Q: I’ve had my adopted dog (a mutt) for about 10 months. He’s loving and affectionate except that he often snaps at me when he’s on his bed and I lean down to kiss him on his nose. Is he telling me his bed is strictly off-limits or is this a warning that he could bite me (or someone else) anywhere, at anytime?
I’ve never had a dog that didn’t welcome affection and don’t know how to respond to these surprise snaps.
A: There could be several reasons why your dog is snapping. He could be anxious when you lean over him, as is common with many dogs. He could be tired and achy, particularly if he has health problems. He could also be (in his own mind) invoking the dog law of possession, which goes something like this: “If I (the dog) am lying on something, am chewing on something or am eating something, it’s mine, and I don’t want anyone else getting too close or attempting to interfere.” For instance, many dogs are wonderful if you’re on your chair and call them to you, but not if they’re on the chair and you invade their space (from their point of view).
I would strongly suggest that you see a good behavior consultant if the behavior continues, but meanwhile, consider calling him off his bed to kiss him, ignoring him when he is on the bed, or removing his bed entirely. Make sure he understands that you control the resources, not him, by having him sit before eating, before petting, and before going out the door. You can be very loving and rewarding when he sits for you, but he should definitely do it. As time goes by, obeying you should become a habit that neither of you even has to think about.
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