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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I am a long time lurker and have learned a lot from the forum! I need your advice please on how to change my dog’s very strange behaviour.
My toy/mini poodle is from a registered CKC breeder, his name is Kiwi and recently turned 6 months. He is very sweet and a good boy most of the time, he adjusts to our schedule(wakes up the same time as us, sleeps the whole night since week 13), knows how to use dog bell to go out, doesn’t bark too much( acceptable),very friendly with human and other dogs, and he is very very gentle with his teeth, never even scratched us during play.

There is one thing really confuses us, and recently has become more serious. Every time when we bring him home from playing outside he becomes very aggressive, we usually take him out around 5 or 6pm. He is so aggressive and he turns into a different dog, I almost think there is a demon inside his head at that moment. When we reach him to take off his leash or wipe his paws, he growls and want to bite us. This is 5 times worse than the threatening/air snap when reach him for wiping tear stain, brushing etc.

When we finally unleash him and wipe his paws/take off his boots, the first thing he rushes to is the mat in the kitchen where he likes to rub his face on it. He uses the same mat and rub his face on it after bath, and after eating. When he rubs his face he also make some frustrated sound too. After he releases all those energies, he becomes normal again, he allows us to touch him, pet him.
My question is, why is my dog behaving like this? Is he stressed from playing outside? How can I help him?
Thank you very much for your advice! I attached a pic of Kiwi.
 

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We can’t see the picture. Look here for a step by step guide on how to post a picture. Can you make a video of your dog doing the behavior ? To me it sounds like excitement and play that might have turned to what looks like a behavior problem because of how it was/is handled by the humans.

It will be a lot easier to help you with a video. But I’m sure your puppy is normal ! Is this your first dog ? When it is, it’s not always intuitive to understand a dog’s body language but it does get a lot easier with time.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Dechi, I will record a video next time . The picture I posted here is his normal sweet state. Yes, this is our first pet. And we are so grateful he is such an angel, just this biting tendency really confuses us and we don’t know how to correct him/ourselves.
We can’t see the picture. Look here for a step by step guide on how to post a picture. Can you make a video of your dog doing the behavior ? To me it sounds like excitement and play that might have turned to what looks like a behavior problem because of how it was/is handled by the humans.

It will be a lot easier to help you with a video. But I’m sure your puppy is normal ! Is this your first dog ? When it is, it’s not always intuitive to understand a dog’s body language but it does get a lot easier with time.
 

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I would be concerned that he air snaps whenever you reach for him, and that this behaviour is an escalation of that. He seems to be indicating a general discomfort with the way he is being handled. Ideally you would involve a qualified behaviourist but that might be difficult at the moment. Does he react badly to being restrained? How is he when you put his leash on? Does he get like this at the same time of day even if you don't take him out? What kind of exercise does your walk involve - running and playing or walking and sniffing? Could something he is wearing - coat, harness, collar etc - be uncomfortable, or salt picked up on walks be hurting his paws or face?

I would suggest going all the way back to baby steps with handling. Find a treat he really likes and cut it into tiny pieces. Offer him a few bits, and when he is interested touch his collar, treat. Repeat several times, in many sessions a day. Same for face, ears, paws, and other areas he is touchy about. No force - if he doesn't want to play let him go. Gradually build up to a gentle stroke for a treat, then rather more handling, but go at his pace.

In the meantime I would avoid giving him opportunities to rehearse and embed this behaviour. Put a thick dirt trapper mat by the door so you don't need to wipe his paws immediately; let him run to the kitchen mat before you attempt to remove the leash.
 

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How much sleep and napping is Kiwi during the day?

What is your evening walk like? Is it like a slow stop-and-go sniff walk? Or like a intense "A-to-B-to-A" exercise focused walk?

I ask because around that age I ran into a similar behavior with Basil (forgetting her brain at home, crazy jumping kagaroo, and being an embarrassing wild furchild on walks). With the winter sunset, I changed our 5/6pm tempo walk and made the new goal to have Basil mentally and physically start to wind down in the evening.

Our 5-6pm walk is a more stop-and-sniff less physically demanding & intense and more mentally stimulating walk around the block or two. It's also her second to last pee. I try to have her peak exercise around 12-2pm. Basil gets plenty of sunlight and fresh air that helps konk her out. I mentally shifted to harness and embrace her inner couch potato because it keeps the demons away.

I learned sleep & rest for Basil is still my best medicine. Cranky or naughty furbaby? Yup you need a nap.

All the credit goes to people here @PF.

