Snarky, Barky Little Dogs
Little Dogs and Fear Based Behavior
Last summer I was called to the home of an elderly woman who had a 5 year old Toy Breed dog, named Willie. Willie growled, and snapped at people who tried to touch him when he was in the owner's arms.
When I arrived, the owner was holding the dog who was barking and the owner was trying to hold his mouth shut. The dog was showing a long list of "distance increasing" body language signals: Freezing, lip curling, lip licking, hard eyes, wrinkled brow, turning away, glancing sideways, growling. It was sad to see how desperate Willy was to keep me at a distance.
"He's protecting me", the woman chuckled. “Perhaps”, I agreed, “but, he's also protecting himself.” To me his message was pretty clear:
"This is what I do to keep scary people away from me. Please don't come any closer".
The following is a list of Do's and Don'ts for any dog with Fear Based Aggressive Behavior.
When a dog is being held he has no escape route. He needs to be able to move away to a safe distance. Do not pick him up.
Visitors should ignore him, even if he's barking, leave the entry hall and go directly to the living room.
Visitors must not approach him. Allow him to approach when he feels there's no risk.
Visitors may toss treats to him away from their bodies.
Never force him to make contact with anyone.
Keep a soft harness on the dog. When you need to control his behavior, such as when you go to the door, put his leash on him.
Put a valuable busy chew toy in his bed so he has a rewarding reason to stay there.
The training goal is to change the way he feels about visitors and to work on interrupting his behavior, asking for a more controlled behavior like Sit and Come and then keeping him busy while the humans socialize.
Don't wait until your dog bites someone. Get professional help.