He got his vaccination, so next month is the final shot in the puppy series. They were pushing me to give him several others too, like leptospirosis and rabies. Huh?
He’s too young to load up like that, and no he’s not getting the rabies which is a live though altered virus until he’s 6 mo old when law requires.
A conversation with the author of “Control Unleashed” finally filled out the what’s-going-on-with-Levi picture for me. Yes, he does a lot of displacement and the book provided the anxiety part of the puzzle, but the growly/biting thing is called conflict aggression. He seemed aggressive at times, but I didn’t want to believe it.
It’s essentially a dog’s intense, even hidden, anxiety building up until it explodes. Often the dog seems better in public, but at home often takes out the accumulated stress on the people and animals they live with.
They will often go up to strangers on their own and seem fine or suddenly get scared and run away. The majority of targets of the aggression oddly, are gentle and quiet people. The behavior is also usually worse in the evenings. Levi to a “t”.
For instance, my nephew came over and Levi did wonderfully, with a tad of submissive peeing, but no barks or spooks. They played a little and he got lots of affection. Not ten minutes after Evan left, the chewing, tearing up, growling and biting at me started.
It is upsetting to me, to have a bona fide case of aggression of any type be evident in a 10 week old puppy. He’ll be 13 weeks old Friday. The ray of sunshine is in fact, how young he is though. We still have 3 weeks in that socializing/learning window of the first 4 mo of life to help him adjust and learn coping skills for frustration.
I’m still trying to really grasp what that means for how I interact with him, and the war between the alpha dominance believers and the positive reinforcement believers becomes personal now. It isn’t theory vs theory on an intellectual level, and I don’t really have room for error with Levi.
My vet’s suggestions I won’t follow because I know from experience of Levi and other aggressive dogs that physical confrontation with a dog being aggressive is both counterproductive long term and potentially dangerous.
“Just be more intense than him” they said. Huh? I mean, being more aggressive to an aggressive dog will teach them not to be aggressive? No.
But at the same time, I’ve seen how clicking and treating Levi for letting go or leaving it turns into him going back to those items later when he wants food or attention. Clicker training can be used by a smart pup to further their own ends, to take advantage.
So harshness will backfire, and the gentler clicker methods can be manipulated by him if I’m not careful and worsen the situation. And all the while I risk worsening his anxiety/insecurity too. Like I said, no room for error on my part.
I’m coming up with alternatives to some of the training and redirecting I’ve been doing, as well as understanding what things have worked and why. First is no longer clicking and treating for most let go or leave it, particularly if the object is a repeat grab.
That’s a wiser type of ignoring than just pretending it isn’t happening. If he begins to escalate or continue using it to get attention on demand, I have the expen. A negative consequence.
As for biting in frustration, the combo of the expen when he’s not managable such as after my nephew left, and a touching/petting exercise our trainer Lisa S taught us during our training time Monday I hope will start making progress.
It’s a touch or petting starting from back end towards front end when he’s quiet, then click and treat for not reacting. If he reacts a little, moving the touch back to where he didn’t react last time and click and treating can counter-condition.
I’ve got to add for bite inhibition that if he reacts more than a little, and keeps nipping, he gets a deep voice firm warning “no bite”, and if it continues, he goes in the expen.
Other things to continue is restraint practice when he’s calm. Much like a vet restrains to do something, I hold him in a position andwait until he stops fussing, then click and reward. Exercise too is a good tool: I have to watch how much running about he gets since he’s shown some growth discomfort already but he needs exercise for the endorphins and other feel good hormones.
Outings that involve physical exercise, that don’t involve chewing, in addition to mental stimulation will be the best for him. Like our river park he enjoys so much!
Again, I have to be both calm, low pitch in voice, with head up and shoulders back. Confidence on my part can reduce any stress he feels about people, places, and things.
He loves the treats and interaction of our training times, so I need to find a way to even increase those in frequency without letting them get linked to his demands for attention or food. He’ll be getting alot of negative (“no bite”, “ah-uh” etc), so there has to be a balance and stark contrast with the positives.
What I did after my nephew left and Levi wound up in the pen for a few minutes until he was calm was first give him a stuffed Kong ball, then do a short little obedience practice. It was in between meals, and about 5 minutes after the Kong was empty, so I don’t think any of it was linked to my nephew.
The hardest thing for me is not to get frustrated, or angry, when I am especially tired or in pain. Might as well ask someone with GAD/PTSD to cure themselves before they get a dog. It is very frustrating to me: I had one path of training in mind when I got him and now that assistance dog training is on ice indefinitely.
Levi has to be a trustworthy and enjoyable pet before anything else. Given that he’s a Great Dane, he will be 70-80 pounds in just a three months, so aggression of any kind is absolutely intolerable in Danes. He can still be a puppy and do serious damage with a bite. When grown, it can be catastrophic.
The clock is ticking.