Try it and see if Kiwis behavior changes.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Great observation/diagnosis, fjm! I also suspect my dog may just associate reaching to him to bad things, like wipe his paws, put ear drops, take baths etc. He is getting better on those hygiene routines, but clearly don’t like them but beat them. For those tasks, usually my husband has to hold on the dog and I am the one doing the tasks. It also explains why my husband feels Kiwi doesn’t like him much comparing to the affection/obedience kiwi has shown towards me recently.
He has no problem with harness, leash and he likes being petted all over his body, with us and with people in the dog parks. He will come to us and lie down and ask for belly rubs. He just don’t like to be picked up, in my opinion.
In terms of the walk in the evening, actually now I am not sure if we are doing it right. We take him to a big open park very close to us, he is off leash running free when we get to the boarder of this public park( grass). He plays with other small dogs, say hi to dog owners. He checks up and come back to us often and we are not too worried at the moment he will run away too far from us. He seems very happy in those “walk”, that’s why I really don’t understand why he becomes a demon the moment he returns home and he seems very stressed that he needs to rub his face on our kitchen mat.
Maybe I need to change his dog park “walk” to on leash fast walk in the neighbourhood?
Thanks again for your advice!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I also felt Kiwi might not have enough sleep, because his mood in the morning after a whole night sleep( in crate) is the best. He wants us to belly rub him, gives lot of kisses and make a sound that I know he is happy.

During the day, he is in his playpen that is left open, my husband’s wfh desk is beside the playpen. He lies down while we are working in the morning, in the afternoon and comes to the kitchen with us during our lunch break(less than 1 hour). Both of us have a mentally and time demanding job.
we are not sure if Kiwi is really sleeping in his pen as he stands up very quickly if my husband makes a slight move or if I come down from upstairs, it’s almost like he is waiting for us to play with him whenever we are not occupied with work.
Do you think we should put him in his crate to force him to nap? And would a walk in the neighborhood enough for Kiwi? His daily outdoor activity is just the dog park off leash running/playing in the afternoon around 5-6 pm for about half and hour.
Do you think maybe Kiwi needs more mental stimulation rather than physical activities?


How much sleep and napping is Kiwi during the day?

What is your evening walk like? Is it like a slow stop-and-go sniff walk? Or like a intense "A-to-B-to-A" exercise focused walk?

I ask because around that age I ran into a similar behavior with Basil (forgetting her brain at home, crazy jumping kagaroo, and being an embarrassing wild furchild on walks). With the winter sunset, I changed our 5/6pm tempo walk and made the new goal to have Basil mentally and physically start to wind down in the evening.

Our 5-6pm walk is a more stop-and-sniff less physically demanding & intense and more mentally stimulating walk around the block or two. It's also her second to last pee. I try to have her peak exercise around 12-2pm. Basil gets plenty of sunlight and fresh air that helps konk her out. I mentally shifted to harness and embrace her inner couch potato because it keeps the demons away.

I learned sleep & rest for Basil is still my best medicine. Cranky or naughty furbaby? Yup you need a nap.

All the credit goes to people here @PF.

Try it and see if Kiwis behavior changes.
 

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I also felt Kiwi might not have enough sleep, because his mood in the morning after a whole night sleep( in crate) is the best. He wants us to belly rub him, gives lot of kisses and make a sound that I know he is happy.

During the day, he is in his playpen that is left open, my husband’s wfh desk is beside the playpen. He lies down while we are working in the morning, in the afternoon and comes to the kitchen with us during our lunch break(less than 1 hour). Both of us have a mentally and time demanding job.
we are not sure if Kiwi is really sleeping in his pen as he stands up very quickly if my husband makes a slight move or if I come down from upstairs, it’s almost like he is waiting for us to play with him whenever we are not occupied with work.
Do you think we should put him in his crate to force him to nap? And would a walk in the neighborhood enough for Kiwi? His daily outdoor activity is just the dog park off leash running/playing in the afternoon around 5-6 pm for about half and hour.
Do you think maybe Kiwi needs more mental stimulation rather than physical activities?
Yeah totally, his behavior is good in the morning when he's fresh right. What happened to my angel puppy between 10am and 6pm and the horns come out?

You'll know Kiwi's sleeping if your husband peeks over at Kiwi's eyes are closed. When Basil's truely relaxes she gives an audible siggggh. Sometimes they lie down to rest their body but their eyes are still open and alert.

If you observe Kiwi yawning through out the day time, make note and see if you can help facilitate an environment to help his natural rythme to recharge. Obviously be strategic with any naps in the late evening unless you believe Kiwi needs extra sleep. I don't think you need to try and force it. Try observing sleepy behavior during the day and try diversifying how Kiwi engages with the world.

