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Leerburg Dog Training Q&A Archive Q&A on Pack Structure

Q&A on Pack Structure

Q&A on Pack Structure

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Dogs don't know how to be good until you show them.

Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet DVD



I have read tons of your articles and will watch the DVDs, but I need to know right away if I need to treat my 3 dogs like they are each a new dog to the pack in order to fix my pack issues. I read the groundwork articles, but you seem to specifically talk about when you get a new dog and I need to fix problems with the three I already have. I couldn't find any articles about how to begin fixing the mess I am already in. I have a 12 yo neutered Lab/Pit Bull, a 6 yo spayed Pit Bull, and a 3 year old spayed Carolina Dog. 99% of the time, we are a well-functioning pack, but the Carolina Dog and Pit Bull have had a few altercations and the last has made me fear for my Carolina Dog's life. Now mind you, the Carolina Dog is instigating the altercations. I could write for hours explaining her strange behaviors and how friendly my PB is, etc but I know you have heard it all. I am willing to follow your instructions to the letter, but I want to make sure I am starting on the right step with an existing pack.

But a bit of background, the Labrabull has been through obedience training and achieved CGC, but I have been lazy in keeping him tuned up. The PB was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at 8 months. She went to basic obedience, but we discontinued obedience drills/repetition because it seemed painful for her. She is now a spoiled princess, but is still friendly with all people and other dogs, except the CD on rare occasions. The CD is everything a stereotypical CD is. I believe her parents may have been feral. She is still learning how to be a domestic dog but I have to learn to be a better pack leader. I know that I was unprepared for her challenge when we got her, and I regret not doing something sooner, but I am ready to fix this!

Thank you sincerely,


Dog owners often misunderstand the fact that 3 dogs are a dog pack. Two dogs are not. The pack instincts are dramatically increased with three dogs – especially if they are not well supervised. Problems can and often do come up over a period of time – as dogs mature and test their position in the pack. Remember in the wild – pack leadership develops over time.  Often when older dogs weaken younger dogs test them – that's when fights develop. What needs to be said is this is not the case with every 3 dog pack – but you have found that it happens with some. I have a folder full of emails from people who chose to ignore the signs of problems and ended up with a dead dog.

We have dogs house dogs that are never together. Each dog has his own dog crate and they are never out at the same time. This is what needs to happen. This is all covered  in Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet DVD (the article is only a small part of the information that's needed).

Our dogs are also well trained. The CGC is a joke. It has nothing to do with the kind of control required for pack structure issues. When people have behavioral problems like you have – they need to go back to square one and start the training from scratch. Basic Dog Obedience.

Ed Frawley


Hi Cindy,

It has been awhile since I have wrote, but I have another question as we have developed a bit of a new problem. Murphy, our 13 month, very dominate male GSD, has decided he doesn't like it when my husband or 17 year old son laugh. He can be in another room, sound asleep and when one of them laugh, he will come running out barking at them--like he is yelling at them. He doesn't attack them or anything, but he makes it well known that he doesn't like it and would prefer they quit. Murphy accepts me as the pack leader (although he tests the water even with me at times) but I believe he thinks of Josh and Jim as equals or even lesser than himself. Do I need to be concerned about this? As of now I have just been reprimanding him. If he has his collar on, I will knick him and tell him NO! He will stop, go lay back down, but will do it again next time--even with-in minutes.  Last night we tried to watch a comedy movie and it was very disruptive with him charging out all the time.

Thanks in advance for any advise you can give me about this.


PS We do have all the videos and followed pack structure, but I don't recall anything about this in them.


Can I ask why you let him have so much freedom? If I have a dominant dog you can bet he’s not going to be able to lay in whatever room he wants. He’ll be in a crate if I don’t want to deal with him OR he’ll be on a leash attached to me. Those would be his two options.  You are empowering him. He’s showing you by his behavior that he is in NO way ready to be loose in the house. He’s only 13 months old, and hasn’t even matured mentally yet. Look for more of the same with an escalation in aggression as he hits 2 years old. This will likely be a dog that needs a very tight structure for a long time, maybe forever.

I’d back up and stick with the program, and don’t get in such a hurry to let him have so much freedom.


Hi Cindy,

I've gone over your website many times and I've learned a lot from it. I have some questions in regards to my 1 year old intact male Shiba Inu. My boyfriend and I got him from a breeder last year when he was 10 weeks old. Unfortunately we didn't do enough research. The breeder only brought the sire out to meet us and told us that the mother was too skittish to take out. We bought the puppy anyway. She had warned us not to bring the puppy out anywhere where another dog might be because it might get Parvo and die. So we mainly kept the pup within our house and yard for the first 5 months until all the shots were completed. Because we didn't do enough socialization and I think due to the breeding of this dog, he is extremely skittish.

Whenever we take him out for walks, you can tell he's constantly on alert and is darting from side to side. We first attempted to force him to walk next to us by having a very short leash, but he ended up pulling so hard, he ends up hyperventilating and/or vomiting regardless of whether he's in a harness or leash and collar. We've tried taking him on walks through the park, but unfortunately because he looks like a puppy, people just come up and pet him without stopping to ask. As a result he's drawn blood from a friend's friend who came up behind him and started tugging on some loose fur on his neck. I definitely don't want our dog to react in that manner, but it frustrates me that people assume it's ok to start petting him even when I've already told them not to.. not to mention the loose dogs running around parks or beaches.

At home he's a bit more confident, but you can tell that any new situation seems frightening. He takes a long time to get used to new people coming into our house. I don't mind a bark or two to let me know someone's coming, but I don't know how to stop him. He'll run to his kennel and continue growling, which at times escalates to a loud bugling howl.

Long story short.. the end result I would like to see is that the dog trusts us enough to be able to go for walks calmly and to be able to stop his reaction to strangers in the house. Treats don't work since he's so stressed out that he doesn't eat or drink. I've read in your other answers that you train your dogs to be neutral. If you have a suggestion on which collar/harness to use on him when we take him for walks or whether an e-collar would help us in training him. We've already purchased the "Your Puppy 8 Weeks to 8 Months." We've tried the SENSE-ation Harness and, a head harness (Gentle Leader), and the British Slip Lead.

