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Leerburg Dog Training Q&A Archive Aggression or Fear Biters Q&A

Aggression or Fear Biters Q&A

Aggression or Fear Biters Q&A

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

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  1. The best email I have ever received from someone with a fear biter. Read what he did to fix the problem.

  2. I have a Golden and 2 8-month Dob/Pit puppies. They are all very shy. I need help to get them all in line so they can be adopted. Do you have any advice?

  3. We feel our dog has fear aggression issue - it bit our child. A local trainer wanted $2,000.00 to help fix our problem. What do you think?

  4. We have a weak nerve rescue dog that goes after other dogs and some people. She is 4 years old and it seems to be getting worse. Our goal is to be able introduce her to children, adults (particularly males), and other dogs with confidence that she will act appropriately. What can we do?

  5. I just put my 9 year old dog to sleep, and I would like to know if I made the right decision.

  6. I have a 2 year old Brazilian Fila. When he sees a stranger he becomes wild and dangerous and almost out of control from anger. What should I do?

  7. My neighbor’s dog bit my husband in the face. The bite required 50 stitches. Do you think this is a dangerous dog or just an accident?

  8. My dog has grown to be extremely fearful of strange situations. She cowers from strangers and tucks her tail when she is approached by people she doesn’t know. What can I do?

  9. My beagle snaps at me when I try to take candy away from it after it steals the candy and runs under our bed. What should I do?

  10. My dog has been through your basic obedience training videos and it has made a world of difference. But he still try's to sneak up and take a nip of the occasional visitor to our home. What can we do to prevent a problem?

  11. We have an Old English Sheepdog. He has attacked our neighbors husky. Since then he attacked my cats and other dogs. Should I put him to sleep?

  12. My Golden Retriever is very aggressive around its food bowl. It bit me the other day when it ran into the dog house and I reached in to get it. What can I do?

  13. My dog is an ALPHA DOG - he has nipped at my neighbor and my mother. What can I do?

  14. My 2 year old Doberman has bitten three people. We are considering putting him down. Is this the right thing to do?

  15. I have a 7 year old deaf Dalmatian. The dog is very fearful- with men and children. What can I do to help him?

  16. Our Dalmatian has bit a number of people including our son. I have filed his teeth down to prevent damage, what can we do?

  17. My son is medicated and works with a psychiatrist. I can't put my son down. But I put the puppy down.

  18. I have a female GSD that's sweet with my family but aggressive to strangers. What can we do besides put her to sleep?

  19. Our rescue dog is a fear biter that is also dominant. We string her up when she does not do extended sit stays. She is still stubborn. What can we do?

  20. Can I reverse my dog from being a FEAR BITER?

  21. My 4 year old rescue German Shepherd is so afraid of meeting new people he shakes when he is around a lot of people. What can I do?

  22. Our dog is very nervous around strange's. When people come to the door it goes crazy and tries to bite anyone who tries to answer the door. Should I use an electric collar?

  23. I have a 11 month old Rott. When the trainer we took the dog to tried to make him down the dog tried to bite him. The trainer said he was a FEAR BITER and recommended putting the dog to sleep. What should we do?

  24. I have a young female pit bull that acts very scared when I try and take her for walks. She lays down and will not move. What should I do?

  25. Boomerang, a neutered two-year old Australian Shepherd has bit several people. We cannot find someone to take him and we don't really want to put him to sleep. What can we do?

  26. I adopted a 7month old GSD who our trainer says is "insecure". She told us to use a muzzle and prong collar to keep her from nipping and jumping on strangers in our home. What do you suggest?

  27. We got a 4 year old Great Dane as a rescue about a year ago. His former owner claimed that he attacked a child, but he actually only barked at, and never bit, the child. We are now noticing some worrisome behavior with the dog. How do we correct this and what might we have done wrong to bring on this behavior?

  28. I have a 3 year old Doberman that is a fear biter. My husband hates him and wants to put him down. What can I do to make the dog easier to be around?

  29. We adopted a 13 year old Husky X GSD named Cassie. She has recently been showing signs of fear aggression. Do you think she will be manageable?

  30. Our 8 year old Aussie is very fearful. She has nipped visitors to our house before. Recently she has started hiding under the bed and bit me when I tried to get her out. Do you have any advise?

  31. My family just recently got a 1 1/2 year old Sharpie/Retriever. He is very fearful of my father. What can we do?

  32. My Kuvasz puppy is 6 months old and is displaying fear aggression. This is NOT typical of the breed and I am concerned if she will be safe. The problem seems to be only when she is out of her own territory. How would you recommend handling this dog?

  33. I have a Great Dane/Dalmatian mix that is 9 months old. He is aggressive to men and I don't know how to socialize him. What do you suggest?

  34. I had to put my dog down today. I thought that I had trained her well, but she tried to bite my God daughter.

  35. I took my Australian Shepherd/Rott to a dog Psychologist because he was nipping at people's ankles. They put him on Prozac, but there has to be some other way to deal with this.

  36. We have a 6 year old GSD that snaps and growls at strangers. What should I do differently?

  37. My 7 month old Great Dane/ Saint Bernard has begun displaying uncertainty with strange situations. Is this defense or avoidance or is it too early to tell?

  38. My dog bit a recently bit a lady while on a walk. She is great around the family, but is the complete opposite around other dogs and people. What should I do?

  39. Our adopted a 2 year old female Bouvier has become very aggressive to strangers. Do you think she can ever be safe?

  40. I had to put my dog to sleep today. He had bitten several people. It was a very difficult decision to make.

  41. My 5 month old Shar Pei is not very social with me and my vet thinks I am going to have problems with him when he gets older. What do you think?

  42. My dog went through a complete personality change after she was spayed. I am wondering if you think she is a "fear biter" and should possibly be put asleep?

  43. When my dog was a pup, she had an accident with a horse so we were unable to socialize her properly. Now we are having issues with strangers. Any suggestions?

  44. At this point in my dog's life, I am unsure if I should continue trying to socialize her and get her used to strangers and not be so afraid. What is your advice?

  45. Is there hope for my shy dog?

  46. My dog has been fear biting ever sense an incident while traveling by plane. I don't want to do anything that will cause more damage, what do you suggest?

  47. I have a 1 year old large munsterlander, who shows way too many signs of aggression. We LOVE our dog to death, but his aggression is awful. We are more that willing to do anything it takes to fix this problem. Any advice would be wonderful!

  48. My dog is extremely afraid of my dad. He will not sit in the same room as my father and he will pace around the house watching to see were he is.  If my father gets up and walks into another room, my dog will start to bark and run upstairs and hide in my room. What should I do?

  49. I have a 5 year old female GSD who has always been fearful aggressive, terrified of every one (except my mom and me), noises, and objects.  If she can't run away from some one then she will bite them. Is there anything I can do to make her relax and comfortable?

  50. My dog has either become protective of the house or scared about people coming into the house and barks at them. Do you have any suggestions for additional training to help?


I want to tell you about a success story or one in progress. Alaska, my 4 year old white Shepard male, is aggressive. He has never bit me or attempted to and at this point he is so docile at home you would never know he is aggressive.

I had him neutered shortly after getting him for two reasons, 1) so we do not produce more aggressive dogs, 2) thought it would calm him down (wrong)!

He was obviously attacked when he was young, he has some scars to prove it! I attached a picture, he has papers and is tattooed in the German system for White Shepard's. He was given to me about two years ago, because no one would take the time or had the time to work with him. I am 50 years old and have never trained a dog in my life. I must say this was and still is a real challenge!

When I first got Alaska, his rear toe nails were so worn down they were bleeding, from pulling so hard on the leash, he was completely unruly! He almost killed the next door neighbor's poodle, (he got loose one time) that to me was my wake up call. I needed to get him some training. I forgot to mention I am living in Germany and there are so many Hundschules here it's not funny. But, I had to find one that specialized in training aggressive dogs, Ralf Heik, of Hundschule Heik in Rodenbach.

I have allot of respect for this man, he has probably 25 years experience with aggressive dogs of all breeds. His preference is German Shepard's. I asked Ralf how long would this training process take, he said at least a year and "it also depends", his exact words! I now know what "depends" means. Alaska will never be 100%, I know this and am on guard constantly. We have become a team, he listen to me and I take care of him. We have rules, never allowed to come into my bedroom, sleeps in his kennel at night, sits and stay till I enter the house, sit and stay at the top of the stairs till I say OK for him to come down, etc. this training for me included learning "dog psychology to understand the training process, I'm still learning! So in retrospect, I mentioned earlier I needed to get Alaska trained, that is a false statement, I am the one that was trained!

Alaska and I were on a rigorous training schedule for at least one year, then I started noticing the improvements. Alaska's toe nails have grown out, he will walk with me in "heel", he will alert on another dog or cat and immediately look up at me and I will as NO! and 9 out of 10 times he will calm down and pass it off. Ed, this to me is the success part, I know he will probably never get rid of the "ghost's" in his head, I just need to stay one second ahead of him. I owe all of this to my trainer, Ralf. I'm also trying to be responsible by ensuring he is on a leash but, at the same time he goes where I go as much as possible, I think it's very important for him to experience as much as possible with me, (in charge of course). I live in a small farm community and from my house to the fields is a 3 minute walk. I now am able go for walks with a electric collar. He responds very well to this, I can tell he likes it.

My friends are amazed at the progress so far, they saw Alaska at his worst. he also like to ride in my side car on my motorcycle, there is a site, white shepard and a black Harley with a sidecar! Hope you don't call me a "dumb ass", I think this story belongs on you web page to encourage people that it can be done, you just have to take the time effort and be willing to learn. I know allot depends on the dog, some are not trainable. For those that are it's a great feeling. I know Alaska and I will be together for a long time! Thanks for listening.

Alaska - a success story for an overly aggressive dog.

Alaska - a success story for an overly aggressive dog.



Hi Mr. Frawley,

I could write all day, but I have made so many mistakes, that I just need some help to get me started on the right road.

I have 2 dogs for 8-yr 11 yrs and blind. 1-Golden mix for 1 1/2 years that I took as so shy, couldn't be adopted. She has become a member of the family....very slow. Even now, I am trying to get a collar on her, much less in a crate. It took 4 weeks to get her to come all of the way into the house. She is 5 years old I took in 2 females Doberman-pit mixes in Sept they were 3 months old and were found abandon on the road. I have been fostering them and now they are 8 months old. Both shy. One has come out with me and is very loving. The other is loving to me when I just try touch of face kiss and not try to corner her.

I still have the last two due to their fear of people and no one wants them and the rescue people wanted to put them to sleep as they didn't have time to work with them.

I want to get my house in order, help in correctly working with them, so they can find other homes.
The golden, I believe needs to be corrected first, as they seem to look to her as mom or 'leader' or both with the younger ones and has now started try to be the leader. I am trying to regain my footing as leader as she is wanting to fight. I have been told that if I take the golden and completely lay on her to show her I am the leader, put her a collar on- I am going in the correct direction.
My worry is that she is so shy, she regress and have to start over. I fear that if I don't get her under control, the young ones will only look up to her. She tries to control their eating now. I have to work hard to have the feeding time work.

I know I am a mess. Just a little advise where to get started and which DVD I should start with.

I had one of the Jerk-yank people come over last week for a demo, it was awful. He didn't speak, just jerked one around the over hide for 2 hours after he left. Of course is also wanted $1000.00 for 5 classes. I wouldn't let him do it for free!

Anything you can tell me, I'd appreciate.


All I can do is offer you the information to fix this. I know it can be done, I can't tell you if you have the resolve to do it. A big part of the solution is handler education.

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.You will see what I say about trainers like the one you had.

I also have a Q&A section on fear biters. Your dogs are not aggressive (yet) but the two are only 8 months old and it will come.

Read the article I wrote titled Training With Markers There are three phases of training, the learning phase, the distraction phase and the correction phase. We use markers to introduce our dogs to the LEARNING PHASE of training.

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 definitely believe that every dog needs to go through a correction phase). By exploring corrections in training you will become a better dog trainer.

The fact is fear based dogs must learn obedience. If they don’t they can become dangerous. These kinds of dogs have weak nerves. The role of the handler is to teach them the meaning of the command so they understand what’s being asked. When they know the command they then must learn that UNDER EVERY CIRCOMSTANCE they MUST OBEY or face a correction that is worse than the GHOSTS in their heads. This is the part where owners fail. They are not prepared to apply enough force to make the dog comply when they are afraid.

Dogs like this want to feel secure. Your role is to teach them that if they comply you will insure their security. The dog must respect the consequences of not minding more than it fears the GHOSTS.

I recommend that you get my 4 hour DVD Basic Dog Obedience. Also get a prong collar and/or a dominant dog collar.

Only you can fix these dogs' problem. The vast majority of local trainers are not qualified to do the work and they certainly don’t have the time it takes. But then you already found this out.