Peggy linked this to me when Basil was 6-3/4 months.


(from this thread: Early sunset and poodle sleeping earlier and earlier)

We did a lot of physical stimulation because that's all Dad (me) knew. In the same ways diverse exercise will tire a humans (yoga, zumba, cycling, swimming), the same will do to our furbabies (sniffing everything in the neighborhood, learning new tricks, trying to get food out of kongs, playing tug with mom&dad inside, exploring new places, socializing with other dogs)

The trick of the month here is a great introductory way to teach tricks to do around lunch/dinner. Basil and I started last month and it's helping us both have better communication.

Getting food out of puppy sized kongs you can prep in the AM and give between meals. (Insta-pot a batch of chicken thighs, easy)

Try doing the dog park TuTh and try slow smell walks around MWF, and all the other mentally stimulating ideas during the day. See what Kiwi and you think. I'm willing to bet he'll play harder and feel better at the park if he has rest days between. Adjust if you think it's helping. Again, I found that phrase about variety being the spice of life & naps made the horns stay down more. Hope that helps!
 

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Is he only getting the one walk a day? How many play/training sessions? Pups do need lots of sleep, but I would plan on two outside walks, around 30 minutes each, and 4-6 play and training sessions during the day - 15 minutes play, 5 minutes training. That is still only a maximum of 3 hours of activity, leaving 21 hours for snoozing, watching, and chilling out. If the 5pm walk is the high spot of an otherwise boring day I can see how he might end up completely hyped by it!
 

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When the things he doesn't like are happening or about to happen are you bending over him to reach for his leash or to dry his feet? Many dogs, especially small dogs find being reached for from above to be very frightening. When a larger or more socially forward dog rests its head on a less confident dog's neck or back or worse puts a leg over the less confident dog that is generally considered a very controlling and dominating and inappropriate social cue. That carries over to people when they are standing straight and tall near a small dog. I think you may need to have someone help you train on this fear response (which is what I think it is) and have them help you to understand how to offer less intimidating body language to your pup. Please do this asap so you can break these patterns sooner than later. It will be much easier to fix now than weeks from now.

As an aside yawning in dogs is not always about being tired or sleepy. It is often a calming signal or stress reliever. If a dog yawns and averts their head to the side that is most commonly a set of calming signals if offered together. If you understand what the dog is really telling you you can help with appropriate responses.
 

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How to insert a video? I seem to only find the insert a picture option? I recorded Kiwi’s crazy behaviour on sofa just now, it seems in the evening he is very hyper, he starts being super happy and wants to kiss us, then his excitement becomes this craziness, he would scratch the sofa, rub his face on sofa and make some strange sound. And of course if we want to touch him, he’ll bite.. I am scared of him now, don’t know when he doesn’t like to be touched. 😥
 

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If the 5pm walk is the high spot of an otherwise boring day I can see how he might end up completely hyped by it!
Peggy has a playdate once a week, where she gets to tear around fenced acreage with her best buddy for an hour or so. She is utterly wiped out after, and very mellow the next day, too. It balances her day-to-day, more mentally stimulating activities nicely.

But I can't even imagine if she had wild sessions like that every day. Her stamina would increase. She'd probably be in a perpetual state of anticipation.

I've even noticed that calm morning potty wanders, on leash, produce a lovely dog vs. wild morning yard time. After the latter, she comes inside super amped up, ready for more action.

If switching Kiwi's exercise routine up isn't feasible right now, I like the advice to at least change your coming-home routine. Can his harness come off outside? Can you forego the harness altogether since he's playing off-leash anyway?

And yes, please do get some in-person help. Last night I was reaching out to put Peggy's sweater on her, and she stepped back and turned her head away. It was such a subtle, polite way to say "I am not comfortable with this," many humans would miss it. They'd corner their dog, grab them, and force the sweater on in a way that feels "no nonsense" to them, but aggressive to the dog.

Peggy would have let me do that, too. But for how long? At what point would she think, "This polite stuff isn't working, so I'm going to take it up a notch." Next thing you know, your dog is growling. Then snapping. Then biting you. Then biting a stranger, maybe even a child. He's learned that politeness doesn't work and no one's done anything to help him feel more comfortable with not-so-fun (but necessary) situations.

So last night, with the sweater, instead of cornering Peggy and forcing the sweater on her, I grabbed some cheese, held it in the head hole, and let her put her own nose through. I slipped the sweater partway on, stopped for a little more cheese, finished putting it on, and then we had some fun playtime. Tonight I'll start with the cheese until she's eagerly putting her nose into the sweater the same way she comes running for crate time.

