Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him atÂ email@example.com.
Dog Gone Problems,
I am in desperate need of help with my dog. We have a spayed female Doberman named Roxy who is 2 years old. I feel she needs obedience training and we need to be advised how to socialize her better since she can be very reactive to other dogs.
Dog parks are not the greatest because she reacts very quickly to dogs who come into her space.Â If the other dogs stay away from her, she stays away from them. Another problem is she has a bit of a protection issue if dogs come near her humans. I will pet Roxy to calm her so she knows me and our kids are OK and the dogs were not hurting us. Once I do this, she will run off and continue to play. When walking her, I need to use a pinch collar or there is no way I can do so. She knows several command words, too.
After months and months of deliberating on whether or not to add another dog to our family, I decided it was a good idea to get a puppy since she has never seemed reactive with small dogs or puppies. We just got a puppy named Bolt who is 12 weeks old, but Roxy is very aggressive towards her. I have to make sure the puppy is at my side at all times because Roxy snarls, snaps at and is just reactive towards Bolt.Â
The reactive behavior she demonstrates is dangerous and it needs to stop. She also needs to stop biting and jumping up on people. The biting is playful, but it can sometimes hurt. If me or my kids run and play with her at the dog park, she comes running at us and bites us on the ankle. I have had many bruises and scratches from this behavior. I desperately need someone to help me, but I am on a budget and I donât know where to go or what to do for help.
Please, if you can offer any advice to me it would be so greatly appreciated. I just want our Roxy to be a loving and gentle dog, and I want to raise Bolt to be gentle and loving as well.
I’m not going to pull any punches here. You have made some bad choices that are putting other people and your new puppy in danger. It is your job to address and fix problems that come up when you get a dog. Anyone getting a puppy has a duty to ensure that her or she in a safe environment, since it doesnât know any better.
This is a dangerous situation and it needs to be addressed by a dog behavior expert before Roxy attacks the puppy, another dog or a human. If you are unable or unwilling to pay for a professional to assist you in person, I strongly suggest you re-home the puppy so it doesnât have to pay for your failings by getting hurt or killed.
Roxy can learn to stop being aggressive to other dogs but it will take time and work. Having a puppy takes a lot of work, too. Having them together is a lot for anyone to handle, but when you add in dog aggression, I’m very concerned for the pup.
It sounds like Roxy is becoming protective or possessively aggressive. This is often due to a lack of rules and structure. If you were a client, I’d ask what rules were in place, but I’m guessing you donât have. This can cause the dog to think it is your peer or superior to you in rank. Does Roxy nudge or paw at you when she wants attention? If she does and you pet Roxy after she nudges you, you are telling her she is the boss. This combination can confuse Roxy into thinking she needs to protect or be possessive of you. It’s also possible Roxy is insecure and reacting to the other dogs and your new puppy as a result. If this is the case, teaching her some new commands can help boost her self esteem and self worth.Â
How much exercise does Roxy get? If she is high energy, she should be getting a minimum of an hour of exercise every day. Failure to do so can cause your dog to get more anxious or amplify unwanted behaviors. Exercise should be done early in the day and repeated whenever your dog starts to play rough with you. In fact, the jumping up and biting should be seen as Roxyâs way of saying, âI need exercise.â
You should immediately stop playing when Roxyâs energy gets too high. Stopping the instant her teeth touch you â even if light or by accident â or when she gets too excited or too intense is a good way of saying you donât want that behavior. After stopping for a moment, take her out for a game of fetch or put her on a leash and take her for a walk.
You also need to train her to walk on a leash by teaching her how to act and behave, not by using a collar that hurts her when she pulls. Dogs donât learn not to pull with these barbaric collars â i.e. pinch collar, prong collar, etc. Instead, they just learn âwalks are when I will have constant pressure or pain on my neck.â Prong collars cause stress and anxiety in dogs, which is why they are illegal in almost every country on the planet. No tool is going to teach your dog for you. Again, you have to do the work. It’s not hard to find videos teaching your dog to heel on YouTube.
Additionally, anything your dog is doing when you pet her is what you are rewarding and enhancing. So each time Roxy is acting possessive or protective and you pet her, you are making her more possessive or protective in the future. Instead, you should try to pet her with a purpose as detailed in thisÂ video.
While petting with a purpose will help, I’m very concerned about Roxy, the well being of your puppy, dogs you meet and visitors to your home. You really need a dog behaviorist or positive reward-based trainer to evaluate and give you a plan to help guide you and Roxy towards becoming a well-behaved dog.
One last tip: If you cannot find or afford an expert to assist, my last recommendation is to get the book “Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0: New Practical Techniques for Fear, Frustration, and Aggression in Dogs” by Grisha Stewart. This book is amazing, as it shows people with reactive dogs how to create scenarios where your dog can learn different ways to act when he or she is fearful, possessive or reactive.
Good luck and remember â everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.