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Thread: 9 week old Great dane, with territorial aggression issues.

  1. #1

    Unhappy 9 week old Great dane, with territorial aggression issues.

    Myself, husband and 5 y.o daughter adopted a female great dane a week and a half ago. We have no other dogs in our house, only 2 cats which she has taken to quite well after being slapped a couple of times by them.

    After settling in quite well, she has come to be quite territorial over space or food, growling and even snapping at my husband, growling at me when I pick her up or handle her on the couch.

    I can only assume after coming from a litter of 10 other pups with 3 adult dogs in the household, she is trying to establish dominance in our pack. I'm concerned over how quickly she has done so, seeing as I have been careful not to pile on un-earned affection and let her walk all over us.

    I realise we need to make it very clear we are the alphas in the family and she at the bottom. We've been working on the food aggression through hand feeding, stroking while eating, removing and re-offering the food bowl, and it seems to be going quite well.

    I'm just not sure on how to handle the couch? If she jumps on it, I will demand "off" and point, she gives me full eye contact and growls, I will then quickly but lightly scruff her on the neck and demand "off" again, which results in a yelp & eventually jumping off, unless she holds her ground and tries to submit on the couch.

    I am concerned this method may create further aggression in the future or cause her to constantly challenge us. I've been researching alot since this has been happening but I find the information is vague or one way or the other. As she is going to be such a big dog, it may not alway be possible to manhandle her.

    If what I am doing is bad, how exactly do I cause her to get off the couch? Same for letting go of toys/shoes she is not allowed to have?

    She currently sleeps inside the house (in our room on her bed/floor), we have a routine for toilet breaks, walking and play, meals only after we've eaten and they are outside. She has regular periods alone outside (while we are home and while we are not) there was initially some whining and barking but this has died off almost completely as we ignored it.

    Appreciate some direction on this dawg!
    Last edited by Spinifex; 02-25-2013 at 09:58 AM.

  2. #2
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    you have mentioned use of negative and positive punishment in attempting to train her to respect your 'ownership' of the couch but are you trying positive reinforcement? such as, asking her to get off the couch and then rewarding her for complying? teaching her that its better to keep her butt on the floor when you're on the couch, etc? for example, ask for her to move off the couch and when she complies (however you need to make this happen, doesnt really matter, but then ask for a sit/actiona nd reward it) continue to reward her for staying on the floor and then use negative puninshment (removing her from the couch and nto allowing her into your space, etc.) when she tries to regain her position on the couch. try not to think of all this in terms of 'dominance' you are a family and she is another child now, albeit a large and potentially dangerous one that needs strict boundaries. as such, she needs to trust you and have confidence in you. ensure that positive reiforcement is 99% of your training mechanisms. hand feeding and removal/reintroduction of the food bowl is good in this regard but try to understand that expecting her to enjoy being patted while she is eating is probably stressing her out more if she is already feeling defensive over her food. instead, use a higher value treat (not her kibble) and reward her with those when she willing gives up her food bowl to you, so that she learns that if she trusts you with her food/bowl/bed/toys/treats/bones she will be rewarded with your praise, treats and that you above all RELIABLE in your actions in that you will always return her food to her.

  3. #3
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    Agree with ShooShoo.

    In regards to the couch. I'd consider using a lead to get her onto the floor. Instead fof rewarding her for getting off the couch, I'd teach her to lie on her bed/place in the loungeroom. while it's all good to teach the dog where it isn't allowed to be, you also need to teach her where she CAN be.

    Start by creating a place for her in the lounge room and teach to go to it on command and reward her for staying there. You must start with short sessions and reward a lot, then after a few sessions you can slowly decrease the frequency of reward.

    In regards to toys, use treats or another fun toy to direct her to and she will let go of the toy/object you want. Usually, I hide the treat in my hand and then when I am close enough to the dog I say "Give" and immediately put the treat under the dog's nose. This way they will associate the word "give" with letting go of an object to get a reward. There's a bit more to it and timing is important, but it's basically done like that.

    Have you thought about going with her to a puppy class?

    Have you had her checked by a vet yet?
    Last edited by The Pawfectionist; 02-27-2013 at 05:05 PM.

  4. #4
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    That's not establishing dominance, I would say that's a very unsocialised 9 week old pup with genetic tendencies.