Being overly permissive isn't good. But creating situations that encourage Kiwi to happily make the right decisions will make life so much nicer for all of you.
 

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thanks lily, you are right, Kiwi is absolutely not a fan of us reaching him from up. Except when he wants us to pet him. what should be the appropriate body posture to reach to a small dog? I do realize he steps back when he sees our hands reach over. But I don’t know what else to do, if we need to wipe his paws l, wipe his face, brushing teeth etc.. he also growls and air bite us when we carry him on and off the car. We can’t help not to do it because he is so small he can’t get onto the car himself.. do I just avoid carrying him all alone?
When the things he doesn't like are happening or about to happen are you bending over him to reach for his leash or to dry his feet? Many dogs, especially small dogs find being reached for from above to be very frightening. When a larger or more socially forward dog rests its head on a less confident dog's neck or back or worse puts a leg over the less confident dog that is generally considered a very controlling and dominating and inappropriate social cue. That carries over to people when they are standing straight and tall near a small dog. I think you may need to have someone help you train on this fear response (which is what I think it is) and have them help you to understand how to offer less intimidating body language to your pup. Please do this asap so you can break these patterns sooner than later. It will be much easier to fix now than weeks from now.

As an aside yawning in dogs is not always about being tired or sleepy. It is often a calming signal or stress reliever. If a dog yawns and averts their head to the side that is most commonly a set of calming signals if offered together. If you understand what the dog is really telling you you can help with appropriate responses.
 

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For Biting - The advice I was given by some family friends was to push the dogs cheeks in when they're biting. Then, they end up biting their cheek. The dog will learn that biting hurts, and therefore not do it anymore. You just kinda hold their jaw and push their cheek in with the tip of your finger or thumb.

I did that with Basil. shrug Got a fairly quick turn around on the behavior.

Now that shes older at 8mo, we're past biting and fine tuning brush teething bite inhibition with the occassional over dramatic "ow!".
 

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For Biting - The advice I was given by some family friends was to push the dogs cheeks in when they're biting. Then, they end up biting their cheek. The dog will learn that biting hurts, and therefore not do it anymore. You just kinda hold their jaw and push their cheek in with the tip of your finger or thumb.

I did that with Basil. shrug Got a fairly quick turn around on the behavior.

Now that shes older at 8mo, we're past biting and fine tuning brush teething bite inhibition with the occassional over dramatic "ow!".
If this is fear aggression (and not just crazy poodle puppy mouthing) I would be very hesitant to use a punishment like that.

Imagine you're terrified of spiders and a big one finds its way onto your arm. You start frantically trying to brush it off you, just wanting it to go away....and then it bites you. How would you feel the next time you saw a spider? Eeeek!
 

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Hi Kiwi Mom. Kiwi is adorable. What a sweetie.

I have a minipoo, but I used to have a tpoo. Instead of bending over the top of your dog which can be very threatening, stand to the side facing the same direction. Give your dog a cue that you are going to lift... say “lift” or something similar each time. You can give a tiny treat when lifting. If you can, bend at the knees to make yourself smaller before lifting. Make sure you have Kiwi in a comfortable and safe position when lifting. Think how you would feel if someone without warning lifted you up. You would be shocked without a warning, scared they will drop you etc. Be consistent to alert them before lifting.

I recorded Kiwi’s crazy behaviour on sofa just now, it seems in the evening he is very hyper, he starts being super happy and wants to kiss us, then his excitement becomes this craziness, he would scratch the sofa, rub his face on sofa and make some strange sound. And of course if we want to touch him, he’ll bite.. I am scared of him now, don’t know when he doesn’t like to be touched. 😥
This is the behavior of a dog that is exhausted and is having trouble settling into a nap; similar to a toddler having a temper tantrum when they need a nap. Either the trip to the park is too stimulating, or perhaps you stay too long, or another time of the day is better .. you will need to experiment and find what works.

My minipoo used to have that same digging in the sofa, rubbing her face and body etc. When she gets like this I would talk soothingly and quietly while stroking her body with long, soothing pats. My goal is to calm and quiet her movement until she settles down and goes to sleep. She still occasionally does this and I have a “settle “ cue which tells her to stop, lie down and be quiet or take a nap.

The settle cue was taught separately for another purpose but it works in this situation too.

Air snapping is a problem too. One thing you don’t want to do is stop a dog from growling or snapping because your dog is communicating with you. Your dog is saying something about how you are doing those activities is upsetting Kiwi. The goal is to make changes so you can wipe his tear stain and brush him without snapping and Kiwi is comfortable. I suggest you make a separate post to get help for these activities.
 

