Puppy With Dominance Issues

Discussion in 'Obedience Training' started by cydoc178, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. cydoc178 New Member

    Hey all,
    I have been lurking on these and other forums recently and feel it is time I post about my dog troubles and seek advice. I have scoured the internet for information but my girlfriend and I are still at a loss. We recently adopted an 8th month old terrier mix puppy from the SPCA (looks like she has some lab in her as well). She is beyond sweet and incredibly intelligent, her name is Isis. Yet, she is showing signs of dominance issues.

    We have gotten her house trained for the most part; we have been using her crate for this. If she doesn’t go potty, or only goes a little (she has a tendency of only going a little unless we repeat “go potty” a few times, probably because she wants a quick treat) and not as much as we know she needs to, she goes back into the crate for 20 mins and we try again. She has gotten better about this and I think by the end of the week or the end of next week she will be completely potty trained. This is all we have been able to work with her on though.

    The main issue is she can get very jumpy and lunge/nip, or even latch down on the arm and really bares her teeth (she doesn’t bite hard or anything, it is more intimidating than it is dangerous), but she doesn’t growl. We have tried everything to help correct this! We turned our backs and ignored her, we say “NO!” in low, controlled, dominant voices and we always praise her when she acts like she should. We have tried to say “NO!” and then turn our backs, always avoiding eye contact. If we make eye contact, we always hold it till she turns away. We are both carrying ourselves confidently but to no avail. We have also tried to nudge/push her with our feet (not kicking, never out of anger, just redirecting her), especially when she tried to get us to pay attention to her and/or pet her. This only makes her lunge and nip. We tried doing a time out and she whined and howled like we couldn’t believe, it didn’t stop. When we crate her, especially when we eat or for bed time, she will whine and howl for 5 mins and then stops and becomes very well behaved (back to her very sweet self). This was not the case in time out and she was scratching and chewing at our gate trying to get out. We recently have tried the spray bottle with water and it has shown some promise, although she usually cowers away when she sees me reaching for it. I don’t know if this is ok or not, I do not want my dog to be afraid, I just want her dominance issues to come under control and be the sweet dog she can be. We have done every dominance/alpha techniques in the book like eat first and all that but to no avail.

    We have been unable to teach her any commands, she lunges and gets nippy and gets rowdy/acts up whenever we do regardless of what we do. Go potty is the only command she knows, and she really only understands it once we are outside, she hasn’t registered fully what potty means. What is worse is she is VERY difficult on a leash. She chews the leash and nothing we have done, even using things like bitter apple spray, stops her for a second. She sniffs and leads and wants to go wherever she wants and if you try to control her in any manner, no matter what you do or how confident you are, she freaks out and starts baring teeth, lunging, nipping, jumping and rolling on the ground. This is a serious issue when it comes to my girlfriend. The dog is just too powerful for her when she is on a leash. She has back issues and is afraid the dog will hurt her, and rightfully so, as she leads and pulls very hard. I am also concerned for the dog because I am afraid she will get throat damage from pulling so hard on the leash.

    Can anyone please offer us help? We have both researched like crazy and nothing has really worked to calm her dominance issues. We are waiting to see a trainer but that won’t be for another week or two. We are unable to play with her or take her for walks and know this will only add to the problem.

  2. DevonW Well-Known Member

    She has behaviour problems she's not trying to take over the world. The only thing I'll say about dominance training is that I firmly believe it's a load of crock.

    For her crate problems I would start working crate games with her to make her crate a positive and reinforcing area that she wants to be in. Here is a video of what crate games are:

    For leash walking:

    For biting/mouthing:

    For a lot of great training videos I'd watch
    Dogster, Johanna2 and southerngirl like this.
  3. charmedwolf Moderator

    This is NOT a dominance problem. She sounds like a very nervous controlling mess to be quite honest with you.

    You don't seem to be having problems with this so I'll gloss over it for now. But if you do need help then message me, ya? The repeating thing will go away as she realizes what you actually want.

    The more "dominant" you get the worse she is behaving I'm guessing? My personal advice would be to stop making eye contact (A very threatening gesture), pushing her away with your feet when she tries for attention (I would suggest you just leave the room completely, hopefully blocking her following with a door), stop with the spray bottle. Please, realize it sounds like she has problems with you moving in a way that indicates a threat. You don't know what her life was like before you adopted her.

    You don't need to be "alpha", trust me. These studies were disproved and can be extremely bad for the relationship between you and your dog. There are many studies you can google if you would like more information just look "alpha- dog myth debunked

    How exactly were you teaching her to sit? Pushing on her bum, food lure, etc. What exactly were all the steps?"

    If the bitter apple spray doesn't work, use a chili pepper mix (Cayenne peppers and water) or even vinegar is effective at stopping the chewing. If you still can't get her to stop I'd invest in a chain leash for the time being.

    What I want you to is take her out on the leash. Pick a direction and go. If she freaks out, she freaks out. Ever see a child having a tantrum? Wait her out. It might take a minute, it might take 5 minutes. Hell, I've seen it last 30 minutes. But you have to wait her out. Now, what you don't want to do is "hang" her. Keep the leash free and loose around her. You might have to go through this maybe two or three times before she has what is called an extinction burst. This means it's going to get bad. But deal with it the same way and she'll go along with what you want. You just need to hold your ground.

    Your girlfriend however is going to be a different story because of her back. If you go through the leash training first before your girlfriend it will make her leash training easier. She is going to needs some mechanical help whether an Easy-walk harness, head halti or no pull harness. This will stop the pulling from jarring her too much to make a difference in the training.

