Aggressive Behavior in Dogs
By Donna K. Lindsey, Educator/Trainer at Castle Kennels, New Castle, Virginia.
Is your dog bossy and disobedient? Does your dog think he or she is Royalty and you are the Court Jester? If so, he or she could be showing signs of ALPHA SYNDROME. Alpha Syndrome is at the root of most behavior problems. Most times it is not a problem dog we are dealing with, but a problem relationship between owner and dog.
Dogs descended from wolves and just like their forefathers they need a leader. If, in your dog’s view, you don’t deserve to be Royalty, the dog will try to overthrow you from your throne. The Royal Plan will make an improvement in the way your dog views the social hierarchy of your family pack.
The Royal Plan involves changing the way you interact with your dog on a daily basis. It includes no punishment and very few actual training exercises. Incorporate as many of the following exercises as you possibly can. Stay with the Royal Plan for several weeks. Your fila did not get to the top of the high court overnight; therefore, it will take a little time to change your dog’s mind about things.
As your furry friend becomes rehabilitated you may gradually phase out these exercises. ( I use these exercises daily on all our dogs from day one they come to live with us and continue it for the rest of their lives.) If a relapse occurs, back up and continue the exercises.
Great Luck and remember… Dog ownership is not a democracy!!!! Be consistent, be patient, be firm, but ALWAYS be ALPHA! Important Note: Professional help should be contacted before attempting any type of behavior modification with an aggressive dog!
Call Your Royal Veterinarian
Sometimes, behavior problems can be caused by a physical problem. Your dog should have a thorough physical exam to make sure he/she is healthy. Also, discuss spaying or neutering your dog. There are numerous physical and behavioral benefits to this procedure that your vet will gladly explain to you.
Royalty is Fair, Kind, and Consistent
As ruler of your home, you must be firm, but NEVER harsh. If you are having a bad day or lose your patience, don’t work with your dog. A dog doesn’t learn by pain, but rather by patience and consistency.
Royalty Commands Attention
Getting your dog’s attention is the first step to building a bond between you and your dog. It is a must for setting up a communication channel for you and your dog. Encourage eye contact with your dog several times a day. Call your dog’s name; help your dog make eye contact by tracing a line between the dog’s face and yours. Holding a treat or favorite toy in your hand will help make your hand more interesting. Reward or praise, even for a one second glance.
Royal Leaders are Dependable
Never free feed (leave food out all the time) your dog. Schedule his or her meals. This will aid in housetraining and make your dog depend on you for food. I suggest two meals a day. Dogs love food so take advantage of it.
Royalty Eats First
Who eats first? Royalty or peasant? Royalty of course! If your dog’s meal times coincide with yours, YOU eat FIRST. Make a point to feed the dog after you have finished. This makes a bold nonverbal statement to your dog.
Royal Owners Expect Work from Their Dogs
During this rehabilitation period, stop ALL food treats and petting EXCEPT what your dog “earns” by obeying a command. For example, have your dog “sit” before getting a treat. If your dog comes to you for petting make him or her “sit” or “down” before petting. DON’T PANIC! This is only temporary until your dog’s behavior improves. (I always make my dogs earn treats and petting when they ask for it.)
Royalty Goes First
Does your dog charge through entranceways before you? If he or she does, STOP this NOW. At the door to your car or home, or at a fence gate, give your dog a “wait” command, go through first, holding the dog back with his/her leash if necessary, and then call your dog through.
Royalty Rules the Castle
A follower yields to the ruler. For example, if your dog is lying in your path make the dog move. Don’t go around or step over, make your dog get out of the way.
Life with Your Dog Should be a Monarchy…
…with YOU as the kind and gentle ruler. As the ruler, you make all the important decisions! How do you prove this to your dog? It’s simple, YOU get the bed! Your dog may sleep in the bedroom, but not on the bed. Letting your dog sleep with you gives him or her the impression that he or she is equal. Confrontations over sleeping areas are common, but easily avoided.
Be Royal with Muzzle Control
*While petting your dog, put your hand over the top of your dog’s muzzle and gently hold it there for a few seconds. This is naturally dominant to your dog.
Get That Pup Belly Up
Dog love belly rubs and you should gladly give them. Getting your dog on its back for a belly rub also gets your dog in a subordinate position, thereby putting you in a dominant position.
A Follower Should Allow a Ruler’s Gentle Handling
You should have frequent grooming sessions with your dog. Gently, pet and then brush your dog from head to tail. Rub your dog’s paws, ears and belly. Remember to be gentle, but you should be able to check your dog all over for grooming and health needs.
Only the Court Clown Won’t Go Down
The “down” position is a subordinate one for your dog. Your goal should be to work up to one 30 minute down-stay a day. Remember for young dogs this takes awhile to build up to the 30 minutes. Start a few minutes at a time. This can be done while you are eating, reading, or watching television, but make sure you are in a position to enforce it!
Don’t Complain! Train!
You don’t have to take a class to obedience train your dog, though the help of an instructor can be immense. Give your dog a command, help your dog to comply and then praise when your dog has completed the task. Remember it takes repetition for a dog to learn. You will have to show your dog many times before he understands the command. Don’t correct your dog until you are sure he understands what the command means. Take at least 10 to 15 minutes a day to train with your dog. Nothing can replace the importance of training. Dogs don’t come with manners programmed in; you have to teach them to him or her.
Royal Owners are Fun
You should play with your dog daily. Always stay in charge of the games, but let your dog have fun. If your dog likes to play fetch, then play fetch. Just make sure you put the ball away when YOU are done. A favorite game can be a reward after a training or grooming session.
An Important Note About Play: You should NEVER play TUG games with a dominant dog. Anytime the dog wins this game he has won an Alpha round.
NEVER let children play tug games with any dog. The dog will win and then think he or she can dominate the child in other ways.
If you do play tug with your dog, ALWAYS WIN and ALWAYS CONTROL THE GAME! Make sure you initiate the game, always win, and put the toy away when you are finished. Let the dog see you put the toy away.
Copyright Donna K. Lindsey – Castle Filas – 2000