I recently acquired a 3 year old Chihuahua named Gracie. She has a nipping issue but I have been able to stop it with your tips with food and toys and people approaching.
I CANNOT, however, stop this when we are on the couch or the bed and there is a blanket. Whenever I move the blanket she will watch my hand and hover over the spot where my hand is and get the “whale eyes” and snarl and growl with a tense body. What do you suggest I do? I am fostering her and would like to continue to resolve her worst situations to find her a forever home..
Thank you in advance for your advice
Thanks for the question, and for fostering Gracie and preparing her for a new home!
From what you describe it may be that she is showing a little bit of resource guarding OR it could be that she is afraid of the blanket, maybe she is afraid you will try to catch her with it.
I had a case, not long ago, where people used a blanket to catch the dog, they would throw the blanket on top of the dog to then grab him. Needless to say, this dog was terrified when someone approached with a towel or blanket and started growling, snarling and biting.
I can’t be sure what the problem with Gracie is without seeing the episodes in action and/or knowing a little bit more of her history.
In both cases though, you will need to start training her in a situation that doesn’t trigger aggression.
For example, start on the floor with a blanket near you. Touch the blanket for 1 second (do not move it) and immediately throw Gracie a treat. Repeat this several times, until Gracie seems relaxed when you touch the blanket.
Then, do the same but grab the blanket and pull it for half an inch, immediately, throw her a treat. Again, repeat until she is relaxed and happy because she is expecting a treat.
Continue progressing with this exercise until you are able to grab the blanket and move it as you like while Gracie is completely calm.
Then, you can start the same exercise on the couch or bed (pick one). You need to start ALL OVER AGAIN. First, only touch the blanket and throw a treat, repeat, etc.
These exercises need time, it can take you from several weeks to months, to even years to rehabilitate a fearful dog. It depends on how often you train her and how bad her fear is.
You may also want to read the section about resource guarding, in case that is the problem. You will see that the approach is similar, because resource guarding dogs are also afraid.
Finally, the following article is about dogs barking in fear, it also has a lot of information on how to work with a fearful dog.
If you want, you can leave more details in the commends section below and you can send me a picture too, so I can add it to this post.
Hope this helps,
Keep us posted!