CANINE COMMUNICATION OF THE DOMINANT DOG:
Everything is set to make the dog look bigger. Head held high, direct eye contact, lips may be curled to expose teeth, hackles up, tail up, up on toes, ears forward, deep threatening growl.
Dominate Display Actions:
a) Sexual like mounting activity, whether it is male or female.
b) Chin or feet of the dog resting on the shoulders of the other lesser dominate dog.
c) Jaw clamped on the muzzle of the lesser dog, threatening growl.
d) Direct eye contact.
e) Standing over the other dog if it is down.
f) (f) Playing hip check.
g) Daily, hold the dog’s face in your hand and make him look at you, he must be comfortable with pack leader eye contact.
h) Submissive facial posturing is petting the face while drawing the hand along the muzzle, pulling the lips back in a grin, pulling the eyes back in a squint, following along the head to pulling the ears back flat along the skull. This artificial placing of the face in a submissive posture sends the message to the brain that he is feeling submissive. Consequently he then does feel submissive to you. Praise the dog in this position so that he knows you are happy with his submissive reaction.
i) Play, direct the play and minimize rough housing. You need to decide how rough and when
j) To quit. Biting is NOT accepted. Bite inhibition must be taught.
Firmly hold a small treat in your fingers so it can’t be stolen. Command “gentle” and offer the treat in from your fingers. If you feel teeth touch your skin, give a loud yelp of pain “ouch” (Even if it did not hurt) and hold on to the treat. Don’t withdraw your hand. Repeat this exercise until you feel only lips and tongue touching your hand then release the treat into his mouth and praise. Play everyday until your dog gets it right on the first tries.
HANDLING THE DOMINANT PERSONALITY: See Becoming Pack Leader.
Aggression usually starts with simple disobedience. They move on to challenges, threat gestures, snarls growls and then a bite. The first bite may surprise a novice owner, but to the experienced eye, it’s as predictable as a storm rolling in. My job is to teach you to recognize that storm while it is still a long way away.
The first thing to know about aggression is that when caught early it is usually correctable. The second thing to know is that healthy dogs don’t turn on their owners without warning. There are clear signs that trouble is brewing. Not every aggressive dog will have all of these signs. Some will have only a couple. Most will have at least a few. If your dog has any of these signs, seek professional advice, join a training class and train your dog.
Ignores known commands:
This is so common that most dog owners believe this is just the way dogs are. Not so, not only is ignoring commands a bad habit, it can be a strong sign that your dog does not think you’re worth listening to. If he won’t pay attention to you, an adult, what chance do your children have?
You taught your dog to ignore you by repeating commands! Aggression most often comes from a dog that sees himself as head of the household. As long as everything goes his way, he’s fine. Cross him and you’ll get growled at or worse. If your dog ignores you or walks away when you issue a command, take it seriously. Get the whole family involved. Set up rules that everyone will follow regarding jumping on furniture, eating from the table and responding to commands. Make your dog obey a command before you do anything for him. Make sure everyone stops all the free attention the dog has been getting, or you could be headed for trouble. A united family front is an effective vehicle for change.
Refuses to lie down on Command:
This is an even stronger indicator of a potential aggression problem. Lying down is the most submissive posture your dog can assume. If he refuses to lean this command or if he has “forgotten it” of late, trouble is brewing. Get help! Withdraw all attention unless the dog is down. If the dog tenses or growls, stop. Do not continue without a trainer or behaviorist’s help.
Mounts you or the children:
As embarrassing as this is, your dog is not doing it because he things you are attractive. He is doing it as an act of dominance, because this behaviour is about power and not sex, a female dog will mount as well, although that is less common. This neither funny nor acceptable behaviour is always a sign that the dog thinks he is in charge.
BECOMING PACK LEADER:
In order to have a well-behaved obedient dog in your home it must respect you and have the desire to respond to your wishes; it must know that you are boss.
Dogs like wolves in the wild are animals and they think and act accordingly. When they enter your home they accept the humans in your home as members of its pack. Someone has to be pack leader! If it is the dog, you have a spoiled, disruptive creature that does whatever it wants, and will not respond to commands by humans. It may even become aggressive to get its way.
