Dogs Behaving Badly

Expert answers your questions about bad behavior in dogs.

Posted: Tue Feb 13 00:00:00 PST 2001

Page 1 of 4

Mixed BreedBenji the Beagle was friendly. Too friendly — he'd straddle your leg to show it. The behavior 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 wolf — there's a wolf in your living room," Dodman said from his office in Massachusetts. "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 badly — for dogs.

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Greta   Kenova, WV

12/13/2011 9:47:20 AM

I have an english mastiff that is almost a year old, very good dog easy to train, potty trained by eight weeks...couple weeks ago he chewed my wall in the hallway, so i crated him, left for a bit come back he had dented the door on the crate and dug at the bottom and bent it so needless to say the crate is dangerous and useless...then he ate three towels thank goodness they passed...then he chewed the wall again...so i bought a muzzle to put on him while i am home for his punishment after he does something like this....he will be on year old on december 24, 2011.....help what else can i do he gets exercize and i have four other dogs for him to romp with...don't know what to do cant leave the house cuz he will tear up or eat something...

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S-A   Denver, CO

12/7/2011 7:24:24 PM

My husband found our Chihuahua/Rat Terrier when she was approx. 8-9 mos. abandoned in the middle of a busy street 4.5 yrs ago. I nursed her back to health & built her confidence by going to training & spending quality time nurturing her. She's done extremely well until recently. Because we're gone during the day & she's small, we used puppy pad for her to go to the bathroom. There have been major changes to her routine where someone was in the house with her daily for the past year. Once every left & a regular schedule resumed about 2 mos. ago, she began to poop 1-2 inches from her pad (not as if she had an emergency, but was being defiant) & she pee'd on the pad. In the past week or so she began to pee on the carpet instead of the pad. She knows she's been bad when we walk in the house. We've been locking her in her cage or she reverts to old ways of hiding under the bed. She's not sick, it seems she's lost her "mojo" & is reverted to the scared puppy we found 4.5 years ago. Not sure how to proceed, but would like our old dog back!

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Darlene   Hartland, MI

7/22/2011 4:52:12 AM

I have a mixed breed. She was abandoned at a young age. She has always peed on the floor. Not every night though. I would love a cure. I've tried many diffrent ways to make her stop. She sleeps in my bed but wets on the living room floor. She is healthy. I believe her to be part pit and part lab. Could you please help me...I let her out, thats not the problem.

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shawn   whiteland, IN

6/19/2011 7:28:21 PM

my dog is a cocker spaniel had him 3yrs old. when my youngest son goes to sleep he chews holes all in his shirt he sleeps in why? he has really destroyed these shirts

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