Any advice would be appreciated. We've done some dumb things already, but we want to try to make the best of it and start on the right path. I'm sure there's a lot we need to work on, but this is one of the issues that's most important to me.



I’d start with our Groundwork program and the video that picks up where the article leaves off, Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

Dogs like yours need to feel confident that you are in charge and will protect them. One way to do this is to keep your dog on a leash with you at all times, even in the house. He should be enclosed in a crate when you can’t supervise him. He gets NO freedom or choice at this point. You don’t’ want your dog to be running around practicing the anxious behavior you’ve described. You need to control him all the time and this will give him comfort. It’s quite simple actually; don’t allow him to make any choices on his own right now. 

I’d use a dominant dog collar.

You need to also make sure people stay away from him, protect his space so he can learn to relax. I don’t have one bit of trouble telling people to stay away from my dogs. You can also get him a vest that has a patch on it that says DON’T PET ME, IN TRAINING. You need to do what’s best for your dog and if this means being a bit rude to strangers, then that’s what you need to do. Your dog is relying on you for this.

I’d wait to see how it goes without the ecollar first. You need to do the preliminary work on line for a while first anyway. 

If you decide to go with the ecollar, I’d recommend Electric collar Training for the Pet Owner.



I have a two year old female doberman. She likes to eat paper products and grabs something and takes it into her crate--if someone tries to reach in and get it out--she hovers and growls. Actually she hovers and growls over anything she's got in her crate and, sometimes when she's not in her crate but there's no consistency out of her crate. Also if someone grabs her by the collar to turn her around or move her--she growls and twists and jumps. She hasn't bitten anyone but surely puts on a show. What to do?


The problems you are seeing are the result of the way you live with your dog. When dogs act like this they lack leadership from their owners. In other words their owners don’t understand how important pack drive is in how they raise their dogs. You aren’t seeing consistency in the dog because you most likely are not offering her consistent leadership yourself. My question is why is a dog like this allowed so much freedom? She certainly hasn’t shown that she knows the rules and who is the leader. If this dog was living in my house, she would be on a leash (and most likely graduate to an electric collar Electric collar Training for the Pet Owner) and if I couldn’t watch her then she’d be placed in a crate. She would NOT have access to anything that was not for her to have.

Owners of dogs like yours underestimate the genetic power of  "PACK DRIVE." Pack structure is not something new and it is not optional, and if you don’t provide the structure and leadership a dog NEEDS then he or she will behave as canines have for thousands of years and will structure your family and household their own way. Your dog is not behaving badly out of spite or stubbornness; your dog is simply being a dog, a dog that needs some guidance and rules.

If you want to fix a problem like this you can but it takes some work.  I’d start with our Groundwork program and the video that picks up where the article leaves off. Pack Structure for the Family Pet.  

Here is a DVD that I would recommend titled Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs. If you go to the link on this DVD you can read about what it covers. You will also see a detailed outline of what’s in the video.

I hope this helps.



I'm so hoping you will read this and respond :) I just ordered your e-collar DVD and looking forward to learning correct training methods with the e-collar.

I have a 15 month old Bernese Mountain Dog who is very dog reactive, not aggressive just VERY enthusiastic to meet other dogs, any dogs. She has been well socialized starting at 11 weeks old and this problem persists.

We have gone to classes also and she still acts like she's never met a dog in her life! The main problem is when she is close enough to another dog, about 4' to 6' she lunges to sniff and if she doesn't get to greet them she's very vocal and has jumped on me with great excitement. When she lunges I have fell on my butt and knees, this cannot happen anymore!!

She has come along great with the prong collar and heels beside me on the whole walk UNTIL we have to pass another dog, then we both lose control. We can even walk by cats and she doesn't react that way.

We have come a long way in our training and she's becoming that dream dog except for that one issue. If I train her correctly with the e collar is there hope? I also realize she is still a puppy but a large strong one! and I want to enjoy the last phases of puppy hood before she becomes even stronger.

Thank you so much if you had the time to read this!



I feel that dogs should be taught to be neutral to other dogs, at least to dogs from outside our family pack. This can be done with corrections or for a food or toy driven dog, it can be done by teaching them that if they see another dog AND they offer a predetermined behavior (like sit and make eye contact or something similar) this all starts with pack structure and proper leash manners.

The ecollar is a great tool as well, and I use it every day on my own dogs. Again, I do not let my own dogs socialize and play with other dogs. Your dog isn’t ready for the level of distraction that you are placing her in. I would NEVER EVER take an untrained dog into the classes you describe, especially when all the other dogs are untrained as well. I train my dogs in a low level excitement environment so they can learn and then gradually introduce them to situations that create difficulty for them, but only at a level that we can successfully work through. You are effectively putting your dog in charge of things and training her to behave in an uncontrolled and excited manner.

The problem with the behaviors your dog is showing now is that they very often turn into aggression as the dog matures and is continually frustrated. I would bet my next paycheck that if you let another year go by and don’t drastically change the way you think about handling her, that you’ll have a dog aggression issue on your hands.

I’d recommend Pack Structure for the Family Pet and Dealing with Dominant & Aggressive Dogs.

I’d also direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the website. It will find posts, articles and Q & A’s that deal with your search terms.

There is a ton of info on reactive dogs on our website.


While I was at work the ups person made a delivery and did not shut my door all the way. My 8 month old GSD got out and she was gone for about 2 weeks.

Before she left she has always been upbeat not a coward at all she is from working bloodlines so she has always been high strong dog. I got her to herd, protection work. Then I had put up signs for her and had her name out there suddenly I was out in my yard as she comes crawling up. Usually I had to brace myself with Berlyn seeing me but she was crawling like someone had beat her. She pees when I go to put her collar on... It is like somebody has broken her spirit and she is almost afraid now!! How do I gain her confidence back she has turned into a soft dog? She is still very mouthy and knows I won't do anything to her?



