Aggressive Behavior - Challenging my Alpha Role

Posted by lcmag
Jan 6, 2009
Please help - my dog has started demonstrating aggressive behavior both by ignoring my commands at times and recently by lunging and biting me in defiance of a command (lunged at me, jumping up and biting my my clothing repeatedly and biting my wrist after I commanded "no" to get off a couch (not allowed on furniture) and also today when I commanded "down" and was ignored and said "no, down" he lunged at me and again started biting me. He is trained in obediance - puppy kindergarden followed by a 5 week "boot camp" where he was dropped off and trained as well as socialized with other dogs (trainer practices the "alpha/pack leader" type training - she said he was the most dominant dog she had ever trained). I know that training by others is not recommended but due to an emergency we had to send him to a kennel for 5 weeks and thought training and socializing as opposed to just a regular kennel was the best option.

We continued the training at home (proper healing on walks (walked and corrected with a choke chain), waiting for food, daily obediance, daily exercise, sit stay to wait for us to go through a door etc). He is 9 months old and this defiance has just recently started. [B]Initially when he would do this, once I could get control of him I responded by pinning him to the ground by the scruff of the neck until he was calm to establish my dominance. However, after I started reading SitStayFetch I'm now worried that this could make things worse.[/B]

Please help! I need to know 1) What do I do when the attack is actually happening (jumping at me and biting my clothing and my wrist enough to bruise) as well as 2) what to do in general to prevent the attacks from happening at all. I would sincerely appreciate your help as I spend hours doing obedience and trying to establish myself as alpha. I'm very worried as his defiance is getting worse. I plan on having children and can't tolerate this behavior with them, let alone with myself. If he is demonstrating this type of aggression will he ever be safe to trust around children?

The defiance always occurs when I'm trying to get him to do something he doesn't want to - like get off the couch or come to me when he wants to do something else. He obviously sees my boyfriend as a pack leader because he does not defy him in this way. I'm deeply concerned and would sincerely appreciate your help. In the mean time, I will be reading all the posts I can and finishing the SitStayFetch series.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Jan 6, 2009
Hi icmag,

I am sorry to hear that your dog is showing aggression and actually hurting you. I understand he is 9 mos old but can you tell us what breed and how much he weighs?

I personally don't believe choke chains and/or pushing him to the ground with force can help you obtain the trust you need to build with your dog. I prefer positive reinforcement using treats and praise but it might not be an option for your dog because the trainer said he is the most dominant dog she had ever seen.

Let us know what breed and how big he is so that someone might be able to give you advice.

Just hang on tight and don't give up yet.
Posted by foxi7778
Jan 6, 2009
Hi there, poor you I'd also be interested to know the answers to MaxHollyNoah's questions and a few others. Was he trained by a male or a female? Is there a pattern to when he is disobedient (after meals, certain time of day etc)? Is he vicious when he bites or could it be very rough play? Has he been socialised with children if you are planning a family in the future? Have you changed his diet recently? What does your boyfriend do that makes the dog think he's more alpha than you?
I'm afraid that it's around this age till around two years old that are considered a dog's teenage years, so he may be pushing his luck for that reason. I would'nt recommend pinning him down to submit to you....imagine if he managed to break free and was able to bite at your face rather than your wrist :eek: Instead I would put him in another room or the garden on his own for a while...time out kind of idea. Dogs are pack animals and as such do not like being separated from the rest of the family, so this should be punishment enough. For that to work effectively though you have to do it as soon as he misbehaves, don't wait for him to calm down, even if this means having to put his leash on to take him away otherwise he won't associate the action with the consequence.
Posted by lcmag
Jan 7, 2009
Thanks for the advice - I'll try to answer your questions - I do have one more though - how do I separate myself from him to put him in another room if he is still biting me (do I just let him continue chewing on my wrist and jumping and snapping at me and lead him to his pen or another room?)

