View Full Version : Is neutering going to be the answer?

29th July 2008, 02:22 PM
Hi all
my puppy Scooby is almost six months old. Having him around has been a steep learning curve for my family and we have needed to adjust our behaviour regularly to stop him thinking he is pack leader.
He does try to dominate constantly and just when we resolve one issue satisfactorily, another appears.
We have dealt with aggressive playing, pulling on the lead and growling at family members when he is handled. We now have humping to deal with and it is going to be a difficult one I think. he cannot seem to play with other dogs without constantly trying to hump them and when he is excited he tries to hump any nearby people too. At the puppy class I take him to they advocate stern correction and pushing him away. There is an article on this site suggesting distraction and not making too big a deal of it.
We are going to have Scooby castrated but I was hoping to let him mature a little more first.
Anyone who has been where we are now, I would really appreciate your thoughts and advice.

29th July 2008, 02:42 PM
I got Prince neutered when he was a pup but he still trys to hump poor Lucy, when he was a pup I couldnt leave a cushion anywhere that he could reach it!!!!

29th July 2008, 02:56 PM
All i can say is dont get him done to early,my vet convinced me and he cried for 2 days,and his coat changed.I wished we had waited a little longer.

Mom of Jato
29th July 2008, 02:59 PM
It sounds like you are going about things the right way- correcting him to let him know you are the pack leader. Jato used to hump when he was younger (he is now 8 months). I would just tell him sternly "NO", and remove whatever it was he was humping on- then distract him. We had him neutered at 6 months of age, and he has not humped at all since then. Do you take Scooby (I love the name!) for walks? I have found that when Jato is full of excitement and energy, a good walk does him good. Remember a tired puppy is a good thing. :D Best of luck- I hope others will post with more support for you.

29th July 2008, 03:07 PM
I think your primary problem may be in believing very old training theories about pack leaders, dominance, and dogs having secret plans to rule the household and then, the world. :)

Seriously, many of the training methods used to address this non-existent problem actually cause the problems to get worse (isn't that what you are finding?). That's because the approach doesn't treat the actual issues and creates greater anxiety and confusion in the dog which makes the behaviour issues worsen. In some cases, owners actually create a dangerous dog through these misguided theories and approaches. None of the problems you are talking about are due to 'dominance'. They are simply normal puppy behaviour and need training. That means cheerful and focused guidance from you. Not punishment, control, scolding, telling the dog 'no' (the word a dog hears most in its life and becomes totally meaningless. 'No' what? is what they must think).

Neutering will generally help with some issues especially humping )which is a SEXUAL issue for your adolescent dog NOT a 'dominance' issue! :)), and neutering aroundhis age is usually adviseable for a host of reasons -- postponing neutering actually fixes the unwanted behaviours and makes them harder to train away from!. But you are looking at training issues, plain and simple. You should be working with your dog using rewards based methods that motivate the desired behaviour. Forget all the stuff on dominance. What you are simply seeing is a dog that isn;t understanding what you expect and sees no reason to do whatever you are asking right now. Punishment never works -- it may cow a dog and get a response for the owner but it doesn;t train for a good relationship and a motivated response.

I have pinned a whole list of good training sites at the top of the training forum and any of these have handouts that explain good approaches to training. You can visit the apdt.com website to find a trainer or classes near you from this respected organsiation of trainers using reward methods.

Also read: http://www.gentleguidance4dogs.com/dominance_vs__leadership.htm

Advice from the Wagntrain site:

A Tired Dog Is A Good Dog

Give the dog the exercise he needs, and he will spend much of his day resting - not chewing, barking, digging, escaping, or destroying things.

Your Reactions Affect Your Dog’s Actions

If you allow your dog to be rewarded for some action, he’s likely to repeat it. Consciously allow rewards to happen for actions you like, and prevent your dog from getting rewarded by you or the environment for actions you don’t want to encourage.

