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I was afraid of my dog last night

April 17th, 2004, 10:30 AM
I could tell almost immediately that Molly, my six month old pup was an alpha. I did all my research and I follow all the rules and over time, it has made a huge difference. No more constant power struggles, she basically sees me as the leader.

And yet....

Last night she was laying in her bed (not her crate) over top of a household object that she had taken from the living room. I walked into the bedroom just past where she was sitting and, not even planning to take it, she snapped and growled at me. I was shocked and so I reached down to grab them and she freaked out and lunged at me. Had I not been able to move my hand away she would easily have drawn blood. She was like a rabid dog (yes, she has had her rabies shot) and I actually had to grab oven mitts and put them on to take it away. And I have to admit, it scared me, I was afraid to touch her. I have never had this kind of experience with a dog ever.

This wasn't the first time that she had behaved somewhate aggressively but never, never like this. She used to bite when she was younger like all puppies but I learned how to get her to stop and it ended a long time ago. She has lunged out to bite and growled when I have been picking her up off the couch or when she is in her crate but never like this. She seems to be getting worse in her aggression and yet is so good about behaving? It doesn't make any sense.

I generally respond by holding her jaw closed (so no biting of my face) and saying NO! firmly and staring at her until she looks away. Then I walk away and ignore her for a time out. She then is really, really good for about a day. I can see that she feels bad, even last night she was aware that what she had done was wrong but it was like some other vicious animal was there and not my affectionate puppy.

I have also consistently been doing this for at least four months:
- no treat without doing something
- sit and stay before being fed (after I eat)
- only one toy at a time, that I take away and give
- not allowed on the furniture
- she has been to obedience school and I still practice with her and she does well
- I take her food dish/bones away when eating and she lets me, and when she has 'stolen' something she gives it up (or makes it a game)
- I printed alpha boot camp and it's on the kitchen fridge - I have been following it for months since I first found it posted

I am especially concerned since next month she is staying with family for a week or so and I am worried that she may bite someone while there or make them afraid to discipline her . I am sorry for the length of this post but I am really worried about this.

April 17th, 2004, 11:00 AM
A good rule of thumb is, don't try to take the thing away from her unless you tell her to sit first. Telling her to sit will make you the leader unless she disobeys. Then you just have to wear oven mits.:D (kidding)

Lucky Rescue
April 17th, 2004, 11:27 AM
OH that is scary! What breed of dog is this, and where did you get her?

It's impossible to tell if she is just being a bratty puppy who is pushing the limits, or if she is on her way to being aggressive.

It sounds like you are doing everything right, and if it's just the bratty thing, the course you are following should set her straight by the time she is a little older.

If you are really worried, I would consult a GOOD trainer or behaviorist and have him/her come to the house so the puppy can be observed to find out what is really going on.

If you are worried about her biting someone at your family's house, I would board her at a kennel when you go away.

OH, and keep her OFF the couch and the bed!! Dogs like this often feel they are your equal if they are on the furniture.

April 17th, 2004, 11:40 AM
I agree with LR do not let her go with someone while you are away unless they do not have children and are very dog experienced.

You may consider boarding or pet sitters, professionals in their work.

This could very well be bratty puppy like LR suggests ...that is testing the limits of how far she can climb up the alpha ladder.

Have to really look at the entire picture to understand whats going on here..can you give us more information about your home, how many people, ages, pets involved?

Who has been doing the training, is it kept up?

What toys does the dog have...dogs sleeping old and where you got the dog from etc....

What tools you use in training, are you harsh with her or use positive reinforcement. Can you give us an example.

April 17th, 2004, 12:40 PM
Thank you so much for your responses!

I got her from Rosie's Animal Adoption in Montreal. We think she is a beagle/terrier/border collie mix. I've had her since she was about 7 weeks old.

