, who called in Nicholas Dodman, DVM, author of Dogs Behaving Badly (Bantam, 1999). He dismantled Benji's behavior, a classic case of dominance aggression, by thinking like a dog.
"Somewhere deep down inside the dog gazing lovingly in your eyes, there are elements of the wolfthere's a wolf in your living room," Dodman said from his office in North Grafton, Mass. "That doesn't mean you can't share warmth and fun that makes dogs such endearing pets, but you need to understand the beast."
Dodman, director of the Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Medicine and professor of behavioral pharmacology, put Benji and his owners on a strict regimen of dominance control. "A 'tough love' approach lets a would-be dominant dog know who is in charge," Dodman wrote in Dogs Behaving Badly. "This relatively simple program reduces dominance aggression within a two-month period in about 90 percent of cases."
His book provides a step-by-step guide to treating dominance aggression, sexual behavior and other problems. It's an A-to-Z compendium of dog behaviorwhat it means and how you can change it.
When Dodman began his veterinary career in England 20 years ago, "Behaviorism was in the dark ages," he said. "Medications to help problems were anticonvulsants to sedate [a dog], depress it to a vegetable-like state. Behavior wasn't modified, it was simply suppressed."
Dodman, who joined the Tufts Behavior Clinic when it opened 10 years ago, recommends medication in concert with behavior modification if a problem is extremely difficult. He often treats dogs "whose lives are like a living hell. They're in hysteriathey'll salivate, snap their teeth off in crates; they're so anxious they explode in diarrhea. For somebody to say, 'I don't believe in drug therapy,' for God's sake, why not? Do you have no humanitarian feelings at all? Although behavior modification over two or three months can produce some noticeable improvement, your dog is suffering. It would be better for the dog to give it the medication right from the beginning."
If Dodman sounds like the patron saint of behaviorism and behavior pharmacology, he is. It's his mission in life. "I'm as obstinate as a Bull Terrier. I hang on until I get a solution and only then I can lay it to rest."
And Benji the Beagle? He and his owners are living happily ever after.
With characteristic humor and compassion, Dr. Dodman helped DOG FANCY readers with problems they were having with their pets. He proved again dogs don't behave badlyfor dogs.
Be Less Forceful
I have a Siberian Husky-American Eskimo mix. When I try to correct wrong behavior, she gets scared and leaks urine. Also, if I make a move toward her, she runs away dripping urine. How can I discipline her and avoid this problem?
- Kristine Borucki, Trumbull, Conn.
Discipline is exactly what she doesn't need. It sounds like a lot of components of super-submission or submissive urination. One of a dog's signals to a very superior being is to cringe, squat, urinate, sometimes roll over and urinate. This is super-submission going on, a supreme compliment, total prostration, subservience.
[When your dog urinates in front of you, you think], "What are you doing? This is in my facehow bad of you!" It escalates and sends a signal to the dog that it has to submit even more.
Be less forceful with the dog. Try to approach the dog in a less threatening way, even from a crouched position. Call the dog to you and make a fuss over it. Don't look directly in the dog's eyes. This dog needs non-threatening signals delivered to it, no discipline, a lot of love and support, techniques to increase its self-confidence.
Do a Personality Check
I have a Chinese Crested that is 9 months old. Lately, she has been urinating on my down comforter and now on the couch. Please help.
- Brenda Craft, Lakeland, Fla.
In both of these urination problems, check there isn't anything else going on. If a dog starts to urinate around the house for on reason or another, have a veterinarian check the urine or blood. Assuming everything is hunky dory, I would like to do a personality check to make sure [the problem is the dog's] dominant nature.
Chinese Cresteds were selected for various guarding and barking functions. I think they're a little uppity. Maybe the problem is marking. When a dog of either sex starts to urinate in unusual places like your pillow, down comforter, Candlewick bedspread, this indicates urine marking. It's much more common in dogs on the dominant side. One way through that is a dominant control so the dog can see more clearly there's no confusionit's not No. 1 in the pack. There's no need for it to signal its own dominance.