Dogs Do What Works

Dogs will act in ways that they’ve learned are successful, ways that gain them Good Things and help them avoid Bad Things. Behavior that is rewarded is going to be repeated.

And read:

Letting go of Dominance
Some Thoughts on letting go of the Dominance Paradigm in Training Dogs
By Beth Duman (Court certified wolf expert and dog trainer)

“You’ve got to show your dogs who’s boss. To be a good dog trainer, the owner must be Alpha. The problem with your dog is that he’s too dominant.”

If you read dog-training books or hang around with dog people, you are bound to come across statements like these. Somehow, people have decided that being the “top wolf” to your dog is going to make him a better pet or solve training problems. If you could just put the dog “in his place” he would be obedient and listen to your “commands.”

I have found that using the dominance paradigm in training dogs is counter-productive.

Let me elaborate some of my thoughts:

Comparing assertive behavior of adult breeding wolves to dog training is ludicrous. “Alpha” wolves (now called “breeders” by most wolf biologists) do not train other members of the pack. Current wolf studies have also shown that they are not always the leading animals when wolves travel, nor do they always lead in hunting or eat first when a kill is made.

Even “wolf people” stay away from the wolf paradigm when dealing with human socialized wolves. Many years ago, when I became a wolf educator, most of us dealing with socialized wolves believed that we needed to act like wolves to interact with them. From the time the wolves were pups, we handled the “social climbing” animals with vigilance, aware that we must be “dominant” for them to remain “submissive.” Unfortunately, this method of handling wolves backfired on many of those who used it. When humans attempted to interact with these socialized wolves in this way, the wolves were more apt to challenge and hurt the humans when they reached sexual maturity. At Wolf Park, a wolf education and research facility in Battle Ground, Indiana, the staff has learned that careful non-confrontational behavioral shaping methods work best in dealing with the wolves. The staff does not attempt to act like wolves when interacting with them.

The dominance paradigm assumes that a socially repressed dog will be an “obedient” dog. Dogs learn by exploring their environment and repeating behaviors that are rewarding to them. Good trainers manage their dogs to prevent them from practicing unwanted behavior and reward behavior that they want to foster. They do not attempt to suppress behavior through intimidation or force.

]Dogs that are pushed around by their owners who are attempting to show them “who’s boss” are more apt to redirect aggression to other humans and dogs. If someone has been picking on you, you’re more apt to take out your frustration on someone else.

Often a dog’s body postures and behavior are labeled “dominant” when, in fact, the animal is really fearful or defensive. Sadly, if a fearful or defensive dog is “corrected” by a misinformed trainer who is concerned about the dominance issue, the result will most likely be a dog that becomes even more fearful and defensive and dangerous.

Working with a dog using the dominance paradigm sets up the owner and the dog for a confrontational rather than cooperative relationship. Good trainers don’t let themselves get into “power struggles” with their dogs.

Diagnosing behavioral problems within the dominance paradigm leads to enacting policies with the dog that are useless and not apt to deal with the real training issues that need to be addressed.

I am surprised that the dominance paradigm continues to flourish despite all the information that disputes its use. When we began working with Kaddi, the villiage dog direct from Africa my daughter gifted us, many of her less desirable behaviors could have been characterized as dominance related to those who choose to think in that mindset. Her gut reaction to any fearful situation was to charge, snarling with tail and hackles raised. She was an ardent resource guarder who seemed to go out of her way to try to stare down our other dogs. I don’t know how many misguided dog people told me she was a “dominant bitch” and I should be correcting her and lowering her social status. I chose to prove them wrong. I suspected that Kaddi was just fearful in many situations so I continued a careful socialization program. For many months, she was hand fed, kibble by kibble practicing eye contact with me and other operant behaviors. We intervened by luring her away from stare-downs with our dogs and rewarding her for choosing alternate behavior. She is doing wonderfully in all respects. She is very lucky that we chose to train rather than dominate her, and so are we.

