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Hi guys,

New to forum and hoping you can help me out. My parents have an 8 month old male vizsla who I look after quite a lot when they are away. I see the dog everyday even when not looking after him. He likes to steel things and run away with them and then growl if you try to get them back. We have been trying to stop him with all kinds of different methods but with no success yet. Last time my parents were away it got worse and he didn't just growl and show teeth he actually bite me hard enough to break the skin and get a fair bit of blood. I tried to pin him but he struggled free and bit again. Then when I tried get hold of him he continued snarling and trying to bite. I ended up having to keep my arms behind my back and usher him out the room and closed the door. He barked for a few minutes and when he stopped I went back to him and he was fine as if nothing had happened.

This is not normal to his character as he is a playful cuddly dog. He will let you hold toys/chews anything but just a few things set him off. If you give him a bone he will not let you near him or anything he steels. It does not just happen to me. He has flaired up at both my parents since.

He is an incredibly lively/excitable dog even by vizsla standards and my parents haven't managed to stop him jumping up or hanging on to to sleeves even after 8 months of training classes and various training methods. He is also very strong; I'm a big guy and he can pull himself out of my grip when we are playing. He also is very well exercised normally getting about 2-3 hours walking a day.

I'm hoping he will calm and become easier with age but obviously the aggression is not acceptable. Anyone got ay advice?
 

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Discussion Starter #2
forgot to say if you get your hand on the stollen item and turn your back and say give once he will quite quickly give up and just give it back. we will then praise him for a "good give." He will still growl then but wags his tail whilst growling. :-\
 

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Hey,

Sure you'll get lots of useful advice on here! I'll start with mine just from experience (my male Vizsla is also 8 months old).

Could I suggest going back to basics with him to start - not focussing on the aggression issue specifically.

I know you hear this all the time and there are lots of ways to go about it but think about letting him know that your parents and you are all the boss of him.

The main things to concentrate on:

Greeting - whenever you come into contact with the dog after a period of being away (whether it's upstairs for a minute or out for a couple of hours) ..... COMPLETELY IGNORE. Don't talk to him, look at him or touch him in any way. If you find he is jumping up give a firm push so he gets down but don't engage in making this a game by continually pushing him away. Once he has stopped being excited/jumping up etc wait even longer. I can guarantee when you think he has calmed down, he won't have! Wait until he is completely calm, either lies down or just goes off and does something else. Once this has happened invite him over to you. If calling his name gets him too excited I would just bend down and use hand gestures. If he comes over calmly then praise and greet. If he is excited, go back to the beginning and ignore. It's really hard to start with because it feels like you are constantly ignoring him but eventually whenever you come back into contact with him you will just get a little waggle of the tail and no excited behaviour. This should be used when anybody greets him including visitors and consistently.

Food - not sure if he shows aggression over his normal food? Most dogs are pretty good at waiting until you give the 'ok' command before they eat but it doesn't necessarily mean they are calm and relaxed. Make sure when you are preparing food the dog is calm - no jumping up, pacing around, barking etc. He should pretty much be ignoring you. Some people have suggested that you 'gesture eat' which means have a little munch on a cracker or something then give the dog it's food! When the food goes down - he should automatically stay away from it and have eye contact on you. Only give the command to eat when he is completely relaxed. Sometimes it's hard to tell because even though they are sitting down you can see they aren't relaxed and are ready to gobble all of that food down in a moments notice! I'm not entirely sure what the best thing to do is with regards to interrupting your dog while eating but I can suggest (if safe) that you move around the dog when he is eating, bend down, put your hand in the bowl, even try taking it away. In an ideal situation - the dog should move away from the bowl when you get close as if he is giving it up to you. I've never gone too OTT on this one with my puppy but I haven't seen any need to. You may feel differently. One small point about food is have a look at what you are feeding him. I feed our Vizsla on a BARF diet but I found particularly with treats that if anything had too many colourings or funny things in it would completely change his temperament. He could go nuts after a few high colourings treats!

