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Aggression and dominance issues in bluetick puppy

359 Views 6 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Jen2010

We recently adopted a rescue bluetick/unknown (assuming redtick due to features), and he has shown several signs of what I perceive to be some form of aggression and dominance issues.

He is around 3.5 months old, we got him about 3 weeks ago.

He is mostly a very sociable and happy puppy with a handful of worrying exceptions.

He chews though his food in seconds, very aggressively, and gets stiff when you approach him. I have been making him wait for his food and he only gets it on command to try and remedy this. He has learned to wait patiently for it, and from time to time I put my fist in the bowl to slow him down and rub his head trying to get him used to presence while he eats. He is still very stiff and frantic while eating though, and has growled a few times since as well.

He has growled when touched while he has a bone, but mostly he seems ok with it, however today we gave him a pig ear and he growled and snapped when we touched him.

He also growls and has snapped when we tell him to get off of furniture and go to pull or nudge him off when he refuses. He has also growled when I simply pet him while he is just laying on the floor.

My primary concern is my 7yo son, who loves to play with him, finds himself being blocked, pinned, jumped on and barked at by the puppy who seems to randomly get triggered by my son either making noises, playing with something he wants or just doing something he seemingly doesn't like. He tries to do the same to my older daughter, my wife and myself as well, except we don't recoil in fear like my son does. We have tried turning our backs on him, but he just jumps and bites our backs.

We also have a neighbor who has an adult walker coonhound, and they bring her over from time to time. Every time they bring her, we take them both outside in the backyard and let them go. She pretty much tries to avoid him, but rather than trying to be playful, he chases her around barking until she's backed into a corner and stands there barking at her until she barks back and stomps her paws on the ground which causes him to back off enough for her to get out and then it continues. After a while he calms down and starts doing his own thing.

I want to chalk all of this up to simply being puppy behavior, but I can't allow this sort of behavior to continue unchecked.

I'm just wondering if this is normal, or something I really need to be concerned about, and what I can or should do about it.

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The food/bone issues are classic resource guarding. I would highly recommend you stop fussing with him while he's eating, and instead look into methods such as "trading up". Patricia McConnell's short booklet "Mine!" is a great resource focusing just on this, and it's quite inexpensive, as well as being readily available as an ebook. He sounds convinced you're going to take his food/chews, and hovering is likely making him more stressed, whereas the 'trading' method works to teach him that people being around his food and valued objects is awesome, because they toss tasty goodies and 99% of the time if they ask for your bone, they have a really awesome thing to trade for it.

Another option would to be simply giving him a crate or pen to eat and have chews in where he's undisturbed and can relax, but as you have kids it'll probably be worth putting the work in. Resource guarding can lead to biting, because to him it seems his other signals (stiffness and other body languages, growling, snapping) are being ignored, so he HAS to escalate, so getting on top of it and managing his food and treats when you can't actively work with him are key.

As for furniture, teach him "off" using treats or toy rewards, so you can verbally cue him down and don't need to physically manipulate him. You can do this while he has a leash on, so if you do need to encourage him down you don't need to directly touch him. It might also help to make sure he has a comfy bed in the same room as the couch and that you frequently reward him for hanging out there. Same for lying down - if you want to pet him, call him over for affection, and respect it if he's not in the mood by leaving him alone. Some dogs can be a little more touchy about being fussed over while they're trying to nap or relax, but they will generally unwind about it if they realize you'll respect their need for space.

The rough play with your son and other dogs sounds like typical rude, pushy, overexcited puppy to me. I would supervise these interactions and have on a line, so when he starts acting inappropriately you can bring him to a pen, behind a baby gate, or just tether him for a couple minutes' "time out" so he learns that these behaviors end play. Adult dogs can be hesitant to correct puppies (and some just don't often correct bad behavior period), so I'd definitely step in with the neighbor dog so she doesn't feel terrorized by your boisterous boy. You can also work on impulse control and calming exercises in the house. I really like Karen Overall's relaxation protocol - available free online - for teaching a dog how to chill in a down-stay in exciting situations. It does tend to lead to a more relaxed pup, too!

These are pretty common issues with dogs and puppies, but very, very workable ones. Please keep us updated! And just as an aside, the idea of dominance between humans and dogs is inaccurate and outdated. So the good news is your pup's not trying to take over your household or anything like that, he just needs time and training to be comfortable there, combined with being a rude, excitable puppy.
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Resource guarding isn't uncommon and, it's natural for any dog. Food is life, survival to a dog.

AS for the barking, nipping and bouncing, that's a puppy. We inadvertently teach them that the excited puppy wiggling, playfully nipping and, bouncing all over us is how to say "I want to interact with you." and, the puppy uses it for both humans and other dogs.

As the puppy gets bigger, that isn't so cute or welcome anymore but, we haven't taught or given the puppy a change to learn a better way to communicate. With other dogs, the more dogs he meets, the better, let him learn on his own. With people, everyone needs to make him sit before he gets affection or play time and, every time he gets too excited and rough.
Thanks for the replies.

