From my point of view, Savannah is not behaving in an aggressive manner. While not a canine behaviorist by trade, I am a hobby breeder, and have interacted with a large dog community for several years. I have also done a lot of research, and frequently ply my vererinarian with questions.
In addition to my previous post, it is my feeling that several things are occuring which are impacting Savannah’s world and causing her to act out.
Since EtH has been involved in her life for a year and aggression has not been a problem, along with several other indicators, this leads me to believe that this is not an agressive dog. She has not bitten in the past, correct? In fact, she hasn’t bitten, but snipped. It is not, IMHO, time to look to placing the dog elsewhere, but to attempt to determine her underlying cause of misbehavior and modify it. Please do not misunderstand me, I do not tolerate snipping, snapping, growling, or any other show of dominance from my dogs toward humans in particular, and any other animal in general. This also includes a dog staring, putting a front foot up on me, trying to stand taller than I am, etc. Once one has learned “dog speak” it is clear when a dog is attempting to dominate.
I agree that there may be an underlying medical condition, a thorough vet checkup, with the vet being aware of her recent behaviors, would be helpful in eliminating any organic dysfunction which might be causing her personality to shift.
Concerning her eating, what type/brand of food is she given? Do you feed her the recommended daily allotment, broken down into two meals? If you are free feeding, she may be eating more than you realise. Is she allowed table scraps, people food, lots of dog treats? My dogs will forgo their premium kibble if they think they might get a bite off my plate, or a cookie or chewie. If you are able to feel her ribs under a slight padding of fat, she is not going hungry. As for regular feeding times, I am not a morning person, and I have a busy household with a great deal of comings and goings. The dogs are ready to eat breakfast when the alarm goes off at 7:00 am when the kids and I get up on school days. I feed them supper an hour before we eat, as I don’t care to have hungry dogs staring at every bite which goes into my mouth! Dogs generally potty within an hour after a feed. The time does not need to be exact every day (weekends my dogs have breakfast a bit later in the morning, afternoon outings mean a later supper for all, but the time frame is fairly regular) but a reasonable schedual is good for everyone. In addition, I am able to take even the most desireable morsel of food from my dogs mouths without a worry of being bitten. This is, IMHO, very important. The dog needs to learn that A: you are the giver of all things good and B: you are the boss. After Savannah has settled down in her problem areas, this is done by giving her a piece of food, then gently taking it away. Give the Wait command, and give her the food again. It doesn’t take a smart dog long to understand that you will give her the morsel back.
I have two dogs in particular, my oldest and my youngest, who have some fairly serious separation anxiety issues. These include not eating as much as usual, sulking, potty accidents-on-purpose, and general irritability. I do need to reinforce their training on occasion, especially with the older male, Mischa, but at this point they recognise me as the alpha and back down fairly quickly. In fact, I just now needed to stare Mischa down until he looked away. He is my dog, but he adores my husband (who is the person who walks him and gives him too many treats) who is out fishing. (My husband is a commercial fisherman, he’s not just out in the sticks playing!) Mischa gets a big case of the sulks whenever my husband is gone, and if I allowed it, he could very easily become a problem, including biting. I simply don’t allow it. However, he has been trained since a very young puppy as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. The youngest, Satine, is terribly attached to me. As I am to her!) I went off island for a week in March for my daughter’s wedding, and Satine was a depressed little girl, she didn’t eat much, didn’t play, and just plainly wasn’t herself until I came back home. Savannah obviously looks to Iris as her primary human, but since she has accepted EtH up to this point I, again, do not feel this is an aggression issue.
Allow me to reiterate, she is a terrier. They have their own particular personality type. My oldest daughter, the newlywed, has a miniature pinscher, which is also a terrier. We call her Zoey the Psycho Min Pin, and we expect her to freak out on occasion. We do not tolerate it, she is disciplined immediately for each infraction, and she really is a nice little dog. When the husband-to-be first entered the picture Zoey was two years old, and my daughter had been in a relationship prior to this one when she acquired Zoey. Zoey was not amenable to a new man, and my son-in-law-to-be had to learn how to discipline her. There were some battles, but she now submits to him very nicely. This is the number one reason to research breeds and their functions before acquiring a new dog!
Her age may be a factor. She is still maturing, you basically have a teenage dog in your house. Teenagers push the limits to see how far they can go. Boundaries need to be set and reinforced consistantly. Having teenage kids as well as dogs, I cannot emphasize this enough, consistency is key!
Potty time. Does she sleep in a crate? Most dogs will not soil their bedding. Immediately upon waking, take her outside. If she hides under the table or wherever, physically put her outside. This need not be forceful, just not an option. Watch her when you are home, and if she does the sniff-the-floor-and-circle dance, put her out quickly. Does she potty in one particular place in the house? You might want to save aggravation all around by also using disposable potty pads. There are also some excellent products on the market which contain enzymes that truly eliminate stains and odors from that kind of accident. It helps with the human frustration factor over the carpet smelling of urine.
Not all dog trainers are created equal! Get a second opinion. Get a third if you feel the need.
Has Iris’ schedual changed? Is she not home as often? In my experience, dogs enjoy routine, and variations often precipitate behavior changes.
Babies have been mentioned, is one imminent? Something else which can affect a dog’s behavior. I placed a male puppy with a couple who then became pregnant. Neo (the dog) is closely bonded with the adults. My council was to let him sniff the crib, bassinette, etc. before the baby came. After the baby was born they took home an item of clothing which had the baby’s as well as the parent’s scents on it and let Neo “meet” the new family member. When the baby is asleep, Neo gets tons of attention, so there are no jealousy issues. It has been a totally positive experience for humans and dog alike. Well, Neo does occasionally defecate in the baby’s room, which has been solved by putting a baby gate in the doorway so he cannot enter the room.
Another training method is to leash her, and attach the leash to your belt. She is then obligated to be with you at all times. Lots of praise and petting and playing and loving reinforces that you are also her human.
Has she been spayed? If not, this too could be a factor. Also, female canines, altered or not, are called bitches because they can be, well, bitchy. (Actually, that’s why women are referred to as bitches, as we sometimes display the female canine’s attitude!) No excuse for bad manners, but an insight as to some attitudes.
Oh, and by submitting/submissive, I do not mean a cowering, fearful dog, which is the type which frequently bites. I mean a dog who is confidant in her self, her home, and with people and other animals.
It seems to me that Savannah is well loved, and so I do offer my sincere hopes that you are able to work out her behavior issues. I will look up some links, er, cites, today which may be of help. Please feel free to email me as well.
The very best of luck in resolving Savannah’s behavior!