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I can't tell. Aggressive playing or attacks?

asked 2016-11-05 22:17:27 -0500

I'm going to try and keep this short and sweet.

I have provided overnight dog sitting/house sitting for this couple since July. Usually one or two weekends a month. I watch two dogs, (5 years) (1 year) . The older dog is great!! So loveable, cutie, very behaved and responds to commands. The younger one is the total opposite! I totally understand that this dog is still a puppy but I'm starting to wonder if there is something else going on that I'm not quite picking up on.

Most of the time all three of us get along fine. Other times I am actually a little scared and need to remove myself from the situation. Out of what seems like no where this younger dog will just stop and stare at me and bark, bark, bark. When this happens i have tried letting him out, nothing, I've tried adjusting the blankets where we were cuddled up on, just keeps barking. Other things I've tried are starting something active like fetch or tug of war. That usually helps while the activity is going on but once he gets bored it is either nap time or back to barking. Half of the time when there is barking, there is snapping, nipping or biting. If the older dog is nearby it starts off by them growling at each other, barking, a mild- medium scuffle which i will have to break up. ( younger dog is double the size of the older) . Once they are separated the younger one comes after me. While trying to hold him away from me he will bite my hand and or arm. I usually just stand up and he leaves me alone other than staring me down and barking. ( most fights start off by who can be the closest to me). This behavior seems to be getting worse. The dog now bites are my feet when I stand to get away. He has never caused blood but the bite scratches usually leave a mark for a few hours or for the day.

The owners have never mentioned this kind of behavior. I never brought it up because at first I dismissed it as puppy play but now it's getting noticeably worse. He is so jealous I can't even pet the older dog without him forcing himself between us. He also needs to be touching me almost the whole time, if I try to get him to lay or sit next to me we start this barking biting cycle all over again. Sadly, there are other things this dog does bad behavior wise but that is for a different thread.

What should I do? I love dog sitting and I always take every job but once I get to their house I instantly what to leave. Thanks for reading and for advice!

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Ask the owners about whether they've noticed protective or possessive behavior with the younger dog, and if so, how they handle it. It could be part of his maturation process, but it sounds like the foot biting is a real problem. Start with rewarding good behavior and go from there!

Natasha S.'s profile image Natasha S.  ( 2016-11-06 08:27:07 -0500 ) edit

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answered 2016-11-06 13:55:44 -0500

The younger dog's behavior isn't acceptable behavior, and isn't usual puppy behavior. What breeds are the dogs? You are right to be concerned. Depending on the breed (and I'm guessing this is a large breed dog) he may also be going through a "teenager" phase, testing his boundaries and trying to assert dominance.

Will he sit on command? If not, I can give you pointers on how to teach him. Once he has learned that, have him sit before he gets anything he wants -- go outside, come inside, meals, attention, etc. I also recommend no tug-of-war or other rough play. If possible, you may also want to keep him from coming up on the couch with you. Present yourself as the one in charge. Not as a dictator, but as a benevolent leader. He needs to learn his place in the hierarchy, but not in a confrontational way.

Does he get enough exercise (walks, ball play, etc)? He may also have pent-up energy.

I concur with giving treats and praise when he behaves (even if it's for a short while :-D ). If he won't take treats nicely, you can drop them on the floor for him to eat.

The owners need to decide who will be "top dog" between the two dogs. Without seeing their behavior I can't say which should be encouraged to "take the lead." It sounds like the younger dog is wanting that spot, but the older dog doesn't want to give it up. Usually, it's best to support the older dog in his bid to retain it, but not always.

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The older dog is a frenchie and the younger one is a English bulldog. If we sit next to each other on the couch he is sitting as tall as me. I take him on a walk, but probably not long enough. The older one can't walk very far so I leave him behind. He knows simple commands but is stubborn. Thanks!

Shannon P.'s profile image Shannon P.  ( 2016-11-06 14:25:29 -0500 ) edit
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answered 2016-11-18 23:20:57 -0500

I would address with the owner. Best case scenario, the dog is spoiled and with some additional work on your part (depends if it's worth it to you) you may be able to redirect the dogs behavior with positive reinforcement. Rewarding with attention or food when behaving as they should. Taking away affection (if you have to leave the room.

Worst case, you or someone else could get injured. Depending on your knowledge/training, it may be an issue you work around---possibly for an additional fee.

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answered 2016-11-14 18:44:42 -0500

The behavior definitely sounds concerning! But without seeing it in person I can't say for sure. It does not sound like normal puppy behavior at all. It sounds like as he's maturing there is some fear aggression surfacing. Lots of things that were okay when he was younger are no longer okay.

I would try to video tape the behavior to show to the owners next time they come to visit. Ask them if they've seen this behavior before, and mention a trainer or behaviorist if they don't seem to know what to do about it. I suggest behaviorist because they are better able to figure out what the dog is going through.

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answered 2016-11-06 20:45:24 -0500

I would agree with Shannon and I have experienced the same breeds together before, although different situation. I would definitely bring it up nicely with the owners. I would emphasize that this dog needs training, and if you're not qualified maybe mention local dog training classes you heard about, biting is not good (so maybe a reactive dog training class). I think this is an important timeframe in any dog's development. Training games with the dog help them to learn boundaries and provide a positive leadership role.

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answered 2017-02-12 22:45:55 -0500

Bulldogs are a very stubborn, independent breed. Theres no shame in admitting he's too much dog. Since there is an escalating effect going, I would recommend a different sitter/trainer. No money is worth getting bit over.

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