Dealing With Dog Biting and Aggression

Vellsworth writes to me about dog biting and aggression:

There is no consistent ‘mitigating pattern’ to his dog aggression – first time he jumped up and drew a drop of blood from a man’s inner thigh, a man with a leg prosthesis (other dogs also went for this ‘wounded animal’ – Skippy was immediately leashed and made to walk around the park with the man for about 20 minutes – never another problem). 2 other times, men were walking away from him (trying to get their attention seems a bit out of the question as Skippy was busy playing with dogs) he just jumped up and snapped – but he did bruise one man – the other, nothing. Again, I caught up to him – no – he came on command and I gave him a time out – once we left the park and another time I knew the guy and we stayed – I distracted Skippy with one of his playmates and kept close watch on him. Since he is extremely bonded with me, I’d like to say he is just being overly protective – HA! He is nowhere near me when this happens – which is why I have (finally) gotten my e-collar.I also bought a mesh muzzle today – which I promised in order to go back to the park.

re: e-collar. is he supposed to think that the shock is coming from me or the man? I assume I watch closely for him going Toward a man – command him ‘no!’ then shock if he doesn’t obey. Correct?

BTW – he used to nip at dogs’ heels and we thought he had some sheep herder in him – one day with the shock collar eliminated that. Hope the same with men.

Adam replies:

Hi, Virginia:

RE: The stim from the collar: He needs to know this is coming from you. You use it the same way you would use the leash and collar: By saying, “No!” and then giving the correction. The e-collar just allows you to more accurately match the motivation level of the correction with your dog’s temperament and the situation.

I think using the muzzle is smart. It sounds like you’re on the right track. Regardless of why he’s nipping (peg leg, a guy with a hat, herding instinct) you’ll correct it, just the same.

As a side note: At this stage in his rehabilitation (I hate that word!) … you shouldn’t let him get more than 10 feet away from you, because we want him to know 100% that the correction is coming from you.

I’m assuming you’ve read the book already and understand the “three keys”?



Training Your Puppy To Stop Biting His Leash

Cokersmoses writes to me about puppy training to teach your puppy to stop biting the leash:

Hi Adam,

On a past post you gave the following puppy training advice with a older puppy biting their leash:

The easiest way is to use a leather leash, and then just pull the leash fast, across (and out of) his tongue, as he tries to bite it. It will give him a slight burning sensation. He won’t like it, and when he realizes this happens every time he tries to bite the leash, he’ll stop. You should also just say, “No!” when you do this

My question is does this advice go for a 9 wk old Rott puppy since he still has his baby teeth? I’ve been afraid to yank the leash out of his mouth b/c i’m afraid of breaking his baby teeth. I also need to get a leather leash b/c I only have the nylon kind.
Thank you


Adam replies:

Hi, Coker:

No, for 9 weeks, you can just say, “No!” with a low, firm voice and then cup your hand around the top of his muzzle and open his mouth and take the leash out… and then stuff something else in his mouth (a toy) or distract him with a “chewey”.

If you have trouble getting the leash out of his mouth, you can gently bend his lips around his teeth and he’ll open his mouth so you can take it out.

Keep me posted. There’s nothing in the world more adorable than a Rottweiler puppy. Someday in the next couple of years, we’ll likely get another one.

Coker Responds:

Thank you so much for getting back to me, Adam. I am in the middle of reading your book and on the posts. There is so much good info. However, do you have some page numbers for me to get fast info on what to do with my Rott puppy? I mainly need info on walking him and stopping him eating grass and anything else he will instantly pickup while out on our walks (and in his potty area in the yard). Also, biting is a bad habit i’m trying to deal with. It is hard to tell what advice you are giving for what age in your book. I know that you have said you can start to train after adult teeth comes in. Does that mean any advice in the book is for above the age of 5 months? I brought my boy home and I want so much to have him be everything he can be that I started out expecting too much and getting very frustrated (both of us). Sorry this is getting long…I’m planning on finishing your book but just need something to get me through this next couple months. What do I need to be doing (besides potty training,which is going pretty well) when it comes to my beautiful puppy? Thanks again for your help and your book.

Adam replies:

Hi, Lisa:

You’ve got the “Baby Einstein” syndrome. You’re expecting too much, too soon. Just like you wouldn’t put a 5 year-old in college, you can’t push a puppy through the process, too quickly. The pup isn’t mature enough.

What you want to focus on right now (before the adult teeth start to come in) is just:

– Housebreaking
– Crate training
– Using food to create associations with words (sit/down/come) — but ONLY AS A GAME, right now.
– Socialization to as many different sights, sounds and experiences. (No other dogs). Your vet will tell you to keep the dog indoors until you have the full series of shots. In my experience, it’s best to expose to as much as you can, but keeping the dog away from high traffic areas where other dogs are.
– Mild leash corrections for biting, if distraction or a scruff on the back of the neck is ineffective.

That’s all! No leash walking. No obedience exercises where the pup gets corrected for breaking a sit-stay, etc…

Make everything a game. Make everything fun. If you kick the side of a metal trash can and he recoils, then produce a toy and play with him IN AND ON TOP OF the metal trash can. Walk over a grate and it makes noise? YIPPIE! It’s play time!!!

