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As I've mentioned before, Gilligan suddenly became very aggressive when someone is at the front door. He used to just bark and jump at the door, but then step away when I opened it. Now he tries to nip at the pants of whoever is there. I finally pinned down to when it started... a neighbor was having a big dinner party and stored food in our basement refrigerator. The night of the party, he came running over, into the house, and straight down the basement because he forgot the soup. Gilligan was terrified and that's the first time I saw him nip at anyone's pants as my neighbor was leaving. I didn't think much of it, and did try to stop him by having my husband hold and treat him while people were at the door and/or coming in the house.
He also charges the door when he sees another animal such as a dog or deer. He does the same at the TV when there's an animal on the screen - even a cartoon animal. We are now telling him a firm NO when he starts to race toward the TV and it seems to be working.

Our trainer told us he probably has barrier aggression and to put him in a pen when someone is at the door. (he hates the pen). After the person is inside a few minutes I let him out and he does not charge them. I have given guests treats to feed him, and the last person who came in the house didn't hear me say "drop it on the floor" and fed it by hand. That's when it struck me..... he was in a fearful position taking it from the person. He was low to the ground and stretched all the way forward only close enough to get the treat. After a bit of giving him treats, he started jumping on the guest and asked for more. He's fine when people are in the house - it's just getting them in that's the issue.

He has also become really territorial, particularly with other dogs. He's fine if we let them sniff each other first, but if he sees one before we bring them together, he runs after them.

I found this article on a trainer/behaviorist facebook group regarding neutering and male dogs. It discusses the positives and negatives... when I got to the negatives, Gilligan exhibits almost every single one of the behaviors.

When the crisis is over, we're going to get together with our regular trainer to see what she thinks. I sent her the article and she says it sounds more like barrier aggression and that neutering usually gets rid of aggression. We are lucky and there is a certified vet-behaviorist nearby in the 24 hour emergency vet and will go there if we can't stop these behaviors ourselves. Frankly, I don't care what it costs. I will not have an attack toy poodle. (as laughable as that sounds)

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the article as well as the issues I'm trying to solve. Who ever thought that a 9lb dog would act like Cujo at times?

Thank you in advance for your advice and for listening.

Neutering Causes Behavior Problems in Male Dogs
 

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That sounds like a really tough issue to deal with. Barrier aggression is a result of frustration at the presence of a barrier between the dog and something it wants to reach. I think this sounds more like fear aggression, especially given his other issues. I don't have a lot of experience with it so I don't have good advice other than the veterinary behaviorist sounds like the way to go.

The article matches everything else I've heard regarding recent research on the behavioral effects of neutering. Neutering reduces very specific types of aggression, and increases others. It's not the cure all that people want it to be. I think it can be helpful for some dogs that have specific issues that are likely to be aided by neutering. But for many dogs it seems to have negative behavioral effects, particularly if done before maturity. I have heard that some people experiencing issues like yours try testosterone therapy and it can bring back a dog's confidence and reduce anxiety. It could be something to ask the VB about.

As far as a 9 lb dog acting like Cujo, it's actually more likely than a large dog. Dog size is negatively correlated with aggression. The reasons aren't completely understood. One is that aggression is more likely to be tolerated in small dogs, so aggression was not selected out of breeding lines. Another is that the smaller the dog is, the more neotenic (or infantile) it is in structure. And it is likely that behavior may have been in the crossfires here, creating a tendency for immaturity in smaller dogs. ?
 

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That sounds like a really tough issue to deal with. Barrier aggression is a result of frustration at the presence of a barrier between the dog and something it wants to reach. I think this sounds more like fear aggression, especially given his other issues. I don't have a lot of experience with it so I don't have good advice other than the veterinary behaviorist sounds like the way to go.

The article matches everything else I've heard regarding recent research on the behavioral effects of neutering. Neutering reduces very specific types of aggression, and increases others. It's not the cure all that people want it to be. I think it can be helpful for some dogs that have specific issues that are likely to be aided by neutering. But for many dogs it seems to have negative behavioral effects, particularly if done before maturity. I have heard that some people experiencing issues like yours try testosterone therapy and it can bring back a dog's confidence and reduce anxiety. It could be something to ask the VB about.

