Dog Dominance Q&A

  1. I have a neutered 4 year old Miniature American Eskimo that is aggressive to visitors. She bites at their pant legs, what should I do?
  2. My dog has recently taken a disliking to my husband. What should I do?
  3. I have created a monster. Is it too late to change him?
  4. My cousin's Westy jumped on my pillow and bit my face the other night. Do you have any advice?
  5. I have an 8 month old Boxer who has a very dominant personality. How do I teach my dog that my son and boyfriend are higher up in the pack? Is it possible for an 8 month old Boxer to be aggressive?
  6. My dog attacks me, my family, and anyone else it sees. What can I do?

QUESTION:

I have a neutered female 4 yr-old Miniature American Eskimo. My husband and I both work during the day, and she is alone all day. A very small amount of obedience training has been done with her, but she pretty much ruins our house. The problem: She has become aggressive with most people who approach our home or us. She seems mostly aggressive with men, and has grabbed three or four by the pant leg. I need a video to help train her with this problem. What video would you recommend? (I took my two previous Eskimos to Dog Obedience classes and found them not to be very successful with this problem.) HELP!

Dena

ANSWER:

This can be stopped but it takes a commitment on your part and your husband’s part. 99.9% of the times that this problem can not be stopped it's a handler problem and not a problem with the dog.

The solution begins with the correct obedience training. Everything to do with problem solving begins with obedience training of one sort or another. I strongly recommend you read what I have to say in the description of my tape on Basic Dog Obedience.

You need to take your dog through this program. You may need a prong training collar depending on the temperament of the dog. Some people think little dogs do not need training collars, when in fact I have seen a lot of very hard little dogs. If you do not understand what I mean by a hard dog you can refer to my article on the subject

Your dog needs to go through the learning phase (explained in detail in my tape) on the long down. The dog needs to understand that you are prepared to follow through with corrections in the correction phase. These corrections need to be firm or they mean nothing to a dog like this. This is where a lot of novice dog trainers have problems. They think little "pho pho" does not need to be treated like that. Most of the time this is the root of the problem. Unless a pet owner is prepared to establish himself (or herself) as the pack leader there will never be a positive solution to any problem they face with the dog. There are very few firm and constant rules in dog training but one is this, "if a dog is at the correct stage of training to receive a correction, one good correction is worth 50 nagging corrections." That philosophy needs to be seated in the handler's mind.

I need to temper this by saying that this does not mean you go out and beat up on your dog. What it means is that if the temperament of your dog requires a level six correction (on a scale of one to ten) to be effective, you do not try and get by with a level 2 correction.

Now you need to make some place in the house the dogs spot. This can be his dog crate or a special throw rug or something like this. The dog is taught to go to his spot. He is rewarded with food (or a toy etc.) when he goes there. You need to be able to send him there when you want from anywhere in the house. This starts from a very short distance (severe feet) and ends up with you being able to send him there from a back bedroom. Make a game of this. Always reward the dog with a treat.

Once the dog knows the command, should it refuse to comply it must be corrected and dragged to the spot with a lot of praise when it gets there. Have the dog wear a 2-foot line in the house so you can easily grab it.

Up to this point the dog has not been made to stay on his spot very long. Now its time to teach him that he must stay there until you release him. Start with a few seconds and build to 30 minutes.

When that's done its time to introduce distractions. Your husband in the living room, or send him to his spot just after your husband returns home from work. Let the dog greet him and then send him to his spot after a quick pet. Again, firm corrections for non-compliance.

The ultimate distraction for this dog seems to be visitors. The procedure for handling a dog when you have a guest is to allow the person to come into the house. The dog can go up and smell the guest if there is no aggression or growling. The guest should not try and pet the dog, nor should he move away from the dog. He (or she) just stands there and talks to you ignoring the dog. Once the dog has smelled the guest you command the dog to his spot and it must stay there the entire time the visitor is in the house. You need to reinforce this with strong corrections, which may be distracting for the guest.

The important thing is that the dog is not sent to the spot without having a chance to greet the person who comes to the house. If there is any growling or nipping at this point the dog is corrected with a level 10 correction by the 2 foot drag line and taken to his spot.

You may find that after following this procedure 2 or 3 times the dog can be allowed to be around visitors. But always be prepared to reinforce any signs of aggression with a correction and sending the dog to the spot.

