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Leerburg Dog Training Q&A Archive Dealing with Dominance Problems in Dogs

Dealing with Dominance Problems in Dog

Dealing with Dominance Problems in Dog

I try and answer every question I receive on dog training. I may often come across as a little on the blunt side, (some may call it brash). That is because I consider myself an advocate for dogs and not dog handlers. I am an advocate for common sense dog training and not the latest fad that appears on the horizon. Good dog training is not rocket science. It's common sense.

The Theory Of Corrections in Dog Training

Below is a long list of Q&As on dominance. If you really want to solve your dominant dog problems, get the 3 1/2 HR DVD I produced titled DEALING WITH DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS It's not a lot of money and is based on my 45 years of experience in training dogs.
Have a question you can't find the answer to?
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with nearly 3000 previously answered questions.


Hello--I learned a lot from reading your web site. My dog and I need help.

I think my dog has "fight drive," to put it nicely. He otherwise is a very good, well-trained, obedient, Rottweiler, but when he gets angry he is practically unstoppable.

It's a problem for me, mainly because he attacked me yesterday. I was picking some dried scabs off his face ...I know it didn't hurt him because the scabs were practically falling off. He was growling, and I was warned, but I couldn't resist. So he bit my hand, and I pulled away, then he bit my chest. He wanted to attack me some more, but luckily another person was there to pull him away. He seemed insane!

All I did was scream at him, then yell at him to "lay down," and I tied him up on the front porch all night.

I am hoping that I can train him out of this bad behavior. I don't want to put him down.

I got him from the pound in January 2002. He had been abandoned. He is an obviously purebred Rottweiler, and otherwise very well trained, and otherwise very sweet and loving.


This is just the beginning. You are out of your league here. Get used to being dog bit.

This is an extremely dominant dog. You can read the articles on my web site (and the Q&A) on Dealing with a Dominant Dog. You can go to my articles at

But the fact is my guess is that this dog will need more severe training which I think if beyond your skill level. The only thing that is EVER going to control this dog is to hang him until he passes out when he attacks you. There is a step by step protocol for doing this on a dominant dog. It needs to be done a number of times to establish your pack order. Right now he thinks you are a lower rank in the pack.

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I am at a lose as to where to turn regarding dominance and aggression issues with my dog. As a young puppy, somewhere between 6 mo. to 1 year she was placed in the yard of an auto body shop. She had a doghouse and was fed regularly, but that was about it. My boyfriend visits this shop often and developed a relationship with the dog (I believe she is part Chow & part Keeshond). When I purchased my own home he asked me to take her in. At that time she was 3 - 4 years old. There is also an indication of some sort of abuse as was evident by her reactions to certain stimulus, i.e. fast movements, keys jingling, water, and cowering when men enter the house. She is also very aggressive towards other dogs and acts aggressively when people walk past the house.

Things were not good from the start. She often growled at me and showed her teeth. I worked with her the best I could to develop a relationship - but quite frankly she scared me. Over time she got better, but still on occasion growled, often for what seemed to be no reason. I do, however, realize that she must have perceived some kind of threat After about a year, I hired a trainer to help me work with her. She was not growling any more but showed dominance in other ways, not eating while I was present, not allowing me to put on or remove her collar (again, growling), etc. She even once bit the trainer, not hard, but she bit him non-the-less. For a while my boyfriend fed her and handled the collar. However, overall her behavior improved, in fact she even learned to be affectionate. I did experience occasional growling issues, but much, much, less often, and I grew to love the dog.

We have very little control over Gabby. She must often be lured with treats in order to get compliance (she does know commands but refuses to obey unless given a reward). She can not be taken to the vet because she will not allow them to come near her. Nor can she be groomed by a professional groomer, or us, unless she is muzzled. Muzzling her is an extremely time consuming feat. She is typically isolated when visitors come to my home. We only allow her to be around a select and small group of people.

It is now 2.5 years since I adopted her. For some unknown reason, the behavior has again escalated. Just yesterday she prevented me from going to the back door to let her out. She faced me off and growled. I would like to begin training again, but I'm a little afraid. Also, I am unsure that I can get my boyfriends long term cooperation. (our styles are very different and often, as experienced in the past, has undone any training that I've accomplished). Can this dog be saved? Do I have some real safety issues I need to be concerned with? I would prefer not to give up. I made a commitment to this beautiful beast and feel that she is not to blame. She has been treated poorly by humans in the past and is reacting to past experiences.

Please Help.


You are way, way out of your league with this dog. Put it to sleep before you are hurt and go get a nice friendly rescues dog. Read the article on my web site about CHOW’s and CHOW-Mixes.

When your skill level cannot even get you out of your house because you cannot deal with the dog things are only going to go downhill.


I have been on your web site a lot and have learned a great deal. I know that you are in the protection dog biz and my pup is really not considered for his breed a protector I have a 5 month old Siberian Husky Male (Alpha of the Alpha's) What I want to know is in your experience do a lot of people mistake this breeds behavior for aggression? I am working him on a prong collar and have made some great steps forward. I have him in a formal obedience class and well those trainers need help but it is good for socializing. Right now he accepts my Alpha status but being the kind of dog he is he will still challenge my position. We are getting him fixed which I know doesn't solve everything but I feel it is important. I just want a straight answer to the question is it a must to force this dog into submission? I read your article about dominance and it made more sense than anything I have read so far. I am still being told that to get this pup where I need him I must force him (Alpha Roll ) into submission. I feel that forcing an already dominant dog can bring out aggression issues and if I keep working with him eventually by being consistent with my training methods he will respect my role as the pack leader. I also have a small child 2 1/2 I never leave the dog any dog for that matter alone with my child all interaction is done supervised and with the pup on a leash. He has never once made any aggressive move toward my son he is always tail wagging and happy to be around him. Because my pup is still in that alligator puppy mode these trainers are trying to convince me that he could become a biter. Well that may be true but I have used some pretty high level correction with the prong collar and he is backing off. Now a firm NO does the trick. I still feel that its important to let him be a pup and not have him shut down on me by over drilling him. He will be taught to pull this winter I already have him in a training harness and he is pulling bricks so I don't want to break his spirit I just want a better handle on the dominance. Thank you for your time I do tend to ramble.

Marinette, WI


You are talking to some drop dead stupid people. It amazes me that there are so many IDIOTS out there in the dog business.

1- No 5 month old pup has dominance issues. I have been in this business for 40 years and have not seen one yet. You and the people you deal with are misreading this dog.

2- Dominance does not come out until a dog starts to mature – the earliest is 10 to 12 months for some nasty dogs but usually around 2 years.

3- Alpha rolls are the dumbest pig-ass most stupid idea there is. Read my web site about these. I will not retype it.

4- Obedience training is the place to start to establish yourself as a pack leader. Not rolling a puppy on his back because he is not properly motivated to do what you ask.

5- You say you read my articles on dominance. Then follow the advice. Learn how to make a dog want to work for you. Learn how to use his drives, either prey drive or food drive to learn exercises. Jerking a 5 month old dog around on a prong collar is not the way to train a puppy.

6- Your stupid trainers do not recognize or understand prey drive – the biting – you need to re-channel that drive into a positive training tool. Get my tape on DRIVE FOCUS AND GRIP .

7- Use a dog crate.

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I am writing to you about our 11 yr. old Lhasa Apso, Max. I have had him since he was 8-9wks old. As a puppy, he seemed to be afraid of strangers or anyone who tried to pet or touch him. He would scream and back away. I tried to socialize him, when people would come in that would play with him & he finally started coming out of his shell. However, about a year later he started biting the groomer & they informed me they wouldn't have him back. I had a dog trainer come into our home & work with him after I married. He was even worse w/my husband. The training worked a little, as I was able to at least bathe him, as long as I kept him on a leash. I can't clean his ears or eyes without him snapping. I have never been able to just pick him up and pet him. When we have people over they can't pet him or he will bite - he seems like he will be friendly and then he bites. I cannot take him to the vet anymore for shots or grooming unless they give him a sedative to put him out. My husband usually is the one who walks him, due to our work schedules. However, he has now bitten my husband twice in the past two weeks, the last being a puncture wound. Max didn't growl or snarl either time. My vet has suggested putting him down. Do you have any suggestions that may help?

Thank you for your help.

Teresa Meinert


Putting him down or not putting him down depends on your willingness to correct this dog. When a dog gets to this stage (11 years of bad training and bad behavior) it's almost too late for most people to deal with.

There is a solution but its not pretty - but it does work. It involves hanging the dog until it almost passes out when he bites. There is no pain - you use the dominant dog collar that I sell - it just takes the dogs air away.

Dogs learn very quickly that being a DINK is unacceptable.

The problem is that people do not have the heart to do this properly. In which case you have to kill the dog. That's the way to look at this - do I kill him or do I hang him until he shits and pisses himself to teach him that he cannot bite. Dogs do learn respect. There is more of a protocol for this but I do not want to go into more detail at this time.

