Going Beserk at Bedtime

Posted by jane53
Mar 19, 2010
I have a 13 month old male Pomerian named Sammie. For the most part, he is a really good dog. However, when he realizes that it is time for bed, he gets extremely aggressive towards my husband. If my husband walks past him, Sammie will jump on him, growl, and try to bite my husband's legs, feet, hands, anything he can get at. He has shown the same type of behavior toward myself as well. This only happens at night. Has any one ever experienced anything like this? Does any one have any suggestions as to how to stop this behavior?
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Mar 20, 2010
Hi Jane

It sounds like Sammie has decided that he is the alpha dog in the house and therefore is bossing everyone else around as part of his pack. This is especially common during the adolescent stages, which Sammie is in at the moment, because the dogs try to push their way up in the hierarchy. It is important that you firmly establish the fact that you and your husband are the head of the pack. It is often easy to be fooled into thinking your dog has accepted you as the alpha dog as they do not exhibit many of the common signs associated with dominance. Some dogs will just have a few things that they prized and regard as their own, hence will become very protective and even possibly aggressive over these objects. In Sammie’s case, this appears to be his bed, and so it is great that you are going to train him out of this behavior before the aggression gets any worse.

First of all, I would suggest getting Sammie neutered, if this hasn’t been done so already. This is because the changes in hormone levels during this time will increase his aggression levels and make it more difficult for him to stop challenging you for leadership and accept his position lower in the hierarchy.

As the bed sounds as though it is very important to Sammie, and so you will need to demonstrate your dominance in this area especially. If he is currently sleeping on the bed with you, it would be advisable not to let him do so at all, otherwise only let him jump up when you invite him to do so. You must control when he gets on and when he gets off, because the leader of the pack has full control of the movements and sleeping areas of all the pack members. If he does jump up uninvited, tell him 'NO' authoritatively and make him get off. If he lunges at you when he is on the bed, then take him by the collar and lead him into a 'time-out' area without speaking to him. You may find it helpful to attach a short leash to him if he is likely to bite. This place should be quiet and free of distractions, away from other people 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.

You should also re-establish your position as the alpha dog, which can be done by a few simple things that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. 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. Pomeranians are very smart animals and he may be quite insistent initially with his attemps to get your attention. 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. You will have to persist and be very strict in not giving in to him. He will soon settle into his new place in the hierarchy and should become a more relaxed dog.

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.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 20, 2010
Hi Jane,

When Sammie jumps, growls and tries to bite your husband (or you), what is his tail position? Is it wagging side ways, is it lifting up in the air, or is it hanging down?

13 mos is a dog juvenile age and it is possible that he is just trying to see how far he can go to get what he wants. In this case, he is saying he is not ready for bed (in other words, being left out until the morning).

Where does he sleep? In a crate, or in your bed, or somewhere else by himself?

Do you think he is getting enough exercise and stimulation ever day? If he still has energy to burn, he would not want to go to bed yet.

I know a dog that has to fetch balls in their play room for 10-15 minutes with her daddy before she goes to bed. It has become a nightly ritual. Is your husband the one who mostly plays with Sammie? Does he do rough house with him sometimes?

People tend to label it "Aggression" when dogs are over-excited and cannot control themselves. Don't you think Sammie is one of those:confused

Even if it is the case, daily obedience training would be very beneficial for both your owners and Sammie.
Posted by jane53
Mar 22, 2010
Thanks to everyone for the advice for Sammie. Sammie is definitely an Alpha dog. He has been in 3 obedience training classes already. He started classes at 3 months old, and finished at 7 months old.

I am the one that plays and rough houses with Sammie and was always the one who took him to the training classes. We generally play outside in the mornings for about 15 to 20 minutes. I do play with him at night, and sometimes my husband will play with him as well. Sammie has not been neutered yet, but is scheduled to have this done in the next few weeks.

Sammie did sleep in the crate, but I have now started letting him sleep in a dog bed on the floor next to me. He never sleeps in the bed with us.

I have noticed that if there is a toy out on the floor when it's bedtime, Sammie seems to be protecting that toy, and this is when the attacking starts. I have started putting away all the toys before bedtime, and that does seem to be working. I will begin reinforcing the training Sammie has had.

Thanks again for the comments.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 23, 2010
Hi Jane,

I am glad that you figured out the cause of Sammie's aggression. It is called "resourse guarding aggression" and you might want to work on the issue as soon as possible.

I would like to suggest you teach him to put his toys away instead of you pick them up. The reason why is that it will give both you and him a challenge and it is actually a fun game. It will also prevent him from becoming protective of his toys too. It goes like this:

- Teach him "Pick it up" and "Drop it" commands if he hasn't learn those in the training classes. Let me know if you want to know how to teach these commands.

- Point a toy and tell him to "Pick it up". As soon as he grabs the toy in his mouth, offer a treat and have him exchange the toy with the treat. You also need to praise him for giving the toy up. As he learns how it works introduce a command of "Drop it".

