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Teenage Rebellion?

October 4th, 2006, 12:16 PM
I adopted a mixed breed female dog last summer and named her Hera. Her mother was a Rottweiler mix and we do not know what her father was, though she looks much like a small German Shepard. She is now 55 lb and about a year and a half old. She is an incredibly affectionate dog and seems to be very intelligent (she learns new things very quickly). We have had no problems with her until recently. Within the past week, she has done things that make me believe she is challenging my authority as leader of the pack.
The first incident occurred when I was tucking my daughter in. She was lying on my daughterís bed and when I told her to get off she growled and bared her teeth at me for less than a second. The second and third incidents were similar. She put my hand in her mouth for a very short period of time. She did not bite down at all either time. After each of these incidents, she became very submissive, before I even had time to express anything but surprise. She ran a short distance from me with her tail between her legs, lay down on the floor, and pulled her ears back into a submissive position. She also would not look me in the eyes. I scolded her each time by crouching over her, holding her by the neck, and growling at her and she was instantly still and submissive each time.
The think that concerns me most is the possibility of her hurting one or both of my children. She sleeps with my 13 year old son and he does not want to stop sleeping with her.
Other than these three incidents, however, she has recently made leaps and bounds in terms of behavior and training. She does not run out of the house if someone leaves the door open too long, she does not try to jump on everyone she sees, she will heal without a leash, etc.
If this is just a teenage rebellion and she will grow out of it, I can handle it for a period of time. Iím dealing with a 15 year old daughter teenage rebellion too. But if Iím doing something wrong, I would like to know so I can fix both my behavior and Heraís.

October 4th, 2006, 04:35 PM
The think that concerns me most is the possibility of her hurting one or both of my children. She sleeps with my 13 year old son and he does not want to stop sleeping with her.

IMO she shouldn't be sleeping in ANYONE's bed. She's showing territorial behavior over furniture and she shouldn't be allowed up on beds, couches, or any other furniture because she's becoming posessive.
A dog should never be allowed to show aggression towards a person, but in this situation the biggest problem is that she doesn't understand her place in the household. She's scolded when she shows aggression, as she should be, but then you let her back up on the furniture, which isn't consistent. If instead you keep her off the furniture she learns that it does NOT belong to her, and there should be no reason to use force with her.

If your son doesn't want to stop sleeping with her, I would just say "too bad". You're the parent and your dog is showing aggression towards humans which is COMPLETELY unacceptable. Curbing your dogs aggression so that she doesn't hurt someone is more important than letting her sleep in your sons bed.

Btw, your dog shouldn't be running away from you with her tail between her legs, EVER. That could mean you've been too forceful with her. Your dog should trust you and see you as a stable leader, not someone to fear, that's why it's important to control her by controlling her enviroment, not punishing her for doing something she doesn't realize is wrong.
For instance, there's no reason to punish her for growling at you while she's on the bed, because you shouldn't be letting her on the bed.

October 4th, 2006, 08:17 PM
IMO she shouldn't be sleeping in ANYONE's bed. She's showing territorial behavior over furniture and she shouldn't be allowed up on beds, couches, or any other furniture I agree. She needs to be reinformed of who the leader is, and not by physical overpowering (that creates fear in her, not confidence and trust).

Search here for NILF or NILIF. It's a less physical way of becoming a leader over your doggy.

October 4th, 2006, 10:45 PM
I scolded her each time by crouching over her, holding her by the neck, and growling at her and she was instantly still and submissive each time.

This makes me really nervous! It is very confrontational and all she has to do is turn her head and snap and its over (in that she will have crossed the line and it will make it much harder to rehabilitate her). It's not really a good idea to physically force your dog into submission - particularly with a bigger dog that has guarding tendancies in her breed.