This entire procedure is re-establishing your position as pack leader. No matter what we think our pets are pack animals. The key to dog training is to realize this and then establish yourself as the respected pack leader. Dogs become territorial because of pack behavior, but the bottom line is that the pack leader is the one who determines when to enforce territorial lines and the pack leader determines who will fight first.

I hope that you are able to deal with the correction phase. That's the part that most people seem to have trouble with. It really all comes down to consistency, correction and praise.


QUESTION:

My 6-month-old Australian Shepherd is an extremely smart, responsive dog but has no use for my husband. I walk him everyday and I used to feed him. Since we noticed this problem my husband has begun to do all the feeding, and though the dog is nicer to him he won't leave the house with him or play with him. Thanks for any help you can give us. -Kathleen

ANSWER:

Maybe your dog is trying to tell you something about your choice of partners. Just kidding.

Have your husband turn into a hot dog machine. Go out and buy these cheap hot dogs and cut them into small pieces. Your husband should give the dog treats every time he can think of it. When you go for walks, let your husband call him and give him a piece of hot dog when he comes. Have your husband brush and groom him. This also helps.

In addition, your dog should never sleep in your bedroom. Sometimes a dog will get attached to the female in the family and be allowed to sleep in the bedroom. When the husband sleeps with the wife, this triggers a dominant response from the dog. Make the dog sleep in a dog crate or another room.

If these things don't work - either get a new dog or a new husband.


QUESTION:

I have recently acquired a Dachshund. He was one year old when I got him, he is now 14 months. The people who had him before me kept him alone in the back yard. They could no longer keep him because of a barking problem. I felt that a barking problem would not be too hard to break but I was wrong. He still has that problem to a degree. The bigger problem is he has become EXTREMELY aggressive the longer we have him the worse it gets. He is fine with our family, but when other people come over they are in danger of being bit. There have been a few people who come over who Rufus seems to take an instant liking to. He is a very loving dog with our family. After reading your articles I can see we have been doing a lot of the wrong things. Like letting him sleeps in my bed, eats at our table, and has a toy box of his own loaded with toys. My questions is this now that I have created the Dachshund from hell in only 3 months can I reverse the situation by dethroning him using the suggestion in your articles, Dealing with the Overly Aggressive Dog. I just don't know what to do.

ANSWER:

Yes you can change this dog. It will take a little work, but if he is to ever have a chance at being a normal dog you must make the effort or put him to sleep. My advice would be to try helping him first.

You need to do everything in the articles on Dealing with the Overly Aggressive Dog and Dealing with the Dominant Dog. I would also recommend a Tri Tronics No Bark Limiter.

Then start the dog on a serious obedience program. Read what I have to say about Basic Dog Obedience. This is a key issue. The dog needs to learn to mind, and this can only be accomplished through a sound foundation of proper training.

During this training I would create a spot for him in the house (on a specific rug for example.) He should learn to do a long down on this rug, with the long term goals to have him go to the rug and stay there for 1/2 hour or more. Then when visitors come the dog is allowed to greet them and is then sent to the rug. This eliminates the threat of a bite (if he does not mind he is corrected, use a prong collar if necessary). The key point here is the dog must have an opportunity to see who comes and greets them BEFORE being sent to the rug. If you do not do this you will only raise the frustration level and make things worse rather than better.


QUESTION:

Good morning.

My name is Erika and I share a place with my cousin who owns two Westys – (West Highland Terriers). He adopted them both from a shelter in Oklahoma. He wanted to adopt the female, but the shelter said he had to take both the female and a male. Well, the female is precious. The male is adorable, but he’s always growled if he’s asleep and you try to wake or move him. He’s been scolded, placed in the laundry room or outside, and ignored for this behavior. Well, just this week Duncan (the male) left my cousins room in the middle of the night and jumped in bed with me. He laid next to my head and was very sweet and loving at first. Suddenly (and seemingly for no reason) he growled once (and not near as loud or vicious as he has in the past) – then bit me on the cheek – right under my eye! I was shocked and froze. In fact, while I know I didn’t hit him back or anything, I don’t totally recall the next few seconds until I was standing in the middle of the room telling him to get to the laundry room. Well, my cousin was totally furious the next day when he saw my face and I told him what happened. He’s contacted the shelter and told them to come get the dog. They foster the dogs into different homes until they are adopted and have “adoptees” sign a contract saying if they ever get rid of the dog they have to go through this same shelter. I read several of your articles and felt we were probably right in just giving him back to the shelter. However, I had a school counselor tell me because we didn’t know the dog’s complete background – just that he and the female had been found wandering in an empty lot – that we should have the dog trained, etc. etc. I jokingly told her, “yes, or have him put down.” and she about freaked. I don’t know about putting him down, but I certainly am not sure I want to keep him in our house and try to get him trained when he’s already bitten. Do you have any advice?