The dog should NEVER be around strangers. It should be in a dog crate when visitors come over.

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Mr. Frawley,

I am hoping you can help us today! We adopted George from a local shelter 15 months ago, he is a German Shepherd mix, about 3 or 4 years old. From the beginning he has showed dominance towards me when he found food outside, going after me with a strong, viscous bark, but has always let me take away his food if I have given it to him. Since then my husband and I have given birth to a beautiful daughter who is now four months old. We have tried some training and met with a dog behaviorist, both of which failed. George has gotten much more aggressive towards me, my husband, the nanny and my sister-in-law. To make a long story short, he rolls on his back and shows his belly to be rubber (like he ALWAYS had in the past) but goes after the person petting him, and I believe without a doubt will bite the person who chooses not to back down to this aggression. We did have an aggression expert evaluate him and said he is not trainable (as he tried to bite the expert even after disciplining him) and that the dog needs to leave the home. He is currently at the kennel, as we try to find him the best home, either back to the trainer who adopted him out to us or to a home with a BIG outdoor space for him with NO other animals or children, as he goes after squirrels and cats.

Unfortunately he needs to leave the kennel tomorrow and if we don't find a home for him, we will have to put him down, which our vet fully supports. What do you think? Any input would be most appreciated. Please help?



Well it may have been too late for you to do anything.

Dominant dogs are not easy dogs to deal with. If a person is motivated to learn how to live with them they can ALL be cured with proper handling. The only ones who cannot be dealt with are dogs with medical problems that cause the aggression (i.e. a brain tumor).

I have written extensively on dominance on my web site. Both in articles and in the Q&A section. You have not read that - I can tell from what you have written. You can go to my articles at

A very few dogs require extreme training. This is not the place to go into the details on this. But 99% of the dogs people consider dominant can be dealt with by the measure I have already written about on my web site.

This situation is an example of an unqualified person calling themselves a behaviorist. There are far too many people like this out there and I loose patience because their incompetence kills dogs (at least results in dogs being put to sleep that could have had a chance). Frankly, the same thing applies to most Vets. They are medical people and not dog trainers. They assume that because they handle and see a lot of dogs every day that they are somehow trainers - WRONG! The good ones will admit it.

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I was searching the internet this evening and came across your site that had many questions and answers regarding fear biters and the like. I am struggling with a decision that I fear I know the answer to and would like to ask your opinion.

My wife and I adopted a dog at the local shelter about three years ago. He is a Norfolk Terrier Mix we believe. The dog was days away from being put down and we took him home and have loved him extravagantly ever since. He was in the pound for biting an 8 year old kid, but we gave him the benefit of the doubt and took him home anyway.

This dog was notably abused based on his reactions to us. He is afraid of certain men, especially men with boots. He has bitten me approximately 10 times over the three years, and we have been on the verge of putting him down. He is great with other dogs, including our Schnauzer who is 8 years old. At home when he is comfortable, he is adorable and very very loving.

However..... The times when he bites are times when he is uncomfortable or you are around his food or bones. If you point your finger at him and reprimand him, he immediately shows his teeth and will bite if provoked further. He gets very uncomfortable when picked up and he will growl and sometimes snap at you when you put him back on the floor. If you move slowly across the room acting suspicious or run, he will come after you and simulate an attack until you stop. He has bitten my sister's little brother because he was afraid of dogs and moved very gingerly when around him and Midget (that is his name) snapped at him because of his fear.

Other instances include men who were at our home working on the house. The other day a man was in the back yard with me and Midget accidentally got into the yard when my wife opened the door. He darted across the yard and immediately ran and bit the worker on the leg and I had to tackle him. He left a good sized puncture wound. He has also bitten a friend of ours that was in the house, and two other men working at our house unprovoked. My mom and brother are scared of him. If you put your hands near his face he shows his teeth and will snap if you make any quick movements.

My wife and I are having our first child in April and are struggling with this decision. Our first inclination was to just see how he reacts around the child and hope that he adjusts while our son grows up with him. I was just bitten again yesterday when I tried to nudge him off the couch and he bit me very good on the hand.

I fear that there is no other choice but to put him down. I thought that maybe there was some medication that we could put him on or just pull all of his teeth. I don't know. However, it has been three years and his biting has not subsided in any situation when he is scared or uncomfortable to him. That is his immediate reaction. I know that he is not adoptable and will not change. With the baby coming, I am forced to make this decision regarding this member of our family that has grown very close to our hearts. I think that if I have to put him down I should do it now so that our other dog has three months to adjust to his departure before introducing an infant into the house.

Please let me know what you suggest and any words of encouragement are appreciated for this very very difficult decision. We love him, and he is very loving towards us, but I feel that the Lord had given me an unmistakable sign with two biting incidents in the last two days that has helped me come to a conclusion in this situation. Please advise.

Arlington, Texas


Well I am not sure the lord sent you a message but the dog certainly did.

Spend a little more time reading the articles I have written on dominant dogs and the Q&A sections on dominant dogs. Look in the list of training articles on my web site.

Sorry I cannot retype the answers that are already there.

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My 4 yr. old German Shepherd and constant loving companion, bit me. I had placed a bag of garbage containing a turkey bone on the floor. I heard him chewing the bone from the garbage and went over to him. He growled at me, which surprised me greatly. I then spoke firmly to him and reached for his collar to pull him away from the bone. He growled again and bit my wrist. It was one quick bite and I pulled away and ran. He has been quite humble ever since. I was shocked. I thought I trained him to not pick up food on my command. As a puppy I took food from him, and at times I will test him and put a piece of food in front of him and say "No" and he would not touch it until I commanded him to do so.

He is very lovable and friendly and excitable. I am very concerned with regard to his repeating this as children do visit.

He had asked me to take him for a walk this a.m., but I was not ready. He is quite aggressive when he wants his walk.

He is healthy, has all his needles, is well fed, and should not have been hungry at the time. I am so disappointed and hurt, more than the bite.

Thanks for your reply,


You need to read the article I wrote on my web site about DEALING WITH A DOMINANT DOG. Look in the list of training articles on my web site. Read the Q&A's on my web site. ALL OF THEM !!

You have screwed up badly here.

1- Get a dog crate and crate this dog.

2- Get a muzzle (one of the wire basket muzzles) and make this dog wear it all the time.

3- Get a prong collar and train with it.

4- Then obedience train this dog. I can guarantee you (100%) this dog is not properly trained. Get the Basic Dog Obedience video I have and do what needs to be done.

If you don’t make these changes your dog is going to bite you again.

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Hi Ed,

My name is Niamh and my husband, Glen, and I own a 70 pound neutered bitch named Sena. To explain our situation I will give you a little background on us. I had a previous dog, Grady a male neutered black lab/rottie cross. Grady was a huge dog and at age 12 and at 120 pounds he had to be put down. Grady was put down quite suddenly due to failing organs. He was a gentle giant who in his senior years didn't want to do anything but lay at your feet. My husband and I went out two weeks later and bought Sena. I believe now that we shouldn't have done this so soon as we were so emotional still. Especially for me as I don't think I was ready to be "strong" toward a new dog.

We bought her at 6 weeks of age in a private sale, from (I hate to say it but) what seems like a puppy mill in retrospect. Sena responds perfectly to my husband from the puppy stage to today. As a puppy I'm afraid I made the mistake of being very soft with her. (Looking back I was so devastated over Grady that I let Sena walk all over me). I would carry her around and let her knead on my hand. At the age of 5 months we enrolled her in Obedience School. I was her handler through all the training and she has graduated levels 1, 2 and 3. The trainer was the same for all levels and she did say several times that Sena was one of the toughest, most stubborn dogs that she has ever worked with. Getting her to do the down command took weeks. We also got her neutered at 6 months.

Sena gets along very well with people and other dogs. My sister and her boyfriend have house/dog sat while we are on holidays, (as long as a month), and they have had little trouble with her. No aggression toward them. As a puppy I dog sat the neighbors puppy (an Oz shepherd/rottie cross) and they played together very well. When I take her to the dog parks she plays well with all other breeds of dogs and is never the aggressor. She learned how to approach and greet other dogs. I have noticed at the dog park when she sees new dogs that she will sit down, ears back and wait for the other dog to come over and sniff her. Sena know all her commands; come, sit, down, off, stay etc. She will stay in a sit/down position for as long as you tell her when a treat is in sight. When there is no treat her attention span dwindles.

Our problems began several months ago with Sena. She started showing aggression toward me that is slowly getting worse. I have tried to step up my handling abilities but I am not sure what to do at this point. I found your website in a search for dog aggression and read your article on the 4 types. Sena doesn't seem to fit into any of them completely. It seems that I have been in a direct fight with her for rank in the pack. During this time I tried putting her down on the floor and laying over top of her. I would always hold her eye contact until she looked away. I also wouldn't blink during these times.