    Do NOT get into a physical altercation with this dog. Unless you are prepared to later take on an adult great dane physically, you don't make battles you cannot win. The dog needs to be taught that there are better options and you guide the dog into doing it. Don't cling too hard to the old fashioned dominance theory, yes dominance does exist but feeding the dog after you eat, walking through doors first etc wont solve your problems. I strongly suggest get someone in with experience with working dogs/guarding breeds and start reading Leerburg Dog Training | 16,000 pages of dog training information, 500 free dog training streaming videos, free eBooks, podcasts, by Ed Frawley and Michael Ellis, it will be the most useful in teaching you how to deal with a dog of this particular temperament in a safe manner and turning the agro arround into productive behaviors

    Frankly I would be keeping a big eye on this pup long term, that is not a behavior I expect from a 'pet' dog. I have working Malinois and other guarding breeds, I get that from them but then the adult behaviors I expect from them are not pet quality either.

    If you have trouble understanding or need clarification on things feel free to message or email me inline_k9 @ yahoo.com, aggression and working dogs are my specialty

  5. #5
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    I too would be keeping a close eye on this dog for a very long term.
    The resource gaurding (toys, food etc) is not welcome in any dog to its owners.

    At this age, id be redirecting not punishing. The leash idea is great. The 'dog bed' at your feet is a great idea.

    And lots of games of swap. You give me your dinner back, i'll give you a treat.
    You give me your toy, i give you a treat.
    And the first sign of aggression...... stop! stop what you are doing, and walk away ignoring your pup. Or if dog on sofa, use leash to get it off immediately it gets up on that sofa. Any aggression and the pup is put outside. ie. manners = welcome, bad manner = get out. Being such sociable creatures, it will want to be with its follks indoors, not shut in garden.

    Set the rules, be consistent, read the learburg site, watch David Ellis, and if at 12 weeks you cant take food/toys etc without a growl. GET A TRAINER in to help, as there is a issue to be overcome fast!

    I have large breeds. And manners is so important for these dogs, right from the get go. As happy excited 50kg pup, will knock most flying. A large muzzle/bite from excited 50kg pup, is dangerous at they are child face height, and do more damage on biting than say a fluff ball toy dog.

    And let the breeder know, that the pup has this issue. They might think twice about breeding again. But probably not. Money talks n all that.
    Tis early days, im pretty confident you can sort this out. With or without help.

    Be aware that pups know the difference in hierarchy in families, and kids are low down. Like there litter mates really. So perhaps sort this for yourself, then also sort it for your daughter once you have control.

    That food bowl needs to be lifted during meals about 5 times each meal. That's 5 opportunities to learn for the pup. Keep the rewards coming with say a piece of cheese, ie a higher value reward than what is in the bowl you stole. And things should come good quick.

  6. #6
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    9 weeks old is very young to be exhibiting such strong behaviour. The bad news is shes only 9 weeks old, the good news is shes only 9 weeks old. It is much easier to get this sorted now than with an adult dog.

    The others have given you terrific advice. Nekhbet suggested Leerburg Dog training, and he is fantastic, he also has podcasts available from itunes for free. There are multiple podcasts that would give you great information for this situation but off the top of my head I would definitely recommend 'the ground work to becoming your puppies pack leader'- This isn't just about dominance, he talks about everything from toilet training and feeding to acceptable manners and behaviour. And even 'The theory of Corrections' this is fantastic and certain aspects could be used in your situation. You mentioned that you were concerned with dragging or shaking the dog on the lounge, well this might help you to find other more appropriate corrections.

    Finally if you go on youtube Cesar Millan has a terrific video about raising the perfect pup and he does address issues surrounding food and pack order. The Dog Whisperer - S06E01 - How to Raise the Perfect Dog - YouTube it might give you some ideas.

  7. #7
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    I would not try to respond to threatening behaviour from the dog with threatening behaviour. It is bound to escalate.

    I personally would show a treat to get him off the couch. He then has to jump off to get it, the treat is his reward for obeying the cue and everybody's happy. Progress to using the cue without showing the treat but then treat when he complies. Eventually you can phase out the treat by only rewarding every second time, third time, etc. This last phase will actually make him more keen to do what is asked because he will be dying to find out if that will be the time he will get a treat or not. So it's excellent enforcement.

    Same with giving up things he is not supposed to have. Say your cue and swap for a treat or favourite toy.