Thank you!!!

Sincerely,
Erika

ANSWER:

I don’t want to sound critical but this is an owner mistake problem founded on a lack of understanding of dog behavior.

I recommend that you go to my web site and read the article I wrote on my philosophy of dog training. I think you will get some good ideas there.

Your dog is DOMINANT AGGRESSIVE, it's not trained and it has not had pack work done with it.

Read the article I wrote titled DEALING WITH DOMINANT DOGS.

These dogs need dog crates – that’s a huge part of getting a grip on them. They should NEVER come into the bedroom for any reason. They need to be trained with a prong collar and they need to spend a lot of time in the crate.

You may want to read the article I wrote on GROUND WORK BEFORE OBEDIENCE TRAINING

You will probably find that you have not had the full picture on the steps of training a dog. Your dog must go through training steps before it can be considered fully trained.

You will read why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. No professional dog trainer would ever take his dog to an obedience class with 15 or 20 untrained dogs and try and train it there. Its crazy. The dogs cannot concentrate with the distractions.

If you make the decision to learn to train - get a prong collar. You can read about it on my web site. There is an article I wrote (with a number of excellent photos) on how to fit a prong collar, you can also read about the different types of prongs.

I would probably be working this dog with one of my dominant dog collars. I explain how to do this on my web site.

In a few weeks I am going to be releasing a DVD on dominant and aggressive dogs that would be very helpful for you in this case.


QUESTION:

I have an 8 month old Boxer, named Rambo, who's always had a very dominant personality. I think our mistake was getting him at just barely 6 weeks of age from the breeder before he learned bite inhibition. The past couple months he's developed what appear to be dominant traits of trying to mount smaller dogs and even my 4 yr old son. He also resource guards, but I'm the only thing he resource guards, he gets near vicious (back up, teeth barred, barking) when anyone comes near me even my boyfriend who lives with us. Unfortunatly he did bite my boyfriends 5 yr old daughter on the face during what we thought was just play, that got out of hand. Upon recommendations from my vet I had Rambo fixed but I've not noticed any differences. How do I teach Rambo that my son and boyfriend for that matter are higher up in the pack? Is it possible for an 8 month old Boxer to be aggressive?

ANSWER:

You have a big problem brewing if you don’t get a handle on this right away.

Neutering rarely does anything to remedy the issues you are having with your dog. The problem is lack of leadership. It sounds like this dog displays a large number of red flag behaviors and you’ve still just let him do what he wants. I would NEVER allow any young dog around small children without have complete control of the dog and the child. You don’t teach Rambo that other people are higher up, you teach him that YOU are. If he’s resource guarding YOU, then he doesn’t respect you but sees you as one of his possessions. Many people are flattered because they think their dog is “protecting them” and in reality the dog looks at them as a thing to be controlled, not a leader.

You need to change your line of thinking with Rambo before he gets in some serious trouble. At 8 months old, he’s barely a teenager and if this behavior is allowed to continue it will only escalate.

I’d start with our Groundwork program and the video that picks up where the article leaves off. Pack Structure for the Family Pet

I believe that this DVD could really help you. It’s titled DEALING WITH DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS and was a 5 year project.

I’d make sure you have a crate and use it, follow the ground work program to the letter.


QUESTION:

I am sure you are a very busy man but I am so frustrated and have no where else to turn for answers. If you could please give me a bit of advice, I would greatly appreciate it because no one in my area has yet been able to help.

Last June, my husband was given a puppy that had been handed down from owner to owner. We were not told much about her history so I took her to the vet the next day who said she was a Beagle-Pincher mix. She had many health problems when we first got her but she recovered quickly. The first night she was here, I went to move her from the couch while she was napping and she tried to bite me. I just assumed she was getting to know me so she was nervous. The problem is now, she has progressively gotten worse. She only listens to my husband and she will only allow him, myself, and a neighbor whose dog she plays with regularly to pet her. Anyone else she will bite. When I take her on walks she chases everything, lunges at people, and has even tried to charge cars head-on. There are times where she will bite me hard if I am taking away her favorite toy or treat and when I have tried to punish her she has come at me. Although she is barely 20 pounds I am scared the death of her inflicting damage on a child. She absolutely hates children and is overly aggressive towards them. When my step-son comes to stay with us in the summer it is like a war zone in here because she is constantly trying to attack him. She has also tried to bite nieces, nephews, and neighborhood children but now she has progressed to biting everyone. My heart-rate shoots up every time I see someone approach because you just never know if they will try to pet her before I can warn them.