Dogs get confidence from knowing that you will be there as a leader for them. Making excuses for their behavior and feeling sorry for what they may have experienced only makes you appear weak to the dog. This is the wrong thing to do if you want respect and to build her confidence.

Start with our groundwork program
Pack Structure for the Family Pet

She's only 8 months old and the behavior she is showing you is submission. Don't fawn over her or try to reassure her when she's behaving that way or you will actually reinforce it.

I'd also direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the website. It will find posts, articles and Q & A's that deal with your search terms. Search on submissive urinating and you'll find a lot of info.

I hope this helps. Cindy


Dear Cindy,

I have a 10 month old  female GSD.  We have the use of our neighbors acre size fenced yard and I take my dog over every day to let her run and exercise her. Today, she was getting into something I didn't want her messing with and when I tried to block her getting to what she wanted, she lunged at me a few times trying to bite. I literally had to kick her back to keep her from biting at me. I have seen the pack structure DVD and she has been through obedience training since the very beginning. I am also training her in SAR and she is doing very well with that. It is times like today and other times she has jumped up to bite, that I feel she is not respecting me as leader, but am not sure what else to do. I am wondering if I should use an e collar and correct her with that when she tries to bite. She has a dominant personality and is a very independent dog. I have done marker training with her and she has learned really well with it, but if she knows I don't have food she will not come when called. I used to have her drag a long line, but she kept getting tangled in it. I did a lot of research on training and have learned a lot from your website as well as your DVDs and yet I feel so discouraged with her, I want to throw in the towel most days. I have kids and I don't want her to end up biting them seriously or me. She is crate trained and is not allowed on furniture or beds. She is not dominant about her food or toys or chew things.  It is this one thing of trying to bite either me or my kids. I owned 2 other dogs who never did anything like this so it baffles me. Can you give me any suggestions as to what I should do?

Thanks so much,


Is this dog already trained with the electric collar? What videos do you already have? I looked you up in our customer database and don’t have any orders on file.

The recommendations I would make are this:

Back up your training to establish more leadership. Your dog does not respect you if she’s trying to bite when you block her from something she wants. At 10 months old she’s only an adolescent, not even close to being fully mature. If you don’t work on this now, then it will only continue to escalate.

Start with our groundwork program

Pack Structure for the Family Pet

Dealing with Dominant & Aggressive Dogs

Before you ever would use the ecollar for this, make sure you know how to properly use it and the dog is properly introduced to the sensation of the stimulation.

We have an excellent video on how to use the collar, Electric Collar Training for the Pet Owner.

You say your dog will only respond to marker training if you have food. This means that you have made some big mistakes in your training. You have either used the food as a bribe, instead of a reward AND/OR you have tried to use markers when you didn’t really have anything to give the dog. At 10 months old you should NEVER EVER give your dog a command without being prepared to pay her for listening to you. You should also not show the dog the food before you ask her to follow a command. The food should be hidden on you, and used as a reward, not a bribe. 

I’d suggest this article on marker training.

These videos:

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers
The Power of Training Dogs with Food

I’d also direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the website. It will find posts, articles and Q & A’s that deal with your search terms.



I bought your establishing your role as pack leader DVD and have a question.  During the day, while I'm at work, where should I put the dog?  I teach third grade so I don't get a lunch break where I get to leave, so I couldn't take him out of the crate to let him go out and two days a week I do after school tutoring so I'm gone for ten hours.  I can put him on a tie-out in the yard or there is a small fenced-in pen, it's about 12x12 area, I'm just not positive he wouldn't try to dig out since all this time he's had free run of a one and a half acre property.  I just want to know which would be the better option so that I can establish my role as "leader." Because I don't think it's fair to leave him in the crate all day while I'm at work where he can't go to the bathroom.



I wouldn’t leave a dog tied out unsupervised.  The fenced in area is a better option but only if he can’t dig out.  Is there anyone who can check on him during the day?



My family and I adopted a 9 month old GSD yesterday, though I didn't find your website until tonight. 

About him, I don't think he is a dominate dog. When we first met him he came up with his head down and ears flat to my hand. Since he's been here he does the same thing.

My question is.... is it too late to start ground work/pack structure training if we've pretty much did the opposite of everything that was suggested? I've tried to do basic obedience training before I found your site and he didn't have much motivation. After reading articles I realized that there is more to it then just "sit" and "stay." 

Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!



It’s never too late to start the groundwork, some people own dogs for years before they figure out they need to do this. Start with the work in the article and then I’d recommend the video Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

Dogs that are rescued or adopted many times start out behaving as you describe and then they get through what I call the “honeymoon” period (typically about a month) and then they begin to push their limits as they realize that this is their new permanent residence.  You can avert some of that by starting the groundwork/pack structure as soon as possible.  Dogs gain comfort from structure, and feel more secure in their place in the family when you give them clear rules.

You can try using the search function on the website to find the answer to any additional questions.  It is located in the left hand corner of every page on our website. Simply type in your search terms or key words and you will be directed to articles, question & answers, free streaming videos and posts on our forum.

I hope this helps.  Cindy


Dear Ed:

First --
On the dog park thing, made a mistake and went to Friday 'Yappy Hour' at a local boarding and training facility. Asked one of the attendees, who also worked at the place, to keep her dog from doing the head-on-the-shoulders dominance thing with my 11 month male Lab. The reply: "Oh, that just how he shows he wants to play!"

Later, the woman's other dog, a young puppy, took a liking to me and jumped on me when I was seated. I told him 'off' and then gently pushed him off when he did not respond. And did it again. The third time, I gave it a soft growl and the puppy got off quick, to which the woman said she didn't want him growled at so he would not be afraid of men with beards!

Got my dog and left, never to return, so that puppy, and its owner, and some other dogs would not be afraid of men with beards who bite them in the ear or kicked them in the ass.

