dalmatian dominance

Posted by billy-blazes
Jan 5, 2008
Hopefully I am in the right spot for a consultation. A few weeks ago my family was in a desperate situation, I was preparing to tell my kids we would have to put our beloved dog to sleep. Our 4 year old dalmatian (Billy) was continually growling at both our children (9 & 11yrs). He has never bared his teeth or snapped yet...just a deep chested growl. He has been obedience trained (top of his class) and responds to over a dozen hand signals as he is deaf. We initially tried to "dominate" him by forcing him to the floor, big mistake, the growling got worse. Billy also has epilepsy seizures since he was 1yr. I started doing some research looking for a medical reason for his aggression and came across your website. Billy fits all the classic syptoms for dominance aggression. I do realize this dog has a lot of strikes against him with this illness' but my family has made a pact to try and learn to be "alpha" dogs. I took all Billy's bones away, made him a bed on the floor instead of the couch, moved his crate from my bedroom, exercise him 40 mins per day on the treadmill plus obedience walks, we eat first and make him sit before he goes out any doors. The kids are armed with squirt guns and know to send Bill to his crate if he growls and we all ignore him for the rest of the day. This seems extreme but the alternative is unbearable. Since we started this program Bill has only growled once at my son (who sent him straight to his crate) I have also been teaching the kids to handle the dog with his halti and leash, he is very resistant to being walked by the kids but they are determined. My question for you, can you think of anything else to help the relationship between my kids and the dog? I expect my dog to protect and love my kids not terrorize them in their own home. Thank you for your input, this website has given our dog another chance.
Posted by Annie
Jan 6, 2008
Hi there,
What you are doing does NOT sound at all unreasonable to me Should have been done a long time ago...but never too late. I think your guilt is still working against you though try not to feel so bad...your dog will thank you for finding him a secure place in the family! Do the kids eat first? or even an extreme is to make up the dog food and have it sitting on the table while the family eats...then give the dog his food. This seems (for my dog) a good little reminder when she is getting abit rough... Some good body language is ( for the kids) to see the dog watching them and lift their chin and nose away...like a haughty Dame. This is quite a rude signal, as oposed to looking at the dogs eyes which is intense for the dog. They should NOT ever come forward offering treats or toys crawling on the floor to play with the dog ( as many of my visitors do!) because they want the dog to like them. Maybe you could also try just one theme a week. Sometimes kids with water pistols get abit gung-ho and start discipling for every misdemeaner. If it´s growling ...good...but not barking out the window, jumping up etc etc as well.
Also, an older dog, especially with hearing and medical problems will probably have little tolerance for the energy of kids. He sounds to me like a grumpy old man....let him grow old gracefully without the kids bothering him....if the practice is that he growls..then everybody sends him to his crate...well, maybe that is what he wanted and you are encouraging this behaviour. Is the crate always open? is it in a central but private place? is this his personal spot? He should never be petted or bothered while he is in his personal place. The kids should know that this is his retreat zone. Maybe he could have the punishment crate ( or balcony) and the good safe place is somewhere else? It is confusing when the punishment area is also the safe area....
good luck...
Posted by Todd
Jan 6, 2008
Hi there

Wow it is great to hear you are so committed and taking this seriously. Remember the most important thing is your childrens safety.
Everything you are doing is correct. Alpha training is the most important thing, then second comes obedience.
The alpha training you are fully on top of. As for the obedience here is what i recommend. Work with Billy for 15 minutes twice a day on the basic hand commands of sit, stay and come. I don't know if he can respond to audio signals at all but do whatever works. The more obedient he is the easier he will be to respond and control in these circumstances.
Now after a week of this i would encourage the 2 children to help with this. You should always be there to start with just to be safe, but if after another week he is responding well then they can train him alone.

Remember to never reprimand your children in front of Billy as this will only make him think he should be higher in the pack.

The same thing that i explained for obedience you can do with walking. Do it gradually and make sure they can fully control him before they take him out alone.

If things get at all out of hand a muzzle is the first thing you should consider.
There are various natural remedies that can be used to aid the training.

Rescue Remedy should be able to find in a pet store. It is a very safe, very gentle and natural sedative, which can have a good anti-anxiety effect. You simply apply a few sprays in the mouth or on the nose. I use it sometimes with stressed out puppies in the weaning process, and I use it sometimes to help calm my horse down at shows!

DAP is a product available from your vet that is a natural pheromone that relaxes dogs and will make him feel good during training.

Other medicines are available from the vet that are more potent but should only be used as a last resort and are no replacement for good training.

You are doing very well with a dog that most people would have given up on. This will be very rewarding for you and for Billy. Keep up the good work and let me know how things go

Kind Regards

Todd Field
Kingdom of Pets Team
Posted by billy-blazes
Jan 7, 2008
Todd, thank you so much for the input, I will definately try a few of your ideas! I am confident we are on the right track. It's only been a few weeks and we have already seen huge differences in our dog. Billy doesn't respond to any audio signals but he is extremely visual and responds well to hand signals. Thanks again, The Penner family
Posted by sunil
Jan 15, 2008
Hi everyone,
I am Sunil and I live in India. I have a dalmatian and it is about 3 months old. When he came into our home he was a bit weak and also not so playful, but after the diet and the medical transcription given by the vet he soon started playing well and also is very active. But now the problem is that he is overly active and is starting to get on everyones nerves. He does not bark at all on any outsider, but he is very friendly with everyone no matter who he is (I want him to change that behavior). Diet is no issue as I am following the vet's way and health is perfectly ok. The next problem arises with peeing and pooping, now a days he started pooping in night in the house, not able to understand how to change that behavior, as I cannot catch him in the act and to guide him to the correct place. Please guide me with these two...