Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dog troubles

Though our obedience training with Socks has been going mostly well, the last few days have seen an alarming pattern of aggression which we can't figure out how to address. There isn't any obvious trigger for it apart from her wanting attention at a time when we happen to be doing something that doesn't involve her, but that can be several times a day.

She starts by pawing or nipping, and we try to ignore it since the only thing you can do with bad behavior is ignore it (thus failing to reward it) and then redirect to something else (perhaps by going to do something else like practicing "sit"). But within only a few seconds before you can try to redirect she's escalating.

The next step is supposed to be squirting with a water bottle, which is intended to be a distraction, after which you can do a redirect. However, even seeing the water bottle makes her escalate quickly: head down, teeth bared, growling. We also used to use the breath squirt thing for nipping but that was even quicker to go to growling.

All we have done is walk away, try to give her a few seconds so that what comes next doesn't feel like a reward for what she just did, and then do something else like get her to lie down and give her something to occupy her like a rawhide or a cheese-filled Kong. But it's not stopping this behavior; it seems to be happening more, not less. I don't know if she's just managing to associate the occupier, and the attention that leads to it, with the aggression despite the interval, or if we're doing something wrong, or if there's a bigger issue at work here. It's quite frustrating, though. We just don't know what else to try. We'll ask about this at our next obedience class, and hopefully we can find a new direction.

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