Assertive Personality must Learn to Earn Everything

Question:
My five month old Australian Shepard mix is constantly biting and chewing. If he’s not trying to eat rocks on his walks, he’s snatching tissues out of our hands, trying to gnaw on our arms/hands/legs/shoes/furniture. We have an arsenal of chew toys, bones and rawhides but when we try to correct him, he bares his teeth and snaps.

Dr. Nichol:
Sounds like the terrible twos. Not truly aggressive, your high-status, assertive puppy expects to get whatever he wants. If you’re hoping for a personality change you’ll need to invest in a brain transplant.  Confrontations cause an escalation of the kid’s temper tantrums, possibly leading to a bite and a damaged relationship.

Your path to success will require you to don the mantle of exalted canine ruler: the benevolent dictator who controls all of this young hoodlum’s resources. From this day forth you shall grant privileges only as rewards for good behavior.

Stash the toys and have Attila the Hun drag a 6 foot leash from his collar. At every opportunity, show him a toy and require him to practice an obedience skill. Any reasonable approximation should earn a toy. If he acts out you will immediately ignore, pick up the leash, march to the time-out room, close the door, and gloat for 3-4 minutes. Open the door and continue the snub for a few more minutes followed by another opportunity to earn a toy. Repeat hundreds of times.

“Hot Shot” should earn everything including food, access to the outside, a pat on the head, a kind word, you name it. You are the boss but you must never take things from him. Instead, lead him away from items he shouldn’t have and then give him an opportunity to earn what you deem appropriate. Just don’t let all that power go to your head.