Make sense?

Check out the “Puppy Primer” in our download library in addition to reading the rest of the Secrets book.

Keep me posted.
– Adam

“Our Dog Bit, So We Got Rid Of Him”

By Lynn –

What kind of excuse is this? Is this some kind of blanket statement for dogs that really do have issues, or is it more the problem of the owners? Let’s take a look at both.

I’ve been hearing this a lot lately, mostly from people who got rid of one dog and want to immediately replace it. And sure, while wanting to have another dog isn’t a sin in and of itself, but few people take the time to really investigate why the event occurred and what could have come of it.

Of course, the most likely situation is that the dog was part of the family first: he did fine around other children and adults, but when the Bundle O Joy© came home from the hospital, all of a sudden children weren’t so cool anymore. The Bundle screamed, made sudden noises and movements; pulled fur, ears and tail; and then when the Bundle learns to crawl and even walk, the dog can’t even escape anymore unless the Adults find it fit to secure the Bundle in a large area. And the Bundle takes away all the attention the dog used to get, so now he’s not getting the love to which he feels entitled. It’s no wonder why some dogs bite their Bundles!

However, there’s also another perfectly likely situation that most people aren’t willing to consider: their dog wasn’t trained.

Back in December, a county-run shelter was outed for some pretty bad practices, such as altering medical/behavior records, adopting out vicious dogs, severe overcrowding and poor management overall. The independent firm hired to take care of the management problems did the job quite well, but during the investigation, an article appeared in the local paper regarding the vicious dogs issue that opened my eyes to what was really going on, and I figure it’s good enough to let you all read the main part [hold on, this actually does having something to do with the topic at hand…I’m not just being random!]:

Vicious dogs get adopted, some say

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Workers at the Franklin County animal shelter don’t knowingly let vicious dogs out the door, its director says. But bitten or blindsided owners tell a different tale.

“There was blood all over my family room,” said Julie Thompson of Hilliard.

She and her husband, Arlie, had fallen in love with Rel, a husky who tested fine at the shelter with a family dog before adoption on Sept. 2, Mrs. Thompson said.

But within four hours of bringing him home, Rel was back at the shelter: He had attacked the Thompsons’ other husky and bloodied one of their two beagles.

“My dogs are my children,” Mrs. Thompson said, adding that all were rescued animals.

Rel’s search for a family didn’t end there. The shelter put the 36-pound, year-old dog up for adoption two more times.

And twice more, he was returned.

Shelter Director Lisa Wahoff said Rel was held for observation and training after the Thompsons brought him back to make sure he’d be a good pet. Such training has succeeded with other dogs. Randy, a 43-pound mixed breed, bit a shelter volunteer. After seven months of rehab, new owner Phyllis Sage was carefully screened and warned. She wrote Wahoff recently to say that Randy is a sweet dog: “We feel truly blessed.”

Rel did well in training, but it didn’t stick. “He did well in a large play group; no aggression was seen,” a shelter card says.

Rel’s second owner returned him Oct. 30, one day after adoption. Her dog was “initiating attacks” with Rel, she wrote.

He lasted two days with his third owner. On Nov. 12, she noted that Rel was “sweet, smart, affectionate.” He also “attacked my sheltie and drew blood.”

The shelter euthanized Rel the next day.

The number of dogs returned for biting people is statistically small, about 0.7 percent — or 24 dogs — a year, Wahoff said. Overall, people have returned 285 of the 3,234 dogs adopted through November.

“Most say, ‘It was too much dog’ or ‘We’re moving,’ ” Wahoff said. “We do a good job of trying to match up people and dogs. Dogs are dogs, and you can’t predict.”…

OK OK, I know there are SO many problems with a LOT of things in this article, but let’s stick to the topic. Below is my response, the stereotypical “letter to the editor” that never really got sent in, but in case you couldn’t figure out the main problem in the article, let me outline it for you here:

I read with interest the article about vicious dogs being adopted out from the Franklin County Shelter, but as I reached the end, my interest turned to astonishment. Should I be appalled that dogs with behavioral issues are adopted out? Of course, however, my concern is more for what we are doing with these dogs.

Has our instant-gratification mindset taken us to the point where we “special order” our dogs to fit a mold we create for them? Have our ideals and expectations sunk to where we expect housetraining to be the only “training” a dog receives in its lifetime, and obedience training to be optional? Columbus has a wonderful training club located in close proximity to the shelter that can help people with behavioral difficulties and obedience training. Instead of facing these problems and working to solve them, either with the Columbus All-Breed Training Club or with a private trainer, people choose to abdicate their responsibility and return the dog to the shelter. I applaud the shelter staff for putting in the time to train dogs while they are there, but ultimately it is not their responsibility to deliver to us a perfect dog. We must continue that training once the dog is adopted, and this is where many well-intentioned rescuers are lacking. A dog is a responsibility as well as a pet, a service animal, or even a furry “child,” and it amazes me how many owners give up on their pet simply because they didn’t think to train it or didn’t know how.