Good luck


I saw a Q/A that you had on fear biting and I was hoping that you could help me out with something...

We adopted a female (2-3 years old) lab/boxer (or pit bull not sure) mix. She is a well tempered dog, very loving, plays well with other dogs (from what we can tell) and with cats. She has not exhibited aggressive behavior with the exception that she barks a little at

The thing is that she is very timid. Numerous times she will roll on her back and freeze. We thought this was a "rub my belly" thing.. However, I have noticed that she appears very scared when in this position and she has snapped at me a few times trying to move her when she is in that position.

Today my son went to give her a hug (he is 3) and it scared her and she bit him (he is OK, just a bit scared).

I have 2 children (3 and 7) and we are wanting to make this work (this dog is perfect for us with this exception). We are not wealthy folks and one of the people that were recommended to us were asking more than $2000 for training.

What would you recommend??

thank you so much for any help you can provide.

Gods Blessing,


Here is some reading material that may help:

1- Preventing dog bites in children. You can find these if you go to the list of training articles and scroll down.

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

3- I also 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.

While the roots of this may be fear - (I cant be sure from an email) the dog cannot respect you if it tries to bite you. When a dog respects its pack leader it would never try and bite him. Not ever.

Bottom line is the first step in controlling ANY behavioral problem is to go back to basics and this means a well structured obedience program.

I recommend my dominant dog collar. Many times dogs become too hyper or hectic with prong collar corrections. Some dogs even become aggressive to firm corrections with prong collars. Those dogs need the dominant dog collar. Read the write up and look at the photos of how to size them on my web site.

I recommend that you get my 4 hour DVD on Basic Dog Obedience. You may think you have an understanding of training, my guess is with problems like this you are off track.

As a general rule dogs with weak nerves (fear based dogs) respond well to a sound obedience program that includes a distraction and correction phase. They want to feel comfortable and they find their comfort in minding a strong pack leader.

I think you will find that this information (if you follow it) will solve your problems and for somewhat less than $2,000.00.

You may also want to consider the DVD and eBook I did on Dominant and Aggressive Dogs.



My dog, which is now 4 years old, is a lab mix whom we adopted from a shelter. Since she was a puppy (Mattie) she has exhibited signs of weak nerves. We always attributed her aggression toward people as acts based out of fear or lack of trust. She has also exhibited problems wanting to dominate relationships with other dogs and, in doing so, displayed signs of aggression.

As far as we were concerned, we had raised and trained our dog very well. She follows all commands with the occasional exception of the Come command when she is distracted by other dogs or people (usually during this time she is exhibiting aggressive behavior). For this, I worked with her on a 100 foot rope and tried to introduce distractions. Additionally, we introduced a radio controlled electric collar. This tool has worked well and has all but eliminated that problem. However, the aggression is still there.

During her four years, she has bitten someone unprovoked, has chased roller-blader’s, snapped at people that have visited our house, and has gotten very aggressive with other dogs. In all these instances, we have blamed ourselves for lack of command or training and her background (as a shelter dog – we adopted her at four months old). As such, we focused on correcting our actions and our control over her versus getting to the root of her problem (the aggression).

With the latest incident, it has prompted me to investigate aggressive behavior in dogs. The latest incident has involved our dog acting aggressive toward another dog (my in-law’s) that she has been very accepting of for the past several years. Our house has been under construction / renovation for the past few months and I am trying to blame my dog’s recent behavior on her unrest about the construction. My dog weighs about 60 pounds and the dog that it attacked weighs 15. The dog suffered a nick on the ear, head, and under the eye where it seemed apparent that my dog had clamped down on it. This happened again at my in-law’s house over the weekend. This time there wasn’t any blood drawn but the behavior has all of us on edge.

I have a nephew that is 1 year old and I don’t trust our dog around him. To this point she has not acted aggressive to him as we have tried to introduce them in a happy setting with lots of praise. However, I am concerned that something could happen out of our supervision, especially as the child grows older.

Based on the information that you have been provided, I would like to know what things we can do to correct her behavior. We have found her aggressiveness / mistrust toward people has almost been exclusively geared toward men. Our goal is to be able introduce her to children, adults (particularly males), and other dogs with confidence that she will act appropriately. We love her dearly and I don’t want to put her to sleep but, the more I research, the more I fear this action is not correctable. Can you please advise?

Kindest Regards,


Your goals with this dog are 100% unrealistic. These goals set you up for failure. When one trains a dog they have to be realistic in any goals they set. You have not done that.

This dog is weak nerved, dog aggressive and a fear biter. Your goal should be “to establish a plan to live with this dog and learn to control its environment so that it does not hurt anyone or anything.”

Before I get into what I think you need to do I will say that a professional dog trainer may be able to accomplish what you want, but it will take a great deal of force and pressure on the dog. So much so that it could also cause health problems with the dog. Stress causes dogs to get sick - often their pancreas fails. So with that said I do not think that the force needed to do what you want is worth the problems it would create for the dog.

I NEVER allow my dog to come into contact with other dogs unless I know the other dog and unless I am 110% sure the dogs will get along. Your dog should NEVER be around other dogs. I also NEVER allow a dog to come in contact with another dog unless my dog is 100% solid in obedience under extreme distraction (i.e. another dog is extreme distraction).

Also I NEVER allow people to pet my dog. Why should I? Why should someone touch my dog? I have never come up with a reason to allow people to pet my dog. As far as I am concerned I want my dogs to think I am the center of their universe. I don’t want them to think that they can go to strangers or other people to be petted. Besides that when a dog goes to another person and expects to be petted it is often exhibiting a sign of dominance. (telling the stranger to pet it)

Read the article I wrote on dog parks. Read the Q&A on fear biters. You can go to my articles at

You need to get a dog crate and crate this dog when strange people or dogs visit. You need to keep the dog in the crate when children are around. When you take the dog outside you need to take it to places where there are not people or you need to make it wear a muzzle (we sell inexpensive plastic muzzles - but the wire basket muzzles we sell are the best). It should not be out without the electric collar on.

Dogs like this do not need to be put to sleep if the owners are responsible and understand what they are dealing with. I compare it to police officers with very very aggressive tough dogs. They seldom have accidents with their dogs because they train their dogs to mind under distraction. They also control the environment where they allow their dogs to be off leash or loose.

So with this said – this is more of a people issue than a dog issue. If you like this dog – control where it goes and whom it comes in contact with. Then continue to train it. Training NEVER stops.

Ed Frawley


I'm suffering terrible from guilt. One week ago I put our 9 year old Fox Hound to sleep. He was a wonderful dog to the family.

We got Gage when he was 5 months old from a local animal shelter. He was very fearful of people. When we brought him home he stayed in his kennel for 3 days, except when we physically removed him to go potty. Once he warmed up to us he was great! Very loving. However, he was always very shy around people. When he was 1 we took him to the vet, because we noticed one of his legs was not as large as the others. The vet discovered that at some point it had been broken and had healed incorrectly. Five hundred dollars later, he was ok, with the exception of battling arthritis.

At around the 1 year mark he became very aggressive towards anyone who came to the house. Once the person was in the house he would warm up. As the years past by, it got worse. At one point, when he was 8, he lunged at a friend and tore her shirt. I took him to canine good citizen training and intermediate training. However, we continued to battle his attitude towards strangers.

Two months ago, we had to move from our home of 10 years to an out of state home. We did this move for our son, who was diagnosed autistic. We moved to a state where he could get the educational help he needed. Unfortunately, we had to choose to rent for 1 year and the landlord would not allow the dog to stay. We found a foster family, who agreed to keep him for us, until we purchased a house.

Everything was OK until the 6th week. He increasingly became aggressive to people coming into their home. A close family friend was bitten and did bleed. This was actually the person who got Gage into the foster family home. They called and asked to have him removed immediately. Luckily, this man did not need stitches and felt bad for the dog! The day before we were to pick him up he bit the baby sitter in the face. It did not break the skin, thank god. Our landlord agreed to allow the dog, for $50 more each month. When I went to pick Gage up, he did not recognize me. He growled and snapped. I was scared. It took 10 minutes for him to allow me in, and another 10 to recognize me. I took him to the vet, for help. The vet advised me to put him to sleep, noting the fact that I had 3 children under 6. He felt the children could be injured or someone else and we would be liable. It had been 12 days since the bite that bled, so we could go ahead with it. I felt he was correct and followed through, staying with Gage (alone) while it was done. My children were with Grandma at her house. My husband was in Washington on business.

I felt horrible doing this. He was the most loving dog to us and I feel like I betrayed his trust. My husband feels he had 9 great years with us, and that he came into our family with a lot of mental baggage. I know this is true, because the dog had many odd behaviors.

Do you believe I did the right thing? I don't want my family to know how upset I am. I need a unbiased opinion on this one.

Madison, WI


This is a no brainer - this dog got 8 more years of life than he should have had. The problems with this dog (which was a fear biter) were genetic in nature and not environmental. Simply put it was bad breeding that caused this. Had it been environmental you would have fixed it in the 8 years that you had it.

The bottom line is that people make the mistake of forming emotional attachments to dogs with bad temperaments. It's difficult to have a dog put to sleep, I don't question that. But the fact is that there are so many nice dogs in animals shelters that these kinds of dogs should not be placed in homes.

What if this dog had taken an eye out of this little girl? You need to look for a dog with better nerves next time and don't listen to these animal shelter people who say "THIS DOG HAS BEEN ABUSED" While this happens, the majority of the time it's a dog with a bad genetic problem and it's in the shelter because the original family did nothing wrong, it just could not deal with the baggage that came with the dog and did not have the guts to have the dog put to sleep.

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I have an extremely aggressive 2 year old Brazilian Fila male and a shy female of the same breed. The problem is the male. He is very sweet to the family, you can take his food when he eats, he wants attention like a puppy but when seeing strangers he becomes wild and dangerous, almost out of control from anger. I physically stopped him a couple of times in the past in the middle of an attack. I worked with him when he was younger on the basic commands, “sit,” “come,” “down,” but not enough.

Is there a way to control his aggression despite the fact that protection of the family is deeply rooted in the bread and is it not too late to try and train him properly?

Thank you,


This dog is more likely a fear biter than a tough confident personal protection dog. This is a genetic issue.

It can be controlled through strong obedience training. The key word here is 100% control. This is accomplished with a prong collar and taking the dog through sound training phases. I would recommend my video Basic Dog Obedience and a prong collar.

The dog must learn that it HAS TO DO WHAT YOU TELL IT or it will be severely corrected. It must fear the correction more than the intruder that is making him nervous (because that's what his problem is - being nervous).

The key here is that you want to maintain the dogs bond with you - so you can not just go out and beat up on the dog to make him fear you. That's why you need to follow the correct training steps.

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We had a very unfortunate accident happen last Sunday evening. Our neighbor’s dog bit my husbands face.

I would like to give you a little history first. The dog is a German Shepherd. She is 3 or 4 and has been spade. They have another dog that is younger than she is and is a male. He is part lab, part chow. I should also mention the German Shepherd has been to obedience school.

Last November the wife was home alone and asked me to come over to see some new furniture she just got. I rang the bell and she came to the door along with both of the dogs. She asked me to come in and kinda pushed the dogs away so I could get in the door. I kinda stuck my hand out, not too much just calmly and the German Shepherd bit my hand. It did not bleed, but it did turn black and blue. Nothing came of this bite. We just figured the dog was being a little territorial since her husband was out of town.

The neighbors are friends of ours and they are concerned about the dog’s barking and being too loud for the neighborhood. They bark at my husband and me any time we are outside or go on our deck. The neighbors asked for us to come over and play with the dogs and talk to them so they could get to know our voice, with the hope that they would stop baking at us so much. We played ball with both the dogs. Sat down in the yard so we were at their level. I suppose we spent about 30-45 minutes with the dogs & the owners. The owners gave us some milk bones to give to them over the fence and asked us to talk to them when we are in the yard and tell them "no bark."

Last Sunday I was watering the bushes on the side of the yard the dogs are on and asked my husband to come over and see what I planted. The German Shepherd started to bark. My husband started talking to her, telling her it was okay, it was just us. We started to walk over to the fence, 6 ft. privacy fence that dips down to about 5.5 ft. in the lowest part. I told him I would get her a bone. I was about ten paces behind my husband when he got to the fence. Then the German Shepherd jumped up and threw her neck over and bit my husband.

We went to the emergency room and he had about 50 stitches in his top and bottom lip and 2-3 under his eye where her front tooth hit.

About a day or two after the accident we walked back to the fence. My husband is not that tall. When he got to the fence we figured out he didn't look over the fence, or he would have had his hands up on the fence and would have been on his toes. Being a male, he really does not think he would have been on his toes. And he does not remember doing any of that. And I was right behind him and did not see him do that.