Second --
I take great exception to you saying that your responses to idiocy are harsh. No, they are not. They might sound harsh to someone who has never heard the truth but, then, that is just too bad. If they think your words are harsh, then let them see the results of a dog or two slashing up some person or kid -- that's harsh. Give 'em hell.

Third --
Years ago, my wife decided that our pack of Labs (nine at the time) would be well behaved if put into the pasture with our three goats (big goats -- 160 to 200 pounds). The dogs went immediately into pack mode, split the three goats apart and dragged down the slowest, weakest one. After about 10 minutes and 200+ bites, we broke up the attack. I ended up in the ER with chest pain. Lots of fun.

Started working on an extremely strict pack leader/follower relationship with the dogs. Up to then, I was the pack leader. After that, I was the PACK LEADER. Worked for a couple of years to be much, much stronger.

Then the dogs managed to catch an adult deer in our pasture. When I heard it crying, I went to the scene. When I was about 60 feet away, I yelled "Get off of it!" and all five dogs let go of the deer and backed up. I then told them to go find their Momma (my wife) and they all ran back to her.

Also, because of the better pack leadership, I get 100% recall to my two-toot whistle signal. A high speed, 100% recall -- every dog, every time.

There are two points. One, even though they were Labs and not as wolf-like as some breeds, my much improved leadership made a much better result than it did with the goat. Second, what you are saying about pack leadership is absolutely right. I just figured it out through other readings and means before I found your website. Keep up the great work.

Fourth --
When someone says "Oh, I wish my dog was that well behaved," or "Your dog sure is a lot calmer than mine, how do you do it?" they do not want to know. They want to bitch about their dog. All of my pack of seven current Labs have a HUGE retrieval drive and are very, very high energy. Unless, of course, I ask them to be calm. We have four that we have certified through Therapy Dogs International (my wife with four and me with three) and I take them to two daycares for mentally and physically handicapped adults and the dogs are perfect. We are also starting to visit a shelter for abused women and their kids and a local hospital, too. My wife is starting with a reading to dogs program at the county's library. Not bad for high energy dogs but then 200% of the training, as you know, is really pack leadership. By the way, we are working on certifying the other three dogs.

I think is is 75% leadership and 25% training.

Fifth --
Dogs learn too well! They are like young kids -- they are always learning whether or not we know it and they learn what we do, not what we say. They always learn and our only option is to make sure we are teaching the right stuff.

You do wonderful work. Thank you so much. If any of this is helpful, please feel free to make use of it.




I have a male Rottweiler who is seven months old. I have started obedience training him since eight weeks old; for the most part he is well behaved and knows the basic commands. He seems to be testing me a lot lately and I usually show him who's by boss by pinning him to the ground by the scruff near is muzzle as well as firm pinching. I usually get a small whine and a submission after some time. I have your video on basic dog training and another on dealing with dominant and aggressive dogs; I like to believe I have a basic understanding of pack structure from watching your videos and others, although this is my first dog. I always try to assert dominance and correct him the majority of the time even when he tries to play bite with me.

So here is my problem: Although I can put my hand in my dog's food bowl with no problem... I do this on rare occasions... and take away the food bowl... or tell him to "out" on a rag we play tug with.....or take foreign objects out of his mouth, all with no problem... I found out today I cannot take food out of his mouth. He got a piece of turkey out of the garbage can when I wasn't looking... I have never tried to take food he was chewing from him before and he bit me and caused a slight cut on my finger... of course I had to correct... I pinned him against the wall and ground and shook him and other things too...

I am not afraid of getting bit any other time... but I don't feel that I will ever be able to take food from him again... it's like he would've fought to the death for it, even though I had just fed him.

Please respond with specific advice... I respect your professional opinion, but I need real and functional solutions...



I’m going to first say that I disagree with the way you are handling your dog.  Pinning, scruffing and pinching isn’t pack leadership, it’s bullying.  At 7 months old your dog is not even close to being mentally or physically mature and if you continue with the way you are handling him you are going to completely destroy any chance of a balanced relationship you wish to have with him. 

We also don’t agree with putting hands in a dog’s food bowl, real pack leaders don’t ever do this. Once you give the food to the dog, it is his food. Messing with him isn’t fair.  The fact that your dog took something out of the garbage when you weren’t looking means your dog needs more supervision and more training. Why did he have access to the garbage? The vast majority of 7 month old puppies are not reliable enough to be loose and unattended with such tempting distractions. Personally, I would teach him the YUCK command, which basically means to spit out what you have in your mouth. I’d teach your dog that if he drops what he has, he’ll get a fair trade (in the teaching process). Wrestling a dog and trying to physically take things away only teach him not to trust you.

I’d suggest you read more about pack leadership and learn about marker training so you have a fair method of communication with him, instead of physically bullying him.

I’d recommend The Power of Training Dogs with Markers and The Power of Training Dogs with Food.

You can try using the search function on the website to find the answer to any additional questions.  It is located in the left hand corner of every page on our website. Simply type in your search terms or key words and you will be directed to articles, question & answers, free streaming videos and posts on our forum.

I hope this helps.


Mr. Frawley,

I hope you can help us. We rescued a 2 year old male dachshund a couple of months ago. He adores me, but is afraid of my husband. He has obvious issues with men. (We first realized it when my husband put his belt on in front of the dog, the dog howled, ran under the bed and barked). My husband says it's like our dog is a veteran with battle issues. He will let my husband pet him when I'm close though he seems a little tense. When I'm not around the dog paces until he's exhausted then waits at the back door. He won't let my husband touch him when I'm not there. When I arrive home he pees submissively. 

The dog knows to go outside to do his business, but he still occasionally has accidents. I imagine this problem might have led to some of the abuse. My husband has been very patient and spends time each day making contact with our dog and trying to earn his trust. I take him outside many times a day, stay with him and praise him when appropriate. Do you have any suggestions for us? 

