Protecting our home

Posted by Piper
Jun 17, 2008
We have a toy poodle, three years old. He's been in obedience class for 10 weeks and is doing very well. Our trouble with him is that he barks and growls and even nips at people outside of our family, especially children. I have read your book on dominence and it is very clear that he has many of the tendencies described there. It is obvious that he thinks we (my family, our four young children) are his pack and that he it the one to "okay" who comes close to us. He is great with our own kids, even our two year old. But outsiders are another story. He is now in day one of the "cold shoulder" separation to remove him from his pack(our family). We are ready to use the techniques you described to put him in his place in the pack, but we are still unsure about exactly what to do with him when he growls and barks when people knock on our door and enter our home. What do you suggest??
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Jan 29, 2010
Hi Piper,

It is great that you have recognised that he thinks that he is the alpha dog in the household. It is important that you re-establish yourself as leader of the pack as soon as possible, to avoid the chance of aggression issues arising in the future. It is good to start with the cold shoulder treatment, but bear in mind that he won’t appreciate this at all, so you will have to be very firm with him and not back down at all! There are a few other 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.

If he starts barking or growling at your visitors, take him by the collar and lead him away to a 'time-out zone'. 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.

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!