My question is... Is this dog dangerous, do you think she would do this again? My husband feels bad for the neighbors and really does not want the dog to be removed from the home. My spouse was hurt, so naturally I am angry and would like to see the dog gone. I would just hate for this to happen to someone else, or a child.

We believe the dog will be labeled dangerous by the county because the injuries were to the face and it was not a provoked attack.

I would just like some understanding on whether the dog is dangerous or this truly was just a bad accident.

Thank you for your time, I certainly appreciate any insight you could give me in the matter.



There is no question that this dog is dangerous and would bite again if the possibility presented itself. Knowing what you already know, how would you choose to live your life if this dog bit a child in the face the way it has already has bitten your husband.

This dog needs to either be put to sleep, moved to a new and more secure home or kept in 100% confinement. If you ask me I would vote for the first option.

This dog is an accident waiting to happen again and again.

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Hello Ed,

I hope you can help with my problem, as I have not had much success with advice I've been given from other people. I have a 1-year-old Labrador Retriever, my second from the same breeder. She is a healthy dog from a good line, but has recently developed an unusual fear of strangers, mostly males, bicycles and crowded sidewalks.

From a young pup, she has been walked on busy urban streets with lots of traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, with no problems or signs of fear. At approximately 8 months, she started to show fear of strange men outside of my home. This then developed into fear of any stranger, male or female, as well as bicycles, stroller or busy sidewalks. She cowers, puts her tail between her legs and tries to run away. Only recently has she shown any signs of aggression, but she has barked occasionally and growled twice at strangers. (Normally she does not bark at all) When crossing at an intersection when other pedestrians are crossing from the other side, she frequently freezes and I need to drag her to the sidewalk. When leaving my condominium, she frequently looks up at the ceiling as if something up there is going to attack her. She runs to the door when we enter the building, and if allowed to will flee when she sees a stranger in the hallway.

I live alone and do not have a lot of company. Some have suggested that a construction worker in my building may have unintentionally frightened her during a fear period when she as home along in her crate. I suspect this is possible but do not know this for sure.

I'm afraid that over time she'll turn more aggressive if I can't help her to overcome her fearfulness. Please help.



Your dog is a product of poor genetics and bad breeding. This is not meant as a slam on you, and not necessarily on your breeder. If the litter was the first litter from these parents it could have been an honest mistake. If it was a repeat breeding then the breeder is at fault.

These kinds of dogs only respond to obedience training. They find comfort in doing what is expected from them. They need to understand that there IS NO OPTION - they must mind and they will get copious amounts of praise when they respond to commands that they know and understand. The concept is that these weak nerved dogs must fear the results of not minding more than it fears the boogie men in their head. They also need to know that if they obey commands they will get praised.

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I have a 10-month-old Beagle puppy. I got the dog from the SPCA when she was two to three months old. She is a terrific dog, very friendly with all people and other animals. I have trained her and although stubborn she responds very well and listens. My question - I have seen her on three occasions since owning her become somewhat aggressive and always under similar circumstances. Each time it involved her finding some candy or sweets and attempting to eat it. The first time she had a piece of taffy in her mouth and I attempted to get it out of her mouth. She growled as I was removing it and I had to force her mouth open to get it away from her. She calmed down immediately. The second time she had a piece of candy and ran and went under a bed. She growled when I pulled her out from under the bed and removed the candy. The third time was the other night and she had some candy and went under the bed again. I pulled her out and she snapped at me and seemed to be in some sort of frenzy. She had eaten the candy and all that I found was the box. I put her in the back yard. Her eyes seemed glazed. Once I put her in the back yard she calmed down and cowered and seemed almost embarrassed as she came to my side with her ears back, head down and cuddled up next to me. She loves to eat chew toys, pigs ears, beefs noses etc. I have taken these chew toys out of her mouth many times and she is fine. I also removed a piece of plastic from her mouth yesterday and she had no problems with this at all. In fact she seemed to want to play with the plastic as if it was a game. When giving her food she is very calm and always sits politely and gives me her paw before each meal. She eats politely. Is there any advice you can give? Is it possible that the candy (sugar) does something to her system since this only happens with candy? Other than this, she is terrific and very playful and loving. I am concerned about this behavior and will do anything to help correct it. Please let me know what you think. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


The answer is to keep your candy picked up. This seems pretty obvious to me.

I also think it is counter productive to take raw hides and other food objects away from a dog. It serves no purpose other than to cause anxiety. There are times when you have to take things away from the dog but it's not food items.

The dog lifts it's leg to you before it eats because this is a sign of submission. It has nothing to do with anything else other than submission. When a dog sits by your side in the heel position and picks up one foot - that's a sign of submission to a higher-level pack member.

If the dog snaps at you (like it did when it was under the bed) you need to increase your level of correction ten times. The dog must learn that if it ever snaps it will think its life is over. It can never think that this is an option as a solution to a problem. It can only think - if I snap I get killed with corrections so I have to find a different way. So when it snaps - you start screaming and hollering NO NO NO NO!!! Get a damn broom and poke the snot out of it until it is a cowering fool - chase it out of the bedroom and outside. Then leave it outside for an hour or so to think about what has just happened. When you go out, call it over, give it a treat for coming to you and then praise it to show that you do not hold a grudge and that you still love it. That is important.

I also suggest that you make an effort to obedience train this dog. Get my Basic Obedience DVD.

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Dear Ed,

Hello there from Australia and thank you once again for your invaluable advice and information provided through your web site. A while ago you advised me (via email) about training my German Shepherd. Upon purchasing your Basic Dog Obedience video and applying the training techniques within, I am thrilled to report overwhelming improvement in the discipline and relationship with my dog as a direct result of that video. Thank you 1 million times over!!! Zach is just over 2 years old now (male - not de-sexed) and really does obey my commands - even distraction training is coming along tremendously.

That said, I would appreciate your opinion / advice on a habit he has developed lately. Zach is quite aggressive (if that's the right term) - charges the fence and fetches the ball etc. with passion and doesn't take very kindly to strangers at all, despite being well socialized from very young. His animosity is not so bad in public (some days completely non existent), though as a result he is an excellent alarm dog at home. This isn't really a problem to me as the yard has the appropriate fencing and space etc. and I am a very responsible owner, but it would be nice to try and 'tone it down' a bit. Also, lately when there is a visitor at home he will occasionally sneak up behind them (after they have been on the property a while) and give a single quick nip with the front teeth, usually on the lower leg or elbow, and then back away. The last incident he actually jumped up (front paws off the ground) to do it. This has never happened to anyone 'in the pack' - it is only ever to strangers/visitors and always adults - kids seem to be fine.

Could you please help me understand what causes this behavior and how (if at all) I can go about training it out of him. I always give him a level '15' correction upon doing this but he just can't seem to resist the urge.

Regards and best wishes,


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your dog has weak nerves and is a fear biter. I have written about this. You will not change this behavior but you can control it through strict obedience. When people come - send the dog to his rug or crate. If he gets up - KILL THE SOB - make him fear for his life if he does not mind. But ALWAYS GIVE A RELEASE when he is allowed to leave the rug. If you don't you screw up the dogs mind. It must be very, very clear to the dog - go to the rug and be happy - get up before my owner says I can and die or wait until my owner says its OK to get up (by the owner saying OK) and have a happy time with the owner. Dogs understand black and white issues - people see in shades of gray - dogs do not.

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I have a 5 yr old Old English Sheepdog. We purchased this pup from a private breeder who I now feel, gave little regard to temperament. From the very beginning, he has been a "nervous" dog.

When Barnaby was 6 months old I took him to a local basic obedience class. During a session of “meet your neighbor,” where the dogs were allowed to sniff each other, he lunged and pinned the other dog to the floor. I soon realized that all dogs were considered the "enemy" to him and avoided contacts with other dogs. However, he was tolerant of dogs that he knew like my sheltie, my mother's and brother's smaller dogs. Although, he had also "gone after" them on occasion, they just learned to avoid him. None of the "incidents" resulted in any wounds until last year.

Last year, he attacked a neighbors Husky, unprovoked by the dog. In fact, he surprise attacked the dog. Barnaby NEVER shows any warning before he attacks, except staring. There is never any barking or growling. He did hurt the neighbors dog... I mean that he broke the skin.

Since that time he has unpredictably attacked my cats and other dog. Honestly, I have done everything I can think of, but there doesn't seem to be any “rhyme or reason” to the attacks. In general, he is very nervous with new situations, he shakes and whimpers.

Okay, here's my question. I am concerned that since he first "broke skin" on one of his attacks that they seem more INTENSE. The last two cats have received wounds. We are seriously considering have him "put down." What is your opinion on this?

Thank you for your time,


I am aware that many in this breed has temperament issues. I would begin by trimming the hair around the dogs eyes. Many times this breed has so much hair over the eye's they cant see well.

With this said I also would not be quick to kill this dog until I had exhausted behavior modification issues. I don't believe that you have done this.

Dogs are pack animals. They need to learn to respect pack leaders and pack leader rules. One of your rules is that there should be no unwarranted aggression.

Take this dog through my pack structure program ( Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Dog) Then run him through a serious obedience program. (Basic Dog Obedience )

This dog should not be off leash unless the training has incorporated remote collar work. In addition the aggression is partially controlled by you controlling the environment that you allow this dog to be in. In other words - why take it near other dogs.

If it were my dog it would be trained with a remote collar. ( Remote Collar Training for the Pet Owner) This starts on leash and the dog would get high level stimulation when it looked at another dog. Not when it was in high fight drive. That's how to use a remote for dog aggression. Once the dog understands that it gets stimulation for looking at another dog the level can be reduced to a very low setting. At that point it's just a slight warning that say "HEY KNOCK IT OFF - LOOK AWAY."

The issue of killing cats is the same. The behavior of chasing cats is "SELF REWARDING." This means the dog gets pleasure from the chase. No amount of motivational training is going to change this. So the behavior needs to be extinguished. That means high level stimulation from a remote collar for even looking at a cat.

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Dear Leerburg Kennels:

I have been searching the internet for information to help me with a tough decision. It was refreshing to find a site that was realistic and practical to those who submitted questions. Furthermore, I was very pleased that help was available from people so knowledgeable.

I have a 2 1/2 year old female (spayed) golden retriever that my family got as a puppy after our 9 year old Sharpei died (the Sharpei was a perfect dog in many respects). The golden has always been fearful of anyone entering the home or the yard. She would cower or run and hide. About a year ago, I dropped something that ended by her food bowl. When I reached to pick it up she growled and snapped at me. This brought swift and forceful correction as well as the removal of the food. We worked with her on this issue, and things seemed in check. Just recently, the problem came back. We have moved to a rental house while a new house we are buying is being finished. So, she is living with friends in a large outdoor run.

While pulling her by the choke chain to bring her to get sprayed for flies, she snapped at me. This brought swift correction across the muzzle, at which point she retreated to the dog house. I reached in to grab the collar and now have three large holes in my right hand. The next day at feeding time, she growled and bared her teeth at my wife who was putting food in her bowl. My wife, standing back while the dog ate swatted a mosquito on her leg and the dog again was aggressive with growling and baring the teeth. The dog is scared of many things and aggressive at the same time.

In reading, it has become clear that this dog is submissive in many ways but seeking dominance in many others. She nuzzles you while reading the paper. Paws at you incessantly, sits on your feet, etc.

I have two small children and am not sure I will ever trust this dog. I think she may in fact have a screw loose. I don't know if I should work to rehabilitate her or if I should put her down. Any advice would be welcomed.



The dog is a fear biter. She is not a dominant dog. What you see as dominance is in reality a need for security.

Your choice is to put the dog to sleep or train the dog. By training I mean serious obedience training with a prong collar and a sound foundation of step by step training. 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.

As far as the issue of food and the dog biting you when you reached in the house - that's a handler mistake. If I have a dog that is aggressive around food I do not make an issue of it. What is the point? Feed the dog in a secure location. Twenty minutes after you put the food down - call the dog away from the food bowl. Put the dog someplace and pick up the dog bowl. If the dog does not eat - tough - pick it up - it will eat tomorrow.

Most fear biters that feel stressed, (like this dog was when it knew it was in trouble when it went into the dog house), are going to bite you because they are afraid.

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Mr. Frawley,

We have adopted our son's puppy that I believe is about 6-7 months old, his name is Ozzie. We are not sure what kind of dog he is. We know that he is part chocolate Lab and the other half looks like it might be a Daschund (spelling?) or a "wiener dog." Anyway, he has been an excellent puppy. We have him house trained and we have all fallen in love with him. We also have a Newfoundland female that is about 10 years old. Just this past week, we had Ozzie out for a walk when we saw one of our neighbors and went over to say hello. Ozzie kept barking at our neighbor, so she extended her hand to say hello and show that he was not afraid of him. Well, he snapped at her and, I think, may have nipped the tips of her fingers. I felt horrible and was so angry with Ozzie. Then yesterday, my parents came to visit and the same thing happened (inside our house) with my mother. I have been reading up a little on alpha males and I was wondering if you could offer any insight or advice. We really love this dog, but don't want to have a dog that acts this way. Does it have something to do with having the other dog in the house?