Thanks so much,


A big misconception is that fearful dogs have suffered some form of abuse. This is usually not the case. Temperament is a genetic trait, and many fearful dogs are that way simply because that’s how they are programmed. Dogs like this need rules that make sense to them and lots of structure. They need to feel safe and protected by YOU, their pack leader. Dogs like this do not want to make decisions, they want to be followers and so we need to be strong leaders for them.

Many times fearful dogs just want their owners to protect them and keep non pack members or people that make them nervous away from them. In my experience these dogs can learn to be neutral, if handled correctly. Having a stranger or person that makes your dog uncomfortable get close to your dog goes against everything your dog needs from you as a pack leader. The first step is to let the dog learn to relax, I would use a crate for times that the dog is not with you so he has a safe place to rest. This will also help with accidents in the house.

Dogs don’t understand what we expect of them automatically, they need to be shown with clear and consistent handling. Leaving him loose in the house with someone who he is afraid of is only going to make his fear worse. Your husbands ‘trying’ to make contact is probably only adding to the dogs anxiety.

I will make some recommendations for articles and videos that I feel could help you out.

I’d start with our Groundwork program. Pack Structure for the Family Pet is the DVD that picks up where the article leaves off.

I feel that the way dogs are handled on a daily basis are the most important factors to consider when dealing with insecure, nervous or aggressive dogs. Obedience training only plays a small role in this, actually. How you live with the dog has the most impact.

I hope this helps.


Hi Cindy,

We’ve had a period of stress and instability the past 3-4 months... Having moved 2x in this span of time, our Border Collie mutt has gone awry. We just moved into a 2 bedroom apartment about 4 weeks ago. Initially it was great and our 2 dogs seemed happy and played together like normal. It’s a nice quiet location too. This week I also started taking them for walks daily.

We have a golden that is the alpha female of the two, both female, and they have been best buds since bringing the bc mutt home. All of a sudden the bc mutt is displaying odd behavior. She will be laying at my feet under the desk, suddenly sit up, stiffen, put her chin on my leg, and start trembling. The golden is asleep and clueless… nothing in the environment has changed, no noises or anything to spook her. I’m just working on the computer. I’m at a loss as to what is going on. The other time recently she did this, she lunged at the golden when the golden approached for attention. This is so odd because they have been so good together and are more often than not side by side receiving attention without a problem.

To further add to the confusion, it only happens in the one bedroom in our apartment where I work on the computer. I feed them a raw diet. They are both very healthy with shiny coats. The Golden is almost 8 and the mutt is about 5. I am suspicious that the root of this is due to the stress of the past few months having really affected the bc mutt… that she is insecure and depressed and that this will go away with me working to re-enforce the pack dynamics and her sense of security. Your thoughts?

Much appreciated,


This isn’t unusual when there is a change, such a move (or any life changing event).

I’d take away the freedom of the dogs (both of them)  to be where they choose (i.e around your desk) because it’s obviously become a resource that the BC has decided to claim. This is YOUR space, not hers.

Owners of dogs like yours underestimate the genetic power of  "PACK DRIVE."  Pack structure is not something new and it is not optional, and if you don’t provide the structure and leadership a dog NEEDS then he or she will behave as canines have for thousands of years and will structure your family and household their own way.

If you want to fix a problem like this, you can, but it takes some work. I’d start out with our groundwork program. I’d also recommend the video that picks up where the groundwork article leaves off,  Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

If just reworking pack structure doesn’t solve it,  I would also recommend titled Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs. If you go to the link on this DVD you can read about what it covers. You will also see a detailed outline of what’s in the video.

I hope this helps. Cindy


I have a 9-10 month old beagle/pitt mix that I had rescued from the pound. He is a smart and fantastic dog, he is trained, and only eats up little things when were gone (we're trying to stop that). The real problem is after we find out he did it. We will go to correct him, and he backs into a corner, bares his teeth, and snarls at you while we are correcting him. This is the only time he showed any sort of aggression, until yesterday. He was sitting on the couch with my mother and when she went to move him he growled at her. I am not sure what to do about this situation because I am unsure if he was abused before I got him. I want to fix this problem before he grows up and thinks he can do it all the time. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help my dog with this. 

Thank you. 



You can't correct a dog more than 4 or 5 seconds after it does something for the dog to understand what it is getting corrected for. To come home some time after the dog chewed something and try to correct him only makes the dog feel like you are attacking him for no gooid reason. He is just trying to protect himself.

You need to be using a dog crate to keep this dog in a crate when you cant watch him or when your gone. I would recommend the DVD I did titled Basic Dog Obedience. You really need this inofmraiton.

I would also not recommend the dog get on any furniture – you have a pack structure/leadership problem. The work to solve this are in Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Dog.

Ed Frawley



I have been training dogs for over 40 years, both in obedience and in conformation for show and now I'm stumped. We have two dogs, a 7 1/2 year old Bullmastiff male and a 10 1/2 month old Mastiff male. Both dogs are still intact. The older one was recently diagnosed with first stage renal disease and neutering is not an option. The younger one is a very good show prospect so neutering him is also not an option. Neither one have ever been used as a stud dog.

The older dog was trained in obedience and we still make him go through the motions of his training. He enjoys it and is still quite good while in the mode. The younger dog is in obedience training now. He has 3 six week classes to his credit and minds very well when he is in the working mode.

The problem occurs when they are both in the house. They rough house to the point that they are becoming annoying and even destructive, ie, moving large floor rugs and heavy tables. They are playing, not fighting. In discussing the issue, it seems as though it would be easy to get a handle on it but it has not. My wife and I are in our 60's and need some advice on how to best get these dogs to calm down in the house.

We have crates for each dog and they are in there at night and when we are not home. We also have a good sized kennel for them to share with space to run and play. I take them for 1 to 2 mile walks daily, weather permitting. We live in mid-Michigan. We need to know how to best control them in the house without kenneling them one at a time.

Please tell us what you suggest. Thank you.

Dick and Sandy


I wouldn't allow them free access in the house. I teach my puppies how to behave in the house by making sure I always control their actions through the use of an ex pen or a leash that is attached to me at all times.