- After he gets the idea of pick up a toy and give it to you in exchange with a treat, you willl guide Sammie to a toy basket. Have him pick up a toy that you pointed at, as soon as he picks it up tell him "Bring it, bring it, bring it!" in a very exciting voice as you step backwards (so that you are still facing him) and have him walk with the toy in his mouth. Extend the basket in front of him and tell him to "Drop it". Give him a treat as he drops it.

- Repeat the above until all the toys are put in the toy basket.

By doing this game, Sammie will learn that he does not need to be protective of his toys. Toys can be always exchanged with a yummy treat, which should be more value to him, I hope

Good luck
Posted by jane53
Mar 23, 2010
Thanks for the tips.

Sammie did learn "drop it" in obedience class, but he is not real keen on the idea at all. Sammie is a little thief, and trying to get him to give something up that he knows he should not have, is not so easy to do. Even offering him a treat does not always work. Sometimes I have to actually pry his mouth open, and hope that I don't get bit. He never learned "pick it up" in obedience school.

I got Sammie at 11 weeks of age from a Breeder. At 12 weeks of age, he tried to take my husband's hand off of him when he took a stick away from him. I knew immediately I had a problem and enrolled Sammie in Puppy Kindergarten. He has since been in one additional puppy class, and then was in an adult dog obedience class. The training has helped him greatly. All the instructors who had Sammie in their class said they had not seen anything like him in years and said I would have to work with him until he was about 18 months old. Sammie is an extremely smart dog, and is actually the most loving Pomeranian I have ever had. (I had two before him). I think the reinforcement of his training, plus the neutering he is scheduled for in two weeks, will help him greatly. Despite his sometimes aggressive nature, we can see that he really is a good dog, and will continue to work with him to make him a great dog.
Posted by timirving
Mar 23, 2010
It sounds like your husband also needs to participating in obedience lessons. You both should start a daily ritual of exercising Sammie, then doing some obedience "drills" then showing him affection and/or feeding him.

In addition, if your obedience classes were completed at a site that is not your home or yard, Sammie may need to have some professional home training too.

Lastly, with some dogs, obedience training should be a regular exercise to maintain your alpha dog position and your husbands position just below you with Sammie being at the bottom.
Posted by kjd
Mar 23, 2010

MaxHollyNoah's idea of making the putting away of toys a game sounds like a great idea for Sammie. It may take time to get that "drop it" down cold, but it will be worth it. One thing you should do is find a treat way beyond his normal treats. Use this treat only for "drop it." If he thinks he can get it some other way, he is obviously smart enough to choose which commands he will follow.

Do teach him "pick it up," followed by "drop it." Obviously, both you and your husband should work with him. He'll learn a lot more from this than just the two commands and that he doesn't have to guard his toys. He'll also learn that the two of you are fair and FUN leaders. Why make learning work when you can make it fun?

Let us know how things are going,
Posted by jane53
Mar 24, 2010
Thanks again for the comments.

I intend to start working with Sammie and his toys this weekend. I've told my husband he needs to be more involved with Sammie, and I think he realizes that too.

I'll post updates on Sammie's progress, as I stated before, despite his aggression tendencies, he really is a good little dog.
Posted by jane53
Mar 24, 2010
I forgot to mention, can someone let me know how to teach a dog "Pick it up"? That was not taught in any of the obedience classes I had Sammie in.

Thanks so much.

Jane and Sammie
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Mar 24, 2010
Hi Jane,

I am glad that your husband has decided to get more involved in discipline of Sammie.

Doe Sammie fetch a ball or toy? If so, it will be easy to train him to "pick up" an object. It goes like this~

1. Show him one of his favorite toys (but not the ones that he would guard :mad and throw it close by, maybe between you and him.

2. If he goes to the toy, say "Yes!" (or a cricker - I don't use crickers myself since my eye-hand coordination is bad) and a treat. If he picks up in his mouth, say "Yes!!" (or a cricker) and a treat. Repeat this until he understands the mechanism of "picking up a toy in his mouth=praise and treat".

3. Now, you point a toy that is laying down close to him on the floor. Some smart dogs can figure out what you would expect by just looking at him and the toy alternately (by the way this is a good way to test your dog's IQ ). If he picks it up, praise and treat!

4. Move on to another toy and do the same thing. Of course you will stick in "drop it' in between.

5. Once he learns this game, you would not need to point out toys any more. You can just sit in front of the toy basket and tell him to go get toys and bring them back to the basket. Sammie will get a treat each time he brings a toy and puts it in the basket. I play this game with my 3 doggies. It is a good mental and physical exercise, especially you put toys in a separate room and put some obstacles on their way to the room.

Enjoy the game
Posted by crazycrayonmom
Mar 29, 2010
MaxHollyNoah, I love that game. I never thought of teaching a real pick it up command. I'm going to teach that to Max and Koko right away. They are going to love it! I love neat games like that in addition to obedience training. Thanks!!