Thursday, March 14, 2013


In a week, Wolfgang will be 10 months old (and nearly 100 lbs!).  He's well into his "teenage" years, and for the last 3 weeks or so his play has been more aggressive.  That's been a problem, because I don't want to be "that guy with the big, mean dog".  And so I've been working with Wolfgang on timeouts when things get a little too spirited.

He's gotten quite good at coming when I call - even out of a scrum of dogs all wrestling with each other.  He's a good dog, and I can't really take much credit for training him, although it's good to know that I can control him with voice commands even when the fur flies.  It's been a noticeable improvement over the last few weeks.

And then at the park today there was some punk of a dog that decided he was going to pull out the "Alpha Dog" routine, even though Wolfie clearly outweighs him by 20 pounds.  And I saw the downside of my cunning plan.  Where ten seconds of full out response from Wolfgang, pinning the other dog down, would have reset that dog's attitude, Wolfie was shying away (and looking at me as he did it), even though I would give him encouragement.  I've trained my puppy to be bullied.

Dang it.

Because Wolfgang will attract this sort of thing.  He's almost always the biggest dog around, and so is the natural starting point for all the Alpha wannabes.

Has anyone else been in a situation like this?  I don't want to train him to fight on command, but I don't like seeing him knocked around because I've taught him some manners.


Wolfman said...

My advice is to let him ride it out- he'll get a feel for what he can ignore. There will always be at least one dog who tries the alpha move. I generally let my dog figure out his own place (he generally disdains authority shows, but I can't say I trained him for that) and I step in, with a whistle or mild rebuke, only when he goes too far. It didn't take long to figure out what he and I will tolerate.

Old NFO said...

I'd agree with Wolfman... It's not an easy 'fix', but he'll figure it out!

General P. Malaise said...

you are the alfa to him ...not the other dog

Mrs. S. said...

Sorry, in the same situation I'd be tempted to put a shock collar on the other dog and hit the button on the lowest possible setting until it behaved itself. Of course that wouldn't win any popularity contests and would probably cause a people fight in addition to the dog fight.

Where was the owner of the other dog during all of this? That animal was his or her responsibility.

Jeff B said...

He was waiting for YOU to step in and assert yourself as the Alpha. When you talk to police dog trainers, they don't look for "alpha" traits in puppies... they want dogs that will fight/attack ONLY when told to.

So, next time, step into the other dog, knock it back on its ass, and your pup will know you don't tolerate foolishness.

Anonymous said...

Well that sucks.

I've always reprimanded starting something but gently encouraged pushing back. Our first female golden has found a good set of lines in the sand over the years. Our second female golden is an older rescue (puppy mill mom) and is getting there much more slowly.

Different breed and gender though. PC idiocy would probably cause me to hesitate a bit more with a protection breed.

So, really, no help it all. Sorry.

Jay G said...

If you're an off-duty Boston cop, you just draw down on the other dog...

Goober said...

Wolfie may not be an alpha dog. There is no shame in that, and in fact, for a 100 pound German shepherd, there could be worse things than having a docile, non-alpha attitude.

Also, Wolfie is young yet. Give him time. How many of us at 14 years old would have joined a fight with a 40 year old man, even if he was physically inferior to us?

Scott_S said...

(Disclaimer - I live on 5 acres in the country)

I've got a large breed (newfie)who tips in at a little over 150.

He will come to me on command/sit stay/ sits and waits for an ok before noming on dropped hotdogs/shakes/rolls/and cuddles like some sort of supersized lapdog.

I don't ever bother him when he is playing with other dogs. He needs to be Alpha to them. He also needs to understand that no matter how "alpha" he is there is no one bigger or badder than me.

Now the problem used to be that when I was near he would basicaly take the roll of the beta. This means I had to come up with a command for "play". It's not a fight on command but it is a permission for him to do what he needs to do. I started this by using the dogs we have at the house. When one would get a little game and come over to Midas and thump on him some I would give midas the play command when he reacted after he got done thumping back I would praise and treat him.

He caught on pretty quickly that this was a release command and I've had no issues since then.

Joel said...

What JeffB said. It may not be in Wolfgang's nature to be dominant, and it may not be in your interest for him to be so. If he was looking to you for direction, he may also have been looking to you for intervention, because you're his alpha. Dogs are very hierarchical; a low dog in a pack won't often become violent until it's really frightened, and then all rules are suspended and blood and lawsuits as well as fur will fly. It's the alpha's job to keep it from coming to that.

Manners are good in a big dog. If he has decided you set the rules, which is good, he has also elected you to be his protector against aggression. But if all the other dog wants is to strut and demand submission, you're better off allowing it.

Yes, oh how I know this goes against a freedom-lover's nature. But dogs are not people. They have different rules and different needs. Somebody's going to be the top dog, and it doesn't have to be Wolfgang. If it looks to get ugly, it's the Alpha's job to break it up.