Almost right away, once she became comfortable, she was always aggressive and dominant although she was also very timid and afraid. I did tons of research and have worked really hard with her. She was terrified of people and dogs (when I first brought her home she peed herself and hid under the table and took hours to come out) but I have worked really hard at socializing her and so now she is comfortable with people and loves other dogs. I take her to this dog park as often as I can and people can hardly believe how much she has changed. Even though she is usually smaller and younger than all the other dgs she has become something of a leader in play and often I am very proud of her :)

Everything I have done seems to have made a difference with the behaviour but this aggression is something else. She really is a very bratty puppy who always pushes the limits and is always acting up in one way or another. She is a handful but I can't always tell if what she does is typical puppy behaviour that she will grow out of or a behaviour that I will always have to struggle with. And I am really starting to think it is the latter :( I have been consistently doing all the 'right things' and I have seen a positive change but I just didn't see this coming and I am really worried.

I do keep her off the furniture - I used to let her up for cuddles but realized early on that this was one dog I could not do this with! I have been letting her sneak up on the bed at night (My post on waking me up in the middle of the night) without letting her know that I know she is doing but as of last night that is over (and she got me up at four in the morning in retaliation for the first time in weeks :rolleyes: ) That may have contributed somewhat but it still should not cause her to become vicious when I walk past her.

As far as it goes here - I live in an apartment with my fiance. It has always been the three of us, no change in living situation. She gets lots of exercise, walks, and trips to the dog park. There are no other pets. I am a more firm than him and so I have always done the training and I did obedience school with her, although we both work with her. I do keep up with the training, she is very food motivated and so she responds well. She will do everything perfectly (and even tries to predicts what I am going to ask by doing it first). In this respect, she is eager to please. Mostly, she does seem to recognize that I am the boss and sometimes him :)

She is crate-trained, has her little bed, has lots of toys although she repeatedly destroys them, and I give her nylabones which she loves, I only let her have one at a time and I always make her sit before giving them to her.

If I understand what you are asking - I use food as my training tool and only ever positive reinforcement. I never use the crate as punishment, more often time outs and tell her sharply to stop. I have used a water bottle in the past but mostly pulling it out is enough to get her to stop. Whenever she 'steals' something such as a piece of mail I coax her to come and make her drop it, rewarding her with a treat. Mostly what I do works.

As far as boarding her in a kennel I am really afraid that it will just be too difficult for her. I have never been away from her before and I am worried about how she will manage. Despite the progress she has made, she is still very insecure and can be very timid and fearful in new environments. I am worried about putting her in a strange place with lots of other dogs where she will have no one familiar and I don't want her to feel that I have abandoned her. At least with family, it is a place she loves and has been lots of times before and she has her bed and her own toys there. I have boarded other dogs before but I think she is just too high-strung just yet.

Another long post, I think I have addressed everything - thanks for the help.

April 17th, 2004, 01:27 PM
My Sadie is from Rosie's as well (great rescue they are)

Love to see some pictures.

You may just benefit from an obedience class. At home spend 3 x 10 min intervals a day doing training with her.

Sit, stay, down, come etc...
Teach her to stay down (laydown) for 1 min then 2 mins up to 5mins. Reward her and praise her for this and give treats as rewards.

You may consider contacting Rosies' to see if you can pay the foster mom / dad that had her to board her at their home for you?!? Worth a try :D

Lucky Rescue
April 17th, 2004, 01:52 PM
If I'm understanding you correctly, this is a puppy who was unsocialized and taken away from mom and siblings way too early.

Does she only do the snapping and growling over possessions?

Also, the fact that you recoiled and backed away from her snarling and snapping told her that doing this WORKS. I know it's hard not to back away and of course you don't want to be bitten and I"m NOT suggesting taking something from her when she is acting this way, but you must stand your ground and make her back down with body posture and your voice.

Does she know the command "Leave it"?

If so, here is an article that I HOPE will help you.

Aggression (

April 17th, 2004, 02:07 PM

Did you socialize her with any other pups/dogs when you got her?

C J Modisette
April 17th, 2004, 02:38 PM
I am by no means an expert, but a thought came to me that relates to the behavior of wolves and dogs in the wild.