Thank you for your time.


This is not an ALPHA male issue. It's a "fear biter" issue - two totally different issues. I have a section on fear biters. Go to my web site and read it.

Bottom line is the dog has poor nerves. This is a genetic issue that you are not going to change. His actions can be controlled through training. But you need to make up your mind to train the dog to mind - he is not trained now. If he were he would not bite when told not to.

If you would like to learn more about the principles of obedience training a dog, read the description for my Basic Dog Obedience DVD. 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 DVD and a prong collar - learn what is necessary to get your dog under control.

Good luck

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I read your web site and found the information very helpful. I did, however, want to place my situation before you. If you would be kind enough to respond it would be appreciated.

My background with animals is fairly strong. I have worked for the Humane Society as well as with veterinarian, I have taken dog behavior courses through college and strongly believe in dog obedience classes, socialization from an early age and firm correction (very sharp words and correction of leash - but nothing that is physically harming).

Our pet of choice has been the Doberman. I am very aware of the social stigma of owning these dogs. People are naturally afraid of them and the owner has to understand this.

Our last Doberman died of cancer at age eleven - he was the favorite of the neighborhood - was well socialized, obedience class (by the way - my dogs are always neutered ).

Anyway, three years after his death we decided to research breeders (the one we got Mags from was no longer breeding) and we finally decided on a breeder just south of us.

We visited the mother and father (prospective parents) and they seemed fine. We visited the pups at various ages and stages until it finally came time to make choice.

We took Luke at 8 weeks of age. He wasn't submissive in the litter and seemed confident.

Anyway, from that point on I had him out in the car with me, took him along a busy walkway in our town often, and when he was old enough took him to obedience classes.

I noticed that at about 4-5 months of age he started shying away from strangers and in particularly - men. There is no known reason why he prefers women - he just does. My father came to visit (3-week stay) and though eventually Luke let Dad pet him - it was always when Dad was sitting in the family room and Luke very carefully approached - he never really warmed up to my Dad and would run away when Dad walked about the house. I tried having my Dad feed Luke, I tried having my Dad be the one that opened the back door (the way Luke had to come in from our fenced back yard).

He's always gone ballistic at the mail coming through the slot and despite heavy correction from me, the behavior really didn't lessen. It didn't help that we could never know when the mail would come. We ended up putting an outdoor mail box in to stop the mail from getting chewed.

I have a crate for Luke - have had since he was a pup. He goes in it very willingly.

Now here's where it gets difficult. A few months back, (Luke will be 2 this November), Luke was on a close line run on the front garage. We were all working out front (it was summer - and we thought rather than isolate him in the back yard we would bring him out front with us - it would also help him to see the activity of people going by). Anyhow, a little boy on roller blades came scooting up the drive to deliver paper. We were all surprised and bottom line - Luke ran up behind him and nipped his leg. Seems like a very classic fear bite. He didn't break skin but left a bruise. SPCA came out and took pictures. We spoke at length and over several days with the neighbors to check on the boy. They were very nice and left the matter as it stood. I also told them their son didn't have to deliver paper to us if he was afraid and we assured them Luke would never be out front again under those type of circumstances. This was the first incident of this type of behavior.

One odd thing: prior to all this, many weeks earlier, I was holding Luke by his collar - we were at my mother-in-laws - my nephew with his two year old daughter came in and the visit ended with Luke taking dried cranberries from her hand - very very very gently.

Yesterday I returned from a conference - I was away for several days - my husband had cared for Luke, took Luke with him to his business. He has a fenced yard, has a tow/car storage business. Luke had been in the fenced yard a number of times before - it is well over an acre. Anyhow, Luke was running around playing with the dog there, two men came in - others had been coming and going prior. Luke specifically zeroed in on these men, and he got them by running behind them - one in the buttocks, one in the leg. I don't believe skin was broken - but I'm sure there was/is bruising.

We are seriously thinking of putting Luke down. I am taking him to the breeder tomorrow as she wants to see him and judge his behavior. I told her that she might find it hard to view this behavior (unless she has a number of men lined up).

Would you be kind enough to give your opinion?

V. A.


This dog does have some temperament problems. Rather than put the dog down why not make him a security dog at night in your husband’s business? That makes a lot more sense. It is pretty obvious that he is not going to be your family pet. These kinds of dogs require a lot more supervision and training than you are providing.

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I have a male, deaf dalmatian that's seven years old. My boyfriend and I got him when he was a puppy - not knowing that he was deaf when we got him. This dalmatian has always lived with two other male dogs in the house. My boyfriend and I broke up a year ago, and he has had the dog. The dog is perfectly fine with either of us (other than some incessant whining). However, he is fearfully aggressive with kids and men. He is also extremely aggressive towards other dogs when he's exercised. He's 65 pounds and is sometimes too much for me to hold him back. He hasn't bitten anybody, but I don't let him get near kids because he acts so confused and scared.

Now I'm moving to a place that allows dogs so I'll be getting him back and he'll be the only pet. It's a pet friendly condo building so there will be lots of people and other dogs he'll be running across. I really want to fix this situation with him, and make it work. I fear my only other option is to put him down before he bites somebody. I will get him the first week in May. Have you seen dalmatians rehabilitated? What is your experience with deaf animals? What recommendations would you make to me? Thanks so much for any help you can give. I found your articles very informative.



Nice to hear from you.

Your dog falls under the category of being a FEAR BITER. I do have a Q&A section on this that you can read.

If you want to make this work you should do 4 things:

  1. I would get a dog crate for my home. The dog would go into the crate when visitors come.

  2. Get one of the wire basket muzzles we sell and the dog should never go for a walk without it on. Make the dog learn to wear it when he is around the house

  3. The dog should have a prong collar on when it goes outside for walks. Prong collars are POWER STEERING FOR DOGS. They work and they are far more humane than choke collars You need to go back and do better obedience training at home. If you would like to learn more about the principles of obedience training a dog, read the description for my Basic Dog Obedience DVD. 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.

  4. Many people think they have to train a dog to be around other dogs. This is not a mentality that I can accept. I don’t allow strange dogs to be near my dogs.

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I have a five year old Dalmatian very alpha male who has bitten people, including my kids in circumstances when he is frightened or is "guarding" me. He is not a bad dog or a mean dog. He may not even realize that it is my son when he bites. It seems to be an automatic response. For example, he was lying in a curled up position, next to my chair, the wall and the desk, no room to move, and asleep. My son came up to him and reached down to get his collar to take him upstairs. The dog bit his hand, in a knee jerk reaction without determining who it was he was biting. I've had his teeth filed down so that a bite is less damaging, but I cannot expect my nine year old to always remember how to approach the dog. Normally, the dog sleeps in my son's room, and stays by his side when he is not with me. Is it possible to teach the dog to stop biting? We got him when he was a year and a half old from a guy who kept him for eight months after finding him running down the street. No one claimed him or placed any ads looking for him. He was neutered and trained to sit and stay out of the kitchen. Please let me know if there is any way to change this biting behavior. Otherwise I'll have to have him killed, as upsetting as that would be.

Thank you,


If this were my dog I would put him to sleep. Do not for one minute think this dog bit your son and did not know who he was biting. These dogs are notorious for bad nerves and this behavior. In my opinion it is cruel, foolish and irresponsible to file a dogs teeth to stop a biting problem. While I appreciate your concern I question what you are doing here.

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Dear Mr. Frawley:

I am writing to say I felt great comfort finding your site with your wisdom about dogs. Yesterday, I took our new puppy (18 days with us) to my vet and had him put down. He was a pit bull mix and approximately 4 months old. When we adopted him from the shelter he was a shy, fearful pup who let me carry him into the car. He had been dumped on a highway at about 2 1/2 months and spent the next at this local kill shelter.

I was advised to that training him was key. He was crated and gated and the journey begun by me and especially my 9 year old son. What an incredibly intelligent responsive dog he was. Sit, down, wait, stay, go in your crate, make a pee pee were working wonderfully. At the first vet visit he growled at the vet and the assistant. The vet warned us to be very wary and train, train, train, socialize, socialize, socialize. He was taken on 4 walks a day and a half dozed pee tours, ball and stick throwing tours as well. When meeting strangers he'd back up, bark and growl hackles up. I'd sit him, he'd relax if he saw them coming. It seemed to be working.

One day we took him into Queens where we used to live. He was a great car dog. He did well with the crowded streets until a big guy who was asking allot of questions moved in too fast. He backed up, hackles up all way to tail, barking and growling and then lunge. If I did not have the pinch collar he would have bitten. The next evening my husband came home from work when we were leaving for his walk. He greeted my Husband with barks. When Y put his hand down gently below the dogs face he went for it.

That was it. I knew it was fear aggression. My son has it. He has ADHD and ODD. My son is medicated and works with a psychiatrist. I can't put my son down. But I put the puppy down.

It broke my heart but I know I did the right thing. I took his body and buried his 26 pounds in a 3 1/2 deep hole that I dug myself.

Your site has helped me dealing with this painful lonely day the first day after I put the puppy down. I think there are some very misguided people in these shelters trying to find homes for domesticated dogs who should be put down.

To read about the insanity of wolf hybrids as pets was a helpful distraction. One of my great aunts designed a standing screen. On it she wrote "L'imbechillita umana non ha limiti." Translated it means "The imbecility of man is limitless."

Thanks for having the tenacity to inform all of us.
Fear aggression in dogs is a deadly serious issue.

Long Island, New York


It sounds like you did the right thing. Some dogs (either because of their background or because of their genetics) need to be put to sleep. It is a very sad thing and certainly not the first option. You did everything that you could to save this dog but in the end made the right decision.

Next time you may want to get a dog from a reputable breeder or do your own selection testing on the new dog from the shelter. Many times shelters will tell people that a dog has been abused, when in fact the dog in question has bad temperament as a result of his genetics and is in the shelter because of the bad temperament, not abuse. A lot of people will simply not make the hard decision that you made.

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I am writing this out of desperation!!..I have been reviewing your web site and other Q & A's about dog's with behavioral problems, and I am finding that we are now in the same boat with many other dog owners!!!..We own a spayed female German Shepard since she was 8 weeks old (she will be 2 this year)...First mistake was I got her from a backyard breeder and I was clueless what I was doing...I just wanted a German Shepard and I found the cheapest one in an ad in the paper..(how stupid, now that I am learning about the breed!!)...Anyway, right away, I noticed she was a little nervous and VERY car sick ..still hates to ride in cars...But I figured she was just taken from her "pack" and she is scared...She has always had this nervous side...We introduced her to the neighbors, gave her lots of attention and even as great dog owners we took her to obedience class which I found was more for training the owner, not the dog..ha ha..Anyway, she did pretty good and she still does...BUT, she is VERY aggressive towards strangers ...I mean she acts like she wants to maul them!!..WE throw her on the ground and even sit on her sometimes to "put her in her place"...however right or wrong that may be, our only objective was to keep her from biting...Well, last week while she was out on her runner, she did bite one of the neighbor children playing in the yard and who got into "her" area!!..The boy is fine, she left 2 teeth marks, but drew no surface blood...This will NOT be tolerated in our house. But she is a total Jeckyl and Hyde...She is very loving and affectionate towards us and our kids (one and nine), we are part of her pack, but bring in a stranger, especially a child, and she goes bonkers!!...We are seriously thinking of having her put to sleep, but I have put a last call into a local pet behaviorists and am trying to get other suggestions or perhaps the OK that putting her down is what we should do....HELP!!



Either put the dog to sleep or confine it. Tying a dog like this out is a serious mistake – which you found out. You could be held for criminal charges if this dog bit a child again. You ALREADY KNOW THE DOG IS DANGEROUS – if you act irresponsible again you could find yourself in real legal trouble.

If you choose to keep the dog you will need to:

  1. Keep it in a dog crate and/or dog kennel
  2. Make the dog wear a muzzle when it is out
  3. Obedience train this dog with a prong collar.

Get my Basic Dog Obedience video.

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We utilize a muzzle and choke collar in training. She is dominate aggressive and used to be a fear biter however that is changing with socialization and the prudent use of a muzzle. The dog has been checked by a vet and the vet found no reason for this behavior. she was adopted from a shelter with very little background known. We have had to string her up twice. The problem of dominance shows basically when she is determined not do something that is asked of her even though she is fully capable of following the command given. Like kenneling, extended sit stay..etc. What needs to be done to completely break the nature of this dog..Any suggestions are greatly appreciated...