In the pack, the leader makes all the important decision and informs the subordinate pack members how to behave. The subordinates accept this and do what the leader says. Dogs are born as dominant (pack leader material) or subordinate. If you have a subordinate dog, he will take leadership easily and become obedient. If you have a dominant dog, he grows up to feel he should make the decisions, and that he does not have to do what you (subordinate in his eyes) tell him to. This is where it is vitally important to establish the humans as the pack leader.
Very subtle behaviours and activities display pack leader behaviour in the dog’s mind. We must learn to become aware of them and take control. For a period of time, until proper status is established, take all rights away from your dog. He has to learn his position and status and earn privileges.
This is the first place to start in establishing leadership. The pack depends on the leader to provide food or the hunt.
Ø Never free feed, as the dog must realize the food source of survival comes from you and that he will starve if you choose not to feed him. If he can snack whenever he wants, he interprets that as being in control.
Ø Make a big fuss over giving him the food. He must recognize the fact that you are providing it. Start by giving a few morsels from your hand.
Ø Make the dog earn his food by responding to a trick or obedience command first. Never give a treat when he begs.
Ø Put the food down for 15 minutes only; if he does not finish it remove it until the next feeding.
Ø Once a week remove the food half way through his meal and while he is still eating. This shows the dog that the food belongs to you, his pack leader. It also is a good exercise to do, so the dog does not bite should children ever take his food.
Ø Once a week do not feed the dog at all. This makes him realize that he will not eat without you. He really is dependent on you for basic survival. He will become very attentive to you. It is good to get them used to having hands in their bowls. Get them used to the hand bringing juicy extra treats into the bowl, so that the hand is a positive thing. Have children give the bowl to the dog as well as adults of the family.
YOU OWN HIS BODY:
He must allow you to touch and manipulate his body. YOU OWN IT! Massage it all over, lay him down on his side and eventually roll him over on his back into submissive positioning. Touch his toes, ears, mouth, tail, and check for health problems. Pull his coat, ears and tail, to condition him to small children. The muzzle handshake - - he must allow you to hold his muzzle in a handshake like grip for as long as you want to. The top of the muzzle is a dominant spot to touch therefore it should belong to you.
HALF HOUR DOWN:
This will demonstrate to the dog that you have total control over his body and his life. It is not a down stay obedient command. It is a mental control exercise that he will understand. Place the dog on the floor on his belly at your feet while you are sitting comfortably in a chair. Step on his leash fairly short, so that his head can only get a few inches off the floor. (If you give him more leash and he decides to try to escape you have less control) He can rest his head on his paws or the floor. Calmly tell the dog to “Stay” and ignore him. When he tries to escape or get up, let him struggle a bit against your foothold and then calmly push him back down. Every time he tries to get up he is returned to the position that you put him in. Eventually he will stop fighting the control. After ½ hour release him and play with him as if nothing has transpired. Some dogs will get very upset with the restrictions and try to flip around. Let them try and then calmly return them to your position. More aggressive dogs may try to bite their way out of the situation. If you feel you may have one of these dogs wear gloves and boots. If he still struggles at the ½ hour mark continue until you have a few minutes of submissive quiet. If he falls asleep, arouse him, as you want him to be thinking about your control over him for the full ½ hour. Do this once a week for a while. If he struggles a lot then go to 2 – 3 times a week.
The dog understands that the pack leader controls the favoured spot in the den. They realize that our bed is our favoured spot. Initially do not allow the dog on your bed or he will feel that he can assume the other privileges of pack leader also. Make him sleep on the floor or in his crate below you in the bedroom. Sleeping in the bedroom gives him a sense of belonging to a pack. Later when he has earned it he will be allowed to sleep on the bed again. But, even then, kick him off now and then to remind him who owns the bed. Never let him on the bed first, he must always wait to be invited.
If the dog does not sleep in the bedroom and has free run of the rest of the house, he will interpret that as the bedroom belongs to you and rest of the house belongs to him. If you do not want the dog in your bedroom he should be confined to a crate or kennel.
DAY TO DAY ROUTINES:
Sitting on Furniture:
Initially you should remove the right of sitting at an equal level to you. He must sit below you. If he sits in your favourite spot remove him because it is a challenge for position. When he has earned some rights by good subordinate dog behaviour he can be allowed back on the furniture, but only when he is invited, and only after you have sat down and never in your spot. If he has his own chair, that’s okay, but he must allow you to sit in it if you want because you are the pack leader.
