Any suggestions for handling an aggressive dog?

We have a dog whose mother had a significant amount of Rottweiler in her. We have no idea who his father is. He is about 13 months old, 65-70 pounds and recently has gotten really aggressive. We have moved within the last two months so I think this could have contributed to it with him really trying to mark his territory and all that. Whenever anyone comes near our house, he goes absolutely nuts. He growls, barks, and shows his teeth. It’s like he’s possessed and can’t think of anything else. On the occasion that he has gotten loose, he will run at the person, bark, and then immediately jump back and go at the person from another angle. He has never bitten or actually physically harmed anyone.

Obviously we are really concerned and do not want to have to give him up, but it’s terribly irresponsible to keep him in his current state. I figured the thing to do when he is acting aggressive like he does is to try to put him in a submissive position since he is obviously wanting power over the person he is antagonizing. I try to make him sit by forcing him down, but then he kicks back up again.

To make matters worse, we share a garage and a few buildings behind our house so there are always people walking around in our back yard so it’s not like we can really keep him put away in the back yard. For the record, we now keep him chained up at all times.

I really don’t know what to do with him. Our family loves him to death and treats him just like everyone else, but we think he has gotten a complex that he’s the alpha-male around the place and just runs things. We really wouldn’t trust him enough to leave him around people other than ourselves - he’s good as gold to our immediate family. How can you have a dog where people have to use side doors and sneak around to get to your house?

It’s not too late is it!? Any advice?

I forgot to mention that he isn’t neutered if that would make a difference. Also his favorite foods are spaghetti and brownies. :smiley:

Good idea, that should end your problem if they are chocolate brownies. The more he eats the sooner he’s off to doggie heaven. :wink: :eek:

I didn’t know that. No more brownies for him. :wink:

Male dogs at that age are not worth a plug nickel. This is particularly true for big dogs, as all their brains fall out of their heads, so you effectively have to start over on the training AND now they’re big.

The good news is that whatever training he had before he’ll take to more quickly than it was last time (you’re not really starting over).

I, personally, wouldn’t try to alpha roll him. I would take him to obedience school, and fast. And I’d be prepared to spend anywhere from 20-40 hours a week working with him. He’s going to need a lot of attention, and a lot of reminders that not only are you the boss, (basically) all humans are the boss of him.

He’s bored and he’s a teenager. That basically sums up your issues. Fix the boredom, and don’t tolerate the teenage rebellion crap.

And get help, even if it’s just basic obedience school. A dog expert in your area will be a lot more helpful than people on a message board who can’t evaluate your dog’s temperment, and how well you and he match up.


Take him to the dog park. It may be too late.

Oh. And understand that you may have to take measures that seem drastic to you. (For example, tying his leash to your belt so he has to follow you.) Enter with an open mind about such measures, but don’t do anything that you really feel uncomfortable with. Even if you’re working with a great trainer who really understands you and your animal, if you’re not comfortable your dog will know it and take advantage of it.

There are some things you can do at home, but you really do need to take him to a professional for evaluation and training.

The dog needs to know that you are in control. Make him lie down before you will give him any food, water or attention. Make him sit before walking out a door, and never let him go out the door before you do. Make the dog stay off of all furniture.*

For the door thing, I suggest you try this: Stand by with treats** while someone else does something that always makes the dog bark, such as knocking on the door. Give the command loudly and clap your hands, or whatever you can think of to startle him. When he stops barking even for a millisecond, say “Good hush!” and give him a treat. Repeat as many times as it takes him to learn the command. Then, start slowly lengthening the time he has to remain quiet before he gets the treat.

Next, add in a step where he has to sit when you say “hush.” Hold the treat above his head and move it backwards behind him. Most dogs will lose their balance when you do this and automatically sit. Praise and reward. Do this about ten times and then just say “hush” and look at him expectantly until he sits. (Dogs usually sit as the default way to please a human when they don’t know what it is you want.) Give him a huge reward when he does.

It may take a while, but its an awesome command to have at your disposal.

  • All of these things are in “dog language.” Lying down is a submissive act. Walking first through a doorway is high-status to a dog, as well as sitting on furniture, and by not letting him do it, you’re saying that the high status belongs to the people. (The higher geographic elevation you are, the higher your status in the dog world, meaning that Alpha Dog would sleep on the rock while Beta Dog would have to sleep on the floor.)

** Use something super-yummy that the dog absolutely loves. (Plain ole Milk Bones aren’t going to be enough to make him want to obey when he has such a strong desire to bark. You gotta make the reward worth it.) Make sure he’s really hungry when you do this, and only give him small bites.

Shoot, triple post!

I missed the most important thing.