Playing - I would suggest taking all toys away from him until you get them out and instigate play. Make sure the play is controlled and at this point not too lively. If you think he is starting to get too excited or show aggression - stop play. If you can take the toy away and go back to ignoring him. He should pick up that you are in charge of when play starts and stops. I would take away anything of high value (i.e. bones) for the minute until you felt you have a little more control over the other toys. I would also stop any tug of war games for the moment. Try thinking of structured things you can do to play like a retrieve with a low value item. Tempt him with a treat when he brings the item back and drops it. Other good games are search games around the house or garden. Put something with your smell on it around the house and tell him to 'find it'. He should pick up the smell and begin searching. Again, when he has found it reward with a treat once he has dropped the toy and you have hold of it.

Walks and exercise - people have different views on this but at 8 months I would be walking him for 40-45 mins twice a day. Watch for clues when you are walking him or he is off lead that you are not in control. Pulling is an obvious one (not sure if he does this?). I find that if I take my V for a walk with him pulling all the way it doesn't wear him out at all. He doesn't need to concentrate because he's just pulling me along. Making him walk to heel - even if it's only for a few steps at a time puts his concentration on you and your pace. If you are letting him off try and make sure when the lead is unclipped that he waits for your command before he goes running off into the distance. Practice lots of recalls throughout the walk so he is constantly coming back for treats and you putting the lead on for bit then he can run off again.

Hope that helps a bit. Feel free to query anything as I am definitely no expert! I think above all try and really think about what you are doing every time you interact with him. Keep it consistent and clear so he fully understands what is and isn't acceptable.
 

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Wow. Tough situation. Chestermum offered some great advice, IMO, for day to day living, structure, and quality interaction with your dog; however, I would seek a professional for the aggression. As you said, it is unacceptable and severe in intensity. If it were me, I would do it asap. I think chestermum offered a great start, and often that is enough for a dog just testing the boundary or growling a few times, but your boy has already crossed well over into an unacceptable & dangerous zone. A dog who will bite (outside of any medical issue that should be ruled out) is a personal & public liability. I wish you all the best! Your family vizsla is lucky to have someone to care enough to seek advice. Our neighbors ignored "playful, protective of his toys" behavior, until their dog came through the fence & bit my son (playing in our yard). I'm interested to see what others say. BTW, some dogs detest being pinned & only get more excited. My V pup hates pinning, even when playing with other dogs, and goes bananas. Is your pup neutered? Just curious.
 

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as said before some great advice has already been said. Is he a particularly dominant dog, if so I would be thinking about castration if he is not already neutered, as this usually calms a dominant dog down.
What sort of things does he steal? If he steals something (that cant cause any harm) and tries to instigate this behaviour with you, I would just completely ignore him.
Then at a different time I would try giving him a new toy, letting him have it for a few seconds, and then asking him to give it to you and presenting him with a treat that is way way better than the toy (for example a sausage or something really appetising for him!) When he drops the toy praise him with the sausage/treat.
Build this up with different items around the house.
I would not try and wrestle the toy off him as this already seems to make him worse. Make him WANT to give the toy to you as he knows he will be praised if he does.
 

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I have a 7 month old V dog and have never had him attempt to steal anything yet. Is this something that will be coming round the corner for us? We have always been very firm with the "off" command. If he picks up something he shouldn't he instantly drops it and is praised for doing so.
 

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You will prob be ok. Our V only used to take things when he was little and didn't understand that they were ours. He is fine now and will 'leave it' with a firm command! Keep up the good work :)
 

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kelevra said:
I have a 7 month old V dog and have never had him attempt to steal anything yet. Is this something that will be coming round the corner for us? We have always been very firm with the "off" command. If he picks up something he shouldn't he instantly drops it and is praised for doing so.
With my puppy, it was an immediate thing. He loves socks and gloves. Basically any small and soft item which usually ends up being clothing (he does have a duck he is allowed to play with though!). When I try to take socks and such form him, he can VERY mean, complete with growling and snapping. I have just learned to be careful when prying things from him and to show no fear (and I'm not scared anymore, usually annoyed when he takes things!). If he's being exceptionally bad, I might pick him up and put him on his back and straddle his body. That sorts out bad behaviors really quick.
 

