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Old 08-09-2010, 12:24 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Odd Maltese Behavior?

Hi - This is my first post here. Its sort of long, so I appreciate you taking the time to read it.

I recently adopted my puppy, Pepper and I love him more than I ever thought was possible. He's 1 1/2 years old, and came to me both pee pad and house trained. He's a total velcro dog, and seems happiest when he's sharing my chair or sitting on my lap. He's totally not agressive. I work from home, so we're together 24/7.

He has some odd behaviors that I'm not sure require additional training, or if they're just remnants of his past that he'll grow out of.

1. He seems to have OCD when it comes to his food.
    • He won't eat from a bowl. It has to be a plate.
    • When he approcahes his food, the plate needs to be away from a wall so he can circle it.
    • Then he dips his nose onto the plate and then off, then on, then off. During this time, he isn't eating his kibble, just pushing it around the plate.
    • Then he picks up a small toy and puts it on the plate, hiding some of his food, and pushing some of it on the floor.
Eventually, he'll start to eat, but only a small amount.

At tha point, I'll usually pick the toy off the plate and eventually he'll eat most of it (plus, he's the pickiest eater ever - what he loves today, he'll ignore tomorrow!!)

Has anyone here had experience with this kind of food behavior? Is it something he can be trained out of? Or should I just leave it be?

2. Pepper will bark when someone comes to the door. I have no problem with this at all. But he barks like crazy at my boyfriend when he comes in to the house. He also barks at him when he gets up to go to the kitchen or to the bathroom.

My BF is a total dog lover (however he's more of a big dog kind of guy) and he's actually upset that Pepper barks at him the way he does. He gives him treats when he comes in but it doesn't seem to help.

Pepper doesn't bark like that at anyone else, so I can't figure out the problem. His foster mom said that Pepper had no problem with any men.

Any ideas how to work this through?

3. Pepper seems to occasionally be afraid of people - including me. Its not that he runs and hides, but that he won't allow anyone near him. I've tried to see if there was any one thing that sets it off, but can't for the life of me figure it out.

Thanks in advance for all your help.
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Old 08-09-2010, 12:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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1. The nosing the food and hiding it is normal dog behavior. If it bothers you I would try feeding out of a food toy or hiding the food around a room for him to find. Interactive eating is fun for the dog and great mental stimulation.
In our home, you eat your food or it gets picked up. With a single dog I would leave it for 15 minutes and pick it up. That's it until the next meal. In our house, its more like 30 seconds or someone else will nab it LOL
Many dogs do not like certain type of bowls, especially if they were not introduced to them early on. Metal bowls can have reflections, ceramic can make noise, etc. Paper plates are often a great solution for dogs who are spooky about bowls.
2. Most commonly the behavior you describe is fear-related. Because of Pepper's unknown history, it would be ideal to work with somebody in person on this. What you should do highly depends on seeing Pepper's body language at these times. His body language is the window into his little mind. The best solution depends on his emotional state and how best to modify that emotion. It would be ideal to consult with a veterinarian boarded in behavioral medicine or a behaviorist with a PhD. If that is not available, a really, really good trainer well-versed in this type of problem may help. You can search on Association of Pet Dog Trainers - Dog Training Resources
3. I'm willing to bet his body language gives this one away as well. I'd address it with the behaviorist or trainer.
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Old 08-09-2010, 01:10 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Pepper's body language when he barks at my BF is tail up, usually wagging, which is why I'm mystified.
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Old 08-09-2010, 02:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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My first Malt, Rosebud (RIP) would bark at certain people in my home .. when they would get up, etc. It was usually someone who was uncomfortable around small dogs and that she felt afraid of. Does your BF get on the floor and play when Pepper and talk sweetly to him or does he pretty much say "hi" and ignore him?
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Old 08-09-2010, 02:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Maybe Pepper is being possessive of you and knows he'll have to share your attention when your bf is around. Him barking whenever your bf gets up to go out of the room also sounds like he may be trying to "boss" your bf around (as in "hey! I didn't say you could leave, get back here!")...I am NOT an expert but I know I've seen similar situations on Victoria Stilwell's show, "It's me or the dog." So just thought I'd share my thoughts...however, like Jackie said, it's best to consult with a trainer in person who can evaluate Pepper's body language and tell you why he may be reacting in that way. In my personal opinion though, I think it may help if your boyfriend would start feeding Pepper his meals when he is around, taking him for walks, etc...it would help them to bond.
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Old 08-09-2010, 03:51 PM   #6 (permalink)
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JMM gave fantastic advice on the barking issue with your boyfriend so I can't really add to that.

