Please help - my dog is a bully!

Posted by Ali
Mar 24, 2008
Hi -
We have recently rehomed a 16 month old labrador cross, who is turning out to be quite a handful.. He was previously kept tied up in a garden, with very little interaction with people or other dogs, and almost never exercised. We have had him for 7 weeks and he now has a regular routine of 3 hours of walks every day. He has calmed down a great deal, but we still have problems with his poor doggy social skills!

We have been taking him to dog classes, and have recently achieved a bronze level obedience award, meaning he will sit, down, stay for up to 2 minutes, recall from across the room, walk to heel around other dogs etc. We practice his obedience whilst on walks, and without other dogs around he does really well.

The problem is that when he interacts with other dogs he is very boisterous, and I'm sure in dog terms - quite rude. This means that with larger, confident dogs he is often growled at and has been bitten once. With smaller dogs he is very pushy, the more submissive they become, the more persistently he jumps and bites at them. This has resulted in smaller, younger dogs becoming frightened and other owners becoming concerned.

I keep him on the lead in areas I know we are likely to meet other dogs, but I'm not sure if I am making his behaviour worse by keeping away from dog social situations. He gets incredibly excited when we see other dogs when he is on the lead, I make him sit and stay with me - but it is always a battle! I'd like to try introducing him to other dogs whilst on the lead, but I'm not confident I could hold him with his behaviour as it is at present.

He is walked once a week with other dogs by a dog walker, who lets them off the lead together. The dog walker tells me he is fine with the other dogs, but his behaviour is often worse when he has come back from these sessions. (This is an arrangement for a day I can't get home from work to walk the dog myself, so I've never seen how he behaves with the 'pack')

Any advice you can offer would be very gratefully received - I long to enjoy our walks together and not dread being the terrible dog owner with the rude badly behaved dog!
Posted by Todd
Mar 26, 2008
Hi there Ali and thank you for your question.

It is not uncommon for dogs to get excited around other dogs but i think he might be getting a bit over the top....especially for the small wee guys

The first point i would like to make is to recommend a Halti or Gentle Leader. These are different forms of leads that pull on your dogs nose and not their whole body. This makes it much easier to control him in difficult situations like when you meet other dogs.

The next piece of advice i would give you is to ensure you and your family members have read and understand the techniques in the bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". These are great techniques for maintaining or establishing your position at the head of the household. No matter what the problem is all dogs need to know where the stand in the house for both yours and their peace and comfort.

Here are some ways to reinforce your position-

1) If you come across your dogs while they are sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making them move so that you can pass by.

2) Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dogs around the house on the leash, making your dogs wait while you walk through doorways first.

3) At mealtimes make sure that your dogs eat after all of the humans have.

4) Do not feed your dogs tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.

5) Do not greet your dogs straightaway when you arrive home. Make it wait until you are ready and then call it to you.

6) Whenever your dogs want attention or anything wait till they are sitting and being well behaved.

7) When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.

He sounds like a very obedient dog so i don't think this is an issue and i don't think lake of exercise is either Good work.

Now i think the best place to deal with his overexcitement is in your yard. Get a friend to come over with a dog. Have the dogs sitting 5 metres apart and both on lead. Have your boy sitting beside you. If he behaves you can walk forward. If he starts to get over excited then reprimand him with a loud GRRRRR or AHHHHH and tell him to sit.

If he sits wait a few seconds and then advance another metre. If he misbehaves again again growl and then squirt him with a water pistol. This increase in reprimand will give him a surprise.

Keep going until the dogs are very close together. On the first few occassions don't let them meet. After a few sessions they can meet. Both must be on lead and only gentle play is allowed. If he starts getting rough tell him off and give him a yank on the lead. Make him sit and wait.

After a few sessions of this let the dogs off but put a strong nylon line on his collar. Use this like an invisible correcting tool if he gets to boisterous. Give it a yank, tell him off and make him sit.

After he has mastered this you can try him on walks. Again reprimand and reinforce as appropriate. Make him sit and let the other dog approach.If he stands up, lunges or barks tell him off. When he is sitting and relaxed praise him.
If he gets too much abort and take him away. Try again and again.

Once he is better on the street try dog parks and other areas. Follow the reprimand and reinforce method. Labradors are very excited breeds and he is still young so with training and aging i am sure he will improve.

Good luck and please let me know how things go