Dogs are pack animals, and every pack has an Alpha Male and an Alpha Female. The Alpha Male is the boss of everybody, and the Alpha Female is second in command. When puppies are born they are at the bottom of the pack and want to be nice to everyone. They are played with by all the adults and juveniles, but are expected to take subservient poses (don't look senior pack members in the eye, greet any higher ranking animal by licking around their face, etc.). As puppies get older their play gets a little more serious, allowing them to find their position in the "pecking order".

It is clear to your puppy that you are the Alpha Female and your fiance is the Alpha Male. It is probably confusing to her that the Alpha Male is not firm with her. In pushing her limits she has probably gotten the feeling that she won some sort of contest with him and is now senior to the Alpha Male. By extension, she is then senior to you since you are second to the Alpha Male. She was letting you know that you stepped out of place.

If my theory is correct, and it is only a theory, your fiance needs to get stricter with her and let her know that she may have won one battle, but the victor of the war is him. That should tame her naturally aggressive tendency for a while; at least until the next time she desides to test the limits.

Good luck.

April 17th, 2004, 03:28 PM
Okay, let me see if I can answer everything.

First, I'll post some pictures after this. She really is adorable. Problem is, she knows it :p

I do keep up with the regular training and she does super well with it. She just loves food!

Yes, she was unsocialized and removed from her mom too early. She was dumped in a field with her littermates until they were picked up by a dog-catcher before she was brought to her foster home. And even that was only a good environment for about a week or so and then I brought her home. Poor little thing, she went through such a trauma :( I have worked really hard with her though and she has made such progress and is very well socialized now.

I read the article and it was helpful. She actually isn't possessive of her things. I take her food dish or her bone when she is chewing on it away from her from time to time and give her a treat and a pat and she always lets me. If anything, she gives it up and puts her head down and waits sadly until I give it back. Pathetic little puppy :)

You can touch her when she is eating or playing and she is never bothered. That is why what she did last night was such a shock.
She actually has only ever showed aggression like that before when she was on the couch and I was taking her off and then she snapped and growled at me. She is not allowed on the couch and she knows it. Mostly she gets off when I say 'OFF!' but sometimes she acts out. It's not when she is sleeping. She does know the leave it command.

I hear what you are saying about the not backing away but I was so shocked I didn't know how to react. Of course, once those oven mitts were on I had no trouble standing up to her! She knew it was wrong.

April 17th, 2004, 03:35 PM
CJ - I see what you are saying and it makes total sense. He is more lenient with her and he does spoil her too much. Perhaps she finds that confusing. She will often act up when it's just them and then I'll come into the room and she will stop. They are so smart, they know exactly what they can and can't get away and with who! He has gotten so much better about it with her and that has helped a ton.

I will show him your message about getting more strict with her though, maybe that will help him see :p

April 17th, 2004, 06:04 PM
Hi Missy, Sorry but I just have to ask; Why do you think a dog can only have one toy at a time? Just wondering because our dogs toys are all over. Is this to control some sort of behavior? Also who recommends this?

April 17th, 2004, 06:16 PM
With an alpha dog you are not supposed to let them have things without having to work for it. That way you stay in control and so if you were to let them have all their toys all the time they won't realize that you are the boss of all these fun things. It helps you to stay in charge of their play time and monitor their behaviour. I have never had to do this with any other dog before but Molly is well...she's different :D

As far as who recommended it - the vet, the trainers at her obedience school, Dr. Coren, and most of the advice that I've read on alphas.

As an aside, I also do it because she has this amazing ability to destroy just about every toy she has so I like to make sure she doesn't go through them too fast.

Lucky Rescue
April 17th, 2004, 06:22 PM
He is more lenient with her and he does spoil her too much.

When using the NILF program on the dog, EVERYONE in the household must follow the rules. Otherwise it just confuses the dog and is not really fair to her. If the rules keep changing, she can't possibly learn them.