Neuter him. Now. That will help mellow him out quite a bit, which is what you need. He doesn’t need his testicles, and he won’t miss them. Furthermore, he can’t get certain cancers without them.

Intact male animals are far and away the most problematic dogs. You’re not (I should hope) going to be breeding this boy, so he’s got no need for testicles.

Finally, I have to disagree (in part) with garygnu. A dog park is a terrible idea right now. Socialization is 100% the answer, but right now that socialization needs to come in a controlled environment (obedience classes, for example), NOT in a fluid, off lead environment where even the best trained, best behaved animals occasionally get into turf fights.

I agree that you need to get his nuts chopped pronto. He isn’t smart enough to figure out why you gave the vet money at the end.

This socialization stuff is fine as an adjunct treatment but anybody that been around horses/cows/dogs/cats for a while knows that intact nuts on a male can be bad news and there isn’t a lot you can do until you get that taken care of. Many a fine pet has been revealed after those biological impulses have been muted.

While chocolate often warms a woman’s heart, it tends to stop those of dogs.

The first step is neutering. Don’t get all anthropomorphic about it, he doesn’t need them (he is not breeding stock) and he won’t miss them.

Next, other training advice has been offered but keep in mind that all members of the family need to be able to handle this dog. Everyone needs to be above him in the pack order.

And if you do socialize him I would get him a halti-collar which is not a muzzle but has a couple straps that go over the muzzle to give you more control over his head.

Get professional help. As mentioned, someone who can evaluate your dog fist hand and give you assistance in person will go a lot further than tips from a message board. A local obedience class is a good start, but if he needs “special ed,” you can get one on one help with a pro that comes to your house. If there are local obedience or agility trials, ask the participants for trainer recommendations.

You should also make sure he’s getting enough exercise. Think of an energetic teenage boy that’s locked in the house all day or stuck on a boring chain–he’s going to get rebellious. For a large, young dog, that may be more than twice a day walks. You may need some good, long sessions of fetch.

And, yeah, get him neutered.

I agree with the comments above about always making your dog obey a command before doing anything for him. When you feed him, make him sit, then release him to eat when YOU decide. If he is in the habit of nudging you for petting or begging for food at the table, make him lie down. The dog should always be under firm control, and before he gets anything he wants, he has to obey you in some way.

Does he food guard? Growl at you if you approach him while he’s eating? If so, you should break him of that habit - be careful, though, because this is one area where you can get bitten if you don’t watch the dog’s signals carefully.

Get him neutered ASAP.

Do not take him to a dog park.

Do not chain him outside - this is only going to make things worse. Keep him in the house and walk him on leash.

Absolutely do not try anything like an alpha-roll. This can result in a bite to the face.

Agree with the posters above on having him sit or down before he gets anything that he wants - treats, a walk, dinner, scritches.

Seek professional help from a qualified trainier - ask your vet for a referral. If you happen to live in the Chicago area, email me and I’ll send you the name of someone.

What’s an alpha roll?

Alpha rolls and why they’re bad.

An alpha roll is when you gently push the dog onto his back and hold him there. An aggressive dog will fight until he’s exhausted. A “medium temperment” dog will struggle briefly and then give up, and a submissive dog won’t fight at all.

Some people object to this, saying it’s traumatizing for the dog. It’s a very exposed position for a dog-- during a fight, pushing another dog onto the ground is what you do before ripping open its belly. So, it’s naturally a position which makes them vaguely nervous. I just disagree that a gentle smiling owner doing it puts the dog in fear for his life. My dogs do it all the time during play.

If you’re doing it gently and not physically forcing the dog, I don’t know that I’d call it an alpha roll. I think what your describing is fine. The link above specifically talks about the dog allowing this, not having it forced.

Well, there’s always a *certain *amount of force. You do have to hold the dog in place, after all, and you have to put the dog in that position, which (with a smaller dog) might involve actually picking them up and placing them on their back if they scramble to avoid being pushed over. (With bigger dogs, it’s best to do it when they’re already laying down.)

Slamming a dog to the ground and pinning it there is not an “alpha roll”. That’s abuse, and anyone who does that deserves to get bitten. Anyone who advocates doing that is either a jerk or an idiot. That’s bound to trigger a big fear response.

I’ve never actually read any books or websites that suggests roughly shoving the dog to the ground. Everything I’ve ever read about “alpha rolls” have said that it must be done gently but firmly.

From “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” by The Monke of New Skete - Second Edition (they advocated alpha roll in the first edition (empahsis NOT mine, all misspelling are mine):

So one of the biggest proponents of this technique now says it may get you a bite to the face.

I don’t think putting a puppy on its back in puppy temperament testing is the same as what the Monks used to advocate.