Lynn in IL


You don’t understand what you are talking about. I don’t mean to be blunt but I don’t have time to hold your hand.

It is impossible for a dog to be a fear biter and dominant at the same time. This would be an oxymoron.

There are little to no reasons for a dog doing a long sit stay. If a dog has to stay in one position then it should be a down.

You need to learn how to obedience train your dog. YOU DO NOT STRING A DOG UP FOR NOT SITTING.

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 collar, we also sell those on our web site.

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I was reviewing the Q&A section on your web site regarding fear biting. My questions were not really answered. Here's the situation. We have a 1 year old Lab Shepard mix. We are not sure if she has other breeds in her. We also have 4 children. 3 weeks ago, she growled and nipped at our youngest, who is 2, unprovoked. She was boarded at the vet over the weekend, and they were unable to give her a bath or give her a heart worm test. Every time they approached her to put a leash on her, she would bite. The vet said she was friendly and would let them pet her, but would not let anyone near her with a leash. When I try to put her leash on her collar at home, she pees. The vet said she is a fear biter. My question is, how easy is this to reverse, and what is the long term prognosis for reversal. Will I ever be able to trust this dog, or should we have her put to sleep? I would appreciate your response.



You cannot “reverse” a dog being a fear biter or bad nerves. This is a genetic issue. It is not something that can be trained out of the dog – it will always have it.

What you can do is obedience train this dog. By this I do not mean to train it to sit down and stay in your home – I mean you need to train it to sit down and stay in the park, downtown or anywhere else you can think of. The dog should wear a drag line attacked to a prong collar in the house. Anytime the dog even growls at anyone it needs to be corrected – WITH A HARD CORRECTION – not a nagging tug.

I would get a dog crate and use it in the house. I would begin obedience training right now, I would train this dog that you can walk up and put a leash on it and it does not mean that it is going to get a correction. Take the leash on and off all day long – give it a treat every time you put the leash on. Get a muzzle and put it on the dog before you go to the vet. The dog should not be allowed in public without a muzzle on. I sell some inexpensive plastic muzzles.

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 collar, we also sell those on our web site.

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I have two dogs. My first is the younger of the two, she is a Rout/Beagle mix who was trained as a pup to work with handicapped children. She is well trained but sometimes refuses to go outside because she escaped once and the pound picked her up and had her for a week. My second dog just turned 4 and is a GSD. He is papered and was neutered. He is leash and house broken but does not respond to commands like sit, stay, and come. Is he to old for obedience training? He is very well behaved and non-aggressive. He is incredibly timid and visibly shakes when he is in a store or around lots of people. I am extremely interested in buying the basic obedience video, but I want to make sure the video will work for a 4 year old GSD and a 3 year old mix.

I have had the GSD for only 6 months and the rout/beagle for 1 1/2 years. I want to keep my dogs for a long time, I am a pastor and I need well behaved dogs, is it to late to train my dogs new commands? I am a new dog owner and inexperienced in training animals. Is there another video that you would recommend. I do have a prong collar for my rout/beagle. I use it only on walks and correction is rarely needed. She was a puller/tugger until I got that collar and her attitude changed considerably.

Thanks you...
South Bend, IN


It is never too late to train any dog. That is an old wives tale.

The tape is very good – but if you get it I would also recommend getting a prong collar for the work. It just makes things easier and more clear for the dogs.

I would recommend taking the GSD everywhere you can. I would let people give him pieces of hot dog so he can learn that strangers are nice people. Be a little careful about allowing strangers to pet the dog. We do not want him to learn that growling will make people stay away from him. That’s when they start to become fear biters. Just have people toss a small piece of food on the ground in front of him – if he take food gently from the hand then let them give it to him on the palm of their hand (not by the finger tips – that’s how they get fingers pinched).

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I have a 3 year old neutered male boxer that was bought at a pet store and given to me as a gift. I received him at 8 weeks old to find the next day at the vet that he had a respiratory infection and would need to be hospitalized immediately. I knew then I should have taken him back to the pet store but knew they would destroy him. Well, they paid the vet bills and everything was fine.

He has always been skiddish and never been struck. As he gets older the following problem get worse. Whenever anyone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell he goes crazy. He barks, growls, shows his teeth and will try to bite anyone who tries to answer the door. Once the visitor is in the house he is fine and calms down within a minute or so. I have considered a shock collar but don't want to make the situation worse. ANY advice would be appreciated.

Eastpointe, MI


This is classic fear biter. I have a Q&A section on my web site.

A shock collar is not the solution. A collar to just administer punishment for acting stupid will only reinforce the dogs concern and it will make it worse. An electric collar can be used but only after the dog is trained. The dog should be crate trained. It should be trained to go to the crate when told. It must understand this 100% - when it knows that you can introduce it to distractions and told to go to the crate under distraction. At that point you can reinforce the crate command (alone with using a long line as a back-up to the e-collar) to make the dog go to the crate.

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. I think if you read the testimonials on that tape you will see that my customers feel the same way.

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Hi Ed,

First, I want to thank you for having such a wonderful site. I have read it frequently and learned a great deal. It is the first place I go when I have a question.

I just read your section on Q&A on Fear Biters, and either I missed it or it did not address the situation I have. I have an 11-month old AKC male Rottweiler named Roark. We got Roark from my brother 2.5 months ago, just before my brother committed suicide. While I know that Roark was never mistreated, he did have an unstable beginning. My brother bought him at 4 months old from the kennel. After being with my brother a couple of weeks, every other week he was circulated among being with my brother, the vet for boarding, or the trainer. There was really no great rhyme or reason to this. He has been with me for 2.5 months, which I believe is the longest be has been with anyone.

Roark is a friendly and loving animal. I have him neutered at 10 months old. We have never had an real issue with him. I have 2 children, one is 10 years old autistic and non-verbal and the other is 8 years old ADHD. We also have a very soft 16 month old GSD. While Roark barks at strangers, he is very affectionate when they come in the house or when I bring him over to meet people. He has growled at my 8 year old twice, but nothing came of it. I just took him to my trainer yesterday, who went over basic training with him to see what he knew. He was very good with everything until it came to " Down," a command I believe he was taught. When the trainer did the classic hand signal that went along with the verbal command, Roark lunged at him.

My trainer feels that he is a fear-biter and unsafe (especially in my situation) and that I should put him down. I called a Rottweiler rescue society and was told the same thing. When I called my vet to discuss putting him down, my vet said that was crazy and recommended another trainer evaluate him. I also called a friend who has a great deal of experience with all kinds of dogs, who recommended a second trainer (one that deals with aggressive dogs) to evaluate him. I am trying to set up evaluation appointments for Roark.

My problem is that I want to do the right thing, but I do not know what that is. Roark is a very loving dog - he is generally not aggressive at all. I think that makes it harder. Had he been an aggressive dog, I would not have kept him. Had my vet agreed to put him down, I would have. I certainly don't want anyone to get hurt, but I don't want to put down a good dog because it is convenient. The opinions are completely opposite and each person is adamant that they are right. And I am just scared about doing the wrong thing.

Your input into this situation would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much,


I agree with your vet. He sounds like a good man.

Opinions are like ass holes - everyone has one. This trainer is the PERFECT example of people having an opinion with no experience to back up their opinion.

When a dog has a problem with the DOWN it is usually a dominance issue - not a fear biter issue. Having a problem with a DOWN for a stranger is normal. It is not abnormal.

With that said NO DESCENT ADULT ROTT should have to be forced into a DOWN position by an IDIOT that is supposed to be an expert who tries to put him in a DOWN. How DUMB!!!

Get a dog crate and crate train this dog. Then start to obedience train it yourself.

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Hi I came across your web site while looking for information on prong collars. I actually have a question for you, if you have the time to answer it sometime it would be greatly appreciated.

I will give you a little overview on her first and I do apologize if I ramble I am at work and writing this between calls so I keep losing my train of thought.

I have a 5 month old american pit bull terrier named Loki. Sweetest dog and VERY obedient. I got her when she was 3 months old. The breeder gave me a deal on her (I just reimbursed him on her vaccinations) because of her temperament and he would rather give her to me than for her to go into the wrong hands, ( there are a lot of jack-ass pit fighters where he lives). Anyway when I first got Loki she was a VERY timid and sad dog she had absolutely no self esteem and always carried her tail between her legs as per the breeder. The day we got her she was timid and shy until she got to know us, it only took about 5 minutes though to come to us. It took a few days before her tail started coming up and since that first week it hasn't come down. It took her month and a little bit to get over her submissive urination and now there is no problem. She holds her head and tail high and jumps right in to everything.

Anyway's he has 1 issue though and I don't know if she is being stubborn or scared. If she is scared I don't want to make it worse and I have never come across this with any other dog I have ever last dog was a pit bull too. When I leave the house to try to walk her she will lie on her side and refuse to budge, at first she would walk along side of and sit down every so often so I would have to tug her to get going again, then she started to pull back towards home now she wont even leave the driveway. When I do get her out she shakes and wont move. How do I get her over that? Why is she scared? When I first got her she was afraid of, the horses next door, the vacuum, the stairs, the trees blowing in the wind, thunder, my patio, loud noises, the broom, my swifter wet jet, the toilet flushing, drapes blowing in the breeze, the kitchen sink draining etc, I was able to help her overcome all of those fears but not this one. If I am away from the house i.e.. somewhere where she doesn't know where she is she will follow me until she gets tired then lay down. She has done that once and I wasn't going to drag her down main street in front of everybody...some so I had to carry her to the car ...might have been my fault too because we walked for over an hour and she wasn't used to walking that long. If I pick her up when walking from home she shakes like a leaf. What am I doing wrong? I'm not being aggressive with her but I am not letting her get her way either ...unless she lays on her side because there is no way I will drag her on her side.



None of this is your fault. The dog has very weak nerves. This is a genetic issue. Dogs like this will become very dangerous as adults – they will become fear biters if they do not get a great deal of obedience training and if they are not always supervised. This certainly is not something you did or did not do.

If she will not follow put a prong on this dog and drag her down the street if need be. You don’t have to correct her. I have an article on my web site that explains how to fit a prong collar.

You do need to train her though. She will respond well to good motivational training that is followed with a correction and distraction phase of the work.

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. I think if you read the testimonials on that tape you will see that my customers feel the same way.

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Hi. I am not sure if this is the right format to ask you a question, is all I see on your web site. If you might be able to help, please read on. If not, could you pass this on to the correct person (if there is such a person).

My husband and I have read quite a bit of your information about aggressive dogs, and we are faced with a dilemma with our own dog.

Boomerang, a neutered two-year old Australian Shepherd, appears to be "territorial" but also exhibits a few of the indications of "fear aggression" (although he never seemed in fear of people - even strangers- as a puppy). He has been through a rigorous dog training program and is obedient in most instances and a great dog around the house. He is even loving to our three children - 5, 7, and 9, although he does circle them, jump and nip occasionally. He is amazingly submissive to other dogs who visit. He is, however, MUCH more aggressive around visitors - even if we (the adults) are present.

In hindsight, there were signs (many indications as I look back) of this earlier but nothing "major" happened until this summer. A friend stopped by to pick up our son for a carpool; when she rang the front door, he bounded through it and bit her on the arm (growling as he did it). He did not break the skin, but he did bruise it. We worked with him and trained him to stay still when the doorbell rang (that had been something that "set him off" in the past but never to such an extent as this). Then, we were going on a trip and boarded him. During that time, the woman who keeps him said she had no indication of his behavior and had, in fact, allowed her six year old granddaughter to play with him (with no problems). Then, a little neighbor came over with her mother while my husband was out working in the yard. Boomerang bit her when she tried to pet him. This time, he broke the skin. Most recently, a friend stopped by one evening when I wasn't expecting her (I always put him in his kennel if expecting someone), and he was out in the yard (with an electric fence). She knows Boom and spoke to him by name, put her hand down for him to smell, and he jumped up and shredded her pants. She was terrified and jumped back in her car. She really felt that he was going for skin and just didn't succeed.

I am getting mixed opinions from people on our possibilities. I contacted the Australian Shepherd Rescue Society, but they are unable to take him because he has bitten a human, but they indicated that "private adoption" was a possibility. We have been unable so far to find someone willing to "adopt" him, and I doubt that we will. BUT I hate the idea of having him put to sleep. He is such a loving dog when he is at home with us. Still, my friend's leg could have been someone's face, and next time, it could be a small child.

We did not recognize this behavior early enough. Now, I am wondering if we have any recourse you see that would allow us to either keep Boomerang or find him a home.

Any help that you can offer would be very much appreciated.

Thank you!


As with most behavioral problems - this has happened because of a lack of education and handler mistakes. But then you already know that and information on dogs like this is not easy to find.

