Dog snapping

Posted by chippiechick
Jul 12, 2008
Hi there, I only recently joined but I have a 15month old Shetland Sheepdog, "Odie". When we brought him home first, he learned the basic "sit" command quite quickly but as he got older, he tends to ignore my commands unless it will suit him. I am trying to reinstate the Alpha Dog theory but he seems not to be interested. He will sit on command, still, but ignores everything else. My new neighbours moved in today and they have a 5yr old Pug. I decided to bring Odie for a short walk to introduce him to the pug. Initially, he was whining to get closer to the pug but the pug was not interested and moved away. I had Odie on the leash but when the pug moved, Odie wanted to follow. I wouldn't let him. He turned his head toward me and growled with his teeth bared. He has NEVER done this before, he is normally such a playful, happy dog. He really frightened me so I just apologised and brought him quickly home. Why did he "turn" like this and how do I get him back on track?
Please help,

Posted by KOPsRobyn
Jan 15, 2010
Hi Mags,

You are right in trying to show Odie that you are the Alpha dog. You must persist with this, because it is important that he realizes and accepts this before the aggression escalates. It is common for dogs, especially males, to try and challenge for a higher place in the hierarchy when going through adolescence, but you must quash his challenges and prove to him that you are the leader and will be staying at the top of the pack. Growling at you is unacceptable and should not be tolerated at all. It is important for you not to bend to his will, because the Alpha dog always gets his way and decides on the movement of the pack. He should be the one apologizing to you when he doesn't obey you, not the other way around.

There are a few things that you can incorporate into your daily routine to re-establish yourself as the alpha dog. These include insisting that you walk ahead of him through doorways and when walking on the leash, and feeding him after you have finished your own meal. You must ignore him if he comes up to you for attention, as he has to learn that attention from you is earned and not just given out whenever he wants it. Before you pat him or play with him, give him a command, such as 'sit-stay' so that he will see that your attention is a reward for good behavior. This will act as an incentive for the future. If you are playing a game with him, make sure it is you that chooses the toy and when you decide that you have had enough, take the toy away with you so that he realizes that it is you that controls playtime. When you first come home, you should greet the rest of the household first before saying hello to him, which will help him realize his place in the hierarchy. All these things can be incorporated relatively easily into your normal daily routine, although it will require some patience and perseverance from you. He may struggle initially as he sees himself as the alpha dog and therefore being in the submissive position to you, who he sees as a subordinate, is distressing. Soon, though, he will settle into his new place in the hierarchy and should become a more relaxed dog, as he has been relieved of the stressful role of protector. It is also a good idea to set aside some time each day for a bit of obedience training, which will not only improve his obedience levels but also the relationship between you.

You should establish a 'time-out zone', which you take him to immediately if he doesn't listen to your commands or misbehaves, such as when he growled at you. Don't speak to him or make eye contact when taking him away, so that he is getting absolutely no attention from anyone at all. This place should be quiet and free of distractions, away from other people and dogs so that he can be left completely alone. Leave him there until he calms down and then make him obey a command, such as 'sit-stay', before releasing him from the 'time-out zone'. If he misbehaves again, do exactly the same. He will soon learn that that is not the way to get your attention, in fact it will lead to complete isolation instead, which is not what he wants.

Lastly, it would be wise to get him neutered if it hasn't been done so already, because this negates the effect that changing levels of hormones in him has on his aggression levels.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!