snappy terrier: help please!

(15 Posts)
controlfreakyhohohohohohoho Tue 14-Dec-10 17:52:16

ok. hoping for some advice from the wise dog experts on here.
18 month old bedlington terrier. much loved. generally sweet natured, mostly obedient re basic commands but STUBBORN and not food motivated. very sociable with other dogs and never aggressive with them. friendly to all visitors and keen for attention. gets enough exercise and not left on own much. when she is left seems happy to settle down and snooze in crate in kitchen (not shut in).
we moved house in summer. she took a long time to settle and was anxious and jumpy / noisy for a good while. we (stupidly?) let her sleep in our room at night as she seemed so anxious, at first she was on floor in her basket but soon took to sneaking onto bed.
obviously when she's asleep in crate / in her basket she is never disturbed. when she is asleep on our bed / on sofa sometimes she does need to be disturbed. on a number of occassions now she has snapped at us (never bitten or actually nipped us, just a clear warning / "sod off" message). this has been when she is told / asked / picked up to get her off bed or sofa. it hasn't been when she's asleep but she might have been dozing. she also gets v agitated if children are playfighting / yelling (as they inevtably do sometimes) and she will yelp and jump and bark at them.
what have i done wrong? is she being anxious or aggressive or what? what should i do to stop this? do i need an behaviourist? feel bad as she's so lovely and don't want her to become a problem rather than a pleasure.
so far have loudly said "AAA AAA" at her when she has snapped which seems to have some effect and have put lead on her if need to get her off bed rather than pick her up / move her by holding her collar...
thanks in advance wise dog ladies.

Eleison Tue 14-Dec-10 18:00:14

I'd be very tempted to stop letting her on the bed and the sofa. If it is a dominance issue (and it might be -- perhaps her age is one at which dominance behaviour might start to escalate?),then allowing her on beds/sofas is likely to worsen it.

But the other cause you suggest is anxiety, with the change of house and noisy children. That, too, might be helped by encouraging her to sleep in her crate not on sofas etc. The crate is an ultra-safe retreat that h=is hers only, and that the children could be taught to leave comepletely alone.

Another poss is some painful condition -- perhaps worth a check up at vets?

Eleison Tue 14-Dec-10 18:03:10

My parson russell terrier is as good as gold at home, but he is a bit mistrustful of people and a bit assertive. If he has a cosy spot by the fire he will growl when the children come into the room, so I am pretty sure he would get a bit upppity about beds/sofas if allowed on.

He really likes his crate as a safe space, and I also have an igloo-type basket for him in the living room as a safe retreat.

controlfreakyhohohohohohoho Tue 14-Dec-10 18:07:08

i thought that might be the suggestion! feels difficult to stop her being on furniture now she has got in habit... but think you may be right. am actually quite happy to have her on sofa / on bed at night if it wasn't for the snapping occassionally. am worried making her sleep in kitchen (in basement) now might increase anxiety if this is the issue...
am pretty certain it's not because of pain / illness. she seems fit as a flea.

controlfreakyhohohohohohoho Tue 14-Dec-10 18:09:18

hmmm. maybe it's a terrier thing!
it's been a real learning curve for me with her. as a child we always had big dogs (labs / retrievers) and having a terrier is just a completely different experience. just want to get it right for her (and us).

Eleison Tue 14-Dec-10 18:11:26

Could you have a crate in your bedroom, so she could sleep there but not be allowed to sneak into bed? I sypathise: I would love to have my little dog up on settee/bed with me, but I know he would be a little Hitler about it.

In fact, when I have weakened and let him on the bed with me whilst I have a napblush, he has growled at the sound of anyone approaching the room. It's never more than a growl, but it shows how his mind is working.

Eleison Tue 14-Dec-10 18:12:22

x-post. Yes, they are very different from big dogs -- but very clever/lovely alongside their faults.

Dominance/pack theory is now known to be tosh.

She doesn't want to move or be disturbed when she is on the bed/settee as she is comfortable.

Try shifting your oh when he is sleeping without fair warning and good (to him) reason, you wll probably get short shrift there too.

She is telling you to sod off, be careful of telling her off for growling/snapping as the next weapon in her arsnal is a bite and if you teach her she is not allowed to warn you then she will move straight to a bite without warning, not good.

