Hello, I have a 3 y/o Bichon named Skittles. Everytime I go to leave the house she growls at me and barks and bites at my pants legs and scratchs my legs. Can anyone please tell me why she is doing this? My husband thinks it is because she is too attached to me and doesn't want me to leave. I am not so sure. I would just like to get others opinions. Thank you! Lisa
There is probably a whole lot more going on with Skittles than separation anxiety. Can you tell us more about how you interact with her during the day, her sleeping arrangements, exercise, and how you go about leaving the house? Is she a problem child only when you leave or at other times? Does she get along well with new people, children and other dogs? The more you can tell us, the better advice we can provide. :-)
Skittles and I are very close! She follows me EVERYWHERE I go!!!! All day long if I go into another room you can bet Skittles is right behind me. She has even got closed up in rooms before because I forgot that she follows me. She sleeps with me. And sometimes ON me. She has to be touching me a lot. She loves attention. And she pretty much gets attention all day everyday from me whenever I get my cleaning done. After the cleaning gets done we settle in and she will curl up beside me and I will pet her until she goes to sleep and she will fall asleep with her chin on my leg or something, But she has to pretty much be touching me all the time. She is basically only a problem child when I am leaving the house alone. When we leave as a family she doesn't attack me. It is only when I leave alone. As far as new people go, she loves people. She gets so excited when people come over. In fact she gets too excited. At least until they pay her some attention and them she will settle down and leave them alone. she of course barks to let us know that someone has come up to the house but she doesn't mean anything more than "hey family someone is here!" And as far as kids goes she loves them but she is just a bit too hyper for the smaller kids. She is perfect for our 9 & 11 year old. I have tried to leave the house by sneaking out, I have tried being stern with her and telling her "NO" And she is so smart she knows when it is time for me to go get the kids from school because I will try to sneak to the back door and she will be there waiting for me. I just don't know what to do. Any help or advice you can give me is greatly appreciated. I love my dog. I have 2 sons and she is my "little girl". She is my best friend and I just can't stand for there to be this animosity between us just because I need to leave the house for a few minutes. Thanks in advance for helping! Lisa
Uh oh. I was afraid of that. I'm sorry to tell you, but your own behavior has created the monster you are now dealing with. Before you get angry with me for saying that, you have to know that most people do this with their dogs - particularly the small dogs. The words that really gave away the situation are you describing Skittles as your "little girl". It's not just the separation anxiety that is an issue, it's the excited behavior, the home-guarding when someone comes into "her" territory, etc. What you see as "love" from Skittles is actually dominant behavior. She no more sees you or anyone in your family as her pack leader than she does a piece of furniture.
Think about how much affection you lavish on Skittles in one day. Does she get affection constantly, even when she's in an excited state? Excitement does not equate to enjoyment like it does in humans. It sounds like you have given her so much affection so much of the time, that she has forgotten how to be a dog. Again, this problem is a common one with dog owners. Now you see the results and are trying to be "stern" with her, but she doesn't pay attention because in her eyes, you aren't her pack leader. It's really that simple.
This is extremely important: do not reward bad behavior with affection. Bad behavior can be roughly defined as any dog behavior that forces you to do something you don't want to do. You don't want to sneak out of your own home, but Skittles' behavior forces you into it. When Skittles gets excited with the kids, that is bad behavior. Skittles can only receive affection when she is calm and submissive. You'll need to learn a little leash work to teach her what calm submissive means, but believe me - she'll learn it quickly. Your children are more than capable of learning these techniques too; but more importantly, they have to learn not to encourage overly excited behavior. No more "babying". Skittles is a dog, and her needs are vastly different from human needs.
Your goal needs to be to get Skittles out of that excited state and not so reliant on you for her mental wellbeing. I could sit here and type all day and probably not be able to get down everything that is involved in dog pschology. LOL!
So, what I want you to do is read any or all of Cesar Millan's books (The Dog Whisperer). Either buy them or check them out from your library. You can also rent DVDs of his television show at any video rental store. I had a terribly problematic dog who was fear-aggressive for 8 of her nearly 14 years. When I started watching the Dog Whisperer, my face really got red: I saw myself in most of those episodes and saw how we created the problems and made them worsen over time. The good news is that within a few short weeks, most of her issues were gone like they never existed. It all boils down to understanding that dogs' needs are different from humans' needs, and seeing to it that those needs are fulfilled to the best of your ability.
If you don't think you can retrain yourself and your family along with Skittles without help, look into hiring a veterinary behaviorist. That's just a fancy word for a dog psychologist. ;-) Bark Busters is a national chain, but there are plenty of solo behaviorists out there to choose from.
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! You make so much sense. I never thought to look at it that way. I guess I am going to have to retrain myself. I will check into the books you have suggested. I really do want to enjoy my dog again. She has brought so much joy into my life and I want to return the favor. Thanks again! Lisa
My roommate's dog becomes very aggressive and begins barking and growling at me and sometimes bites at my legs any time I leave the apartment or when he thinks I am leaving, aka leaving my bedroom. He is a Yorkshire Terrier and has not been neutered. She has two Yorkshire Terriers and the other one, which is younger, does not act this way but is beginning to bark when the aggressive one does. What can I do to halt this behavior?
I benefited so much from watching, not reading (!) the Dog Whisperer and did so for maybe 9 months before I got my very first dog. Watch the episodes where he worked with little dogs, similar to your kind. To me it is important to treat dogs as dogs and not as kids that we might have wanted, to see dogs for what they are, and not what we want them to be for us. It's an on-going education. The number 1 tool and one often neglected by small dog owners in walking their dogs on heel! This satisfies a dogs need to follow and establishes you as the pack leader! My dogs always sit in order to receive their food or their treats, which means they have to calm down and learn to be polite. I have played games of having my dogs sit, stay and wait and reward them if they do. Something your kids may have fun in teaching and that can be expanded to stay and wait while you go out. Most recommend to make no big deal in coming and going, but to ignore the dog, certainly resist creating excitement at either times. But I also wonder why not take the dog to pick up the kids and come along on errands, if the dog goes everywhere you go? Best wishes to you and your dog, om.
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