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Boyden challenged me and I need help

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#81 2 Devils

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 05:56 AM

By feeding Boyden such scrumptious food but making him hunt for it, but sometimes feeding Fynne first, you could actually be causing these problems. Of course you are going to bring out the wolf in him where he wants to guard his food for dear life.

When asking for advice online, you will get many answers, some you like and some you don't.

It does seem that you are actually causing the problems by feeding this way. Try feeding them both in crates and stop making a game out of it.
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#82 Rave


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Posted 11 July 2005 - 06:01 AM

I think Kim makes a valid point, eating is about survival, it's not a game.

#83 Annette Carter & the Borderbratz

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 06:47 AM

Hey Miz,

I understand why you feed Boyden this way because you are trying for life enrichment in letting him "scavenge". But in a dominant dog this is probably not a great idea. If pack order is generally defined by who controls the resourses, mainly food, then having him find his own food, in his mind removes his dependance on you for that resourse. He is capable of ensuring his own survival then and doesn't need you. And the domestication of dogs is based primarily on them needing a relationship with us for survival. So even though you are doing NILIF with him, you don't control the resourse that is his main drive for survival (Food, since he's neutered) so the of your work doesn't have the effect it normally would.

So maybe this is a piece of the puzzle too. I do think it is several things causing this not just one and just trying to help you get to the roots of it. I'm doing loads of reading as I'm sure you are too.

#84 emmetteabrakai


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Posted 11 July 2005 - 12:07 PM

HI Miz
Just a couple of thoughts and my two cents worth.
Firstly an elevated BUN is nothing to mess with as you well know. If your vet is aware of the diet Boy is on great, if not then let him know in minute detail what he is eating.
Secondly You have been given great reading materiel with lots of information. I urge you to also take into consideration what conventional feeding has to offer Boy, given his various behavior issues. It very well may be dietary in origin.
Lastly I work with a board certified veterinary nutritionist , at least he works where I do Anyway he has some very strong opinions as to what "special diets" can do to animal health. It is his opinion that it is really very difficult to duplicate a "wild Candid" diet as much as we try to do so,and this can lead to imbalances. He is not a strong propionate of kibble, but nor does he hate all commercial dog food. He believes in balanced nutrition and his goal is to educate the client base to that effect. He's not sponsored by dog food companies and has done years and years of research and evaluations. So keep us posted as to what your vet reccomends and please be sure to see if his renal funciton is acute onset or has been progressive.
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#85 donna frankland (uk)

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 12:15 PM

can i just ask when boys bloods were taken? how long after his food? i ask as this has come up recently on another list i am on, and i read a link that said bloods should be drawn after 12 or 24 hour fast. if not it could lead to a false 'high' bun reading.
i'm not saying that boy doesnt have a high bun level, but it would be a shame to worry over a false reading!
anyway i'm no expert, but i thought i would pass this snippet along!
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#86 Miztiki


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Posted 11 July 2005 - 12:30 PM

He had just eaten and the contents of his food were clearly visible in his stomach on the x-ray. I don't remember how long it had been for Fynne's meal.

The vet knows he eats raw only (Fynne too). She supports it, especially since I don't have much of an option with Boy. I don't know if that occurred to her regarding the levels though. Fynne had the same blood test a few days before and the vet wanted a urine sample because of the BUN levels, but the urine turned out normal.

If the BUN levels are more than just a result of not fasting, then her and I will put our heads together and come up with something. I see the behaviorist tomorrow and the vet the following day.

I actually don't know anything about elevated BUN levels, so am open to anything you might want to share.

I'm open to any more ideas, comments, suggestions, etc. I'll print this whole thread out and take it with me to the behaviorist tomorrow afternoon. There are alot of things here worth considering.

#87 JacknKegsDad


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Posted 11 July 2005 - 12:31 PM

ErinKate and Miztiki,

You both have valid points - particularly when it comes to knowing your dog best....and that our opinions are all based on our experiences with our dogs....