Either ban her from all furniture and give her a safe reteat as has already been suggested or make she that she is only asked (never picked up) to move from a comfy spot by being offered a very tasty treat or a game, whichever floats her boat, you have to make it worth her while.

Dogs often don;t like children or adults playfighting, she is probably somewhere between wanting to join in and wanting to stop it. Either way it is normal behaviour.

Eleison Wed 15-Dec-10 10:54:36

I've heard that said on MN a few times -- that dominance theory is proven tosh. I'm not sure that that is true. What is true is that the kind of simplistic over-use of dominance ideas in training is wrong and unfashionable.

Dogs are all different, but mostly for the purposs of training we rely on their social instincts, which are a combination of the cooperative instincts that make pack hunting possible and the mre hierarchical instincts that regulate their harmonious living in a pack.

In some dogs, eg gundogs, the cooperative joint-hunting instincts predominate, so training is almost exclusively by means of structuring situations so that they get a pay-off by working with you in well-defined ways. If you have a dog like that then you are likely to discount dominance issuies. But other dogs are hierarchically minded and do need status signals, like being forbidden the sofa. I've had the former kind of dog and now I have the latter.

minimu1 Wed 15-Dec-10 12:30:06

No the dominance theory is tosh! Too bored to even get into the argument. But loads of detailed research papers will prove the point if you can be bothered to read them. Many have been mentioned on Mumsnet forums.

In the example quoted above the dog is comfy feels safe and secure on the sofa. It is not the fact that it is the sofa or the owners domain - it is just comfy! So if the dog has a comfy quiet bed then he will have no need to go on the sofa - not dominance just comfort and security!

DooinMeCleanin Wed 15-Dec-10 12:36:13

The Devil Dog used to do this. Now he has his crate with a big comfy cushion and lots of blankets. His crate sometimes makes roast chicken pieces appear as if from no-where too grin, he just gets in and there they are, hiding from him in his blankets.

His crate is so much nicer to him than our sofa and there is the added bonus of bouncing children around his crate, so no need to growl at anyone. It his crate. No-one else is allowed in it. He is even allowed to chase the cat, when he tries to get in there.

We've also trained him only to go on the sofa during the evening when the dds are in bed as it was them he was growling at. He's allowed on the dining furniture or his crate during the day.

midori1999 Wed 15-Dec-10 14:47:42

Obviously Minimu is right, as are the others who say dominance theory is tosh.

The dog is nice and comfy on the sofa and doesn't want to get down. If you were nice and comfy on the sofa or in your bed and someone woke you up to ask you to get on the floor or to pick you up and put you on the floor, wouldn't you be grumpy?

I would disallow from the sofa/bed and use a houseline to physically get him off these things if he at first still gets on them at times. If you can have the crate in your room for him to sleep in, great, but you'll obviously have to shut the door to prevent him getting on your bed in the middle of the night.

Re the behaviour around the DC. If I were in that situation I'd probably tell the DC not to behave like that around the dog.

Just like us, dogs are entitled to have likes and dislikes and express this, It is how these things are managed that either causes or avoids problems, not the dogs feelings on the matter.

controlfreakyhohohohohohoho Wed 15-Dec-10 22:31:59

thanks so much for the helpful replies. think she'll be getting another crate and a houseline for christmas!

Eleison Mon 20-Dec-10 17:08:26

Just been looking at the cesar milan thread and wanted to mention that whatever I said about 'dominance theory' wasn't at all meant to suggest the kind of domineering, assertive methods he seems to use. I only ever use positive reinforcement, never anything like the alpha roll or anything at all more harsh than a mildly reproving tone of voice. If I attempted to 'dominate' my dog I think it would make him fearful and perhaps even aggressive. Whether right or wrong (and I appreciate I may be wrong) what I had in mind was only the awareness of hierarchy in part of some dogs' thinking. In practice all that means for me is firm boundaries -- ordinary training by postive means only, and no sleeping on sofas/beds.

He is good as gold and very trainable in any case, so doesn't need much firmness from me.

SeaGreen Thu 23-Dec-10 00:37:23

eleison - very well put.
very interesting that the word 'dominance' has been appropriated in the public consciousness to mean only one thing.

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