I apologise in advance for the spelling (I'm British!) and for the essay but I want to give as much information as I can so you are in the best position help us. We have a 6 month & 3 week old female Boston Terrier puppy, we have had her since she was 9 weeks old. We have some issues with aggressive behaviour and really need some constructive advice please. We really don't know how to resolve her behaviour and have tried most things I have read online.
I appreciate that some or all of the issue may be taught behaviour and we don't need any lectures on that score, we just need advice on how to now deal with what we now have. My fiance used to 'rough' play with her as a younger puppy, just by kind of chasing her body with his hands, trying to tease her by taking toys from her to throw for her to fetch with his hands etc. She loved this but would get very carried away/over excited, so we tried to teach her 'enough' and 'settle' to try and calm her down after these very short sessions, with some degree of success. However, I discouraged the 'rough' play as I was never happy with it - I didn't like the fact that it would get Xena so worked up, and eventually (after a lot of nagging), I got him to stop doing this with her. If I had to estimate, I'd say these sessions were only about 5 minutes long and every few days over the course of a couple of weeks, so not much. But I think this has been enough to establish some undesirable behaviour in our puppy .
I know that Bostons can be stubborn and can try to be domineering but I think the behaviour we have goes beyond that? So here's my best description of it...At least once a day, if we tell her 'no' to try and stop her digging up the compost in the garden or digging at the sofa cushions or any other small thing, she will totally lose her temper with us. She will bark, lunge at us and try to nip/bite our hands (not hard enough to make us bleed but enough to be unwanted!). During this, she also won't be told to sit and will ignore all commands she would normally respond to. On the advice of our dog training class trainer, we used to 'make like a tree' to make ourselves uninteresting (holding hands in the air and not look at or talk to her until she calmed down and then tell her to instantly sit) and this did work for a while to calm her down or at least to distract her enough for her to forget what the fuss was about. However, now she is a bit bigger and her legs are even more spring-loaded(!) , she will just jump vertically and try nipping at our under arms if we have them held aloft 'making like a tree'. Yesterday, I wasn't the one who told her 'no' but she jumped up and nipped my elbow! Most (about 90%) of this behaviour is directed at my fiance though but will do it to me if I tell her 'no' at times. In the last week, we decided to try another tactic - we now both leave the room for 5 minutes and that seems to work sometimes at that particular moment, but it's not preventing her from behaving aggressively again. We've tried ignoring the behaviour but it's impossible because even if you sit and hide your hands, she will still try to get to them to bite us along with barking and lunging as well. We've tried asserting ourselves by saying 'no' and 'naughty' in very low tones and even yelled once or twice - but this only magnifies her aggression and makes her worse. The weekend before last, she was aggressively barking and lunging at me in the garden ( I told her to get off the composted area) and I got so angry with her reaction I went inside and just sat on the sofa crying because I don't know what to do anymore to stop it, I felt so helpless/useless. I'm not an emotional woman at all or one who cries easily or often (actually quite the reverse!), so this should tell you how bad this situation now has me feeling .
I'm obviously very concerned by this and want it to stop as soon as possible, because I'd hate for her to bite anyone whilst walking or whilst anyone else is in our home or bite our dog walker. I have visions of her biting a stranger whilst out walking and having to be euthanised . Obviously, we love her very much and would be absolutely heart broken by this. I also know it can't be good for Xena getting herself worked up into this kind of state, or for us either.
Just so that you know - we take Xena to training classes every week without fail, where she's taught new things and can socialise with other dogs. We also have a dog walker twice a week who takes her walking on group walks with other dogs, some regular, some new. When we meet dogs out on walks, if the other owner is willing, we let Xena say hello to the other dogs so I think she is well socialised in this regard. I also have a 9 year old step son who visits, and who she sees every 2 weeks, as well as my fiances parents every 2 weeks along with our neighbours and other dog walkers she sees daily as well so I don't think she lacks socialisation with humans either.
We also have training sessions with her at home on pretty much a daily basis and whilst out walking. We walk and feed her 3 times a day and have been working hard on her impulse control. We make her sit and wait for her meals and before going through doors (behind us, not in front) but appreciate we may need to do more in this area - any suggestions welcome! She has lots of bones and chew toys - we play tug, fetch and catch indoors and in the garden with other toys. She is a big attention seeker, always wants to play and be on the go when not sleeping and perhaps we have over-indulged this too much? We don't really get any down time whilst at home with her in the evening until she sleeps, which isn't normally until our bed time anyway.
Also, maybe just another note worthy point - we still keep her in her crate during the days we work, 3-5 days a week. Obviously she has water and is walked after 4 hours, and 2 days a week she is with the dog walker and other dogs in the afternoon. But we did wonder if she is now too old for this and should be trusted to roam the first floor of our house, starting with short periods? We also did think this could be contributing to her behaviour? But there doesn't seem to be any professional constructive evidence of this online, most 'professionals' seem to advocate the crate and Xena does see it as her calm/safe place in the world. She also sleeps in this at night and seems happy to do so.
Finally, due to her age, we appreciate she is teething on and off and her hormones may also be wacky as she enters the time frame for her first season/heat and wondered if this could solely explain the escalation in aggression in the past 2 weeks? She also seems to have been periodically temporarily off her food during the past 2 weeks as well, not sure if this a good indicator for her hormones being wacky or not?