Generally its easiest to avoid things like this by removing the dogs triggers. So I agree with the others that she should not be allowed on beds/sofas.
Obviously I can't say for sure since I am not there but I'm not convinced that its territorial - from the sounds of it, she thinks that she is your daughter's protector! She needs to be taught that this is not a self-appointed task and that it is not her job. You can best teach her this by giving her boundaries and keep all training positive (not aversive) - someone posted this for me when I was having issues:

For problems consider this from Shirley Chong

Leading The Dance - Building A Better Relationship [Printer Friendly Version]

Leading The Dance is designed as a problem-solving tool. Some of the items will be used for the rest of the dog's life - we particularly suggest the feeding regimen, possession, and the roadwork. Other items will be done only until the dog understands his position in society. When he graduates, release him from the items one at a time over a period of several weeks, watching for him to go back to his old ways. Many people do Leading The Dance one month in six as a preventative measure. If there is any part of Leading The Dance that is liable to get you bitten while you're doing it, DON'T DO IT and GET HELP from a competent trainer!

1. Umbilical cord - As much as possible when you are at home, keep the dog on leash and with you. Put a 6 foot leash on the dog, and attach the other end of the leash to a sturdy belt around your waist. Ignore the dog and go about your business. Having to constantly watch what you do and where you go will not only bond the dog to you, but will help make you important in his eyes.

2. Eye contact x 2 - twice a day, sit down with the dog sitting between your knees, and use a command such as Watch Me, or make funny noises, or tap the dog's nose and then your own, or whatever you have to do to get eye contact.

3. Obedience x 2 - Twice a day, run quickly through an obedience session using whatever the dog knows how to do, Sit, Down, Come, Stay, Heel, repeat as needed. Train for a couple of minutes each session. Do NOT touch the dog to praise him.

4. Feed x 2 - When food is left down for the dog to eat ad lib, the dog owns the food. Ownership is what dominance is all about, so we must take possession of the food. Feed the dog twice a day, in a confined area such as a crate or the bathroom. Use a Feeding Ritual. Ask him if he's hungry, ask him to help find his dish, to help find the food, ask him again if he's hungry, tell him to go to his area or get in his crate, give him the food. As soon as he's finished, or as soon as he turns away from his food, or if he doesn't begin eating immediately, take the dish away, throw away the food, and clean the dish. If the dog is not successful at eating (doesn't eat his whole meal), give him half the regular amount at his next meal, until he is cleaning the bottom of the dish. A successful meal means he gets more at his next meal, until he is eating the amount that will keep him in optimum condition. The food must be high-quality and low-bulk. Water should be freely available all day. Give no treats in the food or by hand. Dogs love rituals and you are teaching his body to get ready to eat when he hears the beginning of the ritual.

5. Possession is 9/10 of the Law - At least once a day, handle the dog. Repeat the words These are my ears! This is my paw! This is my muzzle! This is my tail! as you handle him. If he fusses, go slower. It's important that the dog has a positive experience - that he comes to see that you will be handling him and it's of no concern to him. When he is completely relaxed and accepts your ownership, say OK and release him. If your dog will not allow you to handle him like this without getting angry or getting away, DO NOT do this exercise. Do the rest of the exercises and use the clicker to teach the dog to allow this handling later.

6. Long Down-Stay - Do one 30-minute Down-Stay every day. You can watch TV but the dog must be in plain sight and you must be aware of him. He can roll over, go to sleep, and look annoyed or bored, but he cannot get up or walk away.

7. I'm-The-Mommy Down - At least once a day, just because you felt like it, tell the dog to lie down. When he does, use your voice only to tell him he did a good job, say Okay, and walk away.