When someone tells me that their dog is well trained MOST OF THE TIME - what in effect they are saying is the dog is NOT TRAINED.

This dog should never come in contact with anyone other than you and your husband. He should not be around anyone outside the family. When he is outside the house he should ALWAYS have a muzzle on.

There should be a crate in the house. The door bell should become a signal to go to the crate and stay in it. I would reinforce this training with an electric collar (an Innotek ADV 1000 - you can read about it on my web site). Ask friends to come to the house and help with this training.

You should have a dog kennel in your backyard. If the dog is allowed to be loose in the yard then you need a lock on the gate and a Innotek in-ground fence installed with the wire attached to the fence. This keeps the dog BACK and AWAY from the fence so people cannot reach over and try and pet the dog. You can read about this on my site too. This is the same as an invisible fence at a small fraction of the cost (its actually a better product than the Invisible Fence).

Your friends who try and pet this dog need to be told to leave the dog alone. If they persist - they need to be reminded in stronger terms.

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Dear Sir,

Last year we had to put our beloved German Shepherd female down. She was 11 and had cancer. I bought her when she was a 9 week old puppy and trained her myself. She always came when I called and the only 2 problems I was never able to correct, due to lack of knowledge on my part and her personality, were to "go" where I wanted her to go and separation anxiety.

Right after we put her to sleep, I bought another female German Shepherd. My first was American this one was German/French lines. I trained her via your puppy video. I sold her at 9 months due to the fact that she bonded with our lab and was very dominant. I realized I needed / wanted a companion dog for me.

One month ago we adopted a 7 month old female American German Shepherd. Her history is this: pure bread, found by a family as a stray at 3 or 4 months. Family kept her for 2 months and gave her to the German Shepherd rescue due to her being "overly protective" of the family. Since we brought her home, she has been a great dog. Great companion, good listener. The problem is she is very afraid of most people that come over or get too close to her. She lunges at them and nips at them. I consulted a friend who's family raised, trained and bought/sold German Shepherds in Germany. She determined that the dog is not skittish but insecure. She advised that I put her prong collar on her, sit her down about 4 feet from the door when people come over and make her sit until I tell her to move. I have someone else answer the door and I make her sit. Then, I was told to put a muzzle on her, which is made of mesh which enables her to do everything but bite. While she has the muzzle and collar on, I have the strangers stand around the room, I take her around to smell everyone at her leisure and comfort while I reassure her everything is fine. She does not try to bite people from behind. I then keep her tied to the couch where I sit and have her sit so she is in a confident position while she looks at people she doesn't know.

I've tried to educate my children's friends on this procedure however they are very much afraid of her. She is a petite German Shepherd, almost all of these kids have dogs and aren't afraid of mine until she barks and jumps on them. She hasn't hurt anyone, yet before I got the muzzle, she jumped up and nipped at a friend who startled her. She also nipped at three other people. Our male lab is friendly and tolerant. She is gentle and good with him and our family as well as anyone who comes over who allows her to get past her initial fear of them. When she realizes that they are friendly, she's fine. She's a great walker and has no problems with other dogs and most of the time when people walk right past us she does nothing. It's when she lunges at them and barks that worries me. My friend says that with proper training she will be fine by the time she is 13 to 18 months old.

What do you suggest? Putting her down is not an option, however I can take her back to the rescue.



Sounds like the trainer is right – the dog is a FEAR BITER. I have an article on my web site about this and a Q&A section. I would recommend that you read it.

Insecure dogs react well to training. They find comfort in doing that they know is the right thing.

If you are serious about keeping this dog you NEED to get a dog crate and use it. This dog should not be allowed out when your kids have friends over or when you have guests over. It needs to learn – “someone comes over I go into my crate”. There cannot be any exception. Not to do this is going to result in a dog bite. Its only a matter of time. So either get a crate and use it or make sure your insurance is always up to date . Know that you will lose your insurance when you have your second dog bite.

The prong collar training is a must. 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.

If you handle this dog properly (by using a crate) you will not need a muzzle in your home. I would recommend one of the wire basket muzzles we sell for walks. They allow the best air flow and the dogs acclimate to them very quickly. You can see them on our web site equipment section.

Good luck

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Dear Ed,

We got a 4 year old Great Dane/Boxer cross a year ago from a lady who rescued him from the SPCA. She and her 7 year old son had him for about two weeks. She claims the Dane attacked her dog, but we feel it wasn't an attack but probably just some barking, etc. As a result, she felt she had to give up the Dane.

We took the Dane from her last year. The first two weeks we had him, he was around two small children in our home, without incident. Since then we have noticed some worrisome behaviors...the first incident occurred shortly after we got him, at a baseball diamond where Dante (the Dane) was on a leash with Trevor (my husband). A small child of about 3 or 4 was petting Dante. Seemingly without provocation, Dante "attacked" the kid (he growled and barked aggressively toward the kid but did not bite him).

Since then, we have been very wary of having him around kids. We tried recently to introduce Dante to small children again. At first he watched the girl very carefully, not taking his eyes off her, but seemed ok with her. Then after about 20 minutes, he did the same thing as he did to the kid at the baseball diamond.

When walking him, I find him to be overly aggressive to anyone walking near us and he acts the same to other dogs, whether he only hears them barking or actually sees them.

The only dog we have been successful in having Dante interact with is a small gorky dog. Dante and this dog seem to get along well. They have been around each other each time in our home. We tried to introduce Dante to a larger dog (lab cross) on our front lawn with his leash on, and it didn't go well....

Dante was apparently put in the SPCA more than once prior to us taking him from the lady I mentioned earlier. It is suspected he has been abused, possibly by children, and was possibly tied up out of doors quite often. However, this information is only based on guesses from our vet and the previous owner we took him from.

We are hoping you can provide us with some insight into his behavior and how to correct it. I don't know if we did anything to bring this behavior out in him, as he seemed ok with children for the first two weeks we had him as I mentioned.

Looking for your advice,


If your dog tried to bite a child once – what would make you think that this dog somehow – without any additional training – would deserve to EVER be allowed to be around children again? Am I missing something that is not in your email? You need to read the articles I wrote on how to prevent dog bites in children. You can find this on the article page on my web site.

The way to correct these problems is to NEVER ALLOW THIS DOG NEAR CHILDREN again – not ever not for any reason. Then the problem is solved. There are ghosts in this dogs head. This is a fear biter. Read those Q&A’s on my web site.

Rescue Orgs are run by notoriously nice people who are often clueless to behavioral problems as they relate to genetics. The standard statement is THIS DOG WAS ABUSED (which is sometimes true) but in fact – the dog has such a bad temperament that the old owner abandoned it because of the temperament faults. These dogs have GENETICLY BAD TEMPERAMENTS – I suspect that this is the case here.

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I have a three year old male doberman that is a fear biter. Not only that but he has always exhibited crazy behaviors. I love him to death but he is making life difficult.

First of all he cries all the time and if he isn't he's barking. He hasn't been properly socialized. I thought that it meant that I didn't socialize him but from reading the different messages on your site I realize that the people we bought him from didn't socialize him.

We have always had the crying problem ever since we brought him home. He cried all night and all day everyday for weeks. I tried pillows, stuffed animals and hot water bottles but he still cried. One of my sons and I ended up staying up all night holding him and that was the only way any of us could get any sleep.

He is still that big baby.

We have another problem when we have guests. He barks at them and tries to snap at them. He doesn't actually bite just snaps. If I put his muzzle on him and stroke the person and speak nicely to and about that person then my dog will calm down but be so afraid that he shivers. After repeated exposure to a person he accepts them. It is just a chore trying to get everyone to agree to pet a dog that they are afraid of.

Another problem we have is that we either end up tying him up or keeping him shut up in a room. He has become more and more destructive and he has started to use the bathroom in the house. He was and is fully housebroken.

My husband hates him and would rather I get rid of him because we can't take him anywhere. Did I mention that he also freaks in the car? He is just afraid of everything and I am concerned that we will have to put in him down.

This is long, but I am trying to cover all the issues. He has been neutered which we thought would help but it hasn't.

If I didn't know any better I would think that he suffered from ADHD.

If you can respond I would appreciate it.



This dog is lucky it has you for an owner. It owes its life to you.

The solution to EVERY BEHAVIORAL problem ALWAYS begins with effective obedience training. This is even more so with dogs like yours. Fear biters want to feel safe and comfortable. After a dog has gone through serious obedience training, that means training that encompasses distraction and correction training they learn that they MUST MIND THEIR OWNER or they will feel UNCOMFORTABLE because of the corrections they know they will receive for not minding.

The key issue here is the training needs to be CONSISTENT, calm and VERY FIRM. In other words the dog must respect the possibility of a correction enough that it controls the ghosts in its head. Many people are not willing to learn to train a dog and not consistent enough in their handling of the dog to accomplish this. I can't tell if you are.

With this said the dog needs to be trained with a prong collar and you can use my 4 hour DVD Basic Dog Obedience.

This dog also needs to have its environment controlled through the use of a dog crate. It should NOT COME INTO contact with strangers. You are risking a dog bite in allowing this dog near people it does not know. Dogs are pack animals and weak nerved dogs have a stronger need of pack protection than confident self assured dogs. So this translates into fear biters do not need to meet strangers, they need to be controlled and kept away from strangers (for safety sake).

The barking and crying is a factor of obedience training. If it were my dog I would run it through Obedience training so it would mind under distraction. When that was done it would understand the meaning of the word “NO” – once that was accomplished I would add an electric collar to the program (a Dogtra 1700NCP – we sell them) Then I would shock the dog at the level it needed to stop crying. It's important that the dog be told NO before the shock. I want these kinds of dogs to know that it’s ME THAT’S SHOCKING THEM – not some unknown mystery.

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Dear Ed,

One month ago my husband and I adopted a spayed female 13 year old husky/shepard mix named Cassie. We adopted her from a rescue society who pulled her from a high kill shelter. In her foster home where she was for 5 days, she co-existed with 2 other dogs and 2 young children. She has been cleared by our Vet of any physical problems other than cataracts and some arthritis.

After 2 weeks of being with us she clearly bonded and now is showing signs of fear aggression. She growls at anyone who comes near the apartment and tried to bite a friend who reached out for her to sniff her hand. She also resists being walked by my husband if it means leaving my side, but will go willingly if I am there. We consulted with a behaviorist who we are considering hiring to help us train her. The behaviorist recommends training her with an electric remote collar. We realize that this dog will forever have the potential to bite and that we are responsible for this not to happen. However, the behaviorist feels that with the basic obedience training (which she clearly never got from a previous owner) and with the remote collar training, Cassie's behavior can improve. My questions are, is this the same training method that you would recommend and have you seen dogs with fear aggression improve so that it is manageable?

Thanks for your time,


My hat is off to you. I get a lot of emails. Way, way, way, more than most people can imagine. But I have never had an email from someone who adopted a 13 year old dog from a rescue.

Try and put yourself in the mind of this old dog. She knew she was in a bad place – in her mind the strangers she meets are going to take her to another bad place. You are like an angel to her.

What you need to do is not let anyone near this dog. There is no need for strangers to pet the dog. None at all. Dogs are pack animals – strangers are not part of the dog's pack, and in fact strangers are dangerous. She is trying to tell you this.

Do not allow the dog to be near other dogs – the same thing applies. Read my article on DOG PARKS.

If this were my dog, I would form a bond with it, I would have a dog crate and when people came over I would put the dog in the crate. I would not allow people to pet it or even go near it. If a strange dog approached on a walk I would step between the dog and the strange dog and warn it to stay away.

I wrote an article titled DEALING WITH THE DOMINANT DOG – your dog is not dominant but you should read it so you have a better understanding on pack behavior and how dogs think. The average person does not understand pack/rank issues.

Good luck to you and the world needs more people like you.

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QUESTION about Fear Biters:

I found some useful information on your site re fear biters.
Our Aussi is 8 years old and has always been fearful of loud noises, thunder storms etc., she is also very territorial of her house and car.
That said if a person with a dog comes to visit she is very accepting, if they come without a dog she barks, and will try to nip ankles and on several occasions when people have tried to calm her she has nipped an arm.
Lately she has been going under our bed and won't come out even for treats and a walk. This morning I was trying to get her out from under the bed and simply showed her treats and she bit my hand.
She has been trained through agility and obedience but we have never gotten a handle on her barking at visitors or trying to calm her fears.
We have a crate and she will go to that when told to.
We have decided to put up a barrier to keep her from under the bed and have only her crate for refuge. What do you think?
She is never aggressive to other dogs although as a puppy she was bitten by another dog. I do find that with exercise her stress appears to decrease.
Fortunately most of out friends are dog lovers but I think we will have to isolate her more now that she is older.
Any further information would be appreciated.


This dog needs to go way back to the basics. Here is some reading material.

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.