Ok - so here are some answers. He is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and is currently about 35 lb - very stong and muscular. He was neutered about 2.5 months ago. He came from a reputable breeder (we checked references).

He was trained by a female. She is quite forceful with her training (no treats, choke chain). Not sure about a pattern in terms of time of day - I'd say more so in the evening and it is definitely when I am giving him a command. I don't think he's playing - I think he's challenging me since it's always in defiance of a command - however, perhaps I'm wrong since he isn't breaking my skin and I know he could. The "attacks" also coincide with recently not obeying other commands - like I might say "come" and he'll run away - which he never did before.

He has yet to be socialized with children (other than the odd child we might run into on a walk) - we're working on adult strangers right now (i.e. trying to make him stay calm and not jump on visitors). The only kids I know in my town are also under 2 years old so I'm a little nervous about that given his excitement level. Unfortunately, I'm now even more nervous. I did socialize him at the dog park regularly from 2 months old to about 7 months old (it's too cold now - minus 30 to 40 degrees). There were also a lot of out of control dogs there and I didn't think it was a great idea. We're starting "good neighbor" dog training next week to increase his socialization.

We last changed his diet over a month ago - he eats Acana grain free and we've pretty much cut out all treats other than bully sticks (we've started doing some new tricks and use his regular food as a reward as he is very food driven and happy with a piece of kibble for a treat). We stopped the treats because he kept getting the runs (vet checks and poo samples confirmed he is healthy just likely has a sensitive tummy).

What does your boyfriend do that makes the dog think he's more alpha than you? Well, I'd say my boyfriend is just more strict and rough - for instance, if he doesn't respond to a "down" command he pulls him down quite roughly by his leash where I would tend to pull his legs forward. If he does something wrong (like get on the couch) he goes into a sit and stay - I'll make him hold it for a couple of minutes, Dave will make him wait up to ten. He also yells more when the dog does something wrong where I try "firm" voice - but not yelling, which I thought was better. If the dog ever nips at him or trys to play rough he pins him to the ground by the scruff but much more forcefully than I would.

Thanks again for the replies thus far. I look forward to hearing anything else people have to offer.
Posted by LullaBelle
Feb 28, 2009
I wish that someone would answer her last post.The circumstances are very similar to my own.I have a dominant/food aggressive dog and we have done EVERYTHING wrong for this type.An answer to this post would probably help me too.This was the post by Icmag Jr Member Jan09
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 1, 2009
Hi Icmag and Lullabelle,

I couldn't give further advice/suggestions to Icmag since I learned the dog was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which I am not very familiar with. The only thing I know is that the dog has a very strong jaw like pitt bulls and I didn't want to give anybody a wrong idea. Maybe that breed will require a forceful trainings such as choke chains, or using actual force, which I don't believe in.

I think the most important thing you need to establish with your dog is a mutual trust. I trust my dogs and they trust me. Power and forcing might seem to work as long as you demonstrate the power all the time. However, dogs are smarter than we think. They soon learn they can disobey you if you don't continue to practice the power. In Icmag's case, the female trainer might have put the dog in place but it does not mean the dog has learn the proper way to interact with people.

What I would like to suggest you, Lullabelle, I understand you have a jack russel, that is very stobborn and self-minded. Lets start everything all over again to build a good relationship with him. As if you just got him from a shelter or something.

You said you hand fed him for weeks but no progress as far as the food aggression is concerned. Did you try to put a few kibbles in his bowl and you keep adding more and more as he eats? Are you talking to him when he is eating, in a soft voice saying "Good boy, does it taste good? How about some more, here we go!" ,etc. Make him feel comfortable that you are there with him when he is eating. When he gets comfortable, you can pet him as he eats. If your dog is relaxed and comfortable with you, you would be able to even pull his tail while he eats. This is your goal. So, lets start from the very beginning. It might take weeks, but I am sure it will well worth it.

