View Full Version : Dominance aggression?

7th July 2009, 05:22 PM
Hi all!

I'm new and I have a brand new cavie pup, Luke. When he first came home, I was amazed at how quickly he picked up simple commands and how eager he was to learn things I wasn't even aware I was teaching him! He followed me room to room and curled up right at my feet and fell asleep. I was instantly smitten! He was 10 weeks old then. What a difference 3 weeks makes.

He's an awesome little guy! He's doggy door trained. He almost never has an accident in the house. He knows how to sit on command. He sits to say please. He's crate trained. He's leash trained. And he knows a couple of other commands that I'm teaching him like "go home" which means go to your place. Those are some amazing accomplishments for such a little guy!

Now I'm trying to figure out if I may have done something wrong in the few weeks he's been with me. He's started growing at me and my kids snapping and biting them, chasing them. He's not consistently obeying my commands anymore. Where he used to sit before I set his food bowl down, he gets as far from me as he can and sits. Then I'll call him closer to me to sit. And when I praise him by petting him on the top of his head, he backs away from me.

Also, when he starts chewing on my furniture, I tell him no and give him one of his favorite chew toys as an alternative and praise him for chewing on the chew toy, like all the books say to do and he bites my hand... HARD! Then growls at me and goes back to chewing on the sofa. Sometimes when he sees me coming toward him, he runs to his bed. (That's another command I taught him when he's biting on the kids- go to to his bed)

Don't get me wrong, it's not all training all day. I play with him, I cuddle with him. It's hard not to cuddle with a puppy so cute! He's in my lap right now trying to type his side of the story!

Is this normal? Or am I expecting too much of him? It's worrying me that he's biting my kids and they are frightened of him. I called the vet and they told me that this is normal puppy behavior and to look into obedience classes.

Can someone please help? Thanks!

8th July 2009, 01:15 AM
This sounds like normal puppy behavior and that you are expecting too much.

It is very important to teach him to have a gentle mouth however. When he bites too hard, screech "OUCH!" in a high pitched voice and turn your back on him. He has to learn from you how hard he can bite, and puppies play with their teeth.

If your kids run, of course he will chase them- that is a puppy game! If your kids don't want to play, tell them to stand still with their hands held in fists, and arms up and under their neck and look away. He will get the idea that he'll have to go elsewhere for play.

If he has been corrected or yelled at, even once, for doing something bad, he could be running from you and to his crate for fear of being corrected again. The crate or his "place" is his safe spot.

Having a puppy is very hard work. This is one of the most important times in his life and he needs to meet lots of new people and dogs NOW. I'm sure Karlin will post some great puppy links. But in no way is this dominant behavior- this is absolutely normal puppy behavior.

8th July 2009, 01:23 AM
And when I praise him by petting him on the top of his head, he backs away from me.

First, you should know that dogs don't actually like getting petted on the top of their heads. Most dogs find that very intimidating. They do however like to have the bottoms of their chins scratched or behind their ears rubbed (they LOVE that ...). Instead of the pat on the top of the head, try putting a little treat in your hand and holding it out for him ... stand still and he'll probably be coming up to you for affection at that point.

I agree - this behavior sounds like perfectly normal puppy behavior.

Have you enrolled he puppy in a puppy kindergarten class for after his shots are done? I cannot recommend this highly enough. You'll learn a lot and form a wonderful bond with your puppy.

8th July 2009, 10:24 AM
Agree with above. You are doing lots of great things with him already, going from your note. :) Some of what you are seeing is totally normal puppy behaviour that 1) needs some management and 2) he will almost certainly grow out of gradually. Some though may be due to an unmanaged situation with kids, going by your description, so I'll give some suggestions in both areas.

Also keep in mind that children can so easily mishandle and intimidate dogs, not because they intend to but because they view them as playthings, giant stuffed animals that are infinitely patient and know what the child intends. They are not -- a dog that is getting a bit too much attention and unwanted handling from children (which will almost inevitably happen at times, especially with kids under 10 and if older kids do not understand the needs and fears of dogs) starts to behave exactly as you are seeing -- growling and shying away and sometimes, snapping (as opposed to puppy nipping). This is NOT dominance aggression -- it is FEAR AGGRESSION (you can search this term here and will find lots of previous posts and suggestions! :) ). This is a very important difference and almost no pet dogs will actually ever show dominance aggression unless they have been very poorly bred and mistrained. Fear aggression is very common but can eventually become a very serious problem if owners are not aware of why this is happening and how to make home life happy for the dog as well as the family. Growling is polite dog behaviour to say 'please leave me alone, I don't like this'. If you scold the dog learns to NOT give warnings and go straight to a bite, so never scold for growling. Managing fear aggression like dominance aggression makes the problem far worse.

Puppy nipping on the other hand is absolutely normal BUT the owner must work to train a pup to have a soft gentle mouth. This requires training and is the single most important aspect of early training IMHO; or a dog never learns to withhold its bite. See Ian Dunbar's site below where you will get lots of great advice on puppy nipping. Also, you will want to be working following Ian Dunbar's suggestions on managing resource guarding -- you want to be able to swap items with your dog without him snapping at you. This is actually quite a fun part of training but needs to be done when a puppy -- and is very important to avoid a dog that snaps when you want to take something from him.

Proper, rewards-based (never punishment-based) training, and constant management to help your dog learn to do what you want and to keep it from doing what you don't, is the very core of responsible, happy dog ownership. :) Never forget a dog is, as one well known trainer says, an animal with a mouth full of carpet knives. Children need to be supervised at all times and their access controlled to the dog, just as much as your dog's access to them must be managed.

I'd start by reading these three articles which are great to help people better understand why dogs do what they do and how to manage them successfully.


I'd then highly recommend immediately downloading (a free pdf) of After You Get Your Puppy from www.dogstardaily.com, which is here:


Also there is excellent basic training articles and videos on that wonderful site from the famous trainer Dr Ian Dunbar tat will help you in managing a puppy and adult dog. :thmbsup: Dog owners all need a basic manual like this -- it is truly the single best opportunity to get the dog you want and avoid the development of problems throughout your dog's life.

I also have many links to good training sites posted at the top of the training section. I'd advise browsing those for useful articles.

I recommend reading this

at which there are many excellent links for managing dogs and children together, especially young kids.

A training class that is rewards based (NO choke chains. no 'corrections' by jerking their necks around) will also help as your pup will love to start learning now (just as kids like to learn when small! :) ).

I think you will feel a lot more confident and happy about what to do next with some basic guidance like this. :) Have a read, try some of these new approaches, and let us know how you get on or ask any questions you'd like!

8th July 2009, 10:11 PM
Thank you for your replies! It really helps to know what is normal puppy behavior and what to be concerned about.

Karlin, thanks for the links. I guess you just never know what to expect with kids and dogs no matter how much you prepare! I'll keep you posted on how everything turns out.

Thanks again!