Leash tugging when going in the yard/aggression?

Posted by Gabbys-Mom
Mar 2, 2010
We recently adopted a 2 year old Rottie named Gabby. She was a rescue, so we are not certain of her past. I have worked on getting her on a routine to reinforce housetraining and over a week's time, she was doing really well. Last week, my sister was in town to stay with us. Her initial meeting did not go well. Gabby was showing signs of fear by barking at her and raising her fur on her back. She eventually calmed down, and was okay with her in the house. Initially, she followed her everywhere. As the days progressed, her behavior changed. One day, she pooped in the house. I immediately took her outside to finish. We do not have a fenced yard, so I take her on leash to do her business. She would not go and after some time, she stared to pull and tug on the leash. When I would try to get her to stop, she would get more aggressive with the pulling. If I tried to walk away, she would nip and my legs and arms. She only does this if we go in the back yard. If I let her out the front door, she is fine. She will give me her signal to go out. I let her out back to see if she would go. Immediately, she started to pull on the leash. I brought her back in the house and let her out the front door. She went potty. I walk her every morning and she is great on the leash. She heels, sits when I stop, etc. She started to mark in the house, even though we had recently let her outside. As soon as we would go upstairs for bed, she would open a back bedroom door and pee. . 3 days after my sister arrived, she would not stay downstairs in her normal place to sleep. We do not allow her upstairs and have a baby gate to keep her from coming up. She knocked the gate down and came upstairs. I brought her back down and she would whine and try to get the gate down. If I tried to correct her, she would jump at me and nip and my pants and sleeves. We have had her sleeping outside of her crate at night for 3 weeks without any of these issues. Since this started, she has now started to nip and tug at my pants and sleeves in the house. I tried to put her in an alpha hold, however, it only escalates her behavior. If I give her a correction, she gets a "look" in her eyes and starts the nipping. My interpretation, which could be totally wrong is that she is challenging me and it is getting worse. My sister is gone and her behavior is better, but she will have an occasional nipping session. I tried to distract her with a toy, and it seemed to have helped.

Is she bored and looking to us to play? Does she now think she is the alpha? I am torn because I follow most of the alpha training. She sits and waits for us to go through the door first, we do not greet her first in the house, etc. We do obedience training with her every day and she does great. Could it be a trust issue?

I need some help, please.
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Mar 5, 2010
Hi there,

It is great that you have been training Gabby with the alpha dog principles. It does sound like she is challenging your authority and your place as leader of the pack. As she is going through puberty at the moment, due to hormone changes, you may find that she is more dominant than usual. You also have to remember that it will take her some time to adjust to her new household and establish her place in the hierarchy of your ‘pack’. You will have to continue to reinforce your position throughout the day, so there are a few more things that you can incorporate into your daily routine in addition to what you are already doing, such as feeding her after you have finished your own meal. You must ignore Gabby if she comes up to you for attention, as she has to learn that attention from you is earned and not just given out whenever she wants it. Before you pat her or play with her, give her a command, such as 'sit-stay' so that she 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 her, 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 she realizes that it is you that controls playtime. Therefore you should not use a toy to distract her when she is misbehaving, because she will see this as a reward and so will be encouraged to continue nipping. You must reserve the toys for when she has behaved herself and you wish to praise her. Gabby will struggle initially as she sees herself as the alpha dog and therefore being in the submissive position to you, who she sees as a subordinate, is distressing. Soon she will settle into her new place in the hierarchy and should become a more relaxed dog, as she has been relieved of the role of protector.

Pulling on the leash and becoming aggressive when you don’t let her go is another exhibition of dominance, because it is always the alpha dog that decides the movement of the pack. Therefore, by training Gabby with the alpha dog principles, she should come to realize that you are the leader of the pack and respect your commands. Until you have cemented your status, it may be a good idea to put a ‘gentle-leader’ on her when you go out or in the backyard where she is likely to pull, because this will allow you to control where she goes without having to fight her. This should not cause any form of neck injury, as it simply puts pressure on the nose, similar to a horse’s halter, to change her direction of movement. It will not restrict her breathing or pinch her neck. This allows you to put her in her kennel or other ‘time-out’ zone when she misbehaves without manhandling her, which she may see as a chance to try exert dominance over you. Gabby is very strong so it’s not advised to get into a pulling match with her, as she will most likely win and then feel like she has one over you! The ‘time-out’ zone is a quiet place that is free of distractions, away from other people and dogs so that she can be left completely alone. Leave her there until she calms down and then make her obey a command, such as 'sit-stay', before releasing her from the 'time-out zone'. If she misbehaves again, do exactly the same. She will soon learn that that is not the way to get attention, in fact it will lead to complete isolation instead, which is the opposite of what she wants.

The same applies for whenever she nips you. You must ignore Gabby completely as this is an attention seeking behavior. Walk away from her and don’t even make eye contact with her. If she continues to nip, take her by the collar and lead her away to the 'time-out’ zone. By doing this you are yet again reinforcing your alpha dog status by controlling her movement. This may take some time to sort out, but if you persevere, the rewards will be worth all the hard work!

Controlling her movement and not just letting her go wherever she wants to is very important, therefore it is a great idea to have a baby gate stopping her from going upstairs. You must be really firm and completely ignore Gabby when she whines, and she will eventually realize that that isn’t the way to get attention.

With the toileting, it is possible that Gabby is just more comfortable with going in the front yard. If feasible, it would probably make things easier at the moment that you didn’t take her to the back yard to go potty, because she may not be feeling confident about going there. Once she has settled fully into your household routines, you may find that she will be much more willing to include the backyard in her toileting area.

Although putting her into the ‘alpha hold’ is has its place in training, you should be careful with using it initially. This is because Gabby still sees herself as the dominant dog and since she is such a big dog, there is a chance that she may unintentionally hurt you when she is trying to ‘discipline’ you, whom she sees as her subordinate. Once she has accepted her new place in the hierarchy, this shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

It will take some time for Gabby to get the message and become comfortable in her new role, but if you persevere, all the hard work will pay off in the end! I hope this helps and al the best with the training!