April 17th, 2004, 06:26 PM
Thanks Missy! I'll keep that in mind, but I'm assuming if we have no problems competing for alpha that all of their toys can still be
hanging out everywhere? :)

April 19th, 2004, 05:09 PM
Thanks for all your help and support. It is nice to have somewhere to go to when I have a problem :) Just to explain my SO and I are both very consistent in our response to her. When I said that my SO spoils her and is too lenient, I meant that he gives her more attention and treats (but only if she does something first!!) but that she (and him!) know that I am the boss. In the beginning, we were not consistent between us for about the first month but we learned quickly that it was necessary for her to know what to expect, regardless of who it was and so we are careful (he is the reason the alpha boot camp is printed and put on the fridge :p )

So, my questions are as follows:

1) I was given advice but I wanted to check it out before acting on it (just in case it is the wrong way to handle Molly). I was told that when she was challenging me or acting aggressively that I should place her down on her back and hold her until she stops struggling, staring her in the eye until she turns away. This will show her that I am boss. Might this be another approach?

2) I am sure this is stupid and paranoid but I would like some advice. I am starting to wonder if it might be the interaction with other dogs that is helping to cause this recent change in her. I have been thinking for days about what is different and this is the only thing I can think of. Up until about a month or so ago when we went to the park she would want to play but would only watch the dogs. Now, she loves to jump right in there, wrestle, chase, and steal toys from each other, always trying to lead the game. These dogs are all good and mostly have wonderful, responsible owners but perhaps the play is a little too aggressive for her age? I had thought the interaction was good for her, teaching her to socialize but now I am wondering if perhaps I should pull back a bit and not expose her to this type of interaction but I don't know. I am just trying to find a way to figure this out.

April 19th, 2004, 05:31 PM
I do #1 with mine except a bit different. i grab the back of the neck get in her face bar my teeth and growl and stare her in the eye when here eyes avert from mine every thing is cool. She is as good as gold.

I truly beleive in socializing dogs. Try to relax when other dogs come around and say in a super icky voice. "Hi there sweetie pie how are you blah blah blah!" Your dog hopefully (I would keep it leashed for the first while) will catch on that they don't have to protect you from the other big bad dog.

April 19th, 2004, 07:27 PM
It sounds as if you are doing the right things with your dog and maybe it is just a bratty puppy thing. With this type of behaviour I would be looking at it and asking myself if this is one incident or a PATTERN of behaviour to determine if a professional is warranted or to continue training as you have been.

My vet once gave me advice on my dog years ago, who showed some slight dominant traits as a pup. He told me to pin him down on his side and don't let him up until he is relaxed and avoids eye contact. He said just do this occassionaly here and there kind of as part of training and not in response to a specific incident. We tried it a few times. I felt it didn't hurt him. He was a Beagle though, with a large dog it may not work as easily.


We tried "forcing" our large dog to get her nails cut, because "we needed to show her whose boss". Yeah right! She wasn't aggressive, just scared and trying like crazy to get away, so I LOST, due to her strength. That made it worse, and I basically started from square one on the nail cutting after that.

April 19th, 2004, 07:36 PM
Amaraq, Are you still going to get in your dogs face after you just
got bit on the lip? :eek: BTW how is your poor lip doing?

Lucky Rescue
April 19th, 2004, 08:06 PM
I was told that when she was challenging me or acting aggressively that I should place her down on her back and hold her until she stops struggling, staring her in the eye until she turns away. This will show her that I am boss. Might this be another approach?

Who told you to do this? It's very bad advice, as you can see if you think about people who own Mastiffs, Great Danes, Rotties etc.

Obviously people who own large and powerful breeds cannot train them by brute strength alone.

This wrestling dogs unto their backs is often seen as an attack by the dog, who may very well retaliate, and you WILL lose and may sustain a bite to your face in the process.:(

April 19th, 2004, 09:36 PM
I would hesitate about the on the back thing as LR says the dog could just retaliate and make things worse.

You have to show control not competition.

It's fine when you're trying to socialize a puppy, get them used to being handled by u any which way but when it's down to alpha behaviour in a more mature dog I wouldn't do it myself.

However I know many that do, and it seems to work for them.

I wish Carina were around, I know shes' used this method before to her advantage.