Perhaps you’ve adopted a dog that is either: High drive and super-intense; has a genetic basis for aggression; is pushy and dominant beyond your wildest imagination; has displayed “red zone” aggression that has you fearing death, dismemberment or a very unpleasant lawsuit.
Regardless– you’ve already made a decision to make the best of it, and now you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. Here’s what to expect…
Owning An Extreme Dog Is Not The Same As Owning A Sensitive Poodle or Golden Retriever
You need to be brutally honest with yourself about your dog and your chosen lifestyle: You cannot live with an extreme dog the same way you would live with a soft or sensitive Poodle or Golden Retriever. It doesn’t matter, “how good your last dog (from the same breed!) was.” You can be under no illusions: The entire experience is going to be completely different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your dog and enjoy the many benefits of dog ownership. It just means that you’re going to need to invest more time, energy and training into your dog– as well as having a level of situational awareness whenever your dog is not in a crate or a kennel run.
Extreme Dogs Require A Structured Lifestyle
Let’s suppose that you own two super-dominant dogs of the same sex. For example: German Shepherd dogs from strong working lines, and you know from experience that these dogs will not get along, no way… no how.
First, you’ll need to establish a strong foundation of obedience training on both dogs, so that they’re under voice control when in the presence of all types of distractions: Food, tennis balls, cats and other dogs. This will give you some level of confidence that if they, “get into it” with each other that you’ll at least have a chance to get them apart. But more importantly– with a solid foundation of obedience training you will have the tools to prevent such an incident from happening in the first place.
Nothing In Life Is Free
I’ve written before about my approach to Nothing In Life Is Free. When you own an extreme dog, the dog needs to be working for everything. There’s no more milling around the kitchen while you prepare dinner: Your dog needs to be holding a down-stay. When you play with one dog, the other dog will need to be on the “place” command. All interaction must be structured and controlled. The dog cannot be left to make hardly any decisions for himself; He must look to you before deciding to do something… especially before interacting with another dog.
A word on having two extreme dogs in the house together: Yes, it can be done. But no, the dogs are not allowed to socially interact with each other. The dogs need to be taught to keep a wide berth around the other dogs. This becomes a show of respect, as both dogs need to be taught to respect the other dog’s space.
The dogs can never be allowed to be together, alone. Never. If you cannot keep one eye on the dogs and one eye on whatever else you’re doing… then at least one of them needs to be put in a secure kennel run or kennel-crate. You must be vigilante about this.
The Down-Stay Exercise And The “Place” Command Will Become Something You Use Frequently
When we sit down to watch TV, each dog has his own cot or pillow. The dogs are not allowed to choose where they lie down. Why not? Because you are the Alpha Dog/Pack Leader… not them.
When the dogs get fed, one dog is fed after the next and the dog that isn’t eating is kept in a separate room, in their kennel-crate.
If we’re preparing a meal for ourselves, then the dogs are put in the down-stay position. If a carrot is dropped on the floor, then (at our instruction) one dog is allowed to get up and get it while the other dog is made to stay in the down-position.
If you’re not at the point where you can keep your dog in the down-position (or on the place board) — then you’ll need to alternate which dog is allowed to be with you in the kitchen until you’ve proofed your obedience commands.
“If I Only Have One Dog In The House… Is This Type Of Extreme Training Regimen Necessary?”
Yes it is. An extreme dog needs structure and discipline in his life. Otherwise, it’s too easy for him to assume the position of pack leader. Without a “Nothing In Life Is Free” structure supplemented by obedience exercises where the dog is made to listen to commands around high value distractions, you will never achieve any level of peace in your household.
Have hope: You can do it. It’s a lot of hard work, but eventually your dogs will adapt to their new routines and learn how to properly fit into your lifestyle.