In every other way though, Xena is a very loving and quite an obedient girl who makes us laugh each and every day. We love her very much and can't imagine her not being in our lives but want to eradicate this unwanted behaviour and welcome any experience and advice you all may have. Thank you so much for reading all of this- I'm very much hoping lots of you will be able to help.
EDIT: I appreciate this is a similar thread to My Boston Keeps Attacking Me but Xena is younger and female and only tries to bite our hands so wanted advice for our specific circumstances and problem. Sorry if it seems a duplicate!
I can appreciate how you have tried to stop the rough play your fiancé was doing with your puppy. I think that can over stimulate your dog. We used to rough house with our dog, too, and it brought out the worst in her. It didn't take us long to stop doing it.
There is a training technique called Nothing in Life is Free. I think you are doing some of it already, but perhaps you can fine tune your efforts. Your dog is still a puppy so some of her behavior may become more tolerable as she matures but it is important that you make sure you are doing all you can to instill in her that you are the leader.
I don't know about females and spaying. With males, neutering helps calm them down. I have always spayed and neutered my pets as soon as they were old enough.
Thanks you so much for your reply kangel, it was very helpful and good to hear of your experience as well.
We already implement a lot of the suggestions in Nothing in Life is Free (lying down for meals, waiting to go through doorways, sitting when lead is put on and off etc). But having read about it just now I can see that we are not as tight as we could be with these and we are giving away valuable resources without realising. Xena always has a choice of toys available to play with which are rotated by us, we pet and cuddle her spontaneously (quite a lot), she's allowed on the sofa and we play with her whenever she wants to etc. We can definitely tighten up and enhance the areas we already do as well as implement an action being required before she gets everything else she wants. I'll do some more research and make sure this starts right away.
Also, we did ask our dog trainer last night whilst at class about her behaviour, and she suggested that rather than us leave the room when Xena is acting aggressively, SHE should be placed in another room. We have trouble getting hold of her when she's having a temper tantrum because she's just so damned agile(!) and has no tail, but she suggested we leave her car harness on her more often in the house so we have something extra to grab on to. She also suggested not showing as much affection to Xena and not letting her sit on our laps so we'll take this on board as well - so difficult when she's so beautiful and cuddly but it has to be done for here benefit, so we will. She also said in the past she has had to 'bite' one of her dogs to nip aggressive behaviour in the bud, but I don't want to go down that route, I think it will just lead Xena to challenge us more.
We had heard that neutering dogs calms them down but when I visited our vet yesterday and asked about Xena's behaviour, I asked about this and she said it's not always the case, varies from dog to dog. And as we plan to breed from Xena in few years time, assuming we can eradicate this behaviour of course, then we don't want to neuter her really unless it's a last resort.
Lots of reading to be done I think and implementing as much of the Nothing in Life is free as quickly as possible.
Some dogs are naturally more challenging than other dogs.
When I took my current dog to a dog obedience class there was a lady with a dog that was biting her, too. The trainer told her the same as your trainer told you, but instead of biting the dog back, grab it from the scruff and lift it up. She also suggested yelping in a very high pitched voice when the dog bit her. Apparently the mother dog will do the same to show her pups they have gone too far and hurt her. The biting is something dogs do to each other when they are very young. Maybe your dog was taken from her mother too soon and did not learn bite inhibition from her mother.
Another idea along with the harness is to keep a leash attached to your dog so you can grab it up when you need to.
We no longer have the issue I originally posted with, Xena doesn't have this aggression anymore. I had read quite a lot of things online over the short-ish duration we had this problem and I think it was due to her teething her last few teeth (at the back), so we just tried to be a bit more understanding, as calm as possible when stopping some unwanted behaviour and avoid getting her annoyed and over-excited!
She's not been crated for about 3 or 4 months now during the day, just to sleep, and she's nearly a year old now. She's generally really well behaved at home, we just have some domineering behaviour, she'll try to bully us to play and then go into constant whining mode , she'd make us play 24/7 if we let her! So I'm now just trying to get a play routine established so she knows what the boundaries are. Hopefully, this will help!
I also have a walking problem, she's just degenerated into pretty much constantly pulling, making walking an unenjoyable activity (for us humans) and I'm not really sure what to do about this, I think we're already doing what we should be. I think some major reading is needed over Christmas to try and find some techniques which will work!
I think many of us here can relate to you about having a dog that wants to play all the time. When my girl whined at me I've really tried to ignore her at first, but I just couldn't, it got on my nerve sooo much . So I've told her first to stop and if she didn't, I took her to her crate for a 1 minute timeout and then let her out again. And if she didn't get the hint and whined again I've told her to stop again and if she didn't she got 2 minute timeout, and then 3.. she got it pretty quickly that whining doesn't get her what she wants and in 99% of times that she starts to whine I only have to tell her to stop. And we now have a whine free home.
Teaching a dog not to pull, especially if you have a high energy dog, is really hard and long process. Problem is, that a dog is usually constantly rewarded when he pulls - he wants to get somewhere, he pulls you there and get's what he wanted.. so anytime you let a dog do that, his behaviour is getting stronger.
Did you try non pull harness? It's like any other harness but the leash is pinned on dog's chest.
It works very similar to halti - when the dogs pulls, his direction is changed, so he's really not getting where he was headed. This type of harness needs to be really tight to the body, otherwise it's just the harness that turns .