    Using this method makes the whole training phase less stressful for all involved. The dog will love working for rewards, you will feel much better in yourself for not having to manhandle or punish the pup and it provides a base for further training.

    The pup doesn't set out to become leader of the pack. He just doesn't know what he is expected to do and so he does what comes natural. Whether or not his particular way of doing this is common or not I don't know, so I'd believe Nekhbet's suggestion that your dog probably has some issues that stem from either poor socialisation or genetic make-up. Which makes training your dog extra important but I would be extra careful to avoid confrontational methods as these could just exacerbate the issues. If you are finding that the recommended training methods are not giving you the results you want, get professional advice sooner rather than later.

    Being a leader to your dog doesn't need to involve dominating him in the traditional meaning of the word. You can convince your dog that doing what you ask him to do is a very rewarding experience and worth doing.

    I can highly recommend a book called "Chill out Fido!". It has a most excellent part on dog behaviour, stress in dogs and how to avoid it and common sense training methods. The second part of the book describes specific training exercises in minute detail and very easy to follow steps, complete with checks to know if you are ready to move on to the next stage, etc. I remember the first exercise is teaching your dog to lie calmly on a mat. And it is all about encouraging the dog to choose to be calm, as opposed to trying to force him. Really a very valuable book for anyone with a dog that is or may become a bit (or a lot) out of control.
    Last edited by Beloz; 03-20-2013 at 12:49 PM.

  8. #8
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    A dog like this isn't something you fix with a book. Trust me, even down the track with 'motivators' these dogs can hold their ground, give you the middle finger and dare you to take what they have or make them leave their space. Positive only skirts the issue, yes you need a lot of positive reinforcement but you need to be guided by someone NOW in how to raise this pup.

    Frankly I would contact the local Schutzhund/IPO club and ask them for recommendations on a trainer to help you, or if you're in Vic there are plenty of us with experience in dogs of this temperament

  9. #9
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    I would not try to respond to threatening behaviour from the dog with threatening behaviour. It is bound to escalate.
    I find this is true of puppies, dogs and children. If you're rough with them, they're rough with you. If you're gentle, fun and polite (have clear and consistent rules) with them, they will be more interested in working out you want them to do.

    There's no way I'd be scruffing a dog like this one. And I would definitely use a lead if I wanted to drag it off the couch - but a cue to go on the mat - is a much better idea. And given it guards the couch - I would not be allowing it on the couch. And that might mean not allowing it into the room with the couch off lead or when you're not home.

    And I would be playing lots of food / toy trade games with a dog like this. As long as it showed no aggression. If the dog curls a lip at all, all food, toys, games - get put away. I would be paying attention to any signals that precede aggression, stress signals, lip curls, ears back, sniffing, scratching, looking away... There's some scary videos on the net - where someone is describing their dog as friendly and calm - when it's stressed out, anxious, scared or angry.

    You set rules and limits for your dog, but if you blindly follow the "wolf pack dominance methods" you're going to get your arm ripped off. The leader of the wolf pack never forces submission, the submissive dog offers it. And a friendly dog will offer it to signal "I'm no threat I want to be your friend".

    Dumbed down by dominance, Part 1 - DVM
    Dumbed down by dominance, Part 2: Change your dominant thinking - DVM

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nekhbet View Post
    A dog like this isn't something you fix with a book. Trust me, even down the track with 'motivators' these dogs can hold their ground, give you the middle finger and dare you to take what they have or make them leave their space. Positive only skirts the issue, yes you need a lot of positive reinforcement but you need to be guided by someone NOW in how to raise this pup.

    Frankly I would contact the local Schutzhund/IPO club and ask them for recommendations on a trainer to help you, or if you're in Vic there are plenty of us with experience in dogs of this temperament
    I wasn't suggesting that reading the book would fix all issues. But I personally find reading well written, common sense books like that helps me to see things more clearly and make decisions on what to do next. They help me see the wood for the trees again. It would be very hard for a trainer to pass on that much information in the limited time they can spend with the owners. I would think that their real value is in showing them clear strategies to deal with specific problems? And owners educating themselves about the very basics of dog behaviour and training can only help this task.

    I am not arguing that positive only training would fix all this dog's issues either. But without professional guidance, I would advice this person to stay far away from any more confrontational methods at this stage. No dog was ever harmed by being persuaded to play nice with a treat...

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