What I had hoped to get across - and appreciating that I wasn't in the situation - is that I believe that "dominance" over a dog isn't the answer to aggressive behaviour.

My suggestion with the "no" followed instantly by a command is more about re-focussing the dog's attention - switching from instinct (lowered head, smile etc.) to work mode.
Basically to remind the dog that he/she is (just about to) bite the hand that feeds them/their working partner.

Obviously, every dog is different...as is the circumstance...and given that you know your dog best - you probably did the "right" thing for that one situation.

Longer-term, I think the idea of a partnership may be beneficial.

Every dog thinks it is top dog - period!

Building the "partnership" earns the respect and trust of the dog, so even "dominant/aggressive" dog personalities will work "with" you....not mutter under their breath (so to speak) while obeying commands.

In other words, they "want" to do the job (particularly BC's...as they're "wired" to work) - in equal parts for themselves and you. Similarly, the time/work invested by you is your part of the bargain....and the dog knows this.

Obviously, everyone here has opinions, coupled with (sometimes extensive) knowledge and experience....and I certainly don't want to tread on any toes.
I've learned a lot just from browsing through the forums (you can never have too much knowledge - particularly when it comes to dogs :rolleyes: )

I do hope that you can resolve the problems and regain your (and Boy's) confidence.

#88 Miztiki


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Posted 11 July 2005 - 12:53 PM

You did fine with your post and I look forward to reading more of them here in the future.

Are you on Dogster? I and many people have our dogs on there. If you do, then I'd love to add you to my "collection". You can see my two in the links in my sig. (I must brag and say that my dog is very photogenic, unlike my old Mickey. Now if I can just learn to take nice pictures...!)

#89 BigD


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Posted 11 July 2005 - 02:12 PM

Miztiki - bless your heart for being open-minded and willing to work this out.

Good luck and keep us posted on the results of your meetings in the next few days.


#90 juliepoudrier


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Posted 11 July 2005 - 02:27 PM

Miztiki said: "I actually don't know anything about elevated BUN levels, so am open to anything you might want to share."

Regarding BUN, if you are concerned about kidney health probably you should ask your vet what Boy's and Fynne's creatinine levels were. Both creatinine and BUN are indicators of kidney function, but an elevated BUN alone can't be taken as an indicator of impaired function. The BUN can rise and fall dramatically over a short period of time, but the creatinine will move much more slowly. At least with the cats I have had with kidney failure, the vet was more concerned with the creatinine value than the BUN for making a definitive diagnosis of kidney failure (or at least both values--none of my animals was ever diagnosed with kidney problems on the basis of BUN alone).

As you probably know, BUN = blood urea nitrogen. Normally the kidneys clear the urea from the blood. Kidneys that are not functioning optimally will not clear the urea efficiently and so the BUN level seen on blood profile results rises. I would imagine that a huge input of protein into the system at one time could also cause a rise in BUN simply because the kidneys couldn't completely handle such a "point onslaught," but that would not be indicative of kidney failure, especially if creatinine is normal.* (In a simplistic sense, it would be like eating a bunch of sugar before having a blood glucose test done or eating a lot of fatty food right before having your cholesterol tested.) So if the dogs are eating 100% protein and a test is done right after a big meal, with the BUN coming back high but the creatinine presumably normal,** then your vet may just be assuming that the BUN is a result of a point protein overload (a big protein meal) and not a kidney problem. Does that make sense? Is that basically what the vet said?

**Note that changes in creatinine levels occur more slowly, so the BUN could rise before a change in creatinine were noted (for example, early kidney disease). The point being that I wouldn't necessarily "panic" over a higher than normal BUN if it occurred in one of my dogs, as long as creatinine was in the normal range. I might, however, consider retesting after a period of time just to see if the creatinine had also risen in the interim. If so, I would start considering kidney failure. If not, I would assume the BUN is high because of a high protein diet and perhaps recheck 6 months or a year later. FWIW, for anyone who is concerned about kidney failure, there is a new test out that is supposed to be able to detect very early stage renal disease. So if you are worried about kidney disease, that test is another option beyond a blood profile and looking at BUN and creatinine (ask your vet about it).**

I would especially be a bit less concerned if I knew the creatinine were within normal range and knowing that both dogs with elevated BUNs are young as to me it would point to an environmental cause (i.e., essentially a pure protein diet) rather than a renal health issue.