I would make sure you have them both on leashes and give them an alternative behavior to do. I use an informal "relax" command which means you can go pick a spot and lay down. I would start this training AFTER they are tired and have had plenty of time to wrestle and play outside.

If you don't keep them on leash and let them keep doing what they have been they are just being reinforced for doing the opposite of what you want.

In my opinion, this is an easy problem to fix. Keep them on leashes, reinforce the behavior you want in the house and if they do not comply then off to the crate one of them goes. It may be easier at first to only bring one out at a time and work on the new rules.



Dear Sir,
I have used your training videos and advice to start training my doberman who is now 9 months old.  We rescued him and had a lot of issue but have worked through most of them. 
I tried search for a couple of questions I have on the forum but couldn't find the answers for the following questions.
The dog has started marking his territory. Bad thing is he thinks that he gets to urinate on company when they come over and he almost did it to my son. I was thinking of having him neutered to stop this but don't want to mess up his chance to be a good advanced bite and guard dog. What do you suggested?
Second he is always chewing on my shoes. Only mine and he waits till I am not looking. He is never out of the kennel unless he is at my side but he is smart and quick. He knows when you are watching him so I can't catch him at it. I can pile everyone's shoes around him and even go to the other room to peek around the corner. He won't touch them. I usually keep my shoes put away for this reason. Now and then I forget or they are muddy and sit by the back door (part of the kitchen). At a loss for this and running out of patiences with him over them. Suggestions please Sir?
Again I have used your videos and training aids and love your system. It has made a huge change in the dog since we first got him at 6 months old. I have told people what I use when they notice how much he has changed.  So thank you so much.


Both of these problems boil down to this dog being allowed freedom he hasn’t earned. I would not allow ANY dog who wants to mark or chew up belongings any freedom at all when he’s not in his crate. You say he’s at your side, but obviously you are not giving him your full attention or he wouldn’t be able to leave and pee on something or grab a shoe. He should be on a leash ALL the time. Neutering may or may not solve this. I always suggest training before surgery.

If you don’t teach him what you expect in ways he understands, then it’s not really his fault. He’s just being a teenager and trying to do as he pleases. It’s up to you to offer him rules and leadership. Start with our groundwork program and Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

If you do this consistently and correctly, you should see positive changes.

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

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes



My name is Jennifer and I own an Aussie Mix that we adopted last June.

She is very aggressive toward other dogs and people (i.e. nipping at peoples heels, showing teeth).

We have enrolled her in obedience already but that dosent seem to help.

Please help!



Obedience classes are wonderful for teaching dogs behaviors like sit, down and walk on a leash but they don’t address the issues many people have living with their dogs in and around their home.

The key to managing this is changing the way you handle and live with your dog. Start with our groundwork program.

I’d also recommend Pack Structure for the Family Pet and Dealing with Dominant & Aggressive Dogs.

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

This is an extremely common issue, and we have a lot of information on the website as well.  For future questions, you might benefit from learning to use our SEARCH function, which is located in the top left corner of every page of the website.  If you type in your key words or question it will find you articles, Q & A’s, free streaming video and links to threads on our discussion forum. Our website has over 16,000 pages and it’s very likely you’ll find the information you are looking for.  I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes


First, let me say that your website has been a godsend to me and my family.  Without you, I doubt I would have survived the last 8 weeks. 
A little background. My hubby and I love the boxer breed. We got our 1st boxer in 1996, and added a rescue boxer to the mix in 1997. Since then, we have had 5 boxers over the years. We lost our 1st female at 3.5 to a horrible accident, and from that point on, we have always crated our dogs when we are not home. Our rescue lived to be an old man at the age of 12 when lymphoma took him from us in 2008. Currently, we have a 6 year old female, who is the sweetest and kindest boxer I have ever met. When we lost our male in 2008, we purchased another male to fill the void. Our female actually went through a depression of sorts and her crying became unbearable. Our male, is a sweet boy who is almost 2.  We have never had any aggession between them. Early on, she growled at him one time when he went to eat before her, and that was it. They have been buddies from day one. 
Well... now, we come to spring 2010. My female had a "silent cycle" and we had no idea she was in heat. I saw no signs whatsoever. Our male, who was unneutered at the time, apparently got to her (he was neutered during my spring break (I am a teacher) and we now figure it was about a week too late). The only time the are unsupervised is when they go to the "field" which is our word for going potty. Usually, the go out for 10 to 15 minutes as they prefer to be indoors. 
We took our female to the vet, because she looked puffy, and he confirmed by xray that she was NOT pregnant. Said it was a phantom pg and would resolve itself... lo and behold, she gave birth 13 days later!!! We lost 1 and have 2 sweet little girls that made it. At 5 days old, mom was diagnosed with mastitis, so I weaned the pups and bottle fed with your formula... that was when I found your formula online. They hated the stuff from the vet, and LOVED your recipe. They gained 2 to 4 oz everyday... they were fat, happy babies!!!
Now they are 8 weeks old, and I know that I can't keep both, but my hubby REALLY wants to keep one of them. She is a beautiful flashy girl with an amazing temperment like her mom. I have read your eBook about adding a 3rd dog, and I am concerned. We have never had 3 at the same time. Can you give me some feedback? We allow the pups to play with mom and dad for small periods of time, but they do not play unsupervised. They will not in the future either. They are always crated if we are not home. 
Do you think the age differences will work? Mom is unaltered, dad is altered. This little girl will be spayed before the age of 1 (as soon as vet gives the go ahead). 
Thanks for everything.... you are a lifesaver!!!


Having 3 dogs is always more challenging than 2, but with rules and structure can certainly be done. The only time I think age is a big issue is when 2 or more of the dogs are puppies at the same time.

I’d become a student of pack structure, we have a number of eBooks, which include topics that may help you. 

I’d also recommend Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

Be aware that as the puppy grows up, there will be times that the dynamics change.  Pack structure and leadership is important for ALL the dogs, not just the youngest one.  You will most likely have issues between the mother and daughter as same sex dogs tend to have more problems than opposite sex.