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If im honest i took a very dominant stance with Storm right from the off and i think that has helped his development. So far he hasn't challenged me or my partner once. He hasn't even tried to take down the Christmas Tree yet! This can't be normal! ::)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for your advice guys. I'll defo try whilst my parents are away this week. I'm not sure how well they'll keep it up when I'm not around but its definately worth a try. He only takes trainers, socks and pants or anything that rustles.
He is pretty good at giving back and only occasionally has he taken it further than a moany growl.
He has had the chop but only a week or 2 ago and its not made any difference in behaviour yet. Will let you know how its going in a few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed for us. :)
 

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I would consult a professional. Both stealing and guarding (e.g., growling when a dog has a desired object or resource that you may try to take away) are normal, although not desirable, dog behaviors. "Normal" doesn't mean all dogs do these things, but they are common problem behaviors in dogs. Never try confrontational techniques with a dog who has growled at you. Growling is a dog's way of warning you off to try to prevent escalation of force (contact bite). Given that you've already had the contact bite, though, it's time for professional help. It does not mean the dog is a bad, aggressive dog. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not divided up into biters versus non-biters; although some dogs may have a lower threshold for aggression than others, all dogs have the potential to bite under the right circumstances (guarding objects being a classic circumstance for this sort of thing). But even though a dog bite incident doesn't mean you have a "bad" dog on your hands, anytime you've had a dog bite (whatever the circumstances), it's important to get a professional consult so you can go about addressing the behavior in just the right way (we can advise you, but we're not professionals). Even if family members feel comfortable handling the dog when he has a stolen object, an unsuspecting guest, for example, might get caught off guard. Here are some links for a behavioral specialist search:

http://dacvb.org/directory/
http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/caab-directory

Ignore the fact that this article is called "food guarding," it's relevant to what you describe (just that you wouldn't do the exact same behavioral exercises for object guarding as the authors describe for food guarding). http://www.aspcabehavior.org/articles/70/Food-Guarding.aspx
 

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there is some good info in this thread:
http://www.vizslaforums.com/index.php/topic,1197.0.html

Mischa growled at me once.
I told her to get off the couch, and she growled instead of getting off...I took that as an early sign of her testing me. I grabbed her collar and pinned her on the floor about a second after she growled.
That was the last time she growled at a command...

She has a playful growl which is very different than this one, and my instincts told me what she was saying that time. I wasn't having it.

I know confrontation isn't the popular vote, but if my dog bit me, she'd be on the ground or through a wall before I gave up.

Do you keep a collar on him in the house? If not, I would start, it'll make pinning him easier.
I'm not an expert so you have to decide what works for you.
Our trainer had us pin Mischa multiple times a day for no reason at all other than to let her know that we could.

This is going to sound strange, but it works for me:
When you pin a dog, you're using your presence or energy, not your muscle to keep it down. You can't do it with anger. You have to be calm and execute it with confidence as if it were just a regular daily occurrence. Deep breaths help keep you calm.
Once you start, you have to finish. This technique is not for everyone, and is very controversial because there is potential for you to get hurt, and potential to make things worse if you fail.
I find if Mischa tries to move, all I have to do is touch her on the neck with the length of my finger as if it were a huge k9 tooth touching(not piercing) her neck. She gives in and settles down.
When I tried to use my strength to hold her, she would struggle and fight. You're telling the brain to submit, not the body.


I haven't done this in a long while as it hasn't been necessary, and after she started a fear sage I was very concerned that I caused it.
It seems like the fear stage is normal and she's just about grown out of it with zero aggression towards anything or anyone that scared her.
That being said, if she hits another "test" period, I have no qualms about pinning her again.


If you're not totally comfortable with what I described, don't do it.
Contact a professional who will teach you how train your dog the way you like.

I hope this helps
-Dennis
 

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sarahaf said:
To add to the debate (again), see the following press release:

http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2009/6361.html
Their message says that people who abuse their dogs, end up with dogs who are afraid of, or more aggressive toward their owners.
That seems pretty obvious to me, and I am in no way educated on human or dog psychology...

I'm all ears when it comes to dog training ideas, but I didn't see any info on alternative techniques in the article.

Just to be perfectly clear, I don't condone beating a dog into submission. I do however believe in discipling a dog in a similar manner as dogs in the wild would.
 

