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Towel-taking puppy tests dominance of pack leader

Dear Dog Talk : We have an 8-month-old sheltie-terrier mix. We have had him since he was 8 weeks old. The other day he picked up a paper towel that had fallen on the floor. I told him “Out” in a firm tone. He refused to drop it.

I growled at him, and he still didn’t drop it. I went over and opened his mouth and took it out. He growled and snapped at me. I told him “No” and held his mouth shut at the same time. When I let go of his muzzle, he growled and snapped at me again. Again, I held his muzzle and told him “No!” When I let go of his muzzle this time, he didn’t growl or snap.

I would like to know how you would have handled this situation. I don’t think I handled it the right way. Please let me know what you would have done to get him to drop the paper towel. Thank you.

Dear Towel Taker : Actually, I would have handled the situation in essentially the same way. I would have removed the towel from the pup’s mouth. If he growled and snapped at me after I took the towel, I would have held his mouth closed with my right hand while I grabbed his neck scruff with my left hand. I would have hovered over him while I sternly looked into his eyes and firmly growled “Nhaa!”

I would be careful not to squeeze his muzzle too tightly. I would not want him to bite his tongue or his lip. If he came back at me when I released him, I would repeat the process more firmly. I would want to convince my pup that I am a bigger, more dominant pack member than he is – and that I can take anything that I want from him. I would let him know in no uncertain terms that growling and snapping at me is something that I would not stand for.

If the technique that I’ve described does not work, your dominance must never be allowed to turn into violence. Neither puppies nor adult dogs should ever be hit, kicked, choked or otherwise beaten. A puppy with a normal temperament, in which he is just testing adult pack members, will submit to the correction that I described.

If your puppy does not submit to a natural correction, he may not have a normal temperament. In that case I would have him thoroughly examined by a veterinarian and evaluated by an experienced dog trainer.

A veterinarian could determine if the behavior is due to a health factor. A dog trainer could determine whether you are dealing with a dominance-testing situation or whether the puppy has personality problems that cannot be helped solely through obedience training. If they cannot, a veterinary canine behaviorist may need to be consulted.

With all of this said, it appears from the description in your letter that your puppy will submit. However, that does not mean that he won’t try it again. You need to be consistent with your handling every time he attempts to growl and snap.

I get the impression that you are not afraid of him. Nevertheless, be careful not to get bitten. If there are children in the house, they should not attempt to take things away from the dog or to correct him.

If you have not done so already, get yourself and your puppy enrolled in an obedience training course. Private, in-home training would probably be best in your situation. If private lessons are not possible, enroll in a group class. Obedience training will not only help you convince your puppy that you are pack leader, it will help you to communicate with him in a more effective way.

Dear Dog Talk : I loved “Adoptable Dog.” I read it when I adopted my beloved boxer-Labrador mix, Jason, at the beginning of the summer. It has proven to be invaluable.

Here’s my rather odd question: Is there any way to get a dog to not wag its tail• Jason has a “happy tail” and frequently bangs it against the wall and other hard surfaces. As a result, the tip of his tail becomes raw and bleeds (although Jason doesn’t seem to notice). My veterinarian has bandaged his tail and placed a hard plastic covering over the tip so his tail can heal.

I am concerned that after his tail has healed, the problem will repeat itself due to his excessive tail-wagging. I am very glad Jason is so happy in his new home, and I do love his waggly tail, but I do not want him to keep hurting himself. Any suggestions?

Dear Happy Boxer Owner : I think you stumped the dog guy! Tail-wagging is like smiling. If someone is just a happy person who perpetually smiles, how do you stop that person from smiling•

Of course, if you made the person unhappy, he or she would stop smiling. But I’m not suggesting that you make Jason unhappy. Your job is to make him as happy as he can be.

I guess that you could have his tail docked. But I not suggesting that you do that either. You’ve got me grasping at straws here! It’s time to turn to my loyal readers. Help, dog lovers. Drop me an e-mail with an innovative answer.


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