Dogcharmer: Two problems, two approaches

Predatory aggression and territoriality are two biggies.

Moose, a toy fox terrier/French bulldog mix. — Tom Shelby

Hello, Tom,

My name is Moose. I am a toy fox terrier/French bulldog mix. I will be turning 6 years old this year. I go from a calm dog in the house to a bouncing, barking, out-of-control dog at the sight of a squirrel, bird, cat, or car. And if someone knocks on the house door, I am at the door bouncing and barking. All my behaviors are impulsive, startling, and loud. My human care providers are at their wits’ ends trying to settle me during these times. Could you please outline for them the process we need to do together to help me have some self-control? Thank you for your time.


Dear Moose, c/o Holly,

These are two distinct, separate questions. The first one involves overriding Moose’s predatory aggression, chasing the animals he sees, as opposed to ignoring them and coming to you at your command. Start with a powerful, outdoor, off-leash recall. Do that by calling him to come multiple times, and when he arrives, he gets a piece of hot dog or chicken (people food) as a reward. At no other time does he get people food. Next comes the “leave it” command. The picture shows that Moose is wearing an e-collar. Plan ahead, and place a piece of ham, baloney, or something comparable on the lawn when Moose is in the house. Then take Moose out, and let him hear “Leave it!” immediately followed by the use of the e-collar as he closes in on the temptation food, Seeing the e-collar on Moose, I’ve assumed you know what it takes to stop Moose in his tracks, without overdoing it, be it tone, vibration, or electric stim. The moment after he is stopped with the “leave it” command, he should be called to come and rewarded with people food when he arrives. If you’re not confident with the use of the e-collar I’d strongly suggest we get together and let me determine its best use.

As for Moose’s response at the door, it’s his territorial response, as opposed to his predatory response, that’s out of control. Moose has to be taught to go to a spot within sight of the door, sit or lie down, and stay till he’s released after the guest enters. Holly, it starts with you knocking on the door from inside the house. Moose will still respond as though someone knocked from outside, and get loud and hyper. You then lure him to the spot with a favorite treat, and tell him to sit and stay (assuming he knows how to sit and stay), and pretend to let the imaginary guest in. Once the “guest” is in, Moose is released with a word, told to come forward, and given his treat for being polite. When you can accomplish his staying on his spot as you open and close the door for Mr. Imaginary, you ratchet up the distraction to his cooperating at the door with a family member actually on the other side of the door.

Holly, overcoming predatory aggression and territoriality are truly two of the more difficult lessons to accomplish, and require real patience and persistence. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for some assistance.

Good luck.
Dogcharmer Tom

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