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Hi Dennis,

I realize this can get to be a hot topic here--I don't want to shy away from a debate on the subject, but certainly don't want to insult you or anyone else. I didn't read the link quite the way you did. I read it as suggesting that the rationale for techniques like "pinning" a dog is dominance theory, and that the support is weak for dominance theory as the main basis for understanding and changing the behavior of domestic dogs. When the authors refer to coercive training techniques, they mean techniques like "pinning" a dog. I didn't read anything there about people beating dogs. Pinning a dog is a form of coercion, however, and behavioral theorists believe that when it works, it works not because the dog comes to accept you as dominant or alpha, but because the dog experiences it as a punishment. In learning theory, "punishment" is defined quite simply as anything that has the effect of reducing the frequency of the behavior that preceded the punishment (often aversive, but not necessarily). It does not necessarily imply beating. But any confrontational approach (including pinning) may be experienced by dogs as scary and therefore, runs the risk of causing negative side effects for the dog or the dog-human relationship. I realize many people here use techniques such as pinning and seem to have well-adjusted dogs, so I don't think there are any absolutes. But if there is a possibility of worsening fear or aggression, it may be preferable to use other, less confrontational approaches that don't have these risks.

You had asked about what these alternative approaches are. For either fear or aggression, as I mentioned in another thread, the mainstay of treatment from the learning theory perspective would be something called desensitization and counterconditioning. I'll re-post the link. http://www.aspcabehavior.org/articles/14/Desensitization-and-Counterconditioning.aspx These techniques are best done under the supervision of an experienced professional, especially if the problem is aggression.

For your example of the Mischa growling on the couch (or the OP's parents' dog's behavior with stolen objects), the following link provides a description of some alternative understandings and techniques. http://ahimsadogtraining.com/blog/resource-guarding/
 

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sarahaf said:
I realize this can get to be a hot topic here--I don't want to shy away from a debate on the subject, but certainly don't want to insult you or anyone else.
I feel the same way.
To be clear, I'm not trying to butt heads and have an e-argument :), just interested in debating the topic as well.

I've read through the links you posted. There is some good info there. Thank-you

Just to keep the debate going...:)
Ever since we got Mischa, we've made a conscious effort to not give her a treat or toy when she lunges for it. She has to be calm and accept it politely. She has picked this up really well.
She'll chew on her prized dear antler right next to me all the time. I grab it and she generally lets go right away (not right away when she's in hyper-mode lol). When I give it back to her she bites it so gently that it could be a babies hand that she were holding in her mouth. I'm certain that she does that because she knows that she won't get her toy back if she isn't gentle about it, not because she's afraid of being pinned.

I'm sure the same result could have been achieved in many different ways, and maybe it's been fine because she has zero aggression towards anything or anyone, but I feel that her lack of aggression may also be as a result of our confrontational techniques teaching her that she has a place in our home and the outside world, but that her place is not at the top. I may be way off, or I may be right on. I can't say for sure either way, but I do feel good about my dog's development.
 

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Our Vizsla is now 13months and we have had him since 7 weeks. Ever since the first day we had him we have always made an effort to show him we are the alpha. When I read dog training books, watch cesar milan etc, this form of training has always made the most sense to me as dogs come from wolves, wolves worked in a pack etc- and when I have researched it, I think the aplha training method just seems to make sense.
There are lots of ways to show your dog that you are the alpha that are confrontational at all. For example we have always made Wiley sit and wait outside the front door, we then come into the house, and when we are in and taken our shoes off I will say Wiley come - and then he can enter. When either myself or my partner enters the house we always ignore Wiley for the first 5 minutes and when he is calm and has gone to his bed we then go and say hello to him after we have said hello to everyone else. These are just a few examples but we have always been very consistent. Wiley is sooo submissive, as soon as he sees a dog he rolls over on his back, or sometimes even wees! I think this is down to us always showing we are alpha from the start.
We have used a 'pinning' technique before when he was really young, however we never physically pinned him- we would tell him to go into the 'down' and then I would bend down with him and sort of nudge him to roll over, and as he rolled over he would lift one of his back legs and completely submit - he didn't mind doing this at all. we havent done it in ages, and it wasnt a practice we did when he was naughty- we just did it every now and then. I think all of these little things help make a more submissive dog
 

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Dennis--glad you are not offended. I appreciate your comments. Yes, not getting a toy back is an example of a consequence that for the animal, serves to discourage the behavior, but without use of force.