Also, she has severe separation anxiety. Anytime we leave the house she becomes destructive and will not eat or drink till we get home. Our one neighbor brings her female Shitzu over everyday so that our dog will not be lonely but the dog still cries when we leave. She has been to obedience school which she did poorly in. The instructor told me that it is because she is such a dominant aggressive dog and there is really nothing I can do past this point. I have tried taking away toys and treats and playtime with us but nothing works. Her aggressiveness just seems to be getting worse.

A quick note: when we first got her, she had stomach ulcers which the vet said could be from stress. She also made speculations to the fact that she could have been abused because she was malnourished and seemed to have some bruising. We have given this dog a loving home and have never raised a hand to her yet she fears the sound of my husbands voice if he even raises it a notch. I on the other hand, could yell and scream at her and she will not budge.

I am so scared that she is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Is there hope for my dog or are we fighting a loosing battle? Is she mentally ill or just plain mean? I just need some answers. If you could please just give me any advice I would appreciate it. No one in my area can seem to help and I am tired of the conflicting advice I am receiving.

ANSWER:

Sometimes dogs like this are in homes where the owners are able to accept the kind of training that is required to fix a problem like this. I get the feeling that this is not the case in which case the dog should be put to sleep.

Sometimes a dog with a problem can be given to another owner who is more qualified to deal with the problem. I doubt that you would be able to find someone that would be willing to take this kind of dog.

If you were willing to 100% change the way you deal with this dog you could possible save it. Here are the things that you would need to do:

1. Get a dog crate for the house and begin by keeping the dog in the crate at all times except when you are playing with the dog or taking it outside.

2. Read the article I wrote on DEALING WITH A DOMINANT DOG (also the Q&A's on this). DO THE THINGS I SAY IN THE ARTICLE!

3. Properly train the dog. This dog is not trained. It does not respect you as a pack leader. If it did, it would not try and bite you. If you are concerned about biting, get a muzzle and make it wear the muzzle. The wire basket muzzles we sell allow a dog to drink when they are on.

4. If you would like to learn more about the principles of obedience training a dog, read the description for my Basic Dog Obedience video. You will probably find that you have not had a clear understanding of the steps of training a dog must go through before it can be considered fully trained. You can also read why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. I think if you read the testimonials on that tape you will see that my customers feel the same way.

5. Have the dog wear one of the dominant dog collars we sell with a drag line or leash in the house. If it acts aggressive to you, lift its front legs off via the collar the ground so you take its air away. Remain calm when you do this. DO NOT ACT MAD! There is no pain involved here but it tells the dog that you control it's life and if it displeases you, you can take its life if you want. People (like yourself) with a soft temperament have a problem with this concept. Dogs do not. They clearly understand the concept. It's called being a pack leader and a higher rank within the pack.

6. This dog should NEVER be allowed around kids or strangers. Not ever! No one should pet it. Police officers never allow people around their dogs (or at least they should not.) A lot of times civilians fail to understand the concept that you and other members of your pack are the only ones who needs to be around a pet. I have owned dogs that bite people my entire life and I don’t have these kinds of problems because I control the environment the dog is in.

7. NEVER allow this dog to be around the neighbors dog again. You need to be the center of it's life and all joy comes from you and not this other dog.

8. When you walk the dog walk it with a PRONG COLLAR, if it looks at another dog or person and growls, give a verbal "NO" and then CORRECT it very hard. If the dog acts aggressive to you, hang it. You only need to hang it by lifting its front feet off the ground an inch or two. Just take it's air away – again, there is no pain here.

9. I could go on and on but this is enough. If you have friends that think this is abusive, I would say this, ““Everyone has an opinion on how to train your dog. Just ask your mailman. The problem is that very few people have the experience to back up their opinions which results in a lot of bad information being handed out.”

10. When the options are to kill the dog or deal with the dog's aggression so that it becomes a safe animal for the handler, well my vote is to save the dog when it can be saved. If I have a PETA PUKE bitch about my practices, I recommend they take a dog like this into their home and try and see what they can do with their Halties and clickers.

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