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Re: 1-Year-old aggression towards younger puppies

Posted by:  Leslie Hemsing
Posted on:  October 10, 2002 at 23:03:41

In Reply to: 1-Year-old aggression towards younger puppies
Category:   Behavior Problems
Posted by:  Kat
Posted on:  October 10, 2002 at 19:45:18

Question:

: Thank you all for all your work on this board. I have visited it nearly every day since bringing home my JRT puppy nearly a year ago.

: I have a question about a typically over-friendly dog beginning to show signs of aggression towards puppies. I did a search and found posts on aggression IN puppies, but nothing specifically about aggression TOWARDS puppies.

: First, some background. My neutered, 13-month-old boy is a combo of being very friendly and also submissive towards other dogs. He is interested in meeting nearly every dog he sees, and almost always greets the other dog with classic submissive postures (averted eyes, head down, muzzle licks, often rollovers onto his back). Though submissive in posturing, he does not suffer from submissive urination or fearful aggression at all. Because I work from home, I can and do exercise him a LOT -- I take him to a fenced dog park for at least an hour three times a day, where we play ball, Frisbee and kong – and where he plays with other neighborhood dogs in the afternoon.

: Here is my question. In the past few months, he will sometimes start humping and playing way too aggressively with puppies younger than him (he doesn’t do this to every puppy, but ALL dogs he tries to hump and fight/wrestle are puppies). I understand that this is normal dominance/pack behavior, but this is also not acceptable behavior in a dog park environment. It is also disconcerting because it seems so out of character for him.

: For the puppies’ sake, as well as his, he cannot continue this aggression, so I have been sternly telling him “no” and using the “off” command – which often works -- and sometimes when it doesn't, pulling him off by his collar and taking him to the side of the park to give him a “time out.”

: Two or three times now, pulling him off has set him into a growling, snapping frenzy. Yesterday, his snapping started a chain-reaction dog fight. Needless to say, while he’s normally friendly, he’s all Jack and won’t back down from a fight once it's started. I was in the middle of it and (accidentally) got bitten on the hand by another dog and ended up getting a tetanus shot.

: Am I doing the right thing -- or doing enough -- by telling him no to his humping, and pulling him off when he doesn’t listen? Is this constant vigilance sufficient (I watch him every second while he's in the dog park)? Or should I avoid the dog park altogether for a while? I’m afraid by avoiding it altogether he won’t learn the appropriate social behavior and I’ll end up having to keep him separated from puppies forever. What is the best course of action?? Thank you so much in advance.


Response:

Dear Kat,

Let me start by saying that I think that Dog Parks are great. Few pet owners are able to provide a large, safe area where their dogs can run around freely...much less enjoy the company of other dogs. Since we know that adequate exercise is important for every breed (some more then others!), I suspect that owners lucky enough to live near a Dog Park have, for the most part, pretty good companion animals. :-)

However, I do not think that a Dog Park is the appropriate place to socialize a dog. In my opinion, "learning" social behavior is best done in the classroom, not on the "playground." In a classroom situation, we have control so we can easily observe a behavior and then correct/encourage it. During recess (LOL!), there is little control so the "kids" pretty much act/react however they want to...understand?

For now, Kat, I suggest you avoid the "playground" and take your little guy to a basic training class. You're still giving him the means to socialize with other dogs and as a bonus, you and he are in for a wonderful bonding experience. :-)

Warm regards,
Leslie