All that said, I'm not a vet, but I have nursed several elder cats through kidney failure until their deaths from the disease (actually they were PTS when their quality of life became poor). Another thing to note about BUN and creatinine: excessive urea nitrogen in the blood causes the animal (cat anyway) to feel bad. They often become anorexic. And of course because their kidneys can't handle the waste products that result from protein ingestion, they must be put on a low-protein diet. So the trick then becomes finding something yummy enough to entice the anorexic animal to eat without overloading the weakened/diseased kidney with too much protein. In later stages of the disease management includes fluid therapy--essentially using fluids to "flood the animal" and thus dilute the apparent BUN level. That's not the best way to say it, but you get the idea. (This is not something you need to consider Miz, but I include it for others reading this who might be interested in kidney failure and its management.)

Here's one web site that discusses BUN:

And that's probably more than you ever wanted to know.


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#91 Miztiki


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Posted 11 July 2005 - 03:01 PM

Thank you for all of this information. The vet wasn't really concerned about the BUN levels but it's got me thinking about the way I feed them. I know a bit about liver disease and am guessing that some of the basic principles can be applied to kidneys?

I've been doing alot of gorge/fast meals but maybe that's too much at once for the kidneys to filter out. Maybe it would be better for me to stick with a more daily feeding pattern.

Thanks Julie! Oh, and congrats to you and Twist! I'm not surprised!

#92 ErinKate


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Posted 12 July 2005 - 03:52 AM

If you are going to escalate such a confrontation with a dog, you better be sure you can win it.

Julie, I totally agree. That was why I went back and said I put myself and MY dogs in her situation, not one with maybe some baggage. Also why I went back and said Miz knows her dogs' limits, so maybe my responce wasn't a good one for her situation. I started to feel bad, if Miz was unsure, or nervous, I would hate to (or others) to say her actions were wrong. If you are scared, your scared.
I honestly think I have just been lucky! lol I have to say however, I think I am a bit rougher on my dogs. IMO it all stems from being on the farm, and if the dogs don't listen, not only could they get hurt, but so could I, the riders, and/or the horses. All of which I am responsible for. That probably makes them think i am the leader, and we do not have problems roll over into other areas.

So, update, how are things going Miz?

#93 Kitch


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Posted 12 July 2005 - 11:08 AM

Wow! I have been without internet access since last week and it took me a while to get caught up - just finished reading this thread...

That being said, while in theory, Miz *might* have acted incorrectly in 'giving in' to Boy's threat, in reality - what she did was instinctive - we, as humans, may have lost much of our survival instincts, but when threatened by a dog showing Boy's behavior - you react to diffuse the situation and get yourself to safety. Same way you freeze when you come across a rattlesnack in the woods - at that moment Boy wasn't Miz's dog, he was a stranger to her and she didn't know how he would react.

I agree with the person who said (can't remember who) that by pulling the food slowly away, Boy thought you might have given up you Alpha post. Then again, in the dog's world, every dog has the right to defend the food in its mouth - even the omega dog - and the radius of protection grows the higher in standing the dog is in the pack order. So even if Boy considers himself the Beta dog, he may have read your slowly pulling away the food in a hesitant manner as "hey, she is taking my food and she knows she is breaking doggie rule #1 so let me remind her". If you approached him in a confident manner and just took it, it may have never happened, but we will never know and second-guessing yourself at this point isn't doing yourself any good.

Good trainers never have to back down, because they never allow the situation to develop to that point.

