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  February 21, 2013
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Herbie and Jabby- Puppy Love

Herbie and Jabby- Puppy Love

Herbie and Jabby are in love. Jabby is a standardbred.

February 21, 2013   |   3 Minutes, 10 Seconds

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Leerburg Q&A
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Question: When our Rottweiler gets excited if we try to correct him he becomes aggressive, is there a way to prevent him from escalating to aggression?

I'm new to your Facebook but love it!
We have always had dogs and rescued many as well (of course they end up staying with us for the rest of their lives). We've rescued aggressive dogs scheduled for euthanasia however I am now faced with a tricky one that I'm not sure how to correct.

Jack is a 1.5 year old rottweiler that was abandoned as a puppy. He is our 5th rottie, therefore we do have some experience with the breed (my favorite). He is the most loving boy however he challenges aggression with aggression. We have learned to make him do learned commands (sit, down, heel, etc) to remind him and that seems to work... however when there is excitement or when he gets going or when the others have a toy he wants he literally is out of control, biting at the closest thing near him whether that is furniture, your arm, etc. Upon being corrected he shows his teeth and becomes defensive. Any time of manual control makes the situation worse which is why the sit down heel process works.

Is there a way to prevent the escalation or stopping him? Nothing stops him, yelling, snapping his lead, etc he seems to feel absolutely nothing. For example when going outside, or for a hike etc he is constantly charging and knocking over dogs, humans etc... it literally is smash up derby... I just recently had my cast removed...

Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated!

Thank you

Cindy's Response:

A lot of dogs become overstimulated and when physical means are made to get control they have a knee jerk reaction of lashing out. This can be incredibly dangerous for bystanders or other dogs..  The key to fixing this is to interrupt the behavior at the slightest hint... tensing of the body, ears forward, etc.. if you wait until he’s showing a big reaction it’s too late and you’re setting yourself and the dog up for a lose/lose situation. He can’t think in that state of mind, so trying to correct him is futile and only damages the relationship & gets you injured.. I would stop taking him into environments that you can’t control for right now and start over with his training.

I teach my dogs to focus on me, on cue in a NO distraction environment.  I teach them that paying attention to me is hugely valuable. This is called engagement and it all starts with first using food and then (if the dog is toy motivated) I also use a toy.   Focus and engagement is a learned skill which requires some patience and the willingness to not skip steps and put the dog in positions that set him up to fail.  Distance from any distractions is key.  If he can’t take food or play with you then you are too close to whatever it is that he’s distracted by.

The Power of Training Dogs with Food
The Power of Playing Tug with your Dog
Advanced Concepts in Motivation
Focused Heeling with Michael Ellis
Training the Recall

I would eventually use an ecollar with a dog like this, but not until I had a great relationship and very solid obedience with no hint of aggression.

We also have a number of eBooks, which include topics that may help you.

I hope this gives you a place to start.

Cindy Rhodes


Hello Cindy;

This is very interesting and obviously you've given us a lot to work with. We are very anxious and it was helpful to see that you agree that once he begins this behavior it's futile to continue a manual correction as it is futile. Many say "he has to learn," "make him listen," etc and I fully agree but every dog is different and I would rather make him understand what we want. He hurt his eye last night with a branch so I brought him in to the vet today, they know him very well as when he was dying and rescued he was taken there and they are the ones that called me to see if I could take him. He was sweet, loving, kissing everyone, let the vet and tech examine him completely and turned to Cujo when they tried to give him drops. I told them to simply leave him be, let him calm down, I showed him the tube, let him sniff it, and gave him his drops while he licked me. He will obviously be a great learning experience for me and I don't want to fail him. I will go through all of the links you've provided and will keep you updated. Thank you again so very much!

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Dog Aggression.

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 Q&A Search. 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!!!

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