Lack of Emotional Control?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Ice cubes? YES- PLEASE!
Barked: Sat Feb 16, '13 7:23pm PST 
So Louie, the little 3-month old chihuahua housemate has been a very good friend. His training has been going mostly smoothly. However, there is one set of behaviors that is a bit concerning.

Occasionally, Louie will suddenly resort to a quick growl and a hard nip at a human's hand if they're doing something he doesn't like, such as picking him up to be placed in time-out or mistaking him playing with a toy for an invitation to a game of tug. He shows calming signals, but escalates to what appears to be an inhibited nip too quickly for a human to react. But 99% of the time, he is patient, showing enough non-verbal cues for a human to notice. And he had a vet checkup two weeks ago and got a clean bill of health.

We only had one instance of this behavior in Clyde and it never appeared again after doing a tiny bit of management with him. But Clyde was an adolescent at the time.

So, I believe this may just be Louie reacting impulsively out of feeling grumpy at the moment, since I have found that he has almost zero impulse control right now. My question is this: is my observation correct? If not, what other factors may be leading to these emotional outbursts?

While I, personally, can live with these little moments, not everyone in the house is being force-free with him (especially my dad, and my mom, whom he belongs to, recently stopped being on-board with it in his training frown ) I would really like to nip this issue in the bud in a force-free manner ASAP so he cannot end up turning fear aggressive like her last dog from making a habit of these behaviors (last dog's aggression started with his original owners, not us)... Or end up behaving but after going through a lot of unnecessary stress and anger.

Let's play tug!!
Barked: Sun Feb 17, '13 2:57am PST 
I have had a couple of fosters who tried nipping me once or twice to see if it would work when they didn't like something (I don't make a habit out of putting dogs in uncomfortable situations, but must have misjudged). In both cases, I yelped, continued doing whatever I was doing, and it never happened again. I think it's very much a normal stage of puppyhood. Human kids often go through a biting phase too.

In this case, though, that may not be the best way to go. Especially if other people are hurting the dog. I think the best thing you could do given the situation is to do some counterconditioning with the situations where he nips. Basically, reach your hand slightly toward a rope or chewie that he's chewing on, praise and give a treat, and slowly work up over a period of days or weeks until he looks forward to having you grab things out of his mouth. Same thing with being picked up- touch underneath his chest, give a treat and then remove your hand, repeat 10 times twice a day for a couple days, then add gentle upward pressure for another 4-6 sessions, or whatever pace seems comfortable for him. If other people in the house are resorting to punishment, you'll be doing him a big favor by teaching him to like situations that might otherwise lead to problems.

Ice cubes? YES- PLEASE!
Barked: Sun Feb 17, '13 6:25pm PST 
Yeah, if I was the only human in the house, I would have done almost exactly as you have done in those situations and left it at that. And I do like your suggestion. I have been insuring against potential aggression created by alpha rolls via counter-conditioning, and it's been working...so it makes sense it would work in other areas too. I will definitely give that a try. Trouble is, these outbursts are uncommon enough to be unpredictable, so hopefully I'll manage to catch all the potential moments in one sweep of training sessions.

edit: Had to add this tidbit. I've been given the privilege of obedience training Louie and I've decided to be as force-free as possible. I remember my dad saying something to the effect of "It's like he doesn't even understand he's being punished!" recently. big laugh I might not act like I'm his alpha, but he sure does listen to me.

Edited by author Sun Feb 17, '13 6:35pm PST