I completely disagree with this quote. Even the best trainers make mistakes. Patricia McConnell - someone who specializes in dealing with aggressive dogs - starts out The Other End of the Leash with a story about how she screwed up in dealing with a dog. We all make mistakes and the best we can do is try to learn from them.

Miz - I hope things are going better for you and Boy. I don't know how I would react if Dublin ever threatened me like that - I would be an emotional wreck for one thing! and I know I wouldn't have handled it as well as you. If you need to talk, feel free to email me.

Sending hugs your way...

#94 Lucy Goosey

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 09:47 AM

I've been thinking about your incident for a couple of days now, and something that is apparent to me is that sometimes when people are working very hard at changing behaviors in their dogs, they can tend to overanalyze things a bit.

For instance, you say that Boyden "knows" that Fynne would never take his food; that Boyden "knows" that you would never do this or that. Obviously, Boyden "knows" no such thing, or he would not have behaved the way he did.

There is also a tendency to take it as a personal betrayal when the dog makes a threat display at the very human that loves that dog and is working so hard to help them. In my opinion, dogs are capable of love, but certain social protocols within canine society are within the bounds of fairness, even with the ones you love. That Boyden threatened you does not reflect whether he loves you or not, but rather, that he felt that his possession of a valued resource was being threatened, and he was within his rights to defend his possession of it. As others have mentioned, this is not a dominance issue, but one of survival. Even the lowest ranking pack members can and will defend their possession of a valued resource.

Just looking at the facts and events in this incident, I would say that you pushed Boyden beyond his threshold of what he is able to deal with without feeling threatened. While I think that you handled it correctly by getting yourself to safety, I also think that this "victory" for Boyden probably served as a powerful reinforcement for the behavior. It worked for him.

There are a couple of routes you could go with this. One is to simply use preventive management and feed the dogs in their crates. If Boyden is on NILIF (which it sounds like he should be), simply have Boyden follow a few commands to earn his meal, then put him in his crate with it and leave him in peace. By not ever being bothered or pestered while he eats, he will be able to relax around mealtime, whereas now, it seems that mealtime is somewhat of a production where his instincts are being toyed with on a regular basis (I don't mean that in a derogatory way; I understand your need to work with him and your dedication to doing so, and I think it is admirable).

Another option is to actively work to change his resource guarding behavior (which is what it sounds like you've been doing). I'm curious what resources you have used thus far to help you design your treatment protocol for Boyden? What books, trainers, videos, etc. have you used to help you gain insight and plan the best ways to help Boyden relax around feeding time? Do you belong to the Agbeh list? Or, are you just flying by the seat of your pants?

An additional thought is that it's possible that he begins to get emotionally aroused before he even has food in his possession, making your efforts to change his behavior less likely to be successful because he is already in an aroused state to begin with. Dogs have a keen sense of smell, which is directly linked to the hypothalamus and can trigger emotional reactions; if he's already catching a whiff of that pork shoulder the moment you walk in the door, he's very likely already getting anxious about it way before it's even in his mouth; think about separation anxiety and how so many dogs pick up cues that their human is about to leave LONG before the person walks out the door, and how the cycle of anxiety begins long before the actual leaving. One of the keys to behavior modification is to keep the dog in a relaxed and happy emotional state before, during, and after behavior mod exercises. This means that you start with very low value resources (pork shoulder is obviously of very high value to Boyden) and work your way slowly up the ladder to the more high value resources at a snail's pace. Changing Boyden's behavior may take literally years, and success may be quite limited. He may reach a plateau beyond which progress will not occur, because he has limitations. You may find that you can get him to happily munch on a baby carrot with Fynne six inches from his face, but that expecting him to relax with Fynne anywhere nearby while he has a hunk of raw oxtail is a bit too much to ask.