For future questions, you might benefit from learning to use our SEARCH function, which is located in the top left corner of every page of the website.  If you type in your key words or question it will find you articles, Q & A’s, free streaming video and links to threads on our discussion forum. Our website has over 16,000 pages and it’s very likely you’ll find the information you are looking for.  I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes


Hi Cindy,

I have a 13 month old, 45 pound australian shepherd/border collie/lab mix that is great on walks during the day, but at night, he gets so scared and nervous! For some reason when night rolls around, he just shuts down and starts to cower, which I find odd. It all started on memorial day, when my family and I took him to the parade, he heard the guns and bands, and then he shut down. Whenever he heard a bang after that he freaked out! But I was able to get him out of that, whenever he heard a loud bang, I would give a small correction (we use a prong collar on him) and then he would snap out of it and keep going, then I would reward him with a treat.

Then the 4th of July happened, I was taking him out for a walk before the fireworks started in our area, but some jerk was getting ready to fire off his fireworks, and they squeled and made a huge BANG, and that's what started our trouble. At night he started to get scared, and even though I can still walk him, he just is very tense and nervous. I don't know what to do for him when he gets that bad, treats don't work for him in training anymore. If I run with him the whole time we are out he is a happy dog, or if I bike him, then we don't have a single problem. My parents said he will just grow out of it, or get used to it, but I have yet to see that happen. Also I don't pet him and tell him in a baby voice, "It's okay, you're alright," I know you are not supposed to do that.

When he hears a noise, I give a correction to snap him out of it and walk a little faster so he has to concentrate on that. The thing is, I can't go for fast paced walks all the time, my younger siblings are around and they just can't go that fast, and they LOVE walking with me and my dog.

Cindy please help me!



The first thing I will say is to stop correcting him for being afraid.  You will only make him a complete basket case if you continue.  Imagine if you were afraid of something and every time you got a bit nervous someone gave you a jerk to try to get you over your fear.  You would then become more apprehensive about the things you were nervous about because now you need to worry about your pack leader correcting you on top of everything else.  Does that make sense? 

The fact that he won’t take treats anymore tells you he is too stressed.

I would recommend taking a big step back, and work on building his trust in your leadership.  This may mean avoiding situations that you know make him nervous for a good long while.  This may also mean that your younger siblings are going to need to understand that it’s not in your dog’s best interest right now to go walking with him. Keep walks and outings all positive and show him you will protect him from things that make him uneasy. If he’s happiest running and biking then that’s what I would do with him right now. 

I’d recommend the DVD Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

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

You might also want to learn about marker training. I would read our article on training dogs with Markers.

This way you can work on easing him into walking after dark, and let him know in a way he understands that he’s doing the right thing. Nervous dogs love to know what’s coming next and marker training is a great way to engage him with you so he doesn’t have to focus on what he’s afraid of.

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers

We also carry a product called Rescue Remedy which can be given to the dog when you know he’s going to be put into a stressful situation.  I know it works because I’ve tried it myself.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes


I don't know how to thank you and Ed! I am a new GSD owner and I'm in a little over my head. Very few trainers know how to deal with this breed. I just finished one of the DVDs you recommended (Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs) and it was an eye opener!
The dominant dog collar you recommended for my 14 mo. old works great and the DVD helped me to use it effectively. 8 obedience courses @ $200.00 ea. did nothing to help with the behavioral issues. I am recommending your DVDs to everyone! In fact, there is a site on Facebook (German Shepherd Tips) where thousands of GSD owners worldwide ask questions, etc. I hope you don't mind; I gave the Leerburg web address and have recommended you personally as a trainer. I like to "Pay it Forward."
Just two quick concerns, if you have time....
1. Any advise on walking past homes with invisible fences in the front yard containing reactive dogs? My female, Shiloh, lacks confidence. She raises her hackles and gives a police dog type bark and then we continue on. She use lunge at the dogs, but has stopped. Should I avoid this neighborhood or continue to train her to ignore the distraction. Ed demonstrates fence work on the DVD... should I do the same?
2. Ed talks about protecting your dog from strays and we had a terrible experience last week. A stray Wheaton Terrier approached us, and since she was friendly to me, I allowed her to greet Shiloh. The next thing I knew the dog turned into "Cugo" and started attacking my dog's face. I just reacted and ripped the other dog off by the ear. The dog kept trying to follow us (growling) and trying to attack! I yelled at the dog to "STAY" and it worked! Thanks, Ed! My poor baby needed a bath when we returned home (I guess she urinated from fear?). The stray had pink bows and I didn't want to hurt her! Do you think I damaged our trust by not protecting her from the first attack? Should I carry Citro spray and a walking stick? I hate the thought of hurting another dog... Ed would tell me to toughen up!! LOL Lesson learned: Never let a strange dog approach... even of it appears friendly and has pink bows! ;)
Thanks again for everything, Cindy and Ed!
With deepest respect and gratitude,
April Hobby and Shiloh
P.S. I visit our VA Hospital with my therapy dog (Samoyed). My thoughts, prayers and appreciation to Ed's son...


Personally, I choose to avoid situations where I know there is likely to be a problem dog.  invisible fences keep in some dogs, but there are also many dogs that choose to run through them.  I agree with training for these situations, but I wouldn’t knowingly do this without a physical barrier between me and the reactive dog.  why risk it? 

It’s impossible to know if your dog has permanently damaged trust, but next time run the dog off before it gets close.  It doesn’t matter what the dog looks like, I don’t allow ANY dogs to approach me when I’m out with my own dogs. 

Ed has written an article about what to do if you are attacked by a stray or loose dog.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes



Last year a family member rescued a mini-dachshund vet estimated him at 4-5 months old from an abusive situation. The people in the house were being rough and generally neglecting him, allowing him to run loose and get into garbage, he was regularly "spanked" and smacked upside the head. In short these people lacked all common sense.

