Alpha Dog Question

Posted by jlynn9573
Feb 12, 2008
I have a serious problem with my dog Amos, my 2 1/2 year old redbone coonhound. I believe he thinks he is alpha dog. I read on another post to assert your alpha dog status, you should move your dog if he is lying or sleeping in your path, and not to move out of his way. However, when I try to move my dog, he bareshis teeth and growls at me. If you have ever seen a coonhound bare their teeth, you would know why I am terrified of this action. I have no idea what to do during the confrontation, or how to keep him from doing this in the first place (other than avoiding the situation, which is sometimes not possible). He really likes to sleep in my spot on my bed, so when it comes time for bed, I do have to move him sometimes. Any suggestions would be wonderfully appreciated.
Posted by Blue
Feb 13, 2008
I don't want to suggest anything for the aggression, I'm not well versed in that area. Although I think you hit the nail on the head with the dominance issue. Especially as he is claiming your bed!!

Things you could try to get him to move are rattling a can of pebbles loudly while growling or Ahhh!! at him or squirting him with water to see if you can shift him without contact - but again, you should probably wait until an experienced person (like Todd) can come and help you with this problem - you don't want to get bitten or make the problem worse.

For the bedroom however, I would suggest locking him out of there, keep the door shut at all times...and don't let him in, he may whine also - ignore him. If you let him on the couch try preventing him from getting up onto the couch, before he's settled.

You can also try leashing him while you are both in the house and reinforce your alpha role by making sure he goes through doors after you. If the leash is attached, it will also give you an advantage should you need to remove him from somewhere he has claimed as his. Only do the leash training while you are home to supervise his activities.

If he is food driven in the house, start doing more obedience training with him, establishing a stronger relationship with command and reward.

Ignore him if he asks for attention - if you want to give him attention, wait until he is settled somewhere and then call him to you. If he gets attention on his terms you are reinforcing his alpha role.

When you feed him his dinner, make him sit and stay and wait for you to release him before giving him the food (does he have food aggression at all?) you can also use his favourite toys in the same manner. Put his toys away, and only give him the toys if he is quiet and settled, or if you call him to you you can use it as a reward for behaving.

By locking down on all the things he's used to getting when he wants them you can level up in the alpha dog game.

His unwillingness to remove himself from places he's settled is a more difficult issue, but by challenging his alpha position, you are setting yourself up for a better chance of resolving the issue.

I should think Todd will be along soon to help you with this problem further! In the meantime, think Alpha!
Posted by jlynn9573
Feb 13, 2008
Thank you for your reply. I was beginning to wonder if anyone would reply at all. As for thinking alpha, I am trying my darnedest. I have been working on my alpha status for about 2 weeks now, and things are improving a bit. First of all, I want to mention that, growling at him has no effect. He just looks at me like I'm crazy. So I've been trying to stick to words. I have heard about rattling a can, and I have not tried that yet, but I will put it in my arsenal of tools. I will not squirt him with water anymore, as I tried that for a while and ended up getting bit. He was biting at the water gun, but I moved it out of the way so he couldn't bite it, and he endd up biting me instead. I'm sure water guns work for some people, but I don't trust it anymore.

As for him getting on my bed, I do the best I can to keep the door shut, howeve,r we all forget things sometimes. And it seems like every dang time I forget and leave the door open, that's where he can be found. lol

He is the biggest whiner I have ever had, as far as dogs (husbands may be a different story ). I have started ignoring his whines. He generally starts out as a whine, and eventually escalates to a bark if nobody gives into his whines. I am trying to ignore it all unless he calms down, then I will go over and praise him. Here, however, we have another issue. As long as I've had him (since 6 weeks old), he has not been one to come for petting. He doesn't seem to like being petted or loved on very often at all. In fact, most of the time if I reach to pet him, he shies away or just walks off.

I have been trying to work with him on his obedience training, but he has been giving me issues with that as well. He doesn't seem to want to listen, even for treats these days. But I've been trying to use my other dog to entice him. If he won't do the command, I will turn my back on him, and command my other dog, who is very treat-oriented. I give her the treat and praise while he watches. He seems to get aggrevated, but don't seem to motivate him to do the commands. He just goes and sits and watches from a distance.

I have had more luck in keeping him off the couch. We've been at that about 2 weeks now. And most of the time, he doesn't even try to get up there. When he does, I can usually get him down now with just a verbal command and a stare. Sometimes it takes repeating the command a few times, but generally works.

As far as going thru doors before him, he hardly ever follows me into any room, so I don't really have issues with him going out the door before me. Walks are disasterous. He gets all hyped up the second he sees a leash, and he stays in overdrive. I read in the book that I need not ever take him on a walk when he is in this state, so I may try having him wear the leash inside so he can see leash doesn't always equal walks outside. Maybe this will help pull him out of hyper mode.

I do ignore him when he is doing his attention-seeking behaviors now, and that usually results in much whining and barking. But he does finally give up, and then I reward him for being quiet and calm.

For the last 2 weeks also I have picked up the food (which used to stay out all day), and have moved to a scheduled feeding of twice a day. I am making them sit stay while i prepare their food bowls, and then place them on the floor and make them wait another minute or 2 before I give them access. Mind you, this only works if I'm standing between them and the bowls, but I figure that's better than nothing. He is not food aggressive to me at all. I can take his food, bones, toys, etc whenever I wish. He is food aggressive (only sometimes) at the other dog. Sometimes they can share out of the same dish, and other times he goes nuts on her. She is very protective of her bones and toys towards him, but they are not aggressive towards me.

