Advice with our 2y/o Oprah

General discussions about Chow Chows.

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Advice with our 2y/o Oprah

Postby grey8 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 1:27 pm


Two years ago, my wife and I were gifted a black female Chow Chow puppy by a family friend. We bonded with Oprah—fancy, black and gorgeous—right away. Despite of the occasional Chow-like attitude, she behaved really well. We bonded with her immediately.

About a year ago, my wife became pregnant, and for some reason, something changed in Oprah. She suddenly became overprotective, paranoid at strangers, and hostile at visitors. She had a couple of episodes where she bite me because she wanted to eat a chicken bone in my plate, and a visitor that wanted to pet her through the crate. After the pregnancy, she is much more stable, but looks depressed (most of the time with her tail down and not eating well), sad and still hates visitors (we have to put her in the crate every time someone comes over, and she won't stay quiet). It's becoming more and more difficult to get her in the crate—she growls and barks aggressively at me when I do. Needless to say, my wife feels insecure being alone in the house with our dog and the baby.

We love our dog, but she represents a possible threat to our baby's safety—and ours too. We really feel like she needs someone that can take proper care of her and someone that understands her.

We need advice, what can you say to us?

Mother Moose
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Re: Advice with our 2y/o Oprah

Postby Mother Moose » Sat Jan 07, 2017 7:26 am

Hi grey8,

Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Hope you guys are getting some much needed sleep!
I'm sorry to hear about Oprah. Chows are so smart and intuitive. It sounds like she became protective over your wife because she knew she was pregnant. She may also be more hostile and wary of strangers now that there is a new baby to protect. Having a new addition to the family can be sad and stressful change for dogs. All of a sudden much of your time, attention and affection is directed at someone new. Similar to you, our chow Moose is almost 2 years old. Our son is 9 months old. When we brought our son home, Moose started to tug more on the leash during walks. I think it was his way of misbehaving to get our attention. I had to very consciously make sure I spent ample time with him to make sure he knows that he is still well loved. I found this helped a lot with his behaviour on walks. Even now that our son is 9 months, I have dedicated Moose and mommy time on top of our regular walks, grooming time etc. He also has become more anxious when we have guest over. Initially I attributed this to him getting older and more protective, but after reading your post I realize it may be due to the baby as the timing coincided exactly. I use positive reinforcement. Lots of treats. I started to keep him on a leash so that the guest don't feel threatened. I ask Moose to sit to give him a task to do. If he barks or growls, I sternly say no and redirect him with sit. When he does it, lots of praise and treats. When he mellows out after 5-10 mins than I let him off leash for the rest of the visit. I'm hoping with time, he won't need the leash at all.

Also, I suggest not allowing anyone to pet her while she is in her crate. Especially strangers. Since she is wary of strangers to begin with she probably did not want to be pet by them. Furthermore, she was stuck in a crate with no way to escape. So probably she felt threatened and the only way to protect herself was to lash out and bite. I would work on retraining the crate into a happy place. If she learns the crate is always associated with "being locked up when guest come" it will likely get increasingly difficult to get her in. I would do some exercise where I throw treats in and encourage her to go in the crate without closing the door behind her. Then try getting her to sit in the crate and praise and treat her. Lie down and stay in the crate. Then do the same exercises with closing the door. Lots of treats and praise for her being calm in the crate. Then try giving her favourite toys or chew snacks in there so she can stay for a longer period of time with you out of the room. Also, maybe try to put her in at other times not just when strangers come.

The episode with the chicken bone is concerning as that has nothing to do with protecting you and is a sign of food aggression. I think it would be a very good idea to work hard on this with her. Exercises like making her sit and wait before you give the cue for her to take her food. Getting her to stop while she is eating with cues like "leave it" then treat her and give the cue to start eating again. Making her work for all food and treats. Hopefully, you can work up to the point where you can get her to leave it and you can pick her food bowl back up or touch her food while she is eating without her showing any signs of aggression. I would go slow with this since she has had some issues with aggression already.

I believe that you can have your happy well bonded chow girl again, but it will take some work. :D
Best of luck with Oprah and the little one!

Mother Moose

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