As far as the food issue, it is normal behavior. If you want the behavior to stop and want him to just eat right away, put his food down, give him 15 minutes, and up it goes. He may not want to eat much of his food for a few days, but when he gets hungry enough he will catch on and eat it. My dogs had a hard time focusing on meal time, so we started doing that and it works. Occasionally they still decide not to eat, but that means they have to wait until their next meal then.

For a while Preston wouldn't eat out of a bowl or plate, not sure why. He would only eat food that I placed on the floor. I got tired of having to wipe up the floor each time, so now I put their food in a bowl, put 2 kibbles on the floor in front of the bowl, which entices him to start eating.
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Old 08-09-2010, 04:59 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks for all your responses.

Regarding my BF and Pepper. He gives him treats and gets on the floor to play with him. When Pepper and I play he will run towards me - like he's teasing me - and then run away like he wants me to chase him. Pepper does the same thing with my BF only with barking - lots and lots of barking.

We don't live together so the walking/feeding thing would be hard. I think part of the issue really is that he's so protective over me, but when we're sitting on the couch watching tv, Pepper will walk from my lap to my BFs lap and make himself comfortable. So I know that when my BF is still and quiet, Pepper has no problems with him.

And as far as the food goes, I have no problem with leaving the food in his dish all day, if that's how long it takes for him to eat it. Its just that it seems to freak him out when he's doing his little food dance. And frankly it freaks me out a tiny bit, never having had a dog that did that.
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Old 08-09-2010, 07:33 PM   #8 (permalink)
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My dog "herds" his food. Such a weird idiosyncrasy but he'll often approach the food from every direction and do a sweeping movement with his face, like he's herding it all into one place. But then he eats He's kind of picky. Depending on what kind of food you feed, there are some (wet and home cooked) that you can't leave out all day because of spoilage. Some people feed one or two times a day; some free feed by leaving kibble all day and the dogs eat when they're hungry. I think you just have to decide what works for you but if you really want to make sure he eats at a certain time, follow Jackie (jmm's ) advice.
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Old 08-09-2010, 10:36 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Unfortunately a wagging tail doesn't always mean a dog is happy...but without the whole picture there is no way to tell over the internet.
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Old 08-10-2010, 10:17 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Sounds like little Pepper is a really good boy overall, with perhaps a couple of quirks, hehe. I think they just give him character Well, like Jackie (jmm) said, you should probably consult a trainer in person about # 2 and 3 in your initial post to know for sure what is causing him to do that.

Again, I am NOT an expert at all, but I will share my thoughts (but keep in mind, they may be way off base)...what you said about Pepper wanting to snuggle with your bf when he is calm and sitting on the couch makes me think that it may not be a fear-of-men issue...but maybe in some situations, your bf's "energy" or something he's doing might make Pepper feel more excited, intimidated, nervous, etc (???). I'm not sure I'm explaining this right so I'll give you an example of my dog...I know that my Bailey gets much more energetic , excited and definitely more "barky" when my sister and cousin are around because they are just more energetic and lively people whereas I am more calm and laid back. He is normally pretty laid back too but whenever he sees my cousin, he will start running around, is much more "talkative" and want to play, play, play. On the other hand, there are some things that make him nervous too...for example, whenever someone, even if its someone he is comfortable with, is wearing something out of the ordinary, like a baseball cap or a big coat, etc, Bailey will get scared. He is also a rescue pup and although I am doing my best to socialize him with everything I can think of, there are still some things that will make him a bit nervous. So just sharing what my experience has been with Bailey (he's my first dog) and maybe it'll help shed some light in to what Pepper could be thinking....BUT like I said before, it's best to get professional advice from a qualified trainer. Good luck!!
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