Taking the Bite out of Diesel

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 6, 2013


Diesel is a one-year-old Bischon / Yorkie mix. His owner contacted me for help after Diesel bit one of his owners friends.

When I arrived, Diesel and his room mate Lexi a six-year-old female Golden Retriever met me at the front door showing curiosity, but neither dog showed any aggression.

When I sat down to discuss the situation, Lexi continually invaded my personal space to sniff me or investigate my bag. I disagreed with this behavior by consistently standing up each time the dog got too close. After a few corrections, she moved away and laid down on the floor.

To a dog, standing up is a communication. Its a more powerful position that sitting or laying down so when we stand up, a dog takes notice. When done with the right timing, we can communicate an action or behavior is noticed and or unwanted. By standing up whenever Lexi got too close, I was telling her to stay farther away. I suggested that the members of the family do the same anytime Lexi or Diesel started to do anything that was unwanted or against the new rules.

Next we discussed adding some rules and boundaries to the dog’s lives to help the dogs see their humans as their pack leaders. Because Lexi was a large breed dog, the family no longer let her up on the furniture.

To dog’s, the height at which they sit has a correlation to their authority in the pack. By letting Diesel sit in a higher position than Lexi, they were communicating he had more authority than she did. Because Diesel was sitting at the same height as the humans, he saw himself as their equal in terms of authority.

While no one item is responsible for any action, small things like this can give a dog the mistaken impression that it has more authority or leadership than he actually does. The dog then acts as a protector; barking at, nipping or eventually biting any outsiders that come into the home without his permission.

A great way to eliminate this perception is to incorporate rules that help the dog see himself as a follower; not allowed on the furniture, having to sit and wait for permission before going through a door, having to wait for permission to eat, offering a respectful distance to the front door when guests arrive.

Because the bite happened when a visitor came into the home without the owner’s being there, I showed them how to claim the front door and the area around it. We had one of their kids go around through the back door then come around and knock on the front door.

As soon they hear the knock, both dogs ran over to the door barking excitedly. I calmly walked over to the door and inserted myself between it and the dogs. I made a corrective sound to disagree with the behavior, then walked toward the dogs to back them away from the door. As soon as I moved them back onto the wood floor of the kitchen, they stopped barking. Usually I have to repeat the corrections several times per repetition, but these dogs got it after the first try.

To make sure they didn’t stop because they knew it was a member of the family, we had a neighbor come over to try again. This time the mom went over to the door and moved the dogs back. Although it was the first time she tried it, and only the second time the dogs had done it, they responded as if they had been doing it for years, moving to the edge of the front hallway and sitting down without barking at all.

By no longer allowing Diesel on the furniture and asking him to respect new rules and boundaries, he will see himself as a follower who defers to his human counterparts. Once this is the case, his instinct to bark, charge at or bite any guests will diminish and eventually stop completely. Based on how intelligent and responsive both dogs were during this session, Diesel’s days of aggression and biting will son be a distant memory.


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This post was written by: David Codr

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