You may want to read the article I wrote on GROUND WORK BEFORE OBEDIENCE TRAINING. If this were my dog it would be following this protocol to a "T"

Fact is your dog is not fully trained. That's pretty obvious as you can't get it out from under the bed. Hundreds of thousands of dogs go through obedience classes every year and the vast majority of dominant or fear aggressive dogs have no less aggression or dominance after the class than they had before. So while obedience training is important - sound leadership is more important.

I will shortly be releasing a DVD and a book titled Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs - it will be announced on my table of contents.

I would be training with one of our dominant dog collars. For dogs like this I like them better than prong collars. If you don't have a clear understanding of Obedience training get my 4 hour DVD.

I would NEVER allow this dog in the bedroom again. It would learn that very quickly.

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QUESTION on Fear Aggression:


My family just recently got a 1 1/2 year old Sharpie/Retriever. He knows me very well because I'm home all day and we are constantly together, but now he is very protective with me. He will not let me out of his sight and is always keeping guard of the house. Now he tends to bark at my father who also lives with me but is gone most of the day, he doesn't like it when dad comes near me and always stands between us. He has never tried to bite or charge, if he thinks that dad is going to touch him he quickly moves back barking. We try to make him feel comfortable by letting dad give him treats, it takes about 10 minutes for him to be completely comfortable with him. I'm afraid that when we have guests he will be constantly barking at them. Should I try some kind of barking spray, and how should I punish him. Is there any other way I can calm him down faster when someone new enters the house? Thank you for your patience...



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.

This fear aggression needs to be dealt with through training. You are doing the right thing but you need to step to the line with obedience training – this is more than a correction at aggression – with that said EVERY incident of unwarranted aggression needs to be met with a correction.

You also need to be using a dog crate with this dog. It needs a place to go that it feels safe when people come over.

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.

I think if you read the testimonials on my DVD you will see that my customers feel the same way.

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.

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QUESTION on Fear Aggression:

Hello Mr. Frawley,

I read through your questions and answers on fear aggression but still had some questions; I hope you do not mind that I am e-mailing you. You are doubtless busy, but I would appreciate a reply if you have the time.

My family purchased a Kuvasz puppy, our first, about four months ago, and she is now six months old. This female, named Sapphire, seems to be very territorial inside the house and in our backyard, which is somewhat normal for the breed, except that their protective instinct does normally appear until between six and nine months and matures around eighteen months; she became protective between four and five months. Unlike GSDs and similar breeds, this instinct is a breed trait that requires no training. In her case, she barks at those who enter the house and is threatening, but she does not mind delivery men at the front door, such as from UPS. She will do a sit-stay at the door and remain quiet while we take the package. However, she does bark whenever the doorbell rings. When someone enters the house, her body language is not fearful; she seems confident: she holds her tail straight up, puts her ears (that are folded, not erect) forward, and barks loudly. At first she did not bark deeply, more like a seal because she was so young, but it has become gradually deeper.

However, she is nervous outside the house and yard, her territory. Things as simple as children riding bikes and garbage cans make her very nervous, and she will attempt to run away. Her body language and actions strongly indicate fear: ears back flat against her head, tail down and frequently tucked, bolting, nervously looking around, attempting to turn back toward home, and coming to me, for protection I am guessing. I would let people approach her so that she could sniff them and get used to the idea of other people being around, but I am no longer doing this because she once snapped at a child that tried to pet her. I realize, reading your articles, that she should have received an extremely severe correction, but I failed to give it. Fortunately, she has never before nor since shown aggressiveness to a child, and has always been good with our family (there are six of us). She has only shown aggressiveness after being boarded (see next paragraph), and she was less afraid also.

We first realized that she has issues with fear aggression about one month ago, when my family took a weekend trip, and we boarded her at the vet's. This was clearly a mistake, in retrospect. When we picked her up, we were told that she had been aggressive, but nothing further. However, when I later inquired about it, the lady who had cared for the dogs over the weekend told me that she was "skittish," to the point that it would make someone "nervous." I am guessing that she had growled and snapped, judging by her later behavior. This information sent off alarm bells; it was the last thing I would have expected. Like most livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) she is somewhat food aggressive toward other dogs, so I had expected that. Fear aggression truly alarmed me; it is not typical in her breed.

I looked for advice and was told that she needed more socialization with other people than she had been given. Therefore, I have been walking her twice daily through the neighborhood, forcing her to walk past people, bicycles, garbage cans, dogs, and anything else that seems to scare her, as well as taking her out when possible; I encourage her to sniff things but not other dogs. Additionally, we learned that, although her sire has an excellent temperament, her dam was very nervous for some time and required intense socialization to overcome. Supposedly, she is fine now, but I fear it may be a genetic tendency. I am thinking that the stay at the boarding kennel may have brought out these tendencies, since there were some warning signs that I failed to recognize before that: she drew back from people and looked somewhat nervous when we were out; but there was no aggression.

Regarding normal temperament: Kuvaszok (plural for Kuvasz) are normally very aggressive in protecting their charges (their pack, I suppose), whether they are their family, chickens, goats, sheep, etc. Otherwise, they are reserved and watchful with strangers, and they will not tolerate petting except from their own family; they are not supposed to be fearful. Some dogs, like her sire, are unusual in this regard, and will actually be friendly toward people outside their territory. These dogs are also normally gentle with the people or animals that they consider as belonging to the pack, which is the case with Sapphire. They are also very independent, but intelligent, and are therefore difficult to train, but this is important in working dogs and therefore is a trait of all LDGs (Pyrs, Anatolians, Caucasians, Maremmas, Kuvaszok, Komondorok, etc.). Sapphire is typical in that regard also. The only unusual thing in her temperament, besides the things already noted, is that she seems to have a high prey drive, which is extremely unusual; they are bred to have a very low prey drive. She chases things, even when she is somewhat hot and tired, and she could easily be taught to fetch things. I am not sure if her prey drive is related to her fear aggression in any way, so I have mentioned it.

Another thing that may be relevant is that we own one other dog, an American Eskimo female that is three and has hip dysplasia. Gucci (that is this dog’s name) barks at strangers that pass in the street or come to the door, often setting Sapphire off also. Gucci, however, accepts people quickly and only shows mild aggression (growly noises and sometimes snapping) when very little children (under three) approach her. It is never with strangers, except for the fierce barking, and she does not go out much. Regarding the baby, we simply watch her and keep her away from Gucci. That dog is really very tolerant, considering her severe dysplasia, and will stop making noises if we scold her. I hope this is enough information for you to get a good picture of our puppy.

How would you recommend handling Sapphire? We are moving to a very large property this year, where there will be fewer people around, and we do own crates for both dogs. Also, the reason we had bought her was as a companion and protector for the family, especially the little children. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect her to behave well in public. However, do you think she will be manageable in public if we work with her, perhaps with a muzzle? She will be 90-100 lbs., a large dog, at maturity. Also, do you think Sapphire will be safe with the other children in our family? I noticed that you recommended that some fearful dogs be kept away from children, but she is only insecure outside of her territory, so I wondered what your opinion was. Is she old enough to use a prong collar (it is becoming hard to control her at 60+ lbs. when she attempts to bolt)? If so, which width and heaviness of collar would you recommend?

I found your site very interesting and helpful in many respects. You seem to be a very good trainer, and, although I realize that you likely have little experience with livestock guardians, I am certain that your advice would still be helpful, if blunt. I’m sure I have made plenty of stupid mistakes with a first dog like this, so you will have plenty of reason to be; however that is why I e-mailed you. Thank you very much, sir!


P.S. As you can probably tell, Sapphire is not trained. Although I have started some basic work with her, such as sit, down, stay, wait, leave it, come, she is not solid with distractions.


I give you credit for trying so hard.

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.

With this said you are placing too much emphasis on the dog's breed and not enough on the actual temperament. You can’t worry about the breed – it has you thinking wrong. Heck if I thought like that, every German Shepherd would be a personal protection dog (when in fact maybe 2% of all that are bred can be – 90% of the ones I breed can be.)

This dog has the making of a fear biter. Aggression is not always seated in one area – there can be a number of causes for a dog's aggression but in your case the primary form is fear based.

I would strongly recommend that you first read the article I wrote on preventing dog bites in children. Your child is at risk here and you don’t recognize it.

You need to start to use dog crate and you need to train this dog. Training is not going to fix the fear – its going to establish control.

Get my Basic Dog Obedience DVD – its 4 hours. Get a prong collar and learn to use it.

I can tell you that if this were my dog it would be wearing a e-collar.. It would never leave the house without it on. Not ever. It would be trained with low level stimulation. I released a DVD showing people how to do this (318-D). There is no pain involved when this is used correctly.

Our dogs NEVER come in contact with other strange dogs – not ever and not for any reason. You can do what you wish but it’s a bad idea to allow a dog like this to have contact with strange dogs. For one thing you can't control it, but for another its too big to handle when a fight breaks out.

Your dog is not dominant but you need to read the article I wrote titled Dealing with a Dominant Dog – you will learn something. You should also read the article on Ground Work to Becoming a Pack Leader.

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. Don’t fall into this trap.

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I just recently acquired a great dane dalmatian mix. He is 9 months old and he weighs about 67 pounds. He is a very sweet dog, he likes kids and he adores me. I could do anything to my dog and he wouldn't even bat an eye lash. However, I picked him up from the pound and I believe that he either was abused by a male or he has never been around them. He wags his tail at every kid and female but he starts barking and acts like he wants to bite every guy that walks into the house or comes within 10 feet of me. My boyfriend also lives with me and it took Lou (my dog) a few days to get used to him. The first time he saw him he growled and almost go away from me when he was outside on his leash. The dog settled down once he realized that he wasn't going to hurt him and the dog knew my boyfriend wasn't going to hurt me. A few days late though, me and my dog were outside on the leash and my boyfriend walked up to him and he went started barking and growling at him. Lou hates men (that is obvious). When I had some friends over the other day I put him in his cage until my friend Chris had walked into the door. Chris went up to his cage and my dog leaped and the cage and almost knocked it over. After a few minutes when the dog was calm I let him come out of his cage and he walked up to Chris and was licking his fingers. I am slowly trying to get him socialized with men, but I am still scared that he may bite. The old owner dropped him off at the pound because she wasn't allowed to have great dane mixes at her apartment. However she did tell the shelter he was "protective." Do you have any suggestions on how I can get my big puppy better socialized with men?



You are making a mistake in how you approach this problem – a big mistake.

This is not an issue of socializing this dog around men. It’s an issue that you must teach restraint around men. You must teach it that unwarranted aggression towards men will result in the dog being corrected at a level it respects. With that said, you must also control the environment that it is allowed around men. By that I mean “only when you are present."

If you think its possible for this dog to come to accept the ghosts in its head you are wrong. That is not going to happen. You can have men give this dog treats for the rest of its life and the ghosts will still be there.

So I suggest that you learn to train this dog in a manner that results in respect for the pack leader. Don’t kid yourself that this dog respect you right now – it does not. A dog can love you and not respect you. If it respected your position as pack leader, and you had made your position on aggression to males apparent, the dog would never do this.

I recommend that you get a prong collar and my Basic Obedience.

I also recommend that you do some additional reading from my web site.

I recommend that you go to my web site and read the article I wrote about my philosophy of dog training. I think you will get some good ideas there. You will see a bit of yourself in this article.

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.

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Dear Mr. Frawley:

Today I killed my dog.

Abby, our sweet, bicolor GSD, lived with us for six of her eight years. I adopted her from the Humane Society. The worker there later told me Abby had been seized during a raid at a dog fighting ring. They’d tried to use her as a guard dog. They also had bred her continuously and used her pups as bait.

It took her two years to learn to wag her tail. She craved attention, and I was her person of choice. Our other GSD, Griffon, didn’t mind that Abby needed to be top dog. He knew who really was and if it made her easier to get along with, he left her that illusion (unless it was something he felt strongly about—like his Frisbee). We never experienced dominance in the household with Abby. Sometimes I’d allow her to nudge my hand for a pat. Then I’d ask for a sit and she’d get what she needed. She never liked furniture or beds, but she slept in her bed beside me every night. I was the only one in the family who didn’t mind her sloppy kisses (she’d grab a mouthful of water before searching out her intended victim). If I invited her, she’d lay her forequarters across my legs. She followed me like a shadow.

She was very ball oriented and food oriented. This made her easy to train. She heeled, sat, downed, stayed and always obeyed a recall. She loved to play.

But she was crazy. Something—probably in her breeding and no doubt exacerbated by her upbringing—had warped her.

For six years I worked with her: obedience, discipline, alternative behaviors, drugs, even confinement. I knew I could make her better—at least controllable. Or so I thought.

She’s always been dominant around other dogs. She learned to “leave it” and ignore any who came by and not to go postal when the neighbors’ dogs were out.

