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Categories: Socializing Dogs

Q. 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 wind chill 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!!

A. 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 Dog.

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
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