I am between contracts, so I am spending a lot of time with him and training him to the best of my YouTube watching abilities. Unfortunately, I see a lot of mixed messages out there regarding various methods of training and their effectiveness.

I will try your suggestions and continue to work with him.
You're absolutely right - there's a lot of disagreement in the dog training world. The idea of needing to be the "alpha" or "show the dog who's boss" or else they'll "take over the household" has been around a long time, and some people are definitely reluctant to let go of it. It's based on badly-done studies of wolf behavior in the 40s, where a group of unrelated wolves were studied in captivity. People then assumed that A) this was how wolves behave in the wild (it's not) B) dogs behave like wolves (they don't) and C) dogs see us as other dogs and therefore potential rivals to fight over status with (modern research says no way). Unfortunately, in recent years certain TV celebrities have popularized this attitude again, so it's seeing something of a renaissance even though dog training as a whole is moving towards more humane, fact-based methods of training and behavior modification.

Now dogs do need structure and consistency, especially when so many perfectly normal dog behaviors are considered 'rude' to us humans (jumping up to greet, stealing food, pottying indoors, etc.), but I for one would much rather teach them this without intimidation. That and the idea of having to constantly be asserting yourself over a household pet just... isn't the kind of relationship I want with my animals, you know? It also means that people assume behaviors are "dominant" or "aggressive" and miss the true cause - maybe the animal is afraid or ill, and in that case trying to intimidate them into behaving is going to make thing worse.

I recommend Patrica McConnell a lot because she has a PhD in animal behavior, has a long and successful career working with aggression and other difficult behavior cases in dogs, and her writing is actually really clear and accessible to the layperson. You certainly don't have to be a science or behavior nerd (like me, admittedly) to understand it, and you don't need to be an experienced dog trainer/handler. Her booklets are really solution-focused, and only go into theory so far as you need to understand why your dog is behaving the way they are.

Dr. McConnell and most other animal behaviorists, veterinary behaviorists, certified behaviorists, and science-based dog trainers now agree that focusing on rewards-based training and humane behavior modification methods are effective, less stressful, and have a much lower chance of accidentally creating a worse problem if used incorrectly, compared to methods that require intimidation or verbal and physical correction. I worry about trainers who talk about needing to be "the alpha" or the like because, to me, that's a signal that they aren't keeping up to date on the massive leaps we've made in understanding dogs (and all animals) and how they work in recent years.

For YouTube, I highly recommend checking out Emily Larlham - Kikopup on YouTube - for tons of really clear and useful videos. Zak George isn't my favorite, personally, but he has lots of good information in his videos - I just find him a little annoying. I also enjoy Kristin Crestejo, though I've only seen a few of her videos.
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Just own a wolfdog or, four in my case, that's enough to tell you that when it comes to DOGS, that Alpha trip does not apply. Even with high content wolfdogs, while there is an Alpha among themselves, I'm the human, I'm outside of the pack structure and, they know the difference between a wolfdog and a human and, a wolfdog and a dog for that matter.

When they meet other wolfdogs, they go through the whole circling, deciding who's territory it is and, who will submit, sometimes a little scuffle to decide it but never serious fights. The meed other dogs, it's sniff, sniff then walk away or bounce to play if they want to play with that dog.

Northern breeds, Huskies, Malamutes and such, sled dog sorts are the exception, they get treated as wolfdogs but then, mine care Husky and/or Malamute crosses and, those breeds do have a very high prey drive and, can hunt as a pack if left to do so.
The resource guarding of the food is an easy one to fix. Simply leave him alone when he's eating! Give him a safe place where he can eat in peace without having to stress about people walking by or sticking their hands in his food. You can buy a "slow down" food dish that will prevent him gulping everything down in a few seconds. If you do want to teach him to be okay with your presence while he's eating then just walk by and drop or toss a tasty treat as you pass. Don't interact with him or reach out, just drop the treat (a piece of meat or cheese) near him as you pass by. Eventually he'll learn that people near him = good treats. Having him sit and wait for his food is a good thing to do.

As for the growling, he is trying to let you know he doesn't like what you're doing. Don't ever punish the growl - that could lead to him skipping the growl and going straight to a bite. Teach him commands like "off" and "come" to get him off the furniture instead of trying to drag him off. Some dogs aren't as comfortable being touched and handled either, especially a rescue where you don't know their background. Take it slow and be gentle with him. Reward him for allowing you to pet and handle him.

Look up NILIF and practice that with him all the time.

Teach your kids to respect the dog and his moods. Let the dog come to them when he wants to play instead of the kids approaching him. Have the kids call him over and let him decide if he wants to play. Also let him decide if he's had enough and make sure you're kids are respecting that. Kids can be loud and erratic and some dogs just aren't comfortable with that.
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