The unfortunately husky, Rel, didn’t have to meet his fate at the tip of a needle. All he needed was someone who was willing to invest the time and dedication into teaching him the appropriate rules of our world in a way he could understand. Dogs will not always act as themselves in such as strange and stressful environment as a shelter, and they also might not adapt to a new home those first few days. I’m sure every child who is the “new kid” on that first day of school is no different.

In the end, I cannot fathom the hypocrisy: Shelters and pet lovers everywhere are attempting to educate how no animal is disposable, yet here we are throwing them away and dumping their problems on someone else because they do not fit our ideals of a “perfect pet.” It is our job to teach them how to live in human society and not to otherwise abandon or euthanize them before putting forth that effort to the best of our abilities.

That last line is a bit vague though, because “to the best of our abilities” seems to be defined by a lot of pure positive humaniacs as “Tsk, guess he’s just not trainable.” Sounds pretty “positive,” right? But I digress&

To get a bit personal, my dog had bitten me not a month after we brought him home from the shelter. He had otherwise been very sweet and loving, a typical Lab/golden personality, but apparently I was the lucky one who stumbled upon the dark side of the moon instead of my parents. It was a very deliberate bite, but also very quick and to the point: I wasn’t mauled and no flesh was consumed. Did we consider sending him back? If you read the eulogy a few posts down, you would know that we did, and while I was the one who gave the ultimatum, my parents were also right to say the same thing. While I wasn’t a baby at the time, I was still young and I can only imagine the turmoil they must’ve felt at that time: their perfect dog just turned on me, their daughter, and sent me to the hospital for stitches. Is this the kind of dog we really want for a 4th child?

I think the important thing here is that we didn’t give up on Zeke. We knew there was a way to fix his aggression, but we didn’t know how and if we couldn’t find the appropriate person to teach us, then he would have to go back. We were lucky to find the trainer we had, and this is what we here at DogProblems are for. Unless the dog you have is truly a bad match, unless it really is hardwired wrong in the head, unless you really don’t have the motivation to fix the problem and just pass it along to someone else, your dog can be retrained.

Will it be easy? Most likely, no! The hardest part about searching for a dog trainer is admitting that maybe the dog behaves the way he does not because there’s something wrong with him&it might be something you’re doing too! (The easiest part of searching for a trainer is thinking you’re going to get a cheap quick fix from a magic bullet, FYI.) It takes maturity to admit that part of the reason your dog bit someone, chewed the furniture, peed on the bed, ran off or killed small animals might have something to do with a lack of a proper relationship with your dog. It’s not a process in which we lay blame to the owner and/or the dog, but in reading through the Secrets book, during a training session or even on the forum, we want you to see what might have went wrong and how you can fix it. But here’s the thing, and here we come full-circle: any trainer can start the learning process in a dog, but we can’t finish it for you. If you are to fix a dog problem, be it aggression, chewing, or even pulling, there will come a time when you have to be on the other end of the leash and not me.

(By the way…just in case you think a dog can’t be retrained from aggression, consider this: Zeke became a therapy dog and lived 10 all-too-quick years with a family that loved him enough to give him a second chance. Can’t beat that happy ending! Anyone think he might’ve achieved that had we returned him?)

So anyway, your dog just bit your child.

What are you going to do about it?

Your Dog Is A Snapper

By Suzi Jones –

She was non stop woo woo woo woo just not bark bark bark. But what did work hella is body blocking as in the case of my husband. He enters and every time she tries to come into my zone I walk into her and block her. This seems to quiet her an awful lot as this is me taking ownership over him.

My friend Christa did something weird with her dane Yankee years ago ( 7 to be exact), he was acting an ass while out walking one day and she stood in front of him, put him in a sit and asked him for his paw he gave it and tantrum and excited energy were gone. And I said why? And she said because he has to focus on me directly and if he tries to move I have his leg so he has to look at me. ( tried this with Uly didn’t work)

If you know however your dog is a snapper (This part adopted from “The T.V show”) or defensive with hands on corrections then I turn into them and start first body blocking or calmly walking into them to break their focus on the other dog or what ever.

If you watch a pack of dogs play weather 2,3,4,5 they use body bumps and blocks to contol the actions and movments of the other dog.

I have just really really been pushing with not fighting at all with dogs in these situations and I had the opertunity to experiment with a customers dog. She called me to come and dremel toenails,2 dogs female pretty normal, male border collie mix afraid of strangers and also possissive aggressive over the pregant owner.
The toenails we got it done took a bit, but as I was getting ready to leave, the owner behind me in the hallway, I stepped to her to shake her hand goodbye and he got a little pushy with me snapping at my legs.
Oh no this is not going to happen!

I took my shopping bag(Filled with stuff) and dropped it down low below my knee level and started to walk into him backing him off from her( In other words I took possission of his owner) The next thing I know I look over and the female is comming into the male and bumping him and bitting him in the neck (Little witch was working with me).

Just remember not all things work with all dogs or animals but a good dog trainer is one that can modify methods to come up with something that will work.