Aggression against younger/weaker dogs

Posted by 69wildwitch
Dec 17, 2007
I have a 3 year old German Shepherd/Husky mix named Nanouk. Up until 7 Months ago he was the most playful thing with other dogs. That's all he ever wanted to doplay!! I have been with him to puppy school and then obedience training and a bit of agility since he liked it so much, and once a week we went to a play hour where the dogs simply had a good romp at the dog school. Then at the end of May we met a woman with her 6 month old Australian Shepherd while we were walking off-leash. She was hesitant and asked if it was okay to play, and I said yes. Nanouk sniffed him and the next thing I know was tearing into the little guy. I was shocked. Then it happened at the dog school a couple of weeks later, but "only" with a certain 2 dogs, one was neutered and the other wasn't. (Nanouk at that time was not neutered, it not being the thing to do in Germany so long as the dog's behaviour is fineI now wonder if I could have avoided this by having him neutered earlier...hindsight....)(he was neutered the end of August, and I have been told it can take up to a year for the hormones to "retreat"). Then he growled and tried to jump at another puppy, 8 months old, while on leash.
Recently he attacked another young one at the dog school. I don't know how I missed the signs, but there it is, and I need help. I don't know which criteria he has for what he likes and doesn't like, but I wish I did. I am working again intensely on the basic commands, but we have always had a problem with his attention being on me and not on anything else. When we are alone or there are few dogs around, he does everything perfectly. It's the stress situations that are the problem. I probably react differently now too when we see a strange dog. I am trying with treats(I don't use them much in regular training)and praise to keep his attention solely on me when we pass a dog. I try not to put the leash on every time we see a dog I categorize as a potential "candidate" since Nanouk starts looking around "what is there to see..." Strangely enough, he plays again now with the neighbor dog that he stopped playing with when he was a year and a half old.
PLEASE tell me there is a way that I can get this behavior out so that he is again a "playful pup". The hormones may be on their way out, but the behaviour is there.
Posted by Todd
Dec 30, 2007
Hi there.

Thank you for your question regarding Nanouk.
The first thing i would like to say is aggression is a very serious problem and i am glad you are taking such a serious approach to it. Firstly the most important thing is your safety and the second is those of other people and animals. I would definately recommend a muzzle for Nanouk when he is outside your property. Some people see this as harsh but it is critical.

As for the hormones. Neutering dogs does have some mild effects on interdog aggression but this effect is not huge and training and obedience plays a far bigger role.

The first advice i would give you is to ensure you and your family members have read and understand the techniques in the bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". These are great techniques for maintaining or establishing your position at the head of the household. No matter what the problem is all dogs need to know where the stand in the house for both yours and their peace and comfort.

Here are some ways to reinforce your position-

1) If you come across your dogs while they are sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making them move so that you can pass by.

2) Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dogs wait while you walk through doorways first.

3) At mealtimes make sure that your dogs eat after all of the humans have.

4) Do not feed your dogs tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.

5) Do not greet your dog straightaway when you arrive home. Make him wait until you are ready and then call it to you.

6) Whenever your dog want attention or anything wait till he is sitting and being well behaved.

7) When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.

I am glad to hear that you have been doing obedience training with him. Obedience is the best way to control your dog and the actions of them. What i recommend is daily training of the basic commands of sit, stay and wait. Work with him for 10 minutes twice a day in a quiet part of the house or yard.
For the next 2 weeks he should have no contact with other dogs, this means lead walking in areas where dogs aren't and not taking him to friends houses.
After 2 weeks of obedience training you can begin lead walking him in an area where there aren't many dogs.

When you see another dog approaching make Nanouk sit and relax. Do not let him out of the sit position. As the other dog approaches reward Nanouk with praise and petting if he is staying calm and being relaxed. If at any stage he stands, rushes or growls you must reprimand him. Whatever the circumstance your dogs should be reprimanded for unacceptable behaviour.
DO NOT yell, as this has no effect on the dominant dog. Growl instead, use a guttural growl like " AAHHH!" instead of "No!", as this makes a sharper sound then "No" (If done correctly it may hurt your throat a little). The aim is to give him a shock and let him know what he is doing is unacceptable.

Then make him sit again, once he sits praise him. This will teach him to behave around strange dogs. If he gets too much to handle take him away from the other dog and straight home.
After a few weeks of this you may want to try a more open area like a dog park. Again the muzzle is imperative. Give Nanouk a little more lead so he can roam a bit more but make sure you still have control of him. Again whenever a nother dog wants to interact make him sit. Reward for good behaviour and reprimand for aggression. Over the next few weeks slowly give him more lead and more freedom. He should learn good behaviour is rewarded.
When you think he is ready you can try off the lead exercise but still with a muzzle. He should have very very good obbedience as now you are putting a lot of trust in him.

At any stage if Nanouk becomes aggressive or reacts you must go back to the previous step where he was well behaved. This can mean taking 2 steps forward 1 step back for a while but take your time.

This process will take a long time but make sure you take slow steps. Don't try and hurry the process. Consistency and patience is crucial. Safety is very very important. Aggression problems can take a long time to solve and often medication is required at some point.

Good luck and please let me know of any success you have.

Kind Regards
Todd Field
SitStayFetch Team