The Pomerama

Biting [Also see Aggression]

Maintained by Susann Philbrook

Esther and Shayne
We have taken our Pom who is now 5.5 months old to obedience training, and have been getting advice from the trainers. They are used to working with larger dogs. Our little Ashley is extremely friendly when she meets someone or when we first arrive home, but overall we would characterize her personality as somewhat stand-off-ish. We had a problem with her at 3.5 months when she suddenly decided to fight us as we were putting the harness on her. The trainer advised us to grab her by the scruff and hold her down on her back, this corrected the problem immediately. Almost two months went by without incident, until her 4th grooming visit when she was traumatized by the event. We think this had to do with the groomer's distraction with a lots of other dogs arriving and the fact that she had a noose around her neck for a long time. Later that evening she practically removed our fingers when we attempted to remove the harness. We pinned her down on her back again as we were instructed previously. She seemed depressed for about a week and slept a lot, didn't want to play and was generally submissive. This state did not prevent her from viciously biting us again when we tried to put a collar on her. After working with the obedience folks again we were able to get a harness on her again. This lasted about a week and she has suddenly decided to lash out at us. Now the biting is more vicious than ever. She seems submissive yet she lashes out at us at the sight of the collar or harness. This situation has progressed to the point and she tried to bite once yesterday when she was picked up during a walk. This was a non collar related incident. Pinning her on her back seems to put her in a depression. We called her breeder who told us that pinning on her back is the worse thing we could do. They recommended slapping her on the back side or a little smack on her nose. We have been bitten about 5 times total (lots of blood) and we are concerned that this will grow worse and want to understand what the best approach with a Pomeranian. We really enjoy taking her everywhere with us and this could only be done on a leash. She is the most incredible dog in public, not a single bark and she just sits in our arms or tucked in our jackets. We have been bitten about 5 times total (lots of blood) and we are concerned that this will grow worse and want to understand what the best approach with a Pomeranian.
From Esther & Shayne Stubbs/email: Wong_Stubbs@msn.com


Ingrid
Soon after Skippy came to live with us (with no training to speak of), he had a hissy-fit when I tried to pull him off of a plate of food. I pinned him upside down on his back with my hand on his throat (which is what alphas do to underlings in packs.) He sulked, he avoided, he was very submissive. However, during his "breaking in" period, I wore a jacket with a pocket full of treats. He knew he could come up and take food from the pocket when I unzipped it. He came around. However, I also realized that he is a very "talkative" dog, grumbling when told to do something he doesn't like, although he is very obedient. He is also very sensitive so I instituted a program of desensitization. With treat food in hand, I grabbed him by the scruff, pinned him upside down in play, and generally rough-housed with him, rewarding him with food all the time. Now when I grab him, he doesn't take it so seriously. I let him grumble and consider it part of his sassy personality. However, he never actually bit me. I think the little girl has been traumatized and is "fear biting."
1. Stop all physical punishment of any kind and rebuild your relationship with her. Feed her by hand (associate hand with food and petting only). Forget the harness. Leave her collar on for now and tie on a loop to which a leash can be attached. Put another collar on the floor and place food around it. When she comes to the food near the collar, talk "sweetie this, sweetie that", to associate collar with food and nice talk.
2. Use your voice only, "bad girl" for correction and not too loudly or angrily. Only voice correct if you catch her in the act. If she is doing something really unforgivable, without saying anything gently pick her up and put her in isolation. It is a good cool down for both pet and parent. I got tired of yelling "No" and "bad dog" so I use a loud "hisssst" and for some reason, all my dogs respond by stopping what they're doing. Punishment after they obey a command trains them NOT to obey. The "good girl" talk should be 30 to 1 of the "bad girl". I would suggest that you forget the formal training for now.
3. After a week or two of hand feeding, or when she seems ready, gently start desensitizing her to handling. Gently try to roll her over and rub her belly, rewarding with food and nice talk. Play with her in brief sessions, gradually increasing (day by day) the roughness level and stop if she appears out of control or snappy (she's reached her limit). Pick her up and cuddle to let her know that the play is over.
4. Give her a "safe house" that she can get into or under if she feels threatened. It will be her way of telling you that she's scared. Do not reach in to drag her out, but call her out with nice talk and treats. If she won't come out, she's still too frightened. Walk away and give her as much time as she needs to calm down and come out on her own or before trying to talk her out of her den.
5. Go slow. After the bloodletting that has occurred, you are going to have to rebuild your trust in her as well. I am sure that your anxiety level is now very high. If you are hesitant, she may be picking up on this and could end up using it in the future to get her own way. Use well padded leather gloves for a while if it will lower your anxiety about handling her. As the attempts stop, move to lighter weight gloves and then to one glove. My experience is that if there is first a bond of love and trust, dogs, like children, want to be obedient and thrive with praise.
From Ingrid Buxton/email: BUXTONI@vms.csd.mu.edu


Jani and Alison
We own a 7 month old red sable. When she was younger we used a full body harness. We thought this might be a good idea since she was such a tiny thing. Putting it on was okay if we could slide it over her head without her seeing it. Taking it off was a completely different story. She would bite, wiggle, growl and snap. We never forced her. She always knows when we are going out for walkies. She runs to the door and that is usually when we put her collar on her. She sits so still for it. Maybe a normal collar is a better idea for your dog. I think that maybe the Pom feels entrapped or maybe even tangled in the body harness. If i remember correctly we approached her slowly (at the door) on our knees with the collar so she could see it at all times and talk to her very nicely. Jani would pet her and I would put it on. Try some nice words and praise for putting the collar on and see how your Pom reacts to that. Maybe it will put the smile back on its face :).
From: Jani 'Dii' Kanala and Alison/email: kajami@tarzan.math.jyu.fi


Mary
The best way to deal with a biting Pom is to grab her by her bib, just under her chin, and say in a low, growling voice "NO, NO, NO" Look her hard and straight in the eye when you do this, and you can give a little shake as well. Do not release her immediately, but wait until she breaks eye contact with you. This is the way her mother would discipline her, and she needs to know that you are the boss. Smacking her on the rump will be seen (by her) as an attack and perhaps provoke retaliation. You should not be rough with her - use only enough force to keep her front legs a fraction off the floor, and only for as long as it takes for her to realize her error. I do not think it is realistic to expect such a young puppy to stand on a grooming table for very long, and the problem with the harness and collar may suggest that she was frightened whilst in the grooming loop. Her attacks whilst you are trying to put the harness on her may, in fact, be panic attacks. A Pom (particularly a puppy) is not difficult to groom - you might consider grooming her yourself, at least for a while until she is over this problem.
From Mary Allan/email: MFXG02C@prodigy.com


Nanette
The dog training video we looked at suggested integrating the pup's hated activity (such as putting on/taking off the harness) with something fun. Maybe reward the Pom with her favorite treat if she lets you successfully put the harness on. Another thing the video showed is to yell out loudly when she bites to let her know that it hurts when she bites. It seemed to have worked with our Pom who is male and 6+ mo. now. Our vet told us that Poms are just cry-babies -- they'll let you know if they have the slightest discomfort. Our Pom gets mean and snaps and growls when we brushed him when he was about 2 - 3 month old. He still hates it but he's calmed down, especially when there are treats involved. Our Pom bites quite hard (sharp small teeth maybe) but he doesn't draw blood. The only time he has done that was when his front leg got fractured. He was in shock and when I held him too close to my face, he bit my upper lip and drew a little blood then bit my mom's finger and drew lots of blood (deeper puncture wound).
From Nanette Lee/email: nlee@smtpccgw.scs.philips.com


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