The problems began to increase when my husband started an out of town job. He is gone for a month at a time and then home for a week and away for a month. When he comes home Sena is his shadow and she pays little or no attention to me. There are no shows or aggression at all when my husband is home. I am the one that feeds, grooms, medicates, brushes her teeth and walks her. I try to feed her after I eat but I sometimes don't eat till 8 or 9pm at night and I try to keep Sena on two feedings a day: 7am and 5pm. I am able to take away her food and water bowl even if she is eating. She will also sit and wait until I tell her its okay to go for her food. She sleeps in the kitchen, but not in a crate. (My husband and I couldn't handle the crying and whimpering as a puppy and gave up the crate after a week or so). When I leave for work she is put in the back yard for the day. She has a large covered patio to play and a dog house there as well. (Sometimes I bring her to work with me or drop her off in daycare. There have been no reported problems in daycare but it is run by the trainer from obedience school.) When I come home she is very happy to see me and I get lots of licks and kisses.

Her aggression seems to be centered around toys or areas of the house. Sena has been allowed on the sofa in the past and I am trying to take back control and not allow her on it anymore. When I tell her "off" she sometimes won't respond and I will try to push or pull her off. This will sometimes lead to her snarling and baring her teeth to me. If I reach for her she has tried to snap at me. I usually try grab a hold of her collar from the back and then put her outside. Last night she was asleep in her usual spot on the floor of the dining room at the entrance to the kitchen, when I tried to wake her for a final pee break and to be put in the kitchen for the night she again snarled and bared her teeth. This has never happened before. She rolled on her back, paws in the air so I couldn't grab her collar and I had to grab her back paws and pull her the two feet into the kitchen, where she got up and went outside for a pee. She didn't seem to want to come back in but did and went to her blanket and laid down. This morning when I let her out of the kitchen she went directly to the couch, when I tried to take her off she again snarled and snapped at me. I pinned her down on the couch and yelled NO while keeping eye contact with her. She looked away first but continued the snarl. When I released her she wouldn't get off the couch, I grabbed the rolled up newspaper and gave her a smack on the hind and yelled "outside". After the second smack she went to the kitchen and went outside. I left her there with her food and water.

The couch issue is a new show of aggression in the last week. Our previous and ongoing problem is forbidden items. Sena has always been wilful about letting go of things. She will play ball and fetch in the house and allow you to take these things out of her mouth, but will not let you take bones, rawhide or stuff she knows she is not supposed to have. As a puppy she began to try and swallow anything that she had before she would let go of it. This lead the trainer to advise us to swap whatever she has for a treat. This I believe has lead Sena to learn that if she picks up something she knows she is not supposed to have (i.e. socks) then she will get a treat in return. I stopped giving her treats and tried dominance in getting to let go of things but this now leads to the growling and teeth showing. Sometimes our battles will last 10 minutes or more with her holding whatever she has in her mouth and growling and me saying "drop it" many, many times.

Recently there have been two incidents that never happened before. They happened in the same weekend and have not happened since. On a Saturday I brought her to the vet for her booster shots and deworming, after wards I brought her to Petcetera for photos with Santa. We stood in line with my friends (who had a pug and a mastiff) for twenty minutes or so and everything was fine. When Santa appeared in his red suit, Sena went nuts. She didn't lunge for him but wouldn't stop barking and wouldn't go near the chair he was sitting in. Santa had to hide in another aisle while I sat in his place and got our picture taken. I put this down to a one off, maybe a side effect of the shots that morning. The next day I had Sena in a friends house when her grandson came over. The grandson has been around Sena before and even stayed with us the weekend we bought her. Granted it has been several months since Sena has seen him. I had her on a leash as we were leaving. When Sena saw the little boy she again started the same barking like crazy at him. Just like the day before with Santa.

I am not sure what to do now. I am going to contact the original trainer and get a private one-on-one session with Sena to see what we can do about this, but any advice that you could offer would be most appreciated.

Thank you so much for you time.

Surrey, BC, Canada


More than likely this is a rank problem in addition to poor training. If the training was correct the dog would look at you as a pack leader. Dogs have VERY STRONG pack drives. They DO NOT CHALLENGE the clear pack leaders. If this dog saw you as a solid pack leader it would never do this. Read the articles and Q&As I wrote on dominant dogs. Look in the list of training articles on my web site.

When training is correct this very seldom happens. If you would like to learn more about the principles of obedience training a dog, read the description for my Basic Dog Obedience video. You will probably find that you have not had the full picture on the steps of training a dog must go through before it can be considered fully trained. You can also read why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. Get this tape and a prong collar. If you do not have a prong, we also sell those on our web site.

If you do not have experience with a prong collar I have written an article on my web site that explains how to fit a collar, and how to take it on and put it on. You can find this at

If you like what your face looks like when you look in the mirror - let me give you a little advise. STOP THIS STUPID ALPHA ROLL CRAP! I know a lady who got over 100 stitches in her face by doing this to her dog. Alpha rolls are one of the most dangerous things you can do.

Bottom line is this is more of a handler problem than a dog problem. You stopped crate training because you did not want to listen to the dog scream - THE DOG WON that one. You allow the dog on the couch - THE DOG WON THAT ONE. This is a very foolish way to raise this dog. It's a dog and you are treating it like a human.

Everything you describe is related to a weak pack leader (that's you). You either make up your mind to learn a little and change your ways or make sure you have a lot of bandages and a good doctor. But when you get bit you need to know that this is not the dogs fault - it's your fault for allowing it to happen.

If this were my dog -

1-It would be in a crate 24/7 until I knew it would go into the crate when I told it. The only time it would be out of the crate would be to go outside. But when it was in the house it would be in the crate.

2- It would be trained with a prong collar. When in the house it would have the prong on and a leash so I could deal with it.

3- If there was any question about the dog biting it would wear a wire basket muzzle - we sell these on my website- the dog can drink with it on.

4- If you are small and cannot deal with the size of the dog it would have an electric collar and it would wear it all day long (off at night). The Innotek ADV 1000 is what I use on my dogs.

If you cannot do these things - find a new home for this dog.

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Mr. Frawley,

Recently our 9 month old GSD has started to nip at us for no reason. We can be sitting on the couch and she'll come and nudge with her head to be pet and once I start to pet her she begins to nip at my hand. Lately her nipping has become a lot harder and more with me then with my boyfriend. She was crate trained from when we first got her but now when we put her in she begins to bark. She also barks if I'm in another room with the door
closed. I'm not sure where we went wrong. Can you please let me know what we're doing wrong and if we can fix this problem. I don't want this problem to get out of hand.

Thank You,


Read the article I wrote on how to deal with a dominant dog. Look in the list of training articles on my web site.

Then do what the article says. It's time to train this dog - with a prong collar. You are EMPOWERING HER by petting her when she wants to be petted. When my dogs come to me and demand to be petted I BACK-HAND SLAP them and tell them to GO LAY DOWN !!!

They damn well know that getting petted is something that is earned not something that they demand.

Your dog is not looking at you are a pack leader. That's WHY this is happening. Make it live in the dog crate 24/7 for awhile. Like several weeks. The only time it should be out is when it goes outside for walks or when it gets out to eat or be trained.

If you would like to learn more about the principles of obedience training a dog, read the description for my Basic Dog Obedience video. You will probably find that you have not had the full picture on the steps of training a dog must go through before it can be considered fully trained. You can also read why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. Get this tape and a prong collar. If you do not have a prong, we also sell those on our web site.

If you do not have experience with a prong collar I have written an article on my web site that explains how to fit a collar, and how to take it off and put it on.

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I am sure you are a very busy man but I am so frustrated and have no where else to turn for answers. If you could please give me a bit of advice I would greatly appreciate it because no one in my area has yet been able to help.

Last June, my husband was given a puppy that had been handed down from owner to owner. We were not told much about her history so I took her to the vet the next day who said she was a Beagle-Pincher mix. She had many health problems when we first got her but she recovered quickly. The first night she was here I went to move her from the couch while she was napping and she tried to bite me. I just assumed she was getting to know me so she was nervous. The problem is now, she has progressively gotten worse. She only listens to my husband and she will only allow him, myself, and a neighbor whose dog she plays with regularly to pet her. Anyone else she will bite. When I take her on walks she chases everything, lunges at people, and has even tried to charge cars head-on. There are times where she will bite me hard if I am taking away her favorite toy or treat and when I have tried to punish her she has come at me. Although she is barely 20 pounds I am scared the death of her inflicting damage on a child. She absolutely hates children and is overly aggressive towards them. When my stepson comes to stay with us in the summer it is like a war zone in here because she is constantly trying to attack him. She has also tried to bite nieces, nephews, and neighborhood children but now she has progressed to biting everyone. My heart-rate shoots up every time I see someone approach because you just never know if they will try to pet her before I can warn them.