Let us know how it goes. Good luck
Posted by LullaBelle
Mar 4, 2009
Did you try a few kibbles in a bowl?adding more as he eats?He eats as though it is his first meal in a month and we feed him twice a day.He tastes nothing and he will eat just about anything except metal(he brings me nails and money to trade...I guess he is training me very well)
As long as he is eating out of my hand it is pretty frantic,but he doesn't growl.
When I try to get him to eat out of the bowl or add to the bowl he falls apart.Breaking his sit,crying and growling.Squirting him doesn't seem to help either.He eats so fast their is no time to pet or chat.
When I think of having to feed him my stomach gets in knots.It should be a nice time for everyone.
I don't understand and I'm getting to where I don't care.I can take raw meat from my other dogs without incidence,and I have done the same things wrong with them.It never even crosses their mind to growl.I've never had a dog to growl at me especially when I'm feeding him!
He looks at us like he neither needs nor cares for us.He doesn't trust us.
I have another dog that got himself tangled up in vines in the creek.He began struggling.I told him to stay,I was coming.He trusted me,became still and I got him free.There is nothing more dangerous than a panicked dog.He trusted me to free him.If he had gone on like he was he would've drowned.My Jack Russell would've drowned.
The Jack Russell takes up all my time and I don't see a payoff.My other dogs suffer.It's not fair to them.Help me please.PLEASE HELP SOON!
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Mar 4, 2009
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Posted by LullaBelle
Mar 8, 2009
Please give me some input on this.As I said before I look towards even my supper with a knot in my stomach.My Jack Russell,if he doesn't cry and growl and bark and makes it to the final part knocks it all over the floor.Please recommend a dog book specific to the Jack Russell.I've had alot of dogs,but he's like another species!How do I get messages answered?
Posted by Gikoou3355
Mar 8, 2009
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Posted by Maggiesmom1
Mar 10, 2009

I am sorry for your frustration. To get your posts answered faster, please post separately rather than "tagging on" to another post.

I wish I had a magic piece of advice for you with your Jack Russell Terrorist. He sounds like a handful. I hated to hear that you get a knot in your stomach when you are about to feed him. He can probably sense this. My advice would be to feed him away from your other dogs and just let him have his food. Could you put him into a room by himself to eat or a kennel? He sounds like he is just really into his food and the thought of having it taken away from him makes him nuts. So, don't.....just leave him be with the food bowl. I would make him sit first and then put the bowl down and walk away.

Do you walk him every day? Jack Russels have lots of energy. Walking is important to dogs because they like to migrate and crave going out into the world to see new things. Even when our dogs go into a big yard to run, they still benefit from a daily walk. This could be a bonding time for the two of you.

Remember that he's just a dog that needs attention. If you are frustrated and angry at him all the time, the trust will never be established.
Posted by Maggiesmom1
Mar 10, 2009

I recently attended a dog whisperer workshop from a lady who was trained by Caesar Milan. She said that sometimes we use too many words when we are correcting our dogs. She said we should be able to give "the look" (like a mother gives a child who is misbehaving) and snap our fingers and our dogs will understand that we don't like what they are doing. You don't have to say any words or commands. When your dog is "biting" at you be sure to lean forward towards him instead of leaning away. This will assert you as dominant. Give him eye contact. But, stay CALM...don't let your dog see that he can upset you or make you mad. You want to get him into a balanced state of mind. He sounds like he's in his "teenage" years at 9 months of age...kind of the rebellious stage. Remember he's still a puppy and will be mouthy for awhile longer. I told my Maggie "no mouth!" whenever she put her mouth on me. Remember when you are playing with him that he can't put his mouth on you then either.

I am glad you said that you are walking him daily. He needs lots of exercise and this time out gives you a way to bond with him and work on socializing him more. A tired dog won't be such a challenge! If you have a treadmill, teach him to walk on that too. Pit bulls need more exercise than other dogs.

Good Luck--remember to stay very calm around him and be matter of fact when giving "the look" .