Give a Dog a Bone, Just Dont Take it Away!

July 28, 2010

Give a Dog a Bone, Just Don’t Take it Away!

By Robert Forto, PhD

As a canine behaviorist at Denver Dog Works I see a lot of dog problems. I deal primarily with canine aggression and nothing can be more frightening than a dog that is possessive. I had a client whose dog was so aggressive if disrupted their entire family’s lifestyle.

The client approached me about two years ago and to this day I will never in my life forget this case: The family consisted of Two Adult Females, two pre-teen girls and two Shiba Inus. One of the Shibas was great but the other was Cujo from You-Know-Where. This Shiba, lets call him Max was so food aggressive that the family literally had to run upstairs and close the door while he ate. When feeding time came around the family set in motion one of the most elaborate and scary displays I have ever seen.

First they would lock the dogs in the laundry room and one of the adults would prepare the food while Max became more agitated and began to bite and attack the other dog. Once the food was prepared the lady would open the laundry room door with a string attached to the handle and hold a broom to ward off Max. Max would run at the lady full blast with its teeth barring while she fought off the dog with the broom as she fled upstairs with the rest of the family.

Max did not return to the bowl to eat, instead he would run around the house like the Tasmanian Devil and proceed to tear up anything he could; couch pillows, shoes, chair legs, everything, within minutes.

Max eventually went over to his bowl and ate his food and would calm down. This whole ritual would take about a half an hour. I observed the incident from the deck through the sliding glass doors. I can honestly say that I have never seen a dog more dangerous in my life. Before the feeding exercise Max appeared to be the perfect family pet laying at our feet while we talked and complied a history for the evaluation.

I never heard back from that family and I attempted calling them back several times to no avail.


Protecting valued assets is an important part of survival in the wild. While I agree that Canis Familiaris (the family dog) is far from being a “wild” animal they are still intrinsically wired that way deep inside their brains. In the wild, a dog that does not protect its valued assets is more likely to starve to death than one that does. Since possessiveness is normal behavior the owner should not punish the dog for it, instead we need to train the dog to think that good things happen when they give their valuables to us humans.

Some simple exercises to work on possessiveness are (not to be used with the example with a dog like Max, but maybe a dog that wont give up his ball, or looks at you “funny” when you take his bone, etc.):

1. Allow the dog to greet guests only when he is sitting. This is one of the tests in the AKC CGC Test, Accepting a Friendly Stranger.

2. Teach the dog “Give it or Drop it” and “Take it.”

3. Teach food bowl exercises (except with a dog like Max, of course) where you can take up the food bowl while your dog sits, you can put your hand in the bowl while he eats, etc.

If you have any questions on canine training or behavior, please give us a call at Denver Dog Works at 303-578-9881.


Dr. Robert Forto is a canine behaviorist and the training director of Denver Dog Works. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at

Canine Behavior Consultations

May 27, 2010

Canine Behavior Consultation

By Michele Forto

At Denver Dog Works we are sought after throughout the country as the preeminent expert for canine aggression cases. With that said we also do things a bit differently than most dog trainers for basic obedience. Canine Behavior Modification Sessions are NOT Obedience Sessions. We also charge differently than a dog trainer. Typically dog trainers charge per session or in a block of sessions (ie. eight weeks for $500.00, etc.) A behavioral consultation is much different. We charge by the hour and we require a retainer. The reason we do this is simple: there is a tremendous amount of work involved behind the scenes and with the client in person. We charge just like an attorney would charge you, increments of six minutes. Remember you are hiring an expert not just a dog trainer that trains dogs for fun. Canine Aggression is serious business and you need an expert to help you in this difficult time.

Canine Behavior Consultation

A Canine Behavior Consultation is an in-depth scientific observation of a dog displaying unwanted or unexplained behavior.  Dr. Robert Forto, Ph.D. of Denver Dog Works is not only the training director with nearly twenty years of experience in training dogs, but also Denver’s foremost expert on aggression.

A Canine Behavior Consultation often begins unfortunately with an incident where your dog has bitten someone.  Very few times, has Dr. Forto been contacted prior to the bite occurring.  Usually he is contacted during an owner’s dog being quarantined by the local animal control.

When you contact Dr. Forto regarding canine aggression or behavior modification for your dog he or his staff will ask you a series of questions determining whether or not you are in need of a behaviorist or just a qualified trainer with specific behavior background such as separation anxiety.

When hiring an expert be prepared to pay a retainer and to be billed in hourly increments monthly for their services.  This is how Dr. Forto has established his business and reputation.  He values your concerns and expects you to value his time and his expertise.

I asked Dr. Forto, what happens during a Behavior Evaluation/Canine Behavior Consultation and this is what he said.

What happens during an Behavioral Evaluation?

You will be interviewed and asked questions regarding your dog and the problems you are concerned with:

  • Your dog’s daily routine and history with you
  • What your relationship with your dog is like
  • How your dog behaves in different situations
  • A description of the problem
  • When, where and how often the problem happens
  • What you have done to work with your dog’s behavior

We will observe your dog and see how he/she behaves

  • We do want to see how your dog reacts to us and get a sense of his temperament
  • We do want to see how your dog reacts to you and get a sense of his temperament
  • Observing the problem behavior may not be possible, desirable or needed

We will use this information to analyze your dog’s problem

  • Why the problem developed
  • What’s now motivating the behavior
  • What needs to be done to change the behavior

We will develop and write down a custom behavior modification plan for you

  • The plan may include changes to your dog’s environment and/or diet
  • The plan may require structured “training sessions” to bring out the desired behavior
  • The plan may require changes in how you react to your dog’s behavior
  • The plan will include tips and remedies

We will follow-up with you during the scheduled “training sessions” either in-home or office visits for the number listed on your behavior modification plan:

  • Answer your questions and observe the dog and his reactions
  • Make sure you are on the right track
  • “Fine tune” your custom plan
  • If your dog is participating in our board and train program you will receive weekly progress reports for the duration of his stay.

And this is just the beginning!  According to Dr. Forto, once he receives the initial evaluation from his staff, he then corresponds immediately with the client who has now received a 13-page questionnaire asking specific questions pertaining to their dog’s history.  He begins developing a treatment plan and schedules the first visit.  Dr. Forto is working with you from the moment he receives your case file and he continues to be available via email, phone, and in person.  Behavior modification does not get fixed at the snap of a finger, modifying a dogs behavior can take months just as modifying your behavior can take months. A typical behavior case can last three to nine months.  Although, you can see results after just one hour, modifying unwanted behavior and replacing it with wanted behavior takes time.  An aggressive dog must have his behavior managed and the treatment plan that Dr. Forto devises for you must be followed correctly in order for the modification to be successful. Once the treatment plan has been developed Dr. Forto then visits you a few times to check on your progress and then develops a maintenance plan. Aggression is never cured it is managed.

Dr. Forto is available for behavior modification, seminars, and workshops addressing aggression (and other canine behavior problems).  If you are interested in learning more about aggression or if your dog is in need of behavior modification you can reach Dr. Forto at through his website at

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Michele Forto is Denvers Dog Training Examiner and the business manager of Denver Dog Works. Michele can be reached through her website at