From: http://www.dogscouts1.com/Letting_go_of_Dominance.html

29th July 2008, 03:30 PM
Thanks everyone. It is a constant learning experience for me having Scooby and I am never afraid to read up on different theories.
I am interested that there are so many ways people percieve dogs as a species and interpret their behaviour.
Instinctively I feel that Scooby is just really excited around other dogs and doesn't yet know how to contain that excitement sufficiently.
As for the pack and dominance theories, I am constantly told by relatives/friends/aquaintances that it is absolutely correct - but I have no vested interest in sticking with it!:)
Scooby and I do enjoy plenty of excerise together Mom of Jato but as he is still young I don't walk him too far.
I will read the articles you have posted Karlin - thank you.

29th July 2008, 04:07 PM
The problem is that these theories were very popular in the 70s and 80s -- popularised by Barbara Woodhouse in the UK in particular-- but all the wolf theory on which they were based has been totally disproven -- sadly people remember the old discredited stuff but don't keep up with reading about how this is no longer even valid animal theory on which to base a training method! Does anyone really think a dog is plotting to get physically higher than you to prove it is more dominant? Or that dogs think we are giant dogs that they live with and their pack leaders (not to forget that amongst dogs and wolves there isn't even a clear pack leader in every case, but sets of relationships in different situations)? If so, why do dogs completely understand that cats are not dogs and do not interact with cats in the same way as they do with each other? If the wolf experts note that using those dominance theory methods on captive wolves actually created greater danger when they became adults (and ALL wolf experts discredit dominance theory and its translation to dogs -- you won't find a wolf specialist who subscribes to that theory any longer! :)) then surely it can create the same -- perhaps far more serious -- problems with adult dogs? And isn't it interesting that dog bite statistics are at an all-time high in the UK and US and people are so worried about aggressive dogs? Curious that this is the case just as the TV is filled with 'star' dog trainers and their shows, who ALL use these dominance methods (which make for good TV in 30 minute programme segments -- luring dogs with rewards tends to be a lot less exciting that jerking dogs on choke chains and seeing apparently 'instant' improvements!).

I have four cavaliers than are rewards-trained and have never had any other form of training. None of them has ever had a problem with humping, barking, chewing, scratching, and Jaspar is better than the collies in his class at agility and obedience. They do all the things that you are never supposed to do if you believe in dominance -- I let them sleep on the sofa and bed or the top of the stairs; they are 'elevated' behind me as they sleep on the sofa back like cats; they go through doors first (unless I ask them to wait), they often win when I play tug of war :lol:, I eat after I feed them in the morning; I never punished indoor accidents and all were quickly housetrained. If dominance theories were true, I'd have four totally unruly dogs that would be destructive, bark constantly, mark inside, hump other dogs, and on and on. The way they learned to be polite canine citizens and stop doing some of these things -- as their NORMAL dog behaviours that need to be reshaped by their humans -- is rewards-based classes. :)

I spent Saturday at a Dog Training Ireland seminar on aggressive dogs in which two fear aggressive dogs were used for a live demonstration. Within 10 minutes, Tara and Lisa, using just bits of salami, had each dog focusing on them and sitting rather than trying to attack the other dogs. Within 20 minutes a very aggressive chihuahua was mixing calmly with Tara's dog Boomer. A dominance based trainer would have been jerking that dog around and forcing it into submissive positions, simply reinforcing while forcably repressing that dog's fear. Only one of those two approaches is going to result in a happy, livable dog.

Incidentally, professional animal trainers -- the ones that need their dogs to give precise consistent behaviours exactly when needed for TV and film and performances -- all use rewards based approaches. When you watch that woman dance with her dog at Crufts, that great relationship is the result of rewards based training. Does the dog look dominant? Nope, he is happy and intelligent and *motivated* to work with his owner. You don't get joyful interactions or happy training classes from punishment based training.