8. Bosshood Is In The Eye Of The Beholder - Consider life from the dog's point of view. He sleeps where he wants, he eats when he wants, he leads you around. Any wonder he gets the impression that he's the Boss? Don't allow him to go through doors ahead of you. Don't allow him to go up or down stairs ahead of you. Don't allow him to lead you down hallways. Always position him or yourself so you are leading and he is following. If he's lying down, don't walk around him. Put your feet on the floor and shuffle right through him (note you don't kick the dog, merely push him gently out of the way) - make him think about where you are and what you're doing. When he orders you to let him out, take charge of going outside. Build a ritual around the door. Focus his attention on you: Do you want to go out? Sit! When he sits, you go to the door. Want to go out? Sit. Down. Sit. Stay. Then open the door and order him out: Okay, go outside! You change the situation so you are in charge of it. Keep the dog on the floor. Not on the couch, not on the chair, not halfway up the stairs surveying his domain, not in your lap, not on the car seat. On the floor. Don't leave the dog loose in the house or yard when you're not home. Free run of the house when the Boss isn't home allows the dog to feel powerful and in charge. Don't allow the dog to sleep on your bed, or on a child's bed. Dogs recognize the bed as a throne for the Boss. If he sleeps away from you, however, he will think that you own the bedroom, but he owns the rest of the house. The dog should sleep in your bedroom. If you can't have him sleeping in your bedroom (allergies, for instance), confine him to his crate.

9. Work Off Energy - Roadwork the dog 4 days a week. Start small, but work up to a mile for small dogs, 2 miles for medium dogs, and 3 miles for large dogs. Many problems will disappear with no more effort than roadworking. You can jog with the dog, or ride a bike, or longe him with a Flexilead, or use a motorised trike, or lend him to a jogger who's afraid of being mugged.

10. Busy Hands Are Happy Hands - If you want to pet the dog, he must first do pushups - Sit, Down, Sit, Down, Sit, Down, Sit, Down - then you can pet him for a count of 5 only. He never gets petted because he wants to be or because he demands it, only because you want to and he earns it. Then you pet him for only a moment, and turn away with him wanting more.

11. My Game, My Rules - Give the dog only one toy. If he wants to chase the toy, bring it to you and let you have it, throw it again. If he won't chase it, or won't give it to you, turn your back and walk away. He has two choices, he can play with you and the toy, or he can play with the toy alone. Do not, under any circumstances, play tug-of-war. When you can get the toy without chasing him or playing tug, pick it up and put it away.

12. Eliminate Hormones - Have problem dogs neutered. Some problems will solve themselves with no more effort than this. Not only will the dog be healthier and easier to live with, but your life will be made simpler.

October 4th, 2006, 11:23 PM
Great post Lissa.

I'd like to emphasize that #5 should probably really be worked on with this dog since she apparently has trust issues with the owner. Also, the more I think about it, the growling may be partially because she's a bit fearful, hence the running away with tail between legs.

With #11, another good idea that I've tried and read in several places is to use certain toys for certain games. For instance, if you play fetch with your dog every day, use certain toys JUST for that game. By doing this the dog learns that those toys are only for fetch, and is less likely to feel posessive over them. She'll also get excited and know exactly what to do when you get the toys out because she knows these toys=fetch. Use other toys for separate games and it has the same outcome.

October 5th, 2006, 12:51 PM
Thanks for so much advice. I can see several things I am doing wrong and I think the bed thing may be one of the least things. I often pet her when she comes and "asks" to be petted and play with her when she brings me a toy. I have to make a conscious effort to stop this because I like to pet her and play with her. I will have to do these only when I initiate them.
I have another question. When I do pet her, she often turns her back side to me so I will pet her hind quarters. Is this a dominant position, submissive position, or simply her favorite place to be scratched?

October 5th, 2006, 01:19 PM
She may just like being scratched there, but generally when a dog turns her back to you it's a fairly submissive gesture. It's kind of like "It's ok I'm not a threat". An example of a dominant posture would be head up, tail up and facing you.

This is the only site I have on body language right now, but it's helpful:

Dogs also exhibit several postures before they exhibit the obvious ones (like tail between legs), so maybe it will help you see why she reacts in certain ways. Without even meaning to you could seem confrontational or scary to your dog and not even know it, which can cause an aggressive response.