BamBam--Yes, your description of not forcibly pinning the dog is certainly different from doing so forcibly. These techniques have regained popularity in part due to cesar millan's show. Anecdotally, they do seem to work well with people here on the forum and others. Some of the differences in how dogs respond may have to do with the amount of force or intensity the owner/trainer uses. Interestingly, though, in the academic world, the theoretical basis for the techniques (the idea that there is an alpha wolf) has actually been called into question, by the same researcher who in the 1960's originally proposed the "alpha wolf" concept (David Mech)! http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201007/canine-dominance-is-the-concept-the-alpha-dog-valid

Academic animal behaviorists (in contrast to popular trainers or tv trainers like Cesar Millan) have moved away from these techniques for this and the other reasons I mentioned. So if you do choose to use these techniques, know that you may not actually be doing what another wolf or dog would do. Another tidbit (and a rationale for why a dog might instinctively be frightened by being pinned--though I wouldn't argue that all dogs experience it this way with all owners) is that in the wolf world, spontaneous rolling onto the back as a display of submission is very different from being pinned on the back by another animal. The only time a wolf pins another wolf onto the back is when it is trying to kill the other wolf!
 

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Hi guys, I've been avoiding weighing in on this but since it's a discussion and not a debate ;) I'll add my two cents...

I started off with the alpha dog, trying to be the dominant one but I have switched my ideas completely, for lots reasons. At first it seems to make sense that dogs are like wolves. But I had a lot of trouble working out whether merc was a dominant dog eg he didn't like giving toys up and would run away but as soon as you touched it he would give it up. So I thought, maybe dominant. But he would always give up food, maybe he was submissive. Liked to put his foot, head, something on me, I was told I was being dominated. But he never jumped on me and would give up his bed if I asked, so submissive behaviour. When I've been on group walks I started out trying to see classical "pack" behavior and again got frustrated because what I saw was some dogs just interested in sniffing things, some dogs hanging back with the humans and some dogs running, chasing each other and occasionally wrestling. But I never saw one dog that was always in charge or one that akways rolled over. I was very confused! When I started reading that dogs are not exactly like wolves things started to make sense. Some things they want more than others so at some times appear more dominant than others. One article, that I think Sarah posted a link to, talks about how a group of domestic dogs turned feral don't form packs with a clear leader but have only a loose association with each other. And I recently saw a documentary on dog behavior where they were looking at whether aggression had a genetic link and also how becoming domesticated had changed dogs. One study in Siberia had selectively bred either human-aggressive foxes together or less human-aggressive foxes together and in a surprisingly few generations had two very different types of foxes. Some that responded to people like dogs and some that wanted to tear apart humans on sight. Even more interesting was that the less aggressive, more domesticated foxes had started to change in appearance. So the conclusions were that when dog ancestors started living with humans it would have been very easy for humans to breed in more suitable temperaments and along with it the variety of shapes and colours and physical types that we have today.

And at the end of the day, if cheetahs can be trained using clicker training (and I have seen this done at a wildlife park) then surely it is possible to train dogs using these methods? I have no doubt that the old fashioned methods of dog training do work for most dogs, but if I can live with my dog without needing to be dominant then That is the lifestyle I would prefer. If I can get the same result without needing to physically dominate the dog then why not? I still have rules and boundaries that merc must live by, he does not run riot through my life (much) but the punishments are what are called "negative" and the rewards are "positive" as opposed to "positive" punishment and "negative" rewards.

Anyway, I admit I have limited experience in training dogs (1 kelpie and 1 V) so appreciate that other people have different experiences :) and I am no expert! And I do appreciate that we can have this as a conversation of different views rather than an on line argument so thanks guys.
 

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I completely agree that clicker training and positive re-inforcement (ignoring bad behaviour and really praising good behaviour) are great ways of training dogs and both have worked really well for me.
I am 5ft 2 and weigh 7st, and am not a dominant person at all - sometimes I find it hard to believe Wiley thinks I am 'in-charge' but he has never ever challenged me with anything, and I can only think that it must be down to me showing him I am alpha through subtle techniques such as going throwing doors first, sitting on his bed etc.
If I tried to take something off him and he growled/bit me I would be concerned that he didn't know I was 'in-charge' and that he thought he could challenge me.
You could probably train the dog through clicker training to drop the toy when you ask, by having a treat and clicking and praising when he/she did the right thing, but I would still be worried that my dog challenged me and went as far as to bite me over something.
 
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