Also, she has severe separation anxiety. Anytime we leave the house she becomes destructive and will not eat or drink till we get home. Our one neighbor brings her female Shitzu over everyday so that our dog will not be lonely but the dog still cries when we leave. She has been to obedience school which she did poorly in. The instructor told me that it is because she is such a dominant aggressive dog and there is really nothing I can do past this point. I have tries taking away toys and treats and playtime with us but nothing works. Her aggressiveness just seems to be getting worse.

A quick note: when we first got her, she had stomach ulcers which the vet said could be from stress. She also made speculations to the fact that she could have been abused because she was malnourished and seemed to have some bruising. We have given this dog a loving home and have never raised a hand to her yet she fears the sound of my husbands voice is he even raises it a notch. I on the other hand, could yell and scream at her and she will not budge.

I am so scared that she is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Is there hope for my dog or are we fighting a loosing battle? Is she mentally ill or just plain mean? I just need some answers.
If you could please just give me any advice I would appreciate it. No one in my area can seem to help and I am tired of the conflicting advice I am receiving.

Thank You,
Worried in Kentucky


Sometimes dogs like this are in homes where the owners are able to accept the kind of training that is required to fix a problem like this. I get the feeling that this is not the case in which case the dog should be put to sleep.

Sometimes a dog with a problem can be given to another owner who is more qualified to deal with the problem. I doubt that you would be able to find someone that would be willing to take this kind of dog.

If you were willing to 100% change the way you deal with this dog you could possible save it. Here are the things that you would need to do:

1- Get a dog crate for the house and begin by keeping the dog in the crate at all times except when you are playing with the dog or taking it outside.

2- Read the article I wrote on DEALING WITH A DOMINANT DOG (also the Q&A's on this). You can find this on the article page on my web site at DO THE THINGS I SAY IN THE ARTICLE!

3- Properly train the dog. This dog is not trained. It does not respect you as a pack leader. If it did it would not try and bite you. If you are concerned about biting – get a muzzle and make it wear the muzzle – the wire basket muzzles we sell allow a dog to drink when they are on.

4- If you would like to learn more about the principles of obedience training a dog, read the description for my Basic Dog Obedience video. You will probably find that you have not had a clear understanding of the steps of training a dog must go through before it can be considered fully trained. You can also read why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. I think if you read the testimonials on that tape you will see that my customers feel the same way.

5- Have the dog wear one of the dominant dog collars we sell with a drag line or leash in the house. If it acts aggressive to you – lift its front legs off the ground so you take its air away. Remain calm when you do this. DO NOT ACT MAD! There is no pain involved here but it tells the dog that you control it's life and if it displeases you, you can take its life if you want. People (like yourself) with a soft temperament have a problem with this concept. Dogs do not – they clearly understand the concept – its called being a pack leader and a higher rank within the pack.

6- This dog should NEVER be allowed around kids or strangers. Not ever! No one should pet it. Police officers never allow people around their dogs (or at least they should not.) A lot of times civilians fail to understand the concept that you and other members of your pack are the only ones who needs to be around a pet. I have owned dogs that bite people my entire life and I don’t have these kinds of problems because I control the environment the dog is in.

7- NEVER allow this dog to be around the neighbors dog again. You need to be the center of it's life and all joy comes from you and not this other dog.

8- When you walk the dog walk it with a PRONG COLLAR – if it looks at another dog or person and growls give a verbal "NO" and then CORRECT it very hard. If the dog acts aggressive to you, hang it. You only need to hang it by lifting its front feet off the ground an inch or two. Just take it's air away – again, there is no pain here.

9- I could go on and on but this is enough. If you have friends that think this is abusive I would say this, ““Everyone has an opinion on how to train your dog – just ask your mailman – the problem is that very few people have the experience to back up their opinions which results in a lot of bad information being handed out.”

10- When the options are to kill the dog or deal with the dogs aggression so that it becomes a safe animal for the handler - well my vote is to save the dog when it can be saved. If I have a PETA PUKE bitch about my practices – I recommend they take a dog like this into their home and try and see what they can do with their Halties and clickers.

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I am contacting you as a last resort before we have our German Shepard, Thor, put to sleep.

We purchased Thor at a pet store for $300.00. Thor is 17 months old and a male. Thor's birth date is 9/9/02. We bought Thor at 3 weeks old 11/5/02. We moved from California to Florida December 2003. In California we lived on a fenced acre and Thor was able to run freely at all times and had numerous sheltered areas such as the carport and front and back porch. Thor often laid on the cushioned chairs on the covered front porch. In California, we also had a outdoor cat whom Thor played with a lot. The only aggressive behavior that Thor displayed was towards strangers, but could become quickly used to them if we introduced them.

Since we have moved to Florida, Thor has had to be on a chain 24-7 and has had hardly no sheltered area. Our 15 year old son takes Thor for a walk every day. Thor's environment has changed tremendously. We live in a deed restricted area and have had to put a shock collar on him to control his barking. In California, his barking wasn't a problem.

This past weekend, Thor was chewing on a fresh t-bone steak bone that my husband had just given him, our 8 year old son, Triston, walked towards Thor to pet him and Thor attacked him biting him twice (once on the left wrist and once on the right forearm), breaking the skin in both places. We took Tristin to the emergency room (actual cost not known yet) and filed a report with animal control.

We feel our only avenue is to have Thor put to sleep. We can no longer have Thor in our home, we feel as though he is a loaded gun with small children present. My husband is going to have Thor put to sleep 2/23/04 (immediately following a ten day quarantine). My husband says enough is enough. On 1/19/03, we took Thor to the emergency vet because he had consumed rat poison which cost us $522.00. In October 2003, Thor jumped on my mother-in-law which broke her back. She was in the hospital for more than a month. The expenses and anguish that this caused is to great to mention.

With all of the hardship Thor has caused, I still feel he is a good dog and can be a great pet with the proper training and family.

Please contact me if the shelter is interested in taking Thor.

p.s. I am also sending this email to the Leerburg website in the event they have any last minute advice.

Thank you,


I would recommend finding a new home for this dog. He is beyond your skill level as a dog owner. I do not think it necessary to kill the dog just because you cannot handle him.

There are people out there that can train this dog and keep him in an environment that is safe. Just because you cannot do it does not mean others cannot find a solution.

I have owned tough dogs my entire life. I don’t have these kinds of problems. Run an add in the paper and find the dog a new home.

I hate to be the one to tell you this but a lot of the problems with the dog are a result of things you and your family have not done. If you go to my web site and read the article titled Dealing with a Dominant Dog you will see some of the mistakes. This dog is just entering maturity. You can find this on the article page on my web site.

Good Luck

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A have just acquired a dominant dog, it followed me home on a walk, someone had dumped her. She's approximately a year old, I've had her 3 weeks. I will soon be getting her spayed, she's had a litter recently. She's had a hard life with a lot of scars from fights. I have a Innotek econo-trainer shock collar and was wondering if you could tell me if there are any others out there that are stronger in shock than this. I have looked in a Cabelas book, but they don't say to use on strong willed dogs. She's coming around and I will be buying the Fatal Dog Attack book and if you'll suggest videos, I'll purchase them. I have a old Rot/Shepard female, the only time we have problems is when we let the old dog in the house, Tinker, the new dog has grabbed her by the throat. The other time is when we are outside, Tinker is an outside dog, if we show affection to Daisy, the old dog, a fight ensues. Our daughter has two dogs that visit and I need to train Tinker to not harm them. I'm going to buy the prong collar and muzzle you described. She's a good dog and is learning quickly, she's hard headed at times, I just don't want her to hurt the other dogs. She doesn't act like she's ever been trained. She's not shown any aggression towards my husband or I, but we have been firm with her in trying to get her trained. Tinker is a mix of possibly Beagle, Whippet or Doberman as she has short hair. She has a good personality, but these things we really need to get worked out. I have a fenced in area I keep her, so I can keep them separated. I appreciate any help you can offer.



I believe you may be misreading your dog's temperament. I have never seen a dominant one year old female, and I breed police dogs and have for 30 years.

Now with this said, she is dog aggressive and she is stubborn. Here are my suggestions:

1- Try normal obedience first. Get my DVD on Basic Dog Obedience

2- Get a prong collar and a long line

3- My video shows how to fit and use them

4- I do not think you need another shock collar – if you do it should be a DOGTRA 1200 NC (but do not buy it yet – we sell them if you need it later).

5- Read the article I wrote on DOG PARKS - You can find this on the article page on my web site. Even though you don’t take the dog to a dog park – allowing this dog to interact with strange dogs when they come over is not correct handling. It’s a “human thing” to expect strange dogs to get along. It's not a canine thing that is normal. Dogs are pack animals.

6- Read the article I wrote on DEALING WITH A DOMINANT DOG – not because she is dominant but because you need to learn more about pack behavior.