As far as a 9 lb dog acting like Cujo, it's actually more likely than a large dog. Dog size is negatively correlated with aggression. The reasons aren't completely understood. One is that aggression is more likely to be tolerated in small dogs, so aggression was not selected out of breeding lines. Another is that the smaller the dog is, the more neotenic (or infantile) it is in structure. And it is likely that behavior may have been in the crossfires here, creating a tendency for immaturity in smaller dogs. ?
I think I agree with you. He exhibits quite a bit of fear as soon as some gets too close to the house/front door. I have a full length storm door and when someone approaches or is at the door and I'm not nearby, he jumps on the door so hard and scratches so much, that if he were bigger he'd go right through the glass.

Funny, I was thinking that he might need a bit of testosterone just last night. I've been racking my brains about this for a while now, and it all started to come together in the last week or so.

I should call his breeder and ask about aggression being bred out of his line. I can't imagine it's not. He a Rodell poodle and is bred for showing. I do know the owner has several Westminister champions in his lines. Those dogs have to play nice with other - don't they?

My other thought, which is almost along the same lines as what you've explained about neotenic structure... I called it a Napoleon complex. After all, most dogs are bigger than he. It's rare that we come upon one that is his size or smaller - even at 9lbs (he should be in the 8s tho).

I can't thank you enough for your time and explanation. It makes very much sense and I'm glad I found that article that started me on the path to thinking what may have happened to cause this.

Stay safe & be well.
 

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I think I agree with you. He exhibits quite a bit of fear as soon as some gets too close to the house/front door. I have a full length storm door and when someone approaches or is at the door and I'm not nearby, he jumps on the door so hard and scratches so much, that if he were bigger he'd go right through the glass.

Funny, I was thinking that he might need a bit of testosterone just last night. I've been racking my brains about this for a while now, and it all started to come together in the last week or so.

I should call his breeder and ask about aggression being bred out of his line. I can't imagine it's not. He a Rodell poodle and is bred for showing. I do know the owner has several Westminister champions in his lines. Those dogs have to play nice with other - don't they?

My other thought, which is almost along the same lines as what you've explained about neotenic structure... I called it a Napoleon complex. After all, most dogs are bigger than he. It's rare that we come upon one that is his size or smaller - even at 9lbs (he should be in the 8s tho).

I can't thank you enough for your time and explanation. It makes very much sense and I'm glad I found that article that started me on the path to thinking what may have happened to cause this.

Stay safe & be well.
You bring up a good point. I do think most breeders strive to breed dogs with good temperaments. I have no doubt that Rodell tries to breed very high quality dogs in structure and temperament. The problem is that we don't fully understand what determines behavior. One issue is that sometimes selecting for one positive quality can accidentally select for a negative quality. Like if you select for dogs that are very smart you may increase the tendency for neuroses because the dog's mind requires much more stimulation to be satisfied. That's why we see so many border collies that develop OCD when they aren't properly stimulated. It's both a positive and negative quality, depending on the dog's environment. Another issue is that I've heard breeders say that some portion of dogs will always be weak nerved and have unstable temperament no matter how carefully they breed. The frequency of this does seem to differ greatly based on breed. It's also hard if the breeders are breeding intact dogs, but the pet dogs may have very different traits if they are neutered due to hormonal influence. I don't know. My feeling is that even from the best breeders of toy dogs, there will still be an effect of the neotenic history of the breed. I also agree that small dogs seem to have a Napoleon complex. They're also more likely to be humpers than large dogs. I bet that more dominant personalities have been favored in small dogs because they need to be able to defend themselves from larger dogs that could easily hurt them if not put in their place.

That said, a big aggressive dog is always way more troublesome than a small aggressive one. Pit bull terriers have a reputation for attacking dogs but their dog aggression probably isn't worse than many other terrier breeds. The difference is that the bigger dog does a lot more damage!

Wishing you and Gilligan the best! Hopefully the VB will have good ideas to soothe his anxiety over visitors. And I'm hoping for a quick end to covid-19 so it'll be easier to access services like these again.
 

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Many many thanks for all your advice and information. I really appreciate it.
 

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What I do with my own dogs and the ones that I rescue awaiting adoption: Dog must sit at door or it will not open. The dog needs to sit in such a position as you can open the door and it will not hit the dog. I use treats and praise when he sits in the right spot. You can mark the spot with masking tape or something. I then turn the handle and work on the dog maintaining the sit as I open it wider and wider. You get the picture. Use familiar people to practice with.

Your dog should also know "stay" so that you can open the door when a stranger is there. Back off on the treats and only use praise.

I also have a word that means "friend". If I tell the dog "friend" he can then go up to the person and sit. Use treats and petting, backing off of the treats. Although, I would let a stranger give a treat when he enters the house. Using a cue means the dog will not expect every human he meets to have treats.
 
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