Going through doorways:
If the dog leads through any doorway or gate he takes that to mean that he is in control. He enters the house first and invites you to follow him into his den. Make him wait and go through first, and then you invite him into your den. The same applies to stairs.
Lying on the floor in your way:
Again, this is a symbol of control on his part. This is your floor so DO NOT walk around him. Shuffle your feet right through him so that he has to get up and out of your way. Don’t allow him to lie in the doorway of a room as he is controlling the traffic in or out of the rooms.
Requests by the dog to play ball or tug of war are commands of you and should be turned around by making him respond to an obedience command or trick. His reward for submitting to your commands is that you decide to throw his ball. Make sure you stop the game before he does.
Demands To Be Petted:
Ask for a response to a command that is rewarded by petting on your timetable. If your dog is particularly demanding about petting take away physical praise and give only verbal praise with little petting. Asking to go outside to relieve himself, again give a command for him to respond to like “sit” and the demand that he go out on your terms.
Note: The whole family must agree on the rules of the house and there must be uniformity on how everyone treats the dog, as to what his rights are. Rights must be given back by everyone at the same time otherwise the dog will become confused and the behaviour will become worse.
Going For A Walk:
The dog should not drag you down the street. He should not decide where to walk. You must make the decisions as to where he can sniff and where he can lift his leg. Give him some free time and then take control again.
It is up to you to take the dominant posture by standing tall over your dog. Look at him and do not turn your glare away until he does so first. Give a low threatening growl from your throat when necessary. Demand with a firm voice tone and don’t ask sweetly, “Instruct”!
If you discipline as the dog’s mother would or the dominant dogs would do then you can readily understand that a slap or rolled up newspaper only makes them fearful. The level of correction required by each dog varies. Only use as severe a discipline as is necessary in order to get the desired response.
I. Verbal Only: A strong “No” or “eh” or growl from the throat accompanied by correct body posturing.
II. Turn head away (making him submissive): Hand on muzzle, “No, No, No” praise when looks back. Use this is the dog is misbehaving toward a particular object such as sniffing, nose in the garbage, looking at another dog etc.
III. Scruff shake (as his mother did): The level of this correction will depend not only on the dog but the severity of the bad behaviour. If the dog is small, grab a handful of skin on the back of the neck, picking the dog’s front feet off the ground, and shake vigorously as you growl at him. Put the puppy back on the floor if it is a young puppy or a behaviour problem and walk away. When the dog comes to you praise and forgive him. If it is disobedience as in the lack of respect for your pack leadership, ask for a command response. If they respond immediately to the command, release them and forgive. Don’t hold a grudge. If the dog does not respond to the command, repeat the scruff shake with a bit more force or go to the next level of discipline.
IV. Alpha Roll (As leader dog to a challenging subordinate): Flip the dog onto his back with your hand on his throat with pressure on the jawbone to hold the head. Straddle his body with your legs, growl and maintain eye contact. The dog must avert his eyes. Once the dog stops struggling and averts his eyes you should remove your legs from straddling his body. If he remains still, remove hand from his throat. If he continues to remain still stand above him for a few seconds making him maintain his submissive pose. Release him with an obedience command and if he responds appropriately, praise and forgive him. If again, he does not respond well roll him yet again. If you stop any time before the dog submits, he will interpret that as having beaten the pack leader and he moves up a level. Sometimes the first roll will take several minutes. If further rolls don’t become progressively easier and quick, it means that the dog is not getting consistent pack leader information in other parts of his life, or the roll is not being administered properly. A poor roll is worse than no roll at all because it creates more dominant thinking in the dog’s mind.
V. Time Out: If a puppy or high energy dog gets too wound up and cannot be brought under emotional control it is probably best for the dog and the household just to remove the dog from the situation by kenneling him away from the stimulus. Constant nagging and disciplining does not work.
ESTABLISHING PACK ORDER IN MULTI-DOG HOUSEHOLD:
You as the pack leader are the one who decides who is the second in command. Feed the dogs in order from second to lowest in the pack order. Pet and greet in this order and send out the door in this order also. If you do not assist the dogs in deciding pack order and there are consistent messages given by how they are treated by the pack leader, problems can arise between the dogs such as fighting, territory marking etc.