I get this question more often than you would actually believe!
And I must be honest it isn’t always the “husband” sometimes it is the “wife” or even the kids or everyone “else” in the family. Often I think it is the husband or the male because they tend to be slightly less nurturing than the woman in the relationship, but it certainly works both ways!
The problem is that these dogs can ruin relationships.
They can also end up in shelters or die because of their abusive relationships.
You see, THEY are the abusers.
They often sit in the lap of their “chosen” (person) and growl, hackle, and threaten to bite anyone who might trespass or get anywhere near.
Imagine having a child or an “X” sitting on your lap and anytime another person came up to hug you, sit next to you, or talk to you (including other family) they flashed a switchblade. Now imagine they chased the person away with the switchblade, or even lightly cut them.
I think that would be a problem, don’t you?
And, most people would never accept this behavior from another person or child right? The authorities would be called and the person removed and undoubtedly prosecuted.
Yet, owners put up with this from their beloved pets.
Both the one being “protected” or possessed and the person or people being abused act like it is no big deal when it comes from something with fur and teeth (instead of a switchblade).
You see, most often the person whose lap it is thought the dog is “protecting them” or the other person thinks the dog is “protecting the spouse” but actually the dog is guarding what he considers a “resource” or possessing the person (not nearly as fairytale-like as people like to think) for more on that click here.
Step One: Stop Making Excuses
This leads straight into step one, which is to stop vindicating the behavior, making excuses or enabling the dog.
Start seeing him for what he is; an abuser! Remember the analogy with the switchblade…
You can’t make a true change if you’re empowering, enabling, and making excuses for the behavior.
And, if you don’t make true change you might lose your family and your dog might lose his life.
What will happen if the wrong person or child approaches you and this dog? Bites often lead to euthanasia!
So even if you aren’t making this hard decision to change for your family; make it for your dog who might die if you allow this behavior to continue.
Step Two: Take Away Privileges
Life and amenities are a privilege, treat them as such.
If your child breaks a rule or takes advantage of you and your spouse what happens?
I hope that you say he/she loses a privilege.
The same rules should apply to dogs, especially those who are having aggression issues.
And, yes, threatening to bite your family and spouse is aggression! Embrace it and call it what it is (this goes back to enabling and not making excuses). If your neighbor’s dog was trying to bite YOU, you would call it aggression, yes?
If the aggression is severe and anyone is afraid of being severely bitten or there are young children involved a veterinary behaviorist should be involved. For more on that click here
Provided That You Are Not Worried About A Bite, Continue Reading:
Aggressive dogs, those who are looking to possess you or threatening someone who approaches should NOT be allowed on furniture.
- Being on the bed is a privilege.
- Being on the couch is a privilege.
- Being in your lap is a privilege!
And, dogs who bite, growl, hackle, bark or threaten people should not get these privileges. Period! I am all for well behaved dogs to be on the furniture, but I will be the first to say that dogs with aggression issues should never get this privilege; it gives them “little man or little dog syndrome” and plays into their idea that they should rule the house or the world.
Step Three: The Person Being “Possessed” Needs To Separate Themselves
The person that these dogs idolize or “possess” should back off in their lives!
This is probably one of the hardest things for everyone involved.
For some reason, people who are seemingly the “apple of these dogs’ eyes” have a really hard time giving that up.
But it is critical!
This person needs to step back, and the other person (the person that has been bullied) needs to step up.
The loved person needs to hardly interact with the dog at all, and the hated person needs to be in charge of all things essential and all things fun.
The Dog Must Be Forced To Interact & Depend On The Person They Dislike
It would stand to reason if you had to see the same people every day, or had to live with them chances are they would grow on you over time. Even if you didn’t like them, you would find something to like about them (okay, not always but mostly).
But sometimes dogs bond to ONE PERSON and they feel like they don’t need anyone or anything else in their lives.
We must convince them that they are wrong.
The person who is hated must feed the dog, they must walk the dog, they should try to engage in play with the dog; all while the other person mostly ignores the dog.
You see even if the other person does all of these things and the person the dog loves still cuddles and loves on the dog, the dog can still see no real need for the other person.
In order for a real bond to occur between the once detested person and the dog, the person the dog seemingly loves or possesses must kind of break ties.
It doesn’t mean FOREVER but the person needs to ignore the dog almost completely.
Respect The Need For A Bond To Form–Let It Happen
Let me paint a picture for you.
I used to train Service Dogs.
I worked for several organizations, but one particular organization had a very high success rate and I believe I know why.
This organization did not allow any of the other family member to interact with the new Service Dog, really at all (unless the disabled person required it for maintenance like baths, nail trims, etc.), for at least a month.
You see, if the dog went home with their new partner and discovered that the “mom” always fed, petted, and loved on the dog while never giving commands, who would the dog bond to, right? The disabled partner was requiring work and effort from the dog for treats and affection. They were making the dog work.
By not allowing the other family members to interact with the dog, the dog was given the opportunity to bond to the person that would be their forever partner and the family was given time to understand the need for this bond and respect it.
I believe the same must happen with these possessive pets.
They have to learn to NEED the other person in the home or relationship.
They need to be fed, they need to be watered, they need to be walked and they need to be trained and interacted with; if this is only coming from one source it stands to reason that the person now doing this would become more important.
The good news for those of you that might be panicking that YOUR dog will never love YOU again is that this is a silly thought. Of course he will. Once you step back in and do the occasional cuddle after he has bonded with the other person, he will still love you! He will still undoubtedly be YOUR dog but in order to be a happy family he has to learn to love other people!
Step Four: Train The Dog
I say it in all my articles but it is true!
Obedience is also important.
It is important to be able to control these dogs.
It is crucial to be able to give them commands that they will obey.
You should not have to feel that you are at the whim of a dog!
If the dog shows aggression, you should be able to give a command and have the dog comply!
I feel that the person who is disliked should take a class with the dog. Not the old fashioned: “Yank Them and Make Them” class but a fun positive reinforcement class. A class where they can have fun and build a bond, will change their relationship!
Because good obedience should be fun and rewarding for everyone involved!