    I'm online most of the time so you can message me directly if you need to. If you need the help I can help you come with a training program to help with all this. Also, a video of her behavior would be most helpful for all involved.
  4. cydoc178 New Member

    Awesome information, thank you both. I have worked with a lot of dogs, namely friends dogs who kind of just gave up on them, but this is my first pup/adolescent I have been in charge of. I think this will be training for us both, for me it will be patience!

    I may go ahead and get the chain leash for the time being. Any advice for getting a harness on her? She rolls, nips, lunges and if all else fails starts backing away. I don't want to force her into it, and I know it will take time but she has yet to succumb to allowing it to be put on even once! lol
  5. DevonW Well-Known Member

    Do a lot of shaping with her, so eventually she wants to do things like put a harness on because it pays to.
  6. southerngirl Honored Member

    Dogster and Johanna2 like this.
  7. blacknym Experienced Member

    Kikopup is awesome I suggest watching and listening to her videos carefully.
  8. srdogtrainer Experienced Member

    I am wondering if she is just a very high drive puppy that needs a ton of exercise and mental stimulation. Terriers tend to be very high energy dogs. Try to find ways to give her a lot of exercise right before trying to work on commands.

    If she is jumping and nipping it is probably because she thinks it is a fun game. I would immediately stop moving (freeze) and that might be enough to get her to stop for the moment, because you became boring. Try to redirect her to something she can play with such as a rope toy. Maybe keep a short light weight leash on her so that you can step on it to prevent her from jumping when she gets in the mode. Reward her often for any behavior you do like. Make a point to give her attention when she is calm.

    I hope this is somewhat helpful for you.

    You may want to consider finding a positive trainer in your area to work with if you are having trouble. It is better to start early then to wait until it becomes a strong habit.
  9. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Hi and welcome to DTA. As a few others have mentioned to you, please please drop the whole "dominance" concept from your mind and vocabulary. Please believe me when I tell you your girl is not plotting any kind of world take-over at her first lucky break. She's a puppy with a huge amount of energy, trying to make it in a confusing human world. You said yourself, you don't know her background. And she doesn't know yours. You don't speak dog. She doesn't speak English. Therein lies part of the problem. And so .. you've come to the right place. (y)

    It does sound like she's still learning the whole "potty" concept. Make sure when you take her out that she's out long enough to actually potty, and that you're really throwing a party and praising her and treating her when she's accomplished her mission. Make sure it's clear to her when she's done what you want - hopefully she'll grasp it quickly. How much exercise is she getting right now? It sounds like no walks, so how about ball, or chase, or some kind of running games? She sounds like a wild terrier who's not got an outlet for all that crazy pent-up energy! For walks, you may want to look at a no-pull harness, such as an EZ-Walk by Premier. It's a front-clip harness, and it will help with the pulling while she's learning to walk nicely on a leash. Go really slowly with her, getting her used to it, before putting it on and taking her out. Let her check it out, give her treats for sniffing it, touch her with it and treat her, etc. Once it's on her and the leash is attached, make sure you have a pouch FULL of treats, all your patience, take a deep breath, and go. If she starts jumping around, wait her out for a few seconds, then move along. Most dogs can't buck like wild broncos and walk along at the same time. They just walk, cuz they'll suddenly find things to sniff, and pee on, and etc .... and that ends up being much more rewarding than throwing a tantrum. Make sure you treat her for even a second of calmness, keep the treats coming when she's giving you the behavior that you want. Reward any behavior you want - including any behavior you want in the house (not just on the leash).

    You mentioned that you're meeting with a trainer. Please only work with someone who does positive reinforcement. You have a dog who is already showing signs of stress, confusion, and anxiety. If you work with a trainer who endorses the whole dominance theory and uses punishment, choke collars, intimidation, alpha rolls, etc to "train" your dog, your issues may well spiral out of control. Please be very very careful when choosing a trainer. It can make or break your dog, and the relationship you're trying to establish with your dog.
  10. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi there, and welcome.

    You've gotten some great advice (thank you to charmedwolf and jackienmutts for the long responses!) so far. I wanted to offer my understanding, as my first dog was an 80lb 2 yr old dog who had never walked on a leash, never lived in a house, etc. and there were definitely moments which were exasperating, embarrassing (in public), and I even shed a few tears of exasperation on a few occasions.

    I also wanted to second this:
    This is the key. Once she figures out that there are things she can do for rewards, i.e. that she can influence her own fate!!!, her world will begin to turn around. I can't stress how important this is. Imagine living in an enclosed space, waiting to be fed, trying not to step on any toes, with no way to communicate effectively. Then imagine the same life, but you have a means of earning food and positive feedback. (Check out/buy/download The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson for a quick but great read about dog-human communication!) Your fate isn't out of your hands -- your confidence soars, you can have a role in your life beyond that of someone waiting for something (good or bad) to happen. This is the confidence you need to give your dog, and this change will rock her world.

    Now when training something specific, keep in mind that dogs need to learn to learn -- at first she'll have no idea what's going on, it will seem like you've become a treat dispenser without rhyme or reason. But she'll quickly pick up on 'the game' -- she'll realize that you're communicating, that her behavior influences yours. I'll warn you that for some dogs, you can have quite a few frustrating sessions (where you don't know for sure that she's getting it!); this is the learning curve, and she might seem slow or hopeless on a few occasions ... and then there's a sudden sea change. She gets it, she realizes what's going on and for the rest of her life you'll have a good training partner. In fact, for nervous, high-strung dogs, being able to snap into the training game is often a source of comfort for them.

    Best of luck and please don't hesitate to ask, ask, ask and also please keep us posted.

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