It's not sufficient to take the comforter through the wash. There will be, for the dog's amazing nose, traces of what was there. Do thorough cleanup with an odor neutralizer.
Train a Little Independence
My wife and I adopted a 1-year-old German Shepherd Dog mix from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He is a very well-behaved dog, housetrained and doesn't damage anything while we are away at work. There is one problem, though. He will bark, whine and cry on and off for up to an hour after we leave for work in the morning. What do you suggest?
- Tom Laquidara, Stoneham, Mass.
I would say he is exhibiting mild separation anxiety. He came from a shelter; he has the right history. He probably follows [you] around the house and shows a lot of affection, barking and exuberant greeting. There's no urination or defecation, just mild attachment problems.
He would respond to some simple measures. Try to train a little independence. Reward independent activity, like him lying down on a bed away from you. Teach him "Sit" and "Stay." Eventually leave the room. Try ignoring him totally for 20 minutes before you leave and for 20 minutes when you come back.
You can also do counter-conditioning. An option is not to feed him in the morning. Instead, give him food inside a toy, a peanut butter or Cheez Whiz-stuffed bone, then leave the house with no fuss. Hide little parcels of food around the house so he has something to do. Hide the odd food treat, or do anything that would enrich the environmentplay music, [provide] access to a window, put down an assortment of toys, food puzzles, bones.
I have a 1-year-old Shepherd-Chow mix. She was found on my front porch "screaming." She was malnourished, dehydrated, had been badly treated, had the mange. I had everything treated and brought her home. When she was old enough to go outside without being on the leash and fully trained to stay within a perimeter, we thought we had gotten through the roughest time (housetraining, puppy activities, etc.).
While we are gone in the daytime, she is let outside. In the evenings when we get home, she comes in. And then it begins. Every few minutes, she wants out, then in, then out, then in. Through the night, every night, she's up and wanting out at least three times. When she comes back in around 4:30 a.m., she is ready to play. If we do not play with her and ignore her, she becomes destructive. In a span of about two hours, she destroyed a pair of steel-toed work boots, a pair of house slippers, my husband's wallet and his eyeglasses.
She acts obsessive-compulsive. I am going to take her to the veterinarian for a full checkup to make sure there isn't something physically wrong with her. Other than having some behavior problems, she has a great disposition, loves children, likes the cats (we have four) and enjoys people. But my husband and I are going nuts.
- Danna Hollon, Weumpka, Ala.
This is one where I would need to unravel everything. It needs a whole 3,000-mile tune-upthe works, a holistic approach to dealing with this dog's problems. I look at the whole problem from the ground up.
I don't know if this dog is getting enough exerciseI say a tired dog is a good dog. If this is a high-energy dog, a Shepherd-Chow cross, it would have a lot of energy to blow off. Who knows what you're feeding it? High-performance rations? This dog could be all dressed up and no place to go.
It's too much of a loose cannonit wants this, it wants that. Benign obedience training and the use of a head halter might solve the problem. It's needy of attention, exercise, clear communication. It's chewing on things out of displacement and frustration. When it chews on things, it gets attention. Clearly, pick up spectacles and things lying about.
Put in a dog door. Let the dog come and go at will, then you don't have to open it. In the middle of the night, you shouldn't address the problem. It might be an appropriate time to utilize a crate. Acclimate it to the crate first, with a blanket and one or two things to do. Then when it wants to go out, you pick up a training lead, which you've cleverly attached, and pop the dog in the crate. The effect is the dog gets a time out. It wants time inwith youbut it's getting a time out. Doing this would increase the frequency of leaving you alone, increase good behavior and avoid the consequence it didn't want. It sounds like a sensitive dog. It's probably reasonably smart. It would learn this just isn't going to happen anymore.