Pulling M's hair out

by Lois
(Marshfield, Mo)

M and Smudge

M and Smudge

I have an 11-month-old dog I call Smudge. She was born with with black spots. When her fur started changing color, I said it looked like she was smudged with charcoal. Smudge stuck! Her mom is a chihuahua and dad is a Blue Heeler. She has the color of the Blue Heeler.

I also have a 5-year-old dog called M. Her mom is a long wire-haired Chihuahua. Dad is a Yorkie. M lets Smudge do pretty much anything to her she wants. Smudge lays on top of M all the time.

What bothers me is Smudge pulls M's hair to the point I have to remove it from her mouth. M's hair gets matted without help from Smudge. But pulling her hair all the time, makes it worse.

How do I get Smudge to stop pulling M's hair out? In attempts to stop or punish Smudge, M thinks she is in trouble too. Even though I pet her and tell her she's not the bad dog.

Answer From the Editors at Dog-Spoiling

Hi Lois,

Thanks for submitting your question.

It definitely seems that you will have to assert your leadership to solve this problem, but the solution can be quite simple.

We've had lots of good luck in training dogs with the "leave it" command. Essentially when this command is understood by your dog, it teaches her to stop whatever she is doing, or redirects her attention. Of course, there has to be some incentive for your dog to stop chewing M's coat. Food is usually the best choice.

Most dogs have an uber-special treat they can't resist - if yours doesn't, then waste no time in getting one! My dog goes nuts over Plato Duck Treats, so I find them perfect for training and they can easily be broken into smaller pieces for this purpose.

What you want to achieve with this, or any other training command, is to have the reward be more appealing that the activity you are trying to stop. And if the chosen reward is food, I think it's safe to say that a hungry dog will learn faster!

So, when you see Smudge chomping down on M's coat, go over and wave that irresistible treat under her nose and say "leave it". As she stops the unwanted behavior give her a "good girl" and the treat. You'll no doubt have to do this a few times for her to understand what you want, but don't make training sessions too long. You can always come back after a while and do another short session.

Also if you have a, dare I say "slow" learner, or stubborn one, a short tab training leash would be ideal for gently pulling Smudge away from the chewing while giving the "leave it" command and treat. These tab leashes are excellent to have for supervising a pet around the house because they are easier to grab if negative situations arise.

They are also excellent for keeping pets close by your side on walks.

Once your dog gets the hang of the leave it command, you should start to increase the wait time for her to receive the reward, with the idea being that eventually a "verbal only" correction will work.

By the way, since Smudge is part Blue Heeler, she needs a LOT of exercise which, if sufficient, will most likely cut down on the chewing habit. Part of this odd behavior may be due to boredom or stress. The Heeler breed is also considered to be very smart and trains easily. Have you thought about obedience classes for her?

Oh, and do think about getting a Plastic Pet Playpen so that M can have some separate time and for when you are not there to supervise! A coat that is constantly wet from chewing is an open invitation to parasites, which are frequently followed by nasty hot spots. If any of the latter have shown up, contact me again for the perfect remedy.

If all else fails, I have one last tip that really interrupts unwanted behavior. It's a squirt bottle - one with a reliable stream setting. Just fill it with plain water and aim at the offender. Timing is important, but it's harmless and can be used for many situations, including barking.

Hope this helps and good luck!

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