7- We sell a selection of muzzles. But with this said, your money would be better spent on a dog crate (or crates) to keep these dogs separated.

8- Read my article on HOW TO BREAK UP A DOG FIGHT without getting bit.

Good luck

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I live with my sister who has a three year old mix breed (half long haired Chihuahua, half Poodle). He weighs about 12 pounds and has been fixed. Anyway, he's always been fairly protective and aggressive, but in the last year or so he has become progressively worse. My sister and her boyfriend are the only ones that are spared his biting. He's drawn blood on me half a dozen times and has done the same to others. It used to be that he only bit me when I tried to touch or pet him while he was on or near my sister. More recently, however, he tried biting me when I was rubbing his belly. He usually loves having his belly rubbed and always rolls right over for me to do it. He also tried to bite my sister's boyfriend for the first time recently. Is there anything we can do to get him to stop? I recently saw something on the Animal Channel that said that once a dog bites hard enough to draw blood, it is too late to get them to stop. It then went on to talk about a procedure where a vet shaves off the sharp parts of a dogs teeth so that they only pinch rather than break the skin when they go for a bite; psychologically the dog knows it can do no harm so it stops biting. Anyway, is this a good idea to look into? If so, how much does it usually cost and if not, what other options are there?

Thank you,


Shaving off the dog's teeth is not the solution to this dog's problem. The fact is this problem is a people problem not a dog problem. The people this dog lives with are the reason the dog acts like this.

The problem is fixable. It begins by controlling the dog's dominant tendencies. Read the article I wrote titled DEALING WITH THE DOMINANT DOG. You can find this on the article page on my web site.

Read the article I wrote titled The GROUND WORK to Becoming a Pack Leader. You need this information.

Get one of our micro prong collars or one of the DOMINANT DOG COLLARS and our 4 hour DVD on Basic Dog Obedience. There is an excellent section on training small dogs.

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I am Heather, and I have a German Shepherd. I live with my mom and 2 sisters and I am starting to see some signs of aggression. My German Shepherd is a male and is 6 years old. I e-mailed you before about him adjusting to the apartment I moved into. He had adjusted well but he has been growling at me lately and tonight he snapped at me like a bite but he did not puncture the skin. This started a few months ago when I lived in a house. He started to growl at me when I was trying to get him out of the dog house. My dad said he probably felt cornered and told the vet and he agreed. My dog has always seen my dad as the "Pack Leader." My parents are now separated and my dad lives on the other side of the world... literally in Africa so he can't really help me. Whenever my dog gets into anything like trash and I try to take it away he now growls at me. My dad has told me before that if he does this I can pop him on the mouth. I did this but it just made him more mad and growl at me more. He has always listened to my dad very well but not to me very well. He is really starting to make me nervous like when he snapped at me tonight and he is a pretty big German Shepherd and I am 13 and pretty short for my age. What can I do to stop this before it gets worse? My dog does not see me as a "pack Leader" in any way. I have tried to stand up taller make my voice stronger but it's not really working. He also playfully nips at my mom but I do not really think that is a big issue. Thank you for your time.


Your Dad's information may work for him but its very dangerous information.

Read the article I wrote DEALING WITH A DOMINANT DOG – also read the Q&A on this.

You should also read the article I wrote GROUND WORK TO BECOMING A PACK LEADER.

Get a dog crate and keep this dog in it. These problems have developed because you screwed up in the way you live with and handle this dog. Your lack of understanding of pack behavior and your LACK OF PROPER training have caused this – sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it is the truth.

You either change the way you live with this dog or you need to find a new home for him.

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Dear Ed,

I have a question regarding our German Shepherd. He’s 2 ½ years old now and weighs 108 pounds. He wasn’t socialized as a puppy, so we are taking him to a trainer because of fear biting and aggression with people in the yard and house (he hadn’t been aggressive toward my husband, our children, or myself.) The trainer has been helpful, and we’ve seen a lot of improvement. The last time we went for a session, she told us that our dog sees my husband as a leader, but doesn’t see me as one. He basically refused to obey me at times during the session. She told me he was testing me and to keep doing what I have been, which is not giving any praise, petting or food unless he’s done something for it – sit, stay, down, etc, and to stare him down if he gets into a “battle of wills” with me (she told me what to look for in his stance and said to make sure he heard the command before I stare him down – I’m to look him in the eye until he obeys me), or to use his choke collar by giving it a quick snap. She’s also watched me as I worked with him and has taught me to properly put the choke chain on and use it correctly (we had never used one before). She said when I give a command, to be prepared to take as much time as possible with him until he obeys. I’ve learned so much from her and have been following her suggestions and our dog is doing so well! I’m very new to the dog training process, and I’ve been amazed at how quickly our big guy is learning, now that we know what to do. He’s much happier, which makes us much happier. But then tonight, I told him “down” and he just looked at me, started to go down from his sitting position, then stood back up. I reached for his collar and he bit me and ran away. He didn’t draw any blood – it didn’t even hurt, but I don’t understand this behavior or why he would do that. He has tested me during the training process, but has always submitted and obeyed the command he’s been given. He’s never bitten me before. I have been giving him praise when he obeys commands, and I don’t do anything physical to him, except for the collar snapping. And most of the time, just the sound of the collar has been enough incentive for him to obey, so we aren’t even having to snap it as much as before. He also bit the trainer on two separate occasions (without breaking the skin), and she said it was okay, he was just testing her. She had gotten him calmly on a leash 15 minutes after meeting him, and actually had him obeying her commands – so I’ve trusted her advice and have seen good results. But, when I called her tonight after our dog bit me, she suggested putting him down because we’ll never be able to trust him around our children or anyone else – maybe not even my husband or myself. She told us he was poorly bred and thinks that could be causing some of the problems, too. I am wondering if putting him down is the right choice. I’d much rather keep working with him or find him another home. She told me that finding him a new home could be dangerous for the people who would take him, or even dangerous to the dog, because of the possibility of him being abused by an owner who didn’t know how to work with dogs. I’ve been searching the internet and I stumbled upon your website. A lot of the things I’ve read on it so far sound like what our trainer says and it seems like you really understand and know dogs. My question is, do you agree with our trainer? She says that he is too dangerous to have in our home with our children (ages 9, 4, and 1), that putting him outside would be cruel because he’s a pack animal (which I totally agree with), and that giving him away could be dangerous to another owner or even our dog. She also told us that he may never bite us or our children, but if it were her dog, she would have it put down, just because of the possible risk. She said she knew it was hard to hear, and it is…which is why I’m asking what you would do – would you ever suggest putting a dog down in this type of situation? I would truly value your opinion and appreciate you taking the time to read this and hopefully reply.

Thank you,


I have written a ton of information on my web site. What you have going here deals with dominance and not the dogs weak nerves. A dog can have both.

I don’t agree with your trainer. She is probably a very nice person, but she is giving inappropriate advise.

1- a choke collar is not a training collar. There are only 3 kinds of collars – a flat collar, a prong collar, and an electric collar.

2- This dog needs some serious obedience training. You don’t “wait out” a dog who does not mind. You give it 1 second to respond and then correct it. The correction on a dog that bites needs to be a VERY FIRM.

If the dog bites it needs a muzzle (like our wire basket muzzles that we sell) A dog cannot bite with this on.

It is clear that your family does not understand the correct steps to training. If you want to learn get my 4 hour DVD on Basic Dog Obedience training.

Read the article I wrote titled GROUND WORK to Becoming a Pack Leader You need this information.

With all this said, I can tell you that it would not be difficult for me to get control of this dog. I can't tell you if you are prepared to learn to train and handle this dog. Only you can answer that question.

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QUESTION on Dominance:


Hey I love your Leerburg site. It's one of the best information tools online, hands down. I need some information. I have a 5 month old American Bulldog in the house along with a 3yr old & 8yr old. My problem is the dog is constantly challenging my 3yr old. How do I stop it ? He does not do it with anyone else in the house. Other than that he's a perfect dog.
I would appreciate any info pertaining to this.



You may want to read the article I wrote on GROUND WORK BEFORE OBEDIENCE TRAINING

Training becomes essential. It should be done with a dominant dog collar and the work shown in my 4 hour DVD on Basic Dog Obedience.

This dog needs to loose control over its life. It needs to have zero free access in the house and around the other dogs. You need to get dog crates (3) and use them and when the dog is out of the crate you either have him on a line or in a down stay on a rug designated HIS PALCE.

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QUESTION on Dominance:

Dear Ed,

You probably hear sad stories like this all the time; moreover, don't like to personally respond to repeat questions. Well, I'm desperate for some guidance as I'm stuck in a major dilemma.

