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January 20, 2014
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Socializing a Pushy Puppy

Socializing a Pushy Puppy

In this question and answer, Ed Frawley explains why we have changed the ways we socialize our puppies over the past 30 years. We used to do exactly what this customer has already tried and ran into the same issues. We have since changed how we do this and in this video Ed will explain how and why we do this.

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Question: My dog has begun to guard me and occasionally growls at other dogs and people. He also recently bit my other dog. Any advice on how to handle this situation?

Hi Ed and Cindy!

I have a 17 month old springer spaniel that I am having some problems with recently. As far as obedience and engagement he is awesome, our relationship if great. He has 2 legs on his BN title, his CGC and is entered in his first agility trial in a few weeks. My problem is that he has no off switch and we are struggling with exercise in these -50 windchill days. He has also begun to guard me and I am not sure how to handle that. He gives a hard stare to other dogs and growls occasionally at people he finds strange, but if I tell him to go say hi he is fine with the people. When he is just relaxing he has to be touching me and then he will guard me. I am not sure what to do to stop or discourage this. He launched himself at my hound mix and put a hole in his ear the other day, and I am at a complete loss. Any advice on how to handle this situation?

Love your training philosophies and have several of your DVDs. You guys are awesome!!

Ed's Response:

We would not allow our dogs to go up to and meet strangers. In fact we socialize our dogs to focus and engage with use when people are around. We want our dogs to totally ignore strangers – to look at them as pieces of furniture.

Fact is there is zero reason for our dogs to engage with anyone.

I think you are setting unrealistic deadlines in the training of your dog. Take the time it takes to get the pieces in place before you put them in a situation (I.E. agility match) that they are not ready for. This is such a common mistake that new dog trainers make.

Here is an article I wrote explaining how we socialize our puppies. It applied directly to your dog too. In fact it applies to anyone who has issues. Do what it says.

In the end Cindy and I are balanced dog trainers. That means we 100% feel that dogs need to be trained motivationally through marker training. But we also realize the 99.9999% of the dogs out there will reach a point where they face extreme distractions and refuse to do something we know they know how to do. At that point they need to get a correction that changes their behavior. The level of correction needs to fit the crime and the temperament of here dog.

It is important that dog trainers understand that the purpose of a correction is not to punish but to CHANGE THE BEHAVIOR OF THE DOG.  That’s what you need to figure out.

As far as your problem with your other dog, this is a pack structure issue. Your dog needs to learn your rules and your rule is NO FIGHTING. I suggest that you run this dog through our pack structure program  - Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet.

Part of being a good pack leader is the dog needs to know that YOU ARE THE ONE WHO DEALS WITH STRANGE DOGS or STRANGE PEOPLE. By telling people to stay away and not touch, talk to, or look at your dog. If a stray dog comes near your dog you need to step in between your dog and drive the other dog away. Once your dog understands that “you are the one who takes care of business” he will relax and be comfortable in his own skin.

Ed Frawley

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Socializing Dogs.

We get a number of Q&As every week, if you would like to read this week's Q&As, click here and check out the 'Recent Questions' section!

Have a question for Ed & Cindy? Try the Leerburg Search Engine. This search engine was written specifically for Leerburg by our in house IT manager. Our search engine is specific to Leerburg and only searches and the Leerburg web forum. If you can't find the answer to your question by using our search engine, you can email Cindy here at Leerburg at If you have your spam filter on, make sure you set it to receive our replies!!!

Customer Comments

On Leerburg's How to Break Up a Dog Fight Article

I wanted to let you know how good your advice on breaking up dog fights works. I was home alone and my two intact males got into a fight. First I tried using a door to break them up but that didn't work, and I knew grabbing the hind end of just one wouldn't help me, that's when I remembered your advice about using the leashes. I grabbed 2 leashes and hooked the first dog to the laundry room door and the second dog I dragged to where I could shut the door and get them apart and then hook him to a door. Luckily no one was hurt any more then a bit tongue and some hair pulled out.. But your advice definitely worked and next time I will go straight for the leashes. 

This technique is also covered in Dealing with Dominant & Aggressive Dogs.

The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers
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