When I got this pup he was obviously extremely submissive, submissively urniated at the drop of a hat and flopped on his back if a person even stood up near him. He was obviously handshy.

I kept him in my bedroom, allowed him to sleep on the end of my bed and aside from matter of factly taking him outside(he would follow me with encouragement in just a day or two) and prasing him just enough so he heard me but I didn't scare him(any direction attention was obviously overwhelming) and feeding him I ignored him. I wanted him to settle in Then I introduced clicker training, which he got the idea of very quickly. Within 5 sessions or so he went from shy and giving "unsure" body language to giving me a more calm, confident dachshund attitude while we were working.

Using that training I introduced walks(he was horrible at first and still is unconfident at times, but we investigate what scares him at his pace, every time and he has made great progress overall), what I call Touch training where I taught him to associate my touching parts of his body while he held a stand/stay with reward, we worked at his pace and he progressed to where I could do the motions and body language of someone "hitting" at him and he doesn't flinch, it's a game now and his general reluctance to be handled is gone. I can do anything to him(brush teeth, clip nails, clean ears, ect) and he calmly accepts it. So can other people, including the vet now!

In short, I did a lot more than I even care to write about and I worked very hard for months day in and day out to make this dog into a comfortable, safe, submissive, gentle pet in every situation for myself.

Except for my stupid boyfriend. I've had to have talks before to my boyfriend about what is, and what is not his place in relation to my dog while he's a guest in my house. I do not allow him to disciple this dog just whenever he wants or feels it's needed, because he is used to large dogs(shepards, pit bulls) and he can be rough and he a lot of times does not understand what's innappropriate(Once the dachshund was just a pup and this was while he was being wormed in the first few weeks after I got him he woke up and started to throw up and my boyfriend poked him in the side hard grabbed him up shouted "NO!"
and was shaking this puppy and was of course peed on and I entered the room just in time to see this) it's not all the BF's fault, he has OCD and Depression and doesn't always act right because he's not ok. He's a germaphobe so the throw up was a big deal to him.

Anyways, several weeks ago the boyfriend showed up at my house at 3am very, very drunk, I let him in and got him some food, the dachshund woke up and came up to him to say hello and my boyfriend invited the dog up onto his lap, the dog sniffed *at* his food, so the guy pokes him hard in the ribs 5 times before I could stand up to get the dog off his lap I absolutely wasn't expecting that and knocked the dog off his lap with the last poke and then kicked the dog hard, he was drunk so his aim was off it was only a glancing blow but it was hard enough to move the dog several feet and knock him off his feet and make him yip and run out of the room to hide.

I immediately kicked the BF out at some risk to my safety. Banned him from my house for a week, but didn't do anything to the dog even look at him till the next morning because I was upset and I didn't want to 'share' that state of mind with the dog. I was matter of fact business as usual the next morning with him.

The next time the boyfriend was in the house the dog wouldn't go near him, his hackles were up and his bark had a different tone(I allow him to bark 3-4 times from his rug as the door is opening, but it's always usually an excited noise and he's giving very submissive/placating body language). His behavior towards me hasn't changed, or to anyone else, just the boyfriend except that now as people enter I'm starting to see a little bit of hackle go up.

The guy is very very sorry, before that they had enjoyed a friendly relationship but now the dog won't come near him aside from sitting heel position next to me and he leans away if my boyfriend tries to touch him and growls hackles go up more and he starts barking and backing away, we tried it twice, both times he also peed a little during this. My boyfriend is now getting angry at ME and the dog, and I just don't know what to say anymore. I would have just prefered to leave the dog be and give him time to accept my BF while he's being calm and ignoring the dog while we're at my house but he insisted he wanted to 'make up'. He's banned from my house again, is it wise at any stage to try and make ammends between my dog and my boyfriend?

I don't know what to do do you have any ideas? The dog will not touch toys my BF throws, will not come over to take food from him or eat at all when he's in my apartment and wants to leave the room whatever room the guy is in and seriously wanted to shut down/tried to lay down each time I tried to walk him into the room with the BF. The BF has a limited amount of patince and gets frustrated/upset easily.

Could this affect his attitude/behavior towards other people? How bad could this get? What do I need to be watching for? What do I need to do? Am I right in thinking this dog is possibly now on the road to fear aggression?

Thanks for your time this really sucks and I'd appreciate advice!



This is a people problem, more than a dog problem.

Dogs need to feel safe in the leadership of their humans and if you are allowing this guy to undermine the work you've done with the dog, you are letting the dog down.

I'd keep the dog away from the BF, and make it clear to the BF that he's to ignore the dog 100% of the time. If he can't do that, then I'd look for a new boyfriend or find the dog a new home. The dog needs to know he is safe and if you aren't protecting him by guarding his space until he feels more confident, then he has every reason to be nervous. (given his past experience w/your boyfriend) Some people never learn to behave appropriately around dogs, unfortunately.

Since the dog only has problems when the boyfriend is around, it appears that the problem is the human, not the dog.

Cindy Rhodes

**Cindy's note: I really had to bite my tongue while answering this one.


Hi Ed,

I have a 9 month old GSD male, we believe he is a dominant dog. I got him when he was 8 weeks olds, he snipped and bit our hand a lot when we handled him.  Now even worst, he will jump up to us (my 3 kids, husband and me), bite our hands, our body.  I watched your DVDs for "Establishing Pack Structure" and now I am watching the DVD "Dealing with Dominant Dogs." Last week, I tried to establish the pack leader. After several days later, I started to give him attention, his beheviour was not changed.  I am concerned he's a dangerous dog to be around with my family, I really appreciate it for some advices from you how to handle him for this kind of behavior.

PS: I have not finished watching the DVD of dominant dog yet.


Several days is not enough time to establish pack structure, especially since you have allowed this dog to do what he wishes for the last 7 months. It may take weeks or even months of taking away his privileges before you can start to give him some freedom and privileges back. If you want the training to be successful, you will have to change your way of living with him permanently. Leadership is a lifelong endeavor.

Cindy Rhodes

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