Duggan is a 3.5 year old male (fixed), shar pei/springer spaniel mix, adopted at 8wks from
humane society. Affectionate, loving, and wonderful to have around. Loves stranger's too much,(live in large town-home that has inspectors come monthly and the first time they came-in when we were gone----well he gave them a tour!) and a total 42lbs lap-dog. Went to pup training and likes nearly all dogs---exception of one little pom. down the street, but who likes everyone.

Jill is 1.2 years old, she is our beautiful daughter, a 80% mix of my wife only 20% of me thank god! Well, tonight she and Duggan were doing their normal chase and play routine they've done 1000s of times. She wobbles and he licks her. This went on for a while. He got tired and quit. She decided to continue to play and poked him with one of his toys----guess what----he got mad. Growled, swiped a paw, caught her face, no blood, but went in for a bite and pulled-up or missed. My wife screamed, I took Duggan downstairs stared him in the eyes and said NOOOOOOOO. He started to shake as he normally does when in trouble and I put him in his kennel-----for the night.

The problem isn't Duggan------it's my wife and I. Duggan sleeps in our bed, beats me down the stairs and out the door, sleeps on the couch, eats with us----has total access to his food anytime. NEVER sleeps in a kennel, well, until last night or when young. He has got aggressive with me and my wife on occasion for reasons I can't remember but I do know he has snapped at me a time or two and actually caught my wife's hand one time. He doesn't mind me or anyone around his food bowl or toys----absolutely no growls or problems. He will come when called, sit when told, lay-down when told, and not eat a treat on the ground until told to; he'll wait an hour, unfortunately found that out when I forgot to tell him to 'get-it'. He will however, at times, growl if I try to move him in bed and he still has a problem of trying to mate with nearly everyone in the house. We use to find humor in this but now realize this may be part of the dominance display. He also likes my wife much more and follows her everywhere in the house. He is by her side always and if we both shout different commands by accident-----he'll choose her's. But rarely disregards a command by me such as sit, come, stay etc...

We love this dog but after reading your website realize how bad we are as dog-owners. We have failed him and now he must face the consequences. I obviously can't trust him anymore---and due to us---- we are considering putting him down or finding him a home. As you can imagine this is absolutely killing us emotionally----we feel like failures---neither one of us wants to let our Duggan go; but we would not forgive ourselves if anything happened to Jill. We've created a dominant dog and are desperately seeking help or advice. I rarely turn to the internet; however, realize there are some quality people out there that just might lend a hand. Is Duggan a dog that can be re-trained if we are re-trained? I know the saying, "My dog could never, would never, hurt my child" is used often and I use to believe this too---Is it possible for Duggan and Jill to co-exist? Or have we allowed him to rule
the house too long to break the habits?

Dr. Burns


I recommend that you go to my web site and read the article I wrote on my Philosophy of Dog Training. I think you will get some good ideas there.

If you are willing to make some changes in how you live with this dog I do not think it necessary to kill this dog or to give him to a new home.

The changes need to start with educating you and your wife on pack behavior. You both have to become students of pack behavior. I assume you have read the article I wrote on Dealing with Dominant Dogs.

This begins with getting a dog crate and using it. This dog should never come to the bedroom again (much less up on the bed)

Dominant dogs should not have toys. Dogs don’t need toys and they are triggers for aggression (you found this out.) Throw them all away., The acceptation is only if you or your wife plays with them and the dog will give them up without growling 100% of the time. They are never left out and the dog must understand that toys are your toys not the dog's toys.

You may want to read the article I wrote on GROUND WORK BEFORE OBEDIENCE TRAINING.

Read the article I wrote on Preventing Dog Bites in Children.

I have a saying that I tell people – it goes like this” Everyone has an opinion on how to train a dog – just ask you barber, your mailman and your neighbor” The problem is very few people have the experience to back up their opinions. This results in a lot of bad information being passed out So people like yourself need to figure out who has the experience to warrant listening to.

You need to be aware of this because there are very few people who really understand pack behavior – hundreds of thousands of dogs go through obedience training every year – the vast majority of dominant dogs come out of training just as dominant as when they went into training.

In a month or so I will be releasing a DVD and eBook on Dominance. I have been working on it for a year. It will be announced on my web site Table of Contents.

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QUESTION on Dominance:

Good morning.

My name is Erika and I share a place with my cousin who owns two Westys – (West Highland Terriers). He adopted them both from a shelter in Oklahoma. He wanted to adopt the female, but the shelter said he had to take both the female and a male. Well, the female is precious. The male is adorable, but he’s always growled if he’s asleep and you try to wake or move him. He’s been scolded, placed in the laundry room or outside, and ignored for this behavior. Well, just this week Duncan (the male) left my cousins room in the middle of the night and jumped in bed with me. He laid next to my head and was very sweet and loving at first. Suddenly (and seemingly for no reason) he growled once (and not near as loud or vicious as he has in the past) – then bit me on the cheek – right under my eye! I was shocked and froze. In fact, while I know I didn’t hit him back or anything, I don’t totally recall the next few seconds until I was standing in the middle of the room telling him to get to the laundry room. Well, my cousin was totally furious the next day when he saw my face and I told him what happened. He’s contacted the shelter and told them to come get the dog. They foster the dogs into different homes until they are adopted and have “adoptees” sign a contract saying if they ever get rid of the dog they have to go through this same shelter. I read several of your articles and felt we were probably right in just giving him back to the shelter. However, I had a school counselor tell me because we didn’t know the dog’s complete background – just that he and the female had been found wandering in an empty lot – that we should have the dog trained, etc. etc. I jokingly told her, “yes, or have him put down.” and she about freaked. I don’t know about putting him down, but I certainly am not sure I want to keep him in our house and try to get him trained when he’s already bitten. Do you have any advice?

Thank you!!!



I don’t want to sound critical but this is an owner mistake problem founded on a lack of understanding of dog behavior.

I recommend that you go to my web site and read the article I wrote on my philosophy of dog training. I think you will get some good ideas there.

Your dog is DOMINANT AGGRESSIVE, it's not trained and it has not had pack work done with it.

Read the article I wrote titled DEALING WITH DOMINANT DOGS.

These dogs need dog crates – that’s a huge part of getting a grip on them. They should NEVER come into the bedroom for any reason. They need to be trained with a prong collar and they need to spend a lot of time in the crate.

You may want to read the article I wrote on GROUND WORK BEFORE OBEDIENCE TRAINING

You will probably find that you have not had the full picture on the steps of training a dog. Your dog must go through training steps before it can be considered fully trained.

You will read why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. No professional dog trainer would ever take his dog to an obedience class with 15 or 20 untrained dogs and try and train it there. Its crazy. The dogs cannot concentrate with the distractions.

If you make the decision to learn to train - get a prong collar. You can read about it on my web site. There is an article I wrote (with a number of excellent photos) on how to fit a prong collar, you can also read about the different types of prongs.

I would probably be working this dog with one of my dominant dog collars. I explain how to do this on my web site.

In a few weeks I am going to be releasing a DVD on dominant and aggressive dogs. It will be announced on my Table of Contents.

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Here's my problem... I have 9 year old 1/2 lab, 1/2 german shepard mix that is a sweet heart! I put him through training school when he was a pup and I've had NO problems with him what so ever. About a year ago i got a Rhodesian ridge-back pup at 7 weeks old! There was no problem getting them to get along. the lab has treated the pup like his own. Now that that the pup is no longer a pup but now a 17 month old that weighs 120lbs, he has a territorial problem with EVERYTHING!! The lab cannot even move in the house without getting eaten alive. Now that I've read a lot in your website i realize I've made a lot of mistakes. There are toys everywhere in the house witch starts fights. There food bowls stay out all the time, and i allow them to sleep on my bed and couch which cause serious fights. The pup will lunge at the lab if he even looks at him in the wrong way, but if the pup is in a good mood they get along fine. The pup has not yet gone to obedience school but is soon getting enrolled. The Rhodesian is to big for me to stop the fights. What can i do to correct the problem I've started?? I'm open for anything you say Cause i now have a 7 week old baby that I'm watching at my house and i need to fix the problem before something bad happens. I'm afraid he'll be aggressive with her! Please Help!!


I recommend that you go to my web site and read the article I wrote on my philosophy of dog training. I think you will get some good ideas there.

If you are unwilling to find a home for this dog then you must get two dog crates and use them. Only one dog out at a time, feed them in the crate.

Shame on you for not training this dog. I don’t need to tell you that you created a monster here.

Hundreds of thousands of dogs go through obedience training every year – the majority of dominant dogs come out just as dominant as when they went into training. So while training is extremely important it’s not going to solve your problem. You must deal with pack and rank issues.

If this were my dog he would be wearing an e-collar a Dogtra 1200 NC. Next week I will release a e-collar training DVD– you need to work on this.

Keep reading the Q&A on my site on dominance and aggression on my web site.

