Rescued Miniature Poodle with Dog Aggressive Behavior

Martiwise writes to me about her dog’s aggressive behavior:


We “adopted” an 8 year old minature poodle at Thanksgiving….. from a home in which he was neglected (therefore abused to me). The house contained 30 dogs and 1,000 rats when it was highlighted on TV new program. He was the oldest dog and the stud dog, father to a lot of the other dogs in the house. He wsas never outside…. never groomed…. food was “dropped off” at the house…

He was the last to be removed from the house…. had to be shaved, he was so matted (couldn’t even lie down) He was neutered and our hearts go out to him for the life he had to endure. We’d like to give him a good home for his remaining years.

We feel he has a lot of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in that he had to fend for himself with 20+ other dogs… fight off rats for food….heard noises (rats) all night long. We’ve house broken him, he comes and sits, waits calmly to be fed…

We have 2 standard poodles, both males, and he has “tussled” with the Alpha on several occasions, and the Beta nips at his neck. My concern is for the dog aggression  he displays when we settle down to watch TV in the evening.

He growls very little during the day… it’s night when the ugly disposition manifests itself. He can be sitting with us, as calm as can be….and if either/both of the other 2 dogs comes into the room…or is in the room and just moves….he begins to growl…ferociously….at both the dog(s) and can include either me or my husband….moreso my husband than me….and has tried to bite him on several occasions when in this state….

I’ve been pushing him off the couch and saying “NO!” sharply….and it helps, but it has not stopped the reaction… there anything else someone can suggest?

Adam replies:

Hi, Marti:

What a horrible life! You’re an angel for rescuing him.

Now– onwards:

The dog should not be on the couch. He needs to get a correction for the aggression, and that correction needs to come from somebody he sees as above him in the “pack”.

I recommend you start him on a “Nothing In Life Is Free” program. The structure and predictability will work wonders for providing stability and structure in his life.

Second, you need to start giving him leash corrections in the manner I describe in my dog training book. Please read it, from cover-to-cover, and if you still have questions, we’re here to help.

– Adam.

Martiwise responds:

Hi Adam,

Well, all I can say is…..the book works!

First, I established myself as the “pack leader”…and my male (standard poodle) Alpha “set the rules” for Baby (that’s the name he cam with and we’ve kept it).

I started the “walk on a leash…and he managed it in 2 days of training. Mastered the SIT command….doesn’t “stay” well yet, but wil continue to work on it. Waits. Is housebroken. Was “disciplined” EVERY time he GROWLED at the other 2 dogs when on the couch…was put onto the floor IMMEDIATELY!…and had to deal with the other 2 dogs from that level. And now does not get agitated into the growl stage every time one of the other 2 comes into the area where he is.

I also did the “THINK what he’s thinking; be in his head” …I “listened” to his “communication” with me….body languange, bark, everything! and when I started to realize that I needed to treat him like a puppy instead of an 8 year old dog….it all came together!!! This dog NEVER stepped foot on cement, or grass, or had a toy….or was loved….not the way I “love” a dog! He was the eldest dog of 30, trapped in a “house” that was filthy and rat infested…and had to be destroyed after the 30 dog were removed….and he was the last to be taken out….he and his 8 week old pup/son….who were left in a cage for 2 weeks before their removal…night frightened him, because no one lived in the house….just the dogs and the rats… was put out….and the dogs had to fend for themselves…against the rats! put myself “in his place”….it was really easy to do what was needed….think like he did….discipline him….teach him….lead him….and love him!

He’s become my “buddy”….follows me everywhere…..listens to my voice/commands….responds to praises and discipline….and it’s all right there in your book! I didn’t have it with my other dogs, but raising them from puppies was a lot different than adopting an 8 year old!…and he’s finding his place in the pack in our house! Still has a way to go, but NOTHING like it was the week of Thanksgiving…all this progress in 3 months!!!

I’ve told others about you website and book…
don’t know if anyone will take my advice….but if they don’t, it’s their loss….
Thank you for sharing your knowledge! What a difference you made in helping me realize “I CAN DO THIS!”

Marti Wise