I leave the toys out because they are home alone most of the day without supervision, and the less toys and bones they have, the more they demolish the yard. I can't even do a fast walk thru my backyard for fear of stepping in a pothole and breaking my ankle. I am not sure taking up the toys would be a good idea at this point. Maybe we can get more input on that. Also, he doesnt really play with toys the way most dogs do. I believe he has ADHD, because if I can get him to fetch at all, it is maybe twice. Then he just looks at me like "You go get it" when I throw something for him. He doesn't really like to play tug for more than about 30 seconds. The only thing he really wants me to do is chase him around, which I'm not sure is good for trying to gain the alpha role?

I realize I have made many mistakes as far as raising this dog. This dog was supposed to be my fiance's dog, and he was supposed to take full responsiblity for his care and training. However, he was sent to Iraq, and I've been in charge ever since (with some resentment). I am trying to step up and do this right. My beloved Ginger passed away in October from cancer, and I've had a hard time adjusting. She never required any of this stuff to be a good dog. So here I am, and any advice is greatly appreciated.

Please excuse the novel, I just really want to do this right. Thanks for listening and caring!
Posted by Todd
Feb 13, 2008
Hi there and thank you for your question.

Sorry for the delay work has been very busy and i haven't had a chance to get on.
The suggestions that blue made about the lead is absolutely correct. I would encourage you to put the lead on him at all times when he is in the house. As Blue said it will make it much easier to assert your position and get him to do what he wants to do.

As for the toys question i would stare clear of things like bones and other toys that you can play tug of war with. Things like tennis balls and kongs are great and i think some distraction for him would be brilliant.

Also i think exercise is a great idea. I don't know how much he gets at the moment or if he is manageable on the lead. But as i always say a tired dog is a quiet dog. Take him for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking or running every day (preferably in the morning).

Now back to the alpha issues. Yes i think the problem is mostly situated around dominance.
The things that you are doing are brilliant. If growling at him doesn't work use a very loud, long and low AHHHHHHH to get his attention, then follow it up with a command like sit. If the water pistol makes things worse then the next best thing is a big rug to throw over him. This will help diffuse the situation and stop him from doing what he does.

You must reprimand him whenever he acts poorly, whether this be baring teeth, growling or anything else you are not happy with.
When you give the command and he responds praise him with attention and petting (if you are happy with this).

As for the following you around the house you can always put him on the lead and walk him around the house.

I would reccomend that you talk to your vet about possibly medicating him to calm him down while you keep making progress. There are a lot of medical as well as natural calming agents that will be a huge help.

I would stop ignoring his misbehaving as this doesn't seem to be working and instead work on reprimanding him.

I would also reccomend training and feeding your dogs separately. This will help stop him from getting distracted and behaving badly.

Finally is he neutered? Hormones can often play a huge part in aggression problems so i always make sure for this reason and a large number of other reasons that they are neutered.

Please keep in touch and let me know if i can help anymore. Sorry my answer may seem a little out of order but hopefully i covered everything

Posted by Steph-ampWyatt
Feb 14, 2008
First let me say how sorry I am about the loss of your beloved Ginger, I too have suffered that loss when my boy "Jake ' passed away. I had a couple of questions for you, did Amos "bond" with your fiance before he was sent to Iraq? Also you mentioned that you had some resentment towards Amos, plus being sad and upset over your loss" ? dogs are very attuned to our emotions, do you think maybe he might be in some part reacting to yours?
Good Luck
Stephanie and Wyatt
Posted by jlynn9573
Feb 15, 2008
Thank you Todd and Stephanie for your responses. First of all, yes, Amos is neutered. We had this done in November, and I do feel it's helped a little bit. Todd, as for exercise, he doesn't really get any at the moment, because he is absolutely a wild man on the leash. He is all muscle and I can't managed him properly. So we don't do on walks. (see my other post on walking in this same section) Neither the growling or the AHHHHH works for him. He just looks at me like I'm nuts! But a loud stern no and a stare down seems to be working these days.

Stephanie - Amos did bond with my fiance before he left to Iraq. When my fiance comes home (once every 6 months for about a month), Amos seems to straighten up (for the most part) and my fiance doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. Amos obviously respects him as alpha. I believe in the past, he probably was reacting to my resentments and anger toward him. However, I have very much tried to change my attitude and give him a fair chance. So I am trying to send out new vibes. I do love Amos, he just drives me nuts. Thank you for your condolences, and I am sorry for your loss also. I believe it's one of the hardest things we ever have to go through.
Posted by Steph-ampWyatt
Feb 15, 2008
Hi jlynn9573,
WOW, you sure have one stubborn dog, Amos really has a mind of his own. My husband (Bob)had an idea for the doorway, I know that he bites the water pistol when it"s pointed him but how about just throwing water on him, Bob did that w/ Wyatt when he growled and snapped him, then put him outside, it seemed to really give him a wake up call, or if you don't want the mess maybe a blanket or a wet towel ? but water right in the face will startle him , believe me I'm no expert and I still have "Issues" I'm working on w/ Wyatt, I am so thankful I found this site, but the water really helped with the growling and snapping , one time of that was enough for him. I hope things get better w/ Amos , I'm rooting for ya! I'd love to see a picture of him, I have one posted of Wyatt in the dog lover's corner.
Good Luck and keep posting
Stephanie & Wyatt