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QUESTION on Dominance:

Dear Ed,

I have a 18 mo. old GSD. I'm so attached to him It would just kill me to have to put him down. Before him I had a pair of Dalmatians that lived for 14 yrs. Before that I had a beagle who lived for 9 yrs. All of my dogs were very well behaved dogs. However I didn't do enough research on German-Shepherds before I bought one. The one that I have has been very hyper from the very start, We thought this was cute. He has always been a little crazy. But he is also the most loyal, affectionate dog that I've ever had. We used to live in the city, and I socialized him pretty well. He would walk with other dogs without to much trouble. Anyone could come and pet him, he loves people. He is very smart, And learns very easily. Now we have moved into the country, we have no neighbors, and he doesn't see very many other people. So now for my problem. Last week I came home, walked up to my dog and started petting and kissing him, the same way that I have always done. With my face 2 inches from his he began to growl at me. And the look in his eyes told me he was giving me a warning to back off. I immediately scolded him and put him in his cage. And he continued to growl as I did this. I scolded him again, walked away and left him in his cage for a couple of hours. When I let him out he was fine. After that he has been growling at me and my husband at least once a day for various reasons. But so far he has not bit. I foolishly didn't know how important obedience training was for GS. My question for you is Do you think that it is to late to train him, will it even help? Please advise me, I love my dog very much. But I also have grandchildren whom I love more. By the way he has never shown aggression towards them, or he would be gone already.

Thank you,


Your dog is going through maturity. This happens from 18 to 30 months of age depending on the dog. Your problem is fixable IF YOU ARE WILLING TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU LIVE WITH THIS DOG and PUT IN THE WORK TO FIX THE PROBLEM. I cannot emphasize this enough.

The fact is your dog is the way he is because of how you raised him. So your current way of thinking and living with the dog will not cure the problem.

Here is some reading material to get you started on your new course. I am sure some things are going to jump off the page at you.

I would start by recommending you read an article I recently wrote which explains my philosophy of dog training. I think you will get some ideas from this.

Read the article I wrote titled Dealing with the Dominant Dog. You can find these if you go to the list of training articles and scroll down.

Read the article on The Ground Work to Becoming a Pack Leader.

If this were my dog he would begin by going through my Basic Dog Obedience program – I recommend you get this. Also get a prong collar and learn how to use it (the DVD teaches you) If you have never worked with prongs before – read what I have written about how to fit a prong collar. (also in the DVD).

The vast majority of dominant dogs go through local obedience classes and come out as dominant as when they went in. That’s because pack issues were not addressed.

If this were my dog I would follow the obedience training with e-collar training (low level stimulation) I use a Dogtra 1200 on my dog. - Last week I finished editing a new training DVD “E-collar training for the pet owner

In the early stages of training if there is ever an issue of the dog trying to bite – then get a muzzle. I wrote an article on how to pick them.

You have the information here to solve your problem if you choose to follow the work you will be fine. Good luck.

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I was bitten by my dog, Chili this morning. He is a 4 year old, 1/2 Rottweiler and 1/2 greyhound. I have had him since he was about 8 weeks old. He has never been beaten or abused. We have 2 other dogs also. Popeye, a 8 year old Chihuahua and Toby, a 4 year old pit/basset mix. All 3 are spoiled. Chili has really gotten aggressive since he went to the pound a couple of years ago, for a 10 day quarantine for biting a man that came on our property and kicked him. He has shown aggression towards a neighbor boy and we suspect that he has thrown rocks at Chili. The boy's uncle told us that he has done it to other dogs in the neighborhood. Chili acts like he doesn't trust anyone. His eyes get wide and darting. Once I had him in the back of my pickup and we were at a red light when this man came up next to us on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Chili went ballistic! It was a good thing I had him attached to a steel cable that runs side to side across the bed of the truck and he has just enough slack to hang his head over the side.

I think you are going to tell me "Put him to sleep." I haven't tried training yet. Would that help? Would having him "fixed" him help? I don't want to kill my dog. I have had to kill 2 other dogs that I had for many years. One for kidney disease and the other because his guts got twisted up. I feel like I just killed a family member or something. My eyes are watering just at the thought of it.

Respectfully Yours,


Killing a dog is always the last option. This is an owner problem not a dog problem. Because of your lack of understanding of pack behavior and training you have allowed this dog to become dominant aggressive.

If you want to put in the work it can be controlled – maybe not fixed but controlled. But this means handler education and changing the way you live with your dog.

I recommend that you go to my web site and read the article I wrote on My Philosophy of Dog Training. I think you will get some good ideas there.

My web site is 10,000 printed pages. There is a ton of information on dominance – start educating yourself.

Read the article titled DEALING WITH DOMINANT DOGS.

I recommend that you visit my web site and read a training article I recently wrote titled THE THEORY OF CORRECTIONS IN DOG TRAINING.

The reason I wrote this article was to help people understand how to motivate their dogs in training. Most people either use the wrong kind of correction or over correct dogs in training. I am not a fan of “force training” (although I most defiantly believe that every dog needs to go through a correction phase). By exploring corrections in training you will become a better dog trainer.

I recommend that you get the DVD I did on my Basic Obedience program.

You will probably find that you have not had the full picture on the training steps for training your dog. A dog must go through training steps before it can be considered fully trained.

When you read the description of the DVD on my web site you will find out why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. No professional dog trainer would ever take his dog to an obedience class with 15 or 20 untrained dogs and try and train it there. Dogs cannot learn when faced with this kind of distraction.

If you read the testimonials on my DVD you will see that my customers feel the same way.

I am almost finished with a new DVD on Dominant and Aggressive Dogs. YOU NEED THIS INFORMATION !!!

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Dear Mr. Frawley,

I am writing as I have a growling problem with our five and a half month old pet Ridgeback.  I know you have a lot of mail so I will brief as I can.

I have followed your philosophy closely.  I have 8weeks to 8mths, Basic Obedience and E-collar training and read much more from your website.

He lives in a wire crate in our family room, most of the time and can go into the rest of the house with a person. I think he knows his order in the pack, he eats last, goes through doors last, sleeps in the family room , sits before entering and exiting the car, crossing the street and is in his crate while we eat.

His training is going very well, with sit and down he is onto the Correction/Distraction phase and with the Recall we have just started the learning phase.  He trains well with food treats.  I train, feed and look after him.

I have two boys, a three and six year old.

Our problem:  He growls at us, example - when he’s lying on the Family room floor and the boys go to pet him he growls at them and nips them, or they can so much as walk past his crate and he will growl at them.  It’s mostly when he is lying down. He will even growl at me when I am petting or interacting with him when he’s in his bed.  My Brother-in-Law, whom he loves and he will often follow around when we are outside, put him on his bed in the back of our SUV and he growled at him, when he went to pet him goodbye. I went to close the trunk door on the SUV the other day and he had his nose out the back and I pushed it inside and he growled at me.  He’s never bitten me, and I just go on doing, what I am doing with him when he growls, so I think ‘he’s all bark and no bite’, but this behavior is just  NOT OK. 

Other than this particular problem he is a wonderful dog, loves people, I take him to the park and my sons school and he interacts with people and other dogs just fine.  The growling is not all the time, he will roll over and I will spend a long time petting and loving him, then one of my sons will come along and start to pet him and GRRRRRR.  It’s a few times a day with the boys and when he doesn’t want to do something that my wife or I want him to do.

This is not a behavior we can have in our Human pack, its very disconcerting for the family and for other people.  I have been searching your material as to how to correct this problem.  I don’t want to break our bond by being to aggressive with him, can you please help with some ideas as to how I can deal with this.  I think I am over thinking this and missing the solution.

Thanks for all your time,

David Brown

PS, Thanks for all your material and training instructions, we are having a great time learning, both of us!


A couple of things jump out at me.  Your dog is obviously showing some dominance and territorial aggression already.  He is basically telling you when and where it’s ok for you to touch him.  This may stay the same or escalate to a bite as he matures.  I personally always take a growl seriously as it is nothing more than a warning, a warning to a bite.  This is not OK, you are right about that.

I would probably manage your dog differently to take the loaded situations out of the picture.

I would not let my kids pet this dog when he is on a bed (I would probably take the bed away if this was my dog) and I would not allow the kids near the crate.  He is also showing the same behavior in the car as he does on his bed and in his crate.

I believe that this recently finished DVD could really help you. It’s titled DEALING WITH DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS and was a 5 year project. You can go to the web page and read the outline of what’s included on the video. My DVDs are not meant to be watched one time. The fact is anyone who needs this information needs to watch it many many times because every time they watch it they will pick up new ideas.  This will show you how to handle him when he does this.  There is footage of Ed correcting a dog when it growls at people when it’s on furniture.  This is the same type of scenario.

Until you get a better handle on this, then I would control this dog’s life 100%.  You won’t break the bond you have with this dog by becoming more assertive.  As it is right now, your dog does not respect you or he wouldn’t be growling in the situations he does.  If a puppy of 5 ½ months old does this, and you don’t nip it in the bud now it could become a serious issue as he gains confidence and maturity.  Ridgebacks can be tough dogs, and need very clear leadership.   This may involve being more assertive than you have been.