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Absolutely agree with giving a cue before lifting, and only lifting when necessary. How does he react when you sit down on the floor and ask him to come to you? It sounds as if he has put up with being held against his will as a young puppy but now he is reaching adolescence he is no longer accepting it - the early signals of discomfort can be very subtle and difficult for inexperienced dog owners to spot, as PtP says, so he has learned to speak to you Very Loudly with growls and snaps. These work - you back off. Not backing off leaves him no option but biting harder, so is definitely not the way to go.

I think you need to concentrate on two things. The first is to learn all you can about dog body language. Search the internet for videos, and watch Kiwi as much as you can: look for lip licking, head turning, avoiding eye contact, raising one paw - all the little signs that say a dog is uncomfortable. Respect what he is trying to tell you when he growls - think of it as saying "Please don't...". Track what happens before he gets to the crazy stage - is it too much stimulation - one thing piled upon another - or the release of pent up energy after a boring day? Sophy for example does a similar roll and rub first thing in the morning, immediately after waking up - for her it seems to be the equivalent of a morning stretch.

Secondly, change the way he feels about being handled - this is the purpose of the game I suggested in my earlier post. The basic principle is pairing a very mild, non-threatening form of the thing he is afraid of with something really nice, over and over again, until the association is formed that this is actually not only safe but quite pleasant. The world won't come to an end if his feet and face aren't wiped (assuming there are no dangerous chemicals out there, of course), or his teeth uncleaned for a few weeks while you work on this (a lick of enzyme toothpaste will help in the meantime). When it is absolutely essential to pick him up try crouching down and inviting him to come to you - many small dogs hate being loomed over or swooped upon, but are happy to approach if you make yourself smaller and less threatening. It will take time - he has had months of learning not to trust hands reaching for him and of trying to make them go away, so you are not going to turn this around in a few days. With patience and perseverance it can be done though, and you will be rewarded with years and years of happy companionship.

If you have access to a qualified behaviourist, even by video, that would help enormously, and a vet check, just to make sure that there is nothing physiological, is always a good idea.
 

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Kiwismom you need to get down to his level to have those interactions with your little guy. I often remark to my students who have toy breed dogs that the world must often look very intimidating to those littles who are so close to the floor. Then we walk around like giants and scare them with almost stepping on them and when they jump away to escape we reach at them from on high and scare them again. Polite dog approaches are not directly head on. This is where Skylar mentioned something very important about being at the dog's side. I will add to that by saying that when any dog is approached you should take a slightly curving path from front and side to send your own calming signal. For a very small adult dog or puppy kneeling down is really helpful too. I will add to fjm's recommendations about body language two books: On Talking Terms With Dogs, Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas; and Brenda Aloff's book on Canine Body Language. Most people are not excellent at reading body language from dogs and that is unfortunate because that is the main way they talk to us, and they are always using it.

I have to say I would not ever recommend a physical punisher to correct a behavior that a dog does not understand to be incorrect. It may well work, as it did for Basil, but it generally does not help build the bond between person and dog/puppy. With puppies it is super important that everything the person does helps to build trust. A physical interaction that causes pain to a puppy cannot serve that purpose and while a one time event like that may not deeply diminish trust what happens if the first time didn't work? Now the person is going to try again and again and then the pup will learn not to let people put their hands near their mouths. First they growl and then when that language is ignored they will turn to biting. I think it was luck that that technique worked with Basil and her owner clearly loves her but took advise from someone who sounds like an old fashioned trainer who may be much more inclined to use physical corrections when they are not needed.

PtP I have a question about the thing with the sweater. You did a great job reading Peggy's small signs that she did not want to wear the sweater and were wise not to force it over her head. But then IMO (and people can disagree) that should have ended with putting the sweater away, but you had decided she had to have it on and you lured/bribed her into accepting it. The first part of what you did in that situation was awesome, the second part, not so much. I will add that neither of my poodles ever wants a blanket, sweater or coat on with the exception of walks on very cold days when they accept them just for the duration of the walk. For example yesterday was cold and rainy here. Lily and I had rally trials and she spent a lot of time in my car. I had a warm fluffy dog bed pillow and a turn out coat for her. I put her on the bed and covered her with the pillow when we arrived so I could go check in. By the time I came out a few minutes later she had moved off the pillow and out from under the coat. I could have made her wear the coat, but she had already told me she didn't want to so I moved it out of her way. She later moved onto the bed pillow, and that was how we left it. She spoke to me very clearly.
 
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