Now to my suggestions; I would recommend feeding all meals in crates. Don't feed them at different times; they both get meals at the same time as one another every day. Have them "kennel up" before you prepare the food, waiting in their crates for you to bring it. It's really important to establish a PREDICTABLE routine so that Boyden always knows what to expect. Keep their crates out of sight of one another. Give Fynne her food, close the door, then have Boyden come out of his crate and follow a few FUN commands (commands that perk him up, that he likes to follow; this will do two things; it will keep him deferring to you in order to earn access to his meals and it will make him feel happy with food around), then put him in his crate with his food and walk away. When mealtime is over, go to Fynne's crate first, remove the empty dish, then give her the verbal release to come out. Make sure she leaves the room, then go over to Boyden's crate, remove the empty dish, then give him the verbal okay to come out. If you ever give Fynne anything to chew on or enjoy in her crate, close the door to that room so that Boyden CANNOT go in there and menace her, and vice versa; if you give Boyden something to enjoy in his crate, close the door to the room so that Fynne cannot go in there and pester Boyden. Their crates should be a safe haven where they can relax and do not have to deal with each other pestering or menacing one another.

In the meantime, make a list of different resources that Boyden values, starting with the most low value and working up to the most high value. Start with the most low value and work with that for a while; a few weeks at least, before moving up the list. Instead of sitting between the dogs and taking away what Boyden has, have the dogs in a downstay across the room from one another. If you are concerned about safety, use tiedowns to prevent them from being able to leave their position. Hold the low value food in your hands (or the food cut up into bite sized pieces in a container of some sort), and walk between the dogs, first going to Fynne and saying her name, then giving her a piece of the food. Then immediately walk over to Boyden and say his name, and give him a piece of food (make sure he is in a down before giving it to him). Go back and forth between them in this manner about four to six times. Play this game a couple of times per day, keeping them in downstays across the room from one another. Make sure not to drop any crumbs and to use up all the food in your hands, so that when you release them from their downstays there is nothing to fight over. Only decrease the distance between the dogs when Boyden can remain in a RELAXED downstay before, during, and after the exercise. When you decrease the distance, only do so in a teeny tiny increment, like two inches. When the dogs can remain in relaxed downstays within four feet of one another (there is no hard staring, tense body, etc., but rather, they are relaxed and happy with soft eyes, loose tails, etc.), go ahead and move up the list to the next resource, but go back to your original distance of across the room and work back up to being closer together.

The object of this game is to teach Boyden that when Fynne gets something good, it means good things are coming to him too. He will see you going over to Fynne and be able to predict that you are about to come over to him next. Since you're not taking anything away from him, he's not apprehensive about being relieved of his valued resource, but rather, is looking forward to recieving something good from you, so his emotional state will be relaxed and happy rather than guarded and suspicious. And, this will be in the presence of Fynne, which will help set up a positive association with her presence when food is also involved. Other than this time when you are doing this exercise, keep them separated when food is involved, PERIOD. The only time he has to be around Fynne when food is involved should be during this exercise, and no other time.

I would strongly caution you that if you do this exercise, do not push things too fast. It's so important that Boyden be relaxed; you seem to have a very good grasp of canine body language that you should be able to tell when he is relaxed and when he might be getting a bit aroused. Never EVER increase the difficulty of the exercise if there is ANY indication that Boyden is not totally relaxed. That is the hard part, is that behavior modification is a very slow process that relies on working at the dog's pace, and many humans become impatient and want to work at their pace instead, which usually results in the dog backsliding into the unwanted behavior because they have been pushed too far too fast.

I would also highly recommend looking into Dr. Karen Overall's protocol for relaxation and working with Boyden on this, without Fynne present at first, then gradually adding her in but at a very low level to start. Here's a link to a great website that has a lot of resources that could help you out: http://www.k9aggression.com/

Of course, I'm glad you're looking at the medical angle on this as well. It's hard to work with a dog on behavioral issues when medical problems may be exacerbating the behavior. I'd find it difficult to want to deal with another dog in my face or my human taking away my food if I wasn't feeling well.

Good luck. I'm curious to hear what the behaviorist has to say.

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