aggresive springer/lab

Posted by kbekks
Mar 4, 2008
Hello, my name is Karen and I have a 2 1/2 yr old springer/lab. And I have a few questions. First is I think he has a fear type agression toward some male humans when they come over. He gets the low stance when he barks, the hair raised above tail and shoulders and so on. Second I think he thinks he is dominant over my kids(8,7,5&3) cuz he doesn't watch out when he is running and seems to just run right "through" them to get into doors or buildings. so how do I help out my kids who are all smaller built to establish themselves as dominant over him(who is quite strong). And third he does a quiver/muscle shake all over. For instance when we are about to leave somewhere and he wants to come with he'll start doing that. I try and wait till he settles as not to incourage it, but he just does it worse.. And he has the obsession of taking off into our woods for extended periods of time. I know he has huntung breeds in him but it would be nice if he stuck with his family. So if any one has any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated. As I do not want to give up on him for he is a good dog. Thank you.
Posted by Todd
Mar 9, 2008
HI there.

Hmmm a few problems but nothing i haven't seen before so it is great to see you are asking for help. I'll do my best and you can ask more questions whenever you need to.

The first 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.

Now it does sound like fear aggression. The aim in fixing this is to stop him from being scared and then teaching him to like males.


De-sensitization is usually helpful in situations like these. You need to gradually introduce your dog males. The whole de-sensitization process will take time, but you can certainly help by exposing your dog gently to all sorts of people and things.

It is a good idea to start this process within the home, where your dog feels comfortable and less threatened. Once you have got your dog used to the thing that is causing it fear, move out into the backyard and then further afield to, say, the dog park.

Get a male friend to come over and let him know what is going on.
Make sure he moves quietly with no sudden movements and talks in a quiet voice. Make him sit in a chair. Then introduce your pup. Make him sit a distance away.

Ignore him when he is being fearful. This means no talking, looking at him or reassuring body language. The second he shows some confidence then reward him with praise and attention. Slowly move him closer to your friend.
Give your friend some treats to help get your pup used to him.

After a few training session when he is better then try another male etc. Getting the male to walk him and feed him will be a great help in this situation.


Take your dog to plenty of public places and socialize your dog with other dogs as much as possible. Remember it is not unusual for dogs to be territorial and show aggression towards other dogs. Don't be afraid to growl at your dog, eventually it will learn no real harm will occur.

Arrange for people to come around (children too) to help with human socialization. Remember dogs are never too old to train, it just takes longer with an older dog.

When you do take your dog to a dog park, walk it around on the leash first and have your dog meet everyone there with the safety of the muzzle. If you are confident that there will be no trouble, then let your dog off the leash. This way you are avoiding anything that could go wrong before it happens, rather then just leaving your dog to do its thing and then regretting it.

Stress Management

Conduct one on one stress management sessions by spending 20 minutes twice a day with just you and your dog in a quiet room with no distractions. Talk soothingly to your dog and if it doesn't get aggressive then caress and pet it, keeping your voice low and relaxed.

Alpha Dog

With fear aggression you have to be careful that you do not over-assert yourself and your family as the "alpha dog ", as it may only exaggerate your dogs lack of confidence. Your dog should know that it is bottom of the pack, but if you can make your dog feel a little more like a member of the family than what you already do, it will help build confidence.

It is important that you communicate to your dog that it is at the bottom of the pack, but at the same time your dog requires a confidence booster. I suggest you not have your dog on the furniture, on your lap, or on your bed. Your dog needs to know that it is not in charge.

However, if your dog does seem to be acting submissively, I suggest you just ignore it. For example if you growl at your dog and it acts afraid or submissive (e.g. rolling on its back, licking you, looking away, or growling) then just ignore it until it has calmed down. Do not look your dog in the eye, but between its feet (this is part of predator-prey psychology), get down closer to your dogs level and talk gently until it seems confident.


Otherwise try turning around and going home again, deprive your dog of what it wants. It would be best to practice this if you can with a friend and their dog, not too far from home. This is another way of communicating who is in the control of the situation. This will also help with his quivering behaviour.


I suggest you think about getting your dog neutered. The reason I say this is because aggression due to fluctuating hormonal levels is quite common. However, in saying that hormonal changes are only one factor with aggression and your dogs behavior may have nothing to do with hormone levels.

At approximately six months of age a male dog has a surge of testosterone which is thought to contribute largely to such aggression with other dogs. When the hormones are known for certain to be the contributing factor to the aggression, one can expect that in normal circumstances the aggression will subside at about four years of age. This sometimes applies to unspayed females as well.

Now for the quivering. This is a bit of separation anxiety which can be linked to fear. Here are some steps that will help with this.

