**My puppy is showing a lot of attitude, not always good, lately. She's only 10 weeks old, and I'm amazed at her strong will and character. Sometimes she growls at me when I try to move her on the couch, and when she nibbles on my hands, I growl at her and tell her "NO BITE" in a loud voice. I was told to pinch her lip when she bites at me, but this just seems to make her worse.** I have a litter that was two-weeks-old this past weekend. One of the girls when picked up growls and struggles fiercely (eyes have just opened). This is a *VERY* dominant puppy and will require extra handling on all our parts to make her understand that she is NOT God's Gift. Besides spending most of her people-time on her back and literally upside down, she will be "fed" to the appropriate dogs in 3-4 more weeks. I have noticed, however, that sometimes the older, dominant dogs are a bit lenient with dominant puppies for a longer time period than I want to see. They do seem to rectify this in the end, but it doesn't help me much if I am planning to place one of these "finger dogs" as a puppy (not only are they dominant, but they are generally independent, too).
**She then proceeds to ignore us and to walk around the house and to the front yard, sometimes getting dangerously close to the road. If I have time I sometimes indulge her.** No, no, NO! These dominant dogs must NEVER get their way (unless they earn it as a reward for something done). This means no petting or food before making her do something to earn it (sit!) She is also about to enter her "flight period", which means if you think you are being ignored *NOW* while she strolls around to the front, JUST WAIT! She won't be strolling when she hits this point in her life; she will be taking off at full speed, with you frantically trying to get her back. Once they learn they can get away like that, it can be a lifelong struggle to keep them under control. She should be constantly on a leash for the next several months or within a fenced area. Seriously think about fencing part of your yard for your dog!
**Lately the growls have been getting a little louder and yesterday she even tried to nip at my fingers as I picked her up. I am afraid she might bite my 4-year-old.** She has escalated because she was not always getting her way, so you **MUST** do the same. You now must do some serious alpha corrections to get through to this dog; obviously what you were doing was not sufficient since she has such grandiose ideas about herself; you are also sending her mixed signals since you are occasionally letting her get her own way. She MUST NEVER get her own way!!! NEVER. If she does this again (and she will), grab her by the scruff of the neck, give her a brief shake, AND WHILE STARING HER IN THE EYE, put her on her back (or dangle her up in the air), and ROAR LOUDLY in her face (nose to nose). This is all done simultaneously and very, very quickly. Forget the neighbors; what you are doing is far more important to your family's well-being than whatever the nosey neighbors might think. (If a puppy nips at me, I have even been known to bite back with some of these extreme hard cases [those for which lip-pinching is ineffective], but that would be the next escalation if you are still getting resistance and is rarely necessary.)
Depending on how much dominance this dog is showing to your family determines how often you must do the following exercise (3 times a week is sufficient for the average boss wannabes; with some it needs to be done every day): When you have a quiet time (no kids, no interruptions whatsoever), pick a good TV show and sit on the floor with the dog lying next to you, with its legs pointed away from you. Keep one hand on the dog's shoulders (withers... a primary area of dominance) to prevent it from getting up, and maintain this position for 30 full minutes. If the dog should get up, put it back down and proceed to the end of the time period. If the dog is still struggling at the end of the thirty minutes, DO NOT LET IT UP, but keep holding it down until it has stopped struggling, if only briefly. If the dog is asleep, wake it up, and in both instances release the dog with a loud "OKAY!" and give it lots of praise.
Other ways to show your dominance:
- The dog is fed at prescribed times (make it sit first). Never self-feed as the dog must realize that the food comes from YOU; the food doesn't just grow there in the dish.
- The dog must never be allowed to go through the door first.
- A dominant dog should not be allowed to sleep in bed with you.
- When petting (make the dog earn it first), stroke the dog over the withers (top of the shoulder blades) and on the muzzle under the eyes (thumb massages). These are major areas of dominance. Greet the dominant dog by placing a hand around its muzzle.
- Never play tug-of-war games with your dog; this not only teaches him to use his mouth, sometimes he might "win", and a dominant dog should never win. (This does not apply if two dogs initiate this game with each other.)
- If walking across a room, make the dog get out of your way. Do not walk around it.
- If you find something that the dog does not like (brushing, certain types of handling, whatever), never quit because the dog doesn't like it; do it MORE so that the dog learns to tolerate whatever it is you are doing.
- With a puppy, practice holding it like a baby, even occasionally holding it with its head hanging downward and its butt up in the air. You should be able to manipulate a puppy in any direction without its objection. Once again, the more it objects, the more it should be done. Certain dogs (that 2-week-old puppy I mentioned earlier) should experience a LOT of this in their formative weeks.
- Get the puppy into obedience classes as soon as possible! Remember, puppies have adult brain waves at 49 days (seven weeks) of age; it is never too soon to start serious training, even if only in short happy sessions.
- Always stare the dog in the eyes when giving a command in a firm, deep voice (praise in a higher, happy voice).
Also think of ways that your child can dominate this puppy. Having him give the dog treats by telling the dog to "sit" first is a good way for him to start asserting his dominance over this dog.
Get a copy of the book How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With by Rutherford and Neil, a paperback from Arco Press, and READ IT. This book belongs in EVERY dog household.
Our local schnauzer club had a 4-month-old rescue come in because it had been growling and snapping at the kids, and finally had bitten two of their four children. The parents had been trying hard to rectify the dominance problem and the puppy was responding wonderfully with them, but that last week that he lived with them, his behavior had escalated from growling and snapping to drawing blood on two of the children because, unfortunately, the children were unable to express dominance to this dog. In this particular case, this puppy had been sold by an ignorant backyard breeder at too young an age before he had learned to inhibit his bite, and the breeder was totally oblivious to the fact that this was a dominant puppy. The signs were there.... the mounting of the littermates and people, the running up and climbing on the people who came to purchase him.
Dominant puppies should NEVER be placed in households with small children, who usually are not capable of being alpha to the dog. If a breeder is not capable of placing puppies in the appropriate home situations (sadly, many breeders are not), it is up to the BUYER to educate himself enough to select the puppy with the proper temperament to bring into his family environment. The majority of problems are due to mismatched personalities/temperaments.
Disclaimer: This article was written in response to an email from a woman with a very naughty wannabe puppy; the physical corrections described herein will work with most young puppies, but not with a very dominant adult dog which might bite if it feels challenged.
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