Posted by: Jade | 2004/10/21

Rebellious Ridgeback

We have a 6yr old male ridgeback at home. As a young dog we think he was abused by a would be intruder or by the refuse removals people. He became very timid and used to hide at the back door crying whenever he heard the truck. Now he has become very rebellious. When the children’s friends visit he barks at them, he is fine with our children. He also does not like our gardener even though he has been coming to the property for over a year. We have to lock him in the garage each week when the gardener comes as he acts very vicious. He never used to come into the house, now he wonders in and steals food of the kitchen counter. He knows he is not allowed on the patio and each morning when my husband and I go out for a run, on our return you can see he has been there and peed on the pot plants. If you call him to come so that you can discipline him he won’t, he knows he has done wrong and stays out of the way. He probably needs a shrink! But I was hoping you could give me some advice to try and teach him some manners that he once had.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberVet

Hi Jade
Yes, I think you need an animal behaviourist to do a consultation with you. Look on to find an accredited ABC. You don't say if he's neutered, but this would definitely be the first step in getting some control (at least over the hormones!). Castration can help with leg-cocking, aggression and other dominant behaviour, but you will need behaviour modification at the same time because he is a mature dog. Don't ever call your dog to discipline him - this only leads to mistrust and disobedience, as you have observed. I suggest you don't discipline him at all until and unless you have worked out why he is doing these things. It sounds like stress and frustration are part of his behaviour, so punishing and reprimanding him are only going to increase these things and therefore increase the "bad" behaviour. Perhaps you need to work on lead training him so he can come with you on your runs?
Karen Gray-Kilfoil

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Our users say:
Posted by: Chill | 2004/10/25

I'm glad, Jade - also, that you understood what I was telling you.

He won't take advantage, I'm sure. Most dogs really do want to please, and especially if he's a bit nervous or afraid, he won't want to get into trouble. Anyway, you still mustn't allow him to behave badly - just, teach him with kindness and gentleness rather than shouting or punishment. I can almost guarantee that it will work.

I'll be very interested to hear what happens, so if you feel like keeping us posted that would be nice!

Reply to Chill
Posted by: Jade | 2004/10/25

Thanks Chill
This sounds really interesting. I have a feeling you may be quite right. The dog responds to me very well and is obedient with me only so I am going to try and build his confidence again - something like I tried to do with my children - through lots of love and care. I hope he dosen't take advantage like my kids though!

Reply to Jade
Posted by: chill | 2004/10/23

Sorry, I hit 'enter' too soon....

The very first link that comes up will help to explain what is going on in your dog's mind. I'm not sure how useful it will be in a practical sense, since the article is about people, but you will understand that imposing further stress is NOT going to help, what WILL help is making the dog feel safe and secure, and possibly very gently and carefully desensitising him to the things he is afraid of. So, when he barks at your son's friend, don't reprimand him or shout at him. Rather ask the kid to assist by standing still while you get the dog to understand that there's nothing to fear, and that YOU are comfortable with the child's presence and thereby encourage him to also feel comfortable.

I know all this sounds strange, I thought so too when I had the problem with one of my dogs. But I tried the different approach, it worked like a charm, and the dog is now an absolutely well-behaved sweetie. Didn't even take very long, either.

No doubt the behaviourist will add her comments when she returns, but in the meantime, you've got some more knowledge and resources to help your dog.

Good luck.

Reply to chill
Posted by: Chill | 2004/10/23

While obedience training is always a good idea, this problem isn't caused by that.

It sounds from the description given that he's suffering from a thing called Displaced Fear syndrome. He's afraid, and that is manifesting itself in aberrant behaviour.

I've had to deal with this before, also with an adopted dog who was very timid and at the same time very destructive. It's a complicated thing, but it is NOT treated by imposing further fear and stress on the dog. The idea with the stones in the tin can is fine when the issue is a simple one of discipline, but I'm afraid if you do this you will quite possibly make things worse.

If you want to find out more about this, then do a web search on the name "Valerie O'Farrell" who has written some books on dog psychology and who EXACTLY described what my dog was doing, and how it worked. I know the Cape Town Central library has the book in question - I don't remember its exact title.

If you can't get it, then do a search on Google, and put in exactly the following, including punctuation: "displaced fear" dog

Reply to Chill
Posted by: Acineth | 2004/10/22

Take the kids along. A good school will allow them to spectate, and they may also learn something.

Reply to Acineth
Posted by: Jade | 2004/10/22

No - I would need a babysitter and don't have family near by

Reply to Jade
Posted by: Acineth | 2004/10/22

You don't have 1 hour a week? A basic obedience course wouldn't be longer than 2 months.

Reply to Acineth
Posted by: Jade | 2004/10/22

Hi All
Thank you for all your input. I really like your thoughts and ideas, especially Pi. I am going to try the can thing this weekend. He is really smart and he knows he is doing wrong. You can just see it written in his eyes. I don't hit him but I do shout and that is enough for him. Unfortunately I do not have time for doggy school. I have 3 children and my husband works many long hours so I have to implement discipline myself. Just like the kids the dog seems to know he can get away with a lot more with me.

Reply to Jade
Posted by: Carol | 2004/10/21

All yr doggie needs is a little training ..take him to school.

Reply to Carol
Posted by: Pi | 2004/10/21

I have found an animal behavourist on another site, may I put the site name on here? I am not sure.

Jade, through all my dealings with dogs and dog training, I've learnt that a dog has a very short memory. You want to punish him for something he's done half an hour ago. No can do. And what he's done is natural to him, he is marking his territory or just plainly having a wee. And now he starts associate punishment with you. You need to figure out why he wants to mark that spot.

I've also learnt that dogs have to make lots of noise to scare humans they don't like off because the dog is more scared of the human. About a year ago two robbers tried breaking into my house, they chased the dogs with sticks and my one dog was about 4 months old. The gardener cannot walk around with the rake or the broom, she wants to kill him, she dislikes him in any case, which I don't necessarily say is a bad thing, any intruder will think twice about entering my property.

this is what I did to stop my doberman to stop stealing food in the kitchen. Put a few stones in an empty colddrink can. Put food out, basically you have to set a trap for the dog. And you have to hide. When doggie is about to steal the food, throw the can with stones down close to him, not hitting him. He must not see you doing it either otherwise he associates the noise with you. A few seconds after he had the biggest fright of his life, you appear, making a big fuss of the noise that scare the living daylights out of him. Do this about 3-4 times and soon he will associate sticking his nose in the kitchen to steal food with this hellavu noise and he will stop. Worked magic for mine. My dobie use to dig in the dustbin. I put a jug half filled with water on top and the next time she did her trick, one times water jug came down, her antics stopped on the spot. The embarrasment on her face was classic.

Hope you come right.

Reply to Pi
Posted by: Acineth | 2004/10/21

He doesn't know he has done wrong. He knows that when you are on the patio calling him you are doing it so that you can hurt him. In the circumstances you wouldn't want to go there either.

You should contact an animal behaviorist in your area. They have a website animal-behaviour dot org dot za. Something has happened to him - or else he's finally decided he's had enough of being afraid. This is not rebellion - you can only cower for so long.

Reply to Acineth

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