The goal that we are aiming for is to reduce your dog's anxiety through conditioning it to associate being left alone and outdoors as a good thing. Here are a few tips and techniques that you may find useful.

No.1 Arrivals and departures

Keep your arrivals and departures very low key. Try leaving your dog alone for at least 15 minutes when you come home. Just ignore it. If your dog calms down then show it some attention.

No.2 Do not respond

It is important that you do not respond to your dog when it starts acting up. This is inadvertently rewarding your dog for poor behavior and will not help. If your dog starts barking or whining then ignore it, no matter how difficult that may be. Do not even make eye contact.

No.3 Attention

Only give your dog attention when it is lying down or relaxed and not actively seeking attention (by barking for example). Do this by calling your dogover and making it sit before petting, etc.

No.4 Contrast

Your dog is probably having difficulty accepting that sometimes it is going to get all the attention and other times none (like when you are at work). You can help this problem by ignoring your dog for 6 hours a day on the weekends. You can feed your dog but that's it. The idea is that your dog will think “What's the big deal when my owners are gone, even when they are home, they still ignore me”.

No.5 Exercise

30 minutes before you leave home walk your dog for 15 minutes at a fast pace. If your dog is tired then it will have less energy to be a nuisance with.

No.6 Crate/Kennel

You could get a dog door put on your door to the backyard. Place a crate inside the house so that when your dog goes through the dog door it can only get into the crate. This has worked effectively for some people.

No.7 Clothing

Try giving your dog something of yours with your scent on it. This may allay its fears when you are not with it.

Okay so far so good. With your kids i would encourage you to try and keep them from reprimanding him as this can create a huge deal of issues. But i think them feeding him while you are there and training him is a great idea.
Remember never to tell them off in front of the pup, if need be take them away and tell them what they have done wrong. Telling them off in front of him amy encourage him to assert himself over them.

Your older child may be old enough to reprimand the pup but only if you think they will be consistent and do it right
Posted by Todd
Mar 9, 2008
As for running out the door.

I think the best thing for you to do will be to Clicker train your dog. Review the section of the book on clicker training for a full description of Clicker Training. In your case, I think it is a good idea that you use food rewards sometimes, to help keep your dog motivated.

You can start with a food reward and gradually wean them off them by introducing a secondary reinforcement, such as a Clicker. You may think that your dog will only come to you for the food reward, however, in the process, they quickly learn what the Come command is, and what the click from the Clicker means too!

It is very important with the Come command that you keep practicing it. In fact, I recommend this is something you practice through-out the life of your dog.

Some benefit will also be gained by reading the "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog" bonus book so that your dog respects your commands more!

I recommend that you:

• Sometimes treat your dog with a food reward,

• Sometimes treat your dog with its favorite toy,

• Always give verbal praise and a pat, and make a big deal when your dog does come to you (even if your dog takes its time).

This way your dog can only anticipate that there may be a food reward, but doesn't rely on it as the reward is always positive anyway.

If you think it is worth while you could also install a radio fence unit in a circuit around your yard, if that is possible. It would be best to inquire about those at your local pet store. Basically your dog wears a collar, and with training you can demonstrate to your dog that crossing the boundary from your property is not a lot of fun. They receive a warning when they are too close to the boundary which will lead to a shock if they continue. However this requires training as well, and therefore I often suggest to people to have a professional help them out with it. (You can not simply install it and allow the dog to work it out for themselves because this can go very wrong, e.g. they can end up being stranded on the outside of the boundary!)

Clicker Training

If you start to train you dog with the Clicker, you will find this very helpful when your dog decides to take off. For example, The second your dog turns to look at you, you should (after teaching her what the Clicker means) click the Clicker as if to reward your dog for looking over at you. This may help entice him to make a decision to turn back again.

An example on training your dog to respond to the Clicker:

• Ask your dog to sit; for example, say "PUP....SIT!" (always use its name in front of a command as this trains them to respond to their name),

• Then when your dog obeys, click the Clicker (you can find these at most pet stores), and follow the click quickly with praise/reward.

• Be consistent with your training and be rigorous when you are training your dog.

Then for the Come command do the same thing.

*Say "PUP....COME!" and when your dog even moves a little towards you, click the Clicker and then hold out a treat (just to get your dog anticipating the Clicker as a good thing!). Pretty soon you will not need to use treats all the time, the vocal praise with the Clicker will be enough (however it is a good idea to sometimes reinforce the obedience from time to time with treats).

*It is also a good idea that you use hand signals when you are training your dog so that when your dog is in the distance, but can still see you, it will know what you are commanding and you will not have to yell.

*Practice asking your dog to come inside your home too.

*Never call your dog to you for something she will not like (e.g. a bath, or to be told off) as this will hinder your dog's trust in you.

Good luck and please let me know how things go