Hope this helps.


Hello Mr. Frawley,

I have recently taken in my boyfriend's dog which is an male South African Boerbeol. He is 190 lbs and not neutered. I have a 10 year old terrier mix that is not neutered, either. Also in the house is a spade female pitbull mix and a cat. Well, I read your ebooks on establishing myself as the pack leader. I feel that that has been accomplished or at least I thought so. All of the dogs follow me wherever I go, look to me for direction, and obey my commands. The problem is my little terrier feels the need to protect my female pitbull mix. They seem to both be competing for her even though she is fixed. They are driving her and me absolutely crazy. The large dog has attacked the smaller dog twice now resulting in a puncture wound in the thigh and just today, a puncture wound and laceration in his throat. They have just recently in the past 3 weeks been allowed to actually be out in the house all together and go outside together.

For about 2 months before that, they were all kept in kennels and out at different times. These are my questions: will neutering one of the males stop the aggression? How do I stop them from fighting? I will not have the large dog kill my other dog, but sometimes the the smaller dog really eggs it on. I don't want to get rid of any of them but I cannot wait for one of them to get killed. Thank you so much for your advice and some direction on some more of your material to read.



The odds are very very slim that neutering at this age will accomplish anything. Just continue to use your dog crates and control their environment.

The large dog will kill this dog if you allow them to be together - its not a matter of if - it's only a matter of when it happens. I get emails on these kinds of dog deaths all the time.

Kind Regards,
Ed Frawley


Hi Ed:

I have a 20 month old german shepherd.  I emailed you about a year ago when we bought a Dogtra electric collar from your site, which we've been very happy with.  Anyway, last week he was laying on the floor and I told him to get up so we could take him outside to pee before we put him in the crate for the night. Kazan ignored my command so I went to reach down to lead him by the collar, which I've done several times before and without contest from Kazan, but this time he bit me. He didn't break my skin but he bit me hard enough that my hand still hurt the next day.  I have never hit my dog to warrant a reaction like this where he would feel the need to defend himself and bite me.  I will save you the time in telling me that this was my handling error because I agree. 

Kazan does have a dominant personality and tries to challenge us regularly.  He will try to resist obeying commands that he knows, nudges us to get attention, does not like to be handled in any way by the vet or us to do simple things like trim his nails.  The collar has helped in terms of him not challenging commands like sit and down.  We also try very hard to be consistent with his training by following basic rules such as not letting him on the furniture, making sure we walk through doorways before him first, etc... With that being said I'm sure there are things we are doing that contributes to his behavior. I was going to order your dvd on dominant dogs but I didn't know if I should also order the dvd on basic obedience too.  Should the two dvd's go hand in hand together? 

I admit that at first when he bit me I questioned getting rid of him but I do realize that as his owner I'm most likely doing things that are contributing to his behavior. 

The only other thing I struggle with is that as I said above...we really like the electric collar but I'm having a really hard time lately using it to control his behavior when guests come over or when he hears the mailman.  Yesterday the mailman came to the door and when Kazan heard him the hair on his back stood straight up and he continued to bark. Even though I brought him to the spot on the floor that he's supposed to stay down on he jumped up and started running around. I corrected him and he was not responding so I turned it up a couple notches and corrected him again and again told him down. He would not lay down.  I notice that sometimes when he gets worked up like that...that he gets more upset when we use a higher correction yet if I use a low correction he doesn't seem to learn not to repeat the behavior in the future. Have you experienced this and what have you done to correct it?

I do value your opinion and know that you can be blunt with your answers so I hope I'm not annoying you. I'm am really trying to do what's right for my own safety as well as others.

Thank you.



Several things here.

First I don’t think it was a handling error yesterday when the dog bit you. A dog should not bite their owner for this.

I do believe you need to rethink the way you have been living with this dog and how you approach these other problems (IE the mailman and visitors).

Your problem stems from a lack of pack structure. THIS DOG LACKS IT !!! If he had correct pack structure he would not bite you. So get my DVD on Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet – and get him started in this program. YOU NEED THIS WORK.

I also think you need the work in DEALING WITH DOMINAT AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS.

I just checked and you have the remote collar DVD. Please revisit this. If your obedience foundation is correct (and I am not sure that it is – I know you don’t have my Basic Dog Obedience DVD. You should know that when the dog knows what you want but ignores you – then its time to bump up the correction from his normal non-distraction level (every dog is different but lets say your dog is normally a level 4 correction) to a level 8 or 9 out of 10.

In remote collar language – if your normal level is 40 and he ignores you at the door then turn it to 100 to 120 – not 60. If you only bump it a little he will learn to fight through the stimulation.

With this said – if there is the slightest risk of him biting you – you need to teach him to wear a muzzle. Train it with marker training (DVD 302) Make the muzzle going on fun. Then when that’s done and he is used to having it on for an hour or two at a time – set him up. Have it on and have someone come to the door and act like the mailman – at first they don’t come in. When he ignores you – 120 correction.

If this were my dog he would be trained to go to his crate on command – not a rug. This dog needs a dog crate so you have control when people come or you are going to have an accident.

I am not trying to peddle DVDs here but you need better training. You can solve these problems and solve them safely with education and rethinking what your doing. Always error on the side of safety and as I say in the Dominant dog dvd “pick your fights and don’t pick a fight you could lose.” Your mistake was you picked a fight that you lost.




I hope you had a wonderful holiday.  Is it common for a daughter of 18 months want to take over her dam's alpha position who is 4 yrs old?  I thought 18 months was kind of young... but the daughter is bigger, more strong willed, and I saw this coming months ago but I don't if I could have done anything about it. 

How they started was I would run the 2 adults first, then the pups and the pups would sit stay and wait their turn.  Well, when the daughter was about 12 months old, she started biting on her dam when I would try to let the adults out first to run. I could see her getting more aggressive each day, so I started kenneling the pups while I ran the adults and inside the house all 4 dogs were fine.

Until the daughter's 2nd heat this summer and they've never been able to be together since.  My previous GSD's were also mother/daughter and the mother would NEVER let the daughter be alpha (she wasn't an alpha female anyway and only challenged her about once a year) even though she outweighed her dam by a good 15lbs - so this current situation is a new experience. 



18 months is about when we start seeing this kind of behavior in young dogs, although the more dominant the dog, the younger this behavior shows itself.  My dogs that try to do this are quickly put in their place by me.  I don’t allow my dogs to posture and try to assert themselves over each other in my presence and I don’t allow them to be alone together if I know there is a potential for this kind of behavior.  

I can run all my dogs together when I am present, 4  dominant bitches and 2 males and they absolutely know that I won’t tolerate any of fighting or dominant behavior.  This has taken many hours and lots of one on one time spent with each dog.   You have to be an expert on reading dog signals in order for this to work safely.

We have a section on this newly released DVD on the signals dogs send each other, Pack Structure for the Family Pet. We also have a book that has a lot of good information called  Canine Body Language.

This will escalate into fighting if you do not make it clear that this is not acceptable behavior. 



I have an 8 month old Boxer, named Rambo, who's always had a very dominant personality. I think our mistake was getting him at just barely 6 weeks of age from the breeder before he learned bite inhibition. The past couple months he's developed what appear to be dominant traits of trying to mount smaller dogs and even my 4 yr old son. He also resource guards, but I'm the only thing he resource guards, he gets near vicious (back up, teeth barred, barking) when anyone comes near me even my boyfriend who lives with us. Unfortunately he did bite my boyfriends 5 yr old daughter on the face during what we thought was just play, that got out of hand. Upon recommendations from my vet I had Rambo fixed but I've not noticed any differences. How do I teach Rambo that my son and boyfriend for that matter are higher up in the pack? Is it possible for an 8 month old Boxer to be aggressive?

Thank you!


You have a big problem brewing if you don’t get a handle on this right away.

Neutering rarely does anything to remedy the issues you are having with your dog. The problem is lack of leadership. It sounds like this dog displays a large number of red flag behaviors and you’ve still just let him do what he wants. I would NEVER allow any young dog around small children without have complete control of the dog and the child. You don’t teach Rambo that other people are higher up, you teach him that YOU are. If he’s resource guarding YOU, then he doesn’t respect you but sees you as one of his possessions. Many people are flattered because they think their dog is “protecting them” and in reality the dog looks at them as a thing to be controlled, not a leader.

You need to change your line of thinking with Rambo before he gets in some serious trouble. At 8 months old, he’s barely a teenager and if this behavior is allowed to continue it will only escalate.

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

I believe that this DVD could really help you. It’s titled DEALING WITH DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS and was a 5 year project.

I’d make sure you have a crate and use it, follow the ground work program to the letter. 


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