She never figured out people, though. She went ballistic whenever someone went by the house—snapping, snarling, lunging and attempting to bite. She learned to behave herself. Away from home she was a different dog. Almost always. That was the problem. There were times early on where she’d solicit attention and petting from someone (tail wagging [after she learned to wag it that is] kissy faced) and seemed thrilled to make their acquaintance. Just a few times, she snapped. That’s a horrible pun, but that’s really what it looked like. I got to be very good at reading her signals—I knew all the miniscule dominance hints she gave. I knew when she was being submissive. On these occasions, she went from friendly, loving dog to snarling, lunging maniac.

I still thought I could fix it. More training. More structure. More discipline. More socialization.

I thought it worked.

Until the day she nearly took the face off of my 13-year-old goddaughter. Thank God I always had her leashed. I take full responsibility (irresponsibility is the better word). I was taking Abby out for a walk after being confined (because of the visitor). She’s seen my goddaughter before and this time she was nearly puppyish in her joy. I thought I had made a lot of progress with her. I carefully let her approach my goddaughter. Abby kissed her and wagged her tail and asked for a belly rub. Finally! I thought. She gets it!

I started to take Abby back to her crate. My goddaughter got up to go into the kitchen. Then she switched directions, knelt down to pet Abby. Abby—still acting the happy dog (not submissive, not high, slow-tail wag dominant, no slightly blown out lips—kissed my goddaughter again. I told Abby to come along. That’s when Abby lunged forward with a glassy-eyed, snarling, snapping growl. She missed my goddaughter by about half an inch. She gave no sign of stopping. I had that dog down and on her back and crying for her life in a heartbeat.

My goddaughter later told my daughter that the only thing she could think of is that she looked Abby in the eye. I should never ever ever EVER have allowed Abby near Kristina. I KNEW better but I thought I “knew” better. It almost cost Kristina scars and plastic surgery.

That’s when I admitted we had done all we could for Abby. Our sweet dog, my loving shadow, was sick with an incurable illness. She was crazy. The only thing left remaining was my final duty to my old friend.

Yesterday was Abby’s day. We went for a long walk. We played and cuddled and did whatever she wanted. That included a lot of treats because Abby loved her food. I wanted her last day to be golden. This morning my husband and I took her to the vet. We’d already had a long conversation with him about our options. We walked her around outside by the trees with the scents of the morning to occupy her until it was time. My husband couldn’t bear it. Neither could I, but I was her person. She was my shadow. She trusted me and knew I would always look out for her. This was the last thing I could do for my Abby—be with her at the end.

Maybe someone like you, who is so much more experienced with dogs than I am, could have helped her. She was beyond my capacity and that of everyone we spoke to about her. As much as it pains me to think of her on the other side of the Bridge, I know in my heart I did the right thing. Now she doesn’t have to be afraid. Now she doesn’t have to worry something else will dominate her or hurt her. Now she doesn’t have to give herself the job of protector of the world. Now she doesn’t have to wonder why she sometimes had to go crazy and then regret it. Now she is at peace.

Thank you, Ed, for your web site and all the knowledge it holds. Thank you for listening to people like me.



When people have a dog like this they should NEVER allow anyone near the dog. The dog was a classic “fear biter” – people forget how strong the pack instinct is in the domesticated dog. These dogs are only safe around their immediate pack and only then if they have been properly trained and socialized to correct manners. When that is not done they are a ticking time bomb.

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I have a Australian Shepard/Rottweiler mix dog, he was born without his right eye. I picked up from the pound because the previous owners other dogs were too aggressive towards him. I was married when I got him and my ex-husband was not very nice to him, I never saw him hit Jack but Jack would stay down stairs until I got home. Shortly after my husband left me Jack started nipping at peoples ankles. He would sneak up behind them nip and run with his tail between his legs. When I'm not home he doesn't show any of these problems, my sister watches the house and he doesn't do anything to her or her company, so it only happens when I'm home.

Now he is very well trained he follows my commands (site, stay, come, go lay down) I can have him in my back yard without a leash and he stays with me and comes when called. I've talked to a "dog Psychologist" and we tried some training were I would try to scare him then reassure him he was okay, the problem with that is he doesn't do anything to me, it's only when I have company. We decided to put him on Prozac, that seemed to calm him down from the biting, I left him on it for 3 months and now I'm trying him off the pill. I now have a boyfriend and Jack has been great with him, however for some reason he bite him in the ankle when my boyfriend moved to fast.

I'm at a lost as to what to do with him, I love him so much and don't want to put him to sleep, there's got to be something to help him with this behavior

Thank you for any help you can give


You only confirm something I tell a lot of people and that is that the vast majority of so called behaviorists lack experience on aggression, which results on stupid bad advice being passed out.

Drugs are always a stupid fix.

Fear biters need structure in their lives. They feel most comfortable when they are very familiar with what's going to happen. They also feel most comfortable when they have a strong pack leader that makes decision (which you are not). Your dog sticks with you and does the things you ask for this reason.

To allow this dog to be around strangers is a fatal handler mistake. The dog should be in a dog crate when you're gone and people should not be handling this dog. An adult dog can easily be in a crate all day (they are in the crate all night).

With all this said – every instance of unwarranted aggression needs to have a serious correction. This means that it’s a correction that the dog remembers. It has to be a correction that the next time it thinks about doing this it remembers the severity of the correction and thinks "OH NO I DON’T WANT THAT AGAIN." When dogs understand this concept they settle and respect the handler.

I have two DVDs that help dog owners understand the correct way to train for this:

Basic Dog Obedience -- this training needs to be done with a dominant dog collar

Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs.

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QUESTION on Fearful Dog:

Mr. Frawley,

I recently discovered your web site. and have been reading non stop for about a week now. I've ordered your Basic Obedience DVD and are in the process of listening to your philosophy and ground work podcasts during my commute.

I have to tell you that I am very excited to have finally found a training program that I believe in and one that I feel that my dog is going to respond to. I only wish I had found you months ago. I plan to go through your ground work phase and begin basic obedience a.s.a.p! I have some questions though about what category my dog falls into with her behavioral issues and if you have any specific advise you have for me regarding those issues.

Some back ground. In August my husband and I rescued a 6 year old female spayed GSD. Sheena is supposedly an owner surrender due to job relocation. We have no children, but we have one other 6 yr old female mixed breed rescue dog. We have a large yard fenced by 6 and 8 foot privacy fence. We did research and knew that we would have to be strong leaders, we practiced NILIF to an extent.....obviously not precisely enough. Like I said, I just did find your web site. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we were not complete softies with this dog, but we were nowhere near the pack leaders she needed us to be. We are willing to change that.

When we first met Sheena, she was outside with her foster mom and numerous other GSDs all off lead. Sheena was not phased by us coming onto the property. She was not a tail wagging in your face sort of friendly dog...more of a confident slightly aloof dog. She allowed me to pet her and play ball (she's very ball driven) with her for over an hour while we talked with the foster mom. When we left, she tried to hop in our truck several times. I'm telling you these things because I want to make it clear that Sheena started off what appeared to be an excellent dog. I chose her because I wanted a companion dog that could go everywhere with me and be trusted in public not to act like an ass. I am not concerned with her being friendly with strangers or other dogs, but it was my hope that she could be trusted. During that first meeting, I noticed that the foster mom was a very strong personality and very much the alpha of all her animals on her hobby farm. Sheena literally hung on every word the woman said.

I still believe that Sheena is good dog, but due to my lack of experience she has developed some major issues. I fully understand that I am the one that is going to have to do the most changing and I'm up for that challenge.

Sheena lived with us for 2 weeks without any problems. She only weighed 55 lbs and had ear infections so there were several vet visits in the first 2 weeks. She behaved like a super star at the vet, no problems in the waiting room with other dogs, cats, strangers young and old. Sheena was slightly shy of the vet staff but always accepted their care without any trouble. We walked Sheena daily on a public trail, she paid no attention to strangers, dogs, stray cats or small animals. She needed work walking on a loose leash but did great socially. We did not allow anyone to pet her though we were asked constantly.

The 3rd week is when I messed up big time and all our problems began. I could not get to the walking trail that day so I walked Sheena in our subdivision for the first time. I had avoided it until then because there are too many unattended small children with zero manners and I didn't want Sheena bum rushed by kids. I checked to make sure there weren't any stray children in the culdesac and set off with sheena on a prong and very short leash. We were approached by 3 teenage boys that I knew well. Sheena did fine while I stood there talking to them. One of the boys reached for her. Sheena barked aggressively and stomped her feet. I do not know if she intended to bite because I had her under control and there was no room for lunging on her leash.

From there it went down hill quickly. I feel certain this is due to my lack of experience and my poor reactions to her outbursts. She went from being oblivious to strangers to eventually barking at everyone/thing that came into her sight. However, at home and off lead- she has never had a problem with strangers in our home. She continues to do well at the vet and has even stayed in our vets boarding facility without incident. Anywhere but at home or the vets office, she is a complete ass on lead.

On Thanksgiving she came with us to my parents house. I begged everyone to not pet her. One woman who was a self proclaimed 'dog person' decided to ignore my request. As she reached, sheena barked. The woman turned away and Sheena bit her in the ass. No blood or broken skin, just a bruise and a very rude awakening for me. Sheena has been on house arrest since while I try to figure out the best course of action for correcting the mistakes I've made.

What I want your opinion on is this. Do you think Sheena's issues are 100% operator error?- I am hoping that this is the case because I can change. Is there hope that if I get my act together and work hard with her that I can get her back to where she can be trusted on leash around strangers. Like I said, I don't care if she loves people or not- I just want her to be trustworthy when I'm approached by strangers or when people come to my home. The fact that she bit someone, does that automatically make her a fear biter or was it more of a pack/leadership issue? Sheena has been through basic obedience classes but it was at a club where all training was positive. She knew her basic commands before we ever went to the class... I basically took her because it was somewhere we could go where I knew we'd be around people who wouldn't freak out at her outbursts. And because I felt it would be good for us to train together. Her behavior was about 50/50 in class.

Are there any special considerations as I begin my journey in undoing the damage I feel I've done to this dog? I appreciate any advise you can share with me and I will continue to read through all that is available on your web site. If there is anything else you feel I should be doing with Sheena, please let me know...I am dedicated to doing what it takes to help her reach her full potential.



I do think your actions caused these problems. The dog does not see you are a strong pack leader – therefore she feels that she has to be the leader.

You should have really corrected the living snot out of her the first time she showed aggression towards the boys on the walk. The corrections should have been strong enough that she really would think twice the next time she barked and growled.

If you read what I have written on WHO PETS MY PUPPIES OR DOGS you will see that NO ONE TOUCHES MY DOGS. Not ever and not for any reason – your mistake – because things like this happened.,

It's at the point that you need to train this dog with a remote collar.You still need to understand the basics of training which you will learn in the basic dog obedience DVD but the training will come from the remote collar. I use a Dogtra 1700 on my personal dog.

These problems are solvable if you step to the line and establish pack structure and control (both environmentally and with the dog through training). It is NEVER too late to do correct training.


Hello Mr. Frawley,

I recently read your article on the web and found it very informative. I used to own a Polish Tatra and as you may know, are natural and determined guard dogs. I cannot tell you how much I miss that in an animal that offers that kind of relationship. It can be wonderful.

I am writing you because I had a question about some information on your site. My wife and I have a male Great Dane/St. Bernard mix that will be 7 months on January 16th. You mentioned on your site that a dog will display certain sings if the defense gene is present. Our dog, Solomon, has recently displayed a deepening bark in certain situations, has begun to bark if someone comes to the house and behaves uncertain on walks if something on the walk is out of the ordinary. While he does not tuck his tail between his legs immediately, he will be very hesitant about going near the object and would rather not do so. His hair will stand up on his back, he will bark but will remain unsure unless he approaches the object very slowly.

My question to you is whether this is defense or avoidance? Is it too early to tell? What signs can I look for on either side as he gets older? What can I do to increase his confidence if it is defense?

I would appreciate any feedback you have to offer.

Thank you,


It’s a little early to tell – many, many, male dogs go through a weird stage at about 10 months of age. It’s like a kid going through puberty. Their hormones are all screwed up and they get goofy.

A lot of times a dog that acts like this can turn into a defensive dog. The thing that makes the difference between a defensive dog and a fear based dog is the dog's nerves. Dogs with good nerves can be defensive. Dogs with weak nerves slide the other way.

In my opinion it’s the owners responsibility to prepare for both. This means you run the dog through a sound obedience program like mine. Obedience is only about 25% of the solution though. The rest revolves around pack structure and correct leadership skills. This is dealt with in my DVD on DEALING WITH DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS.

With large dogs and small women the final stop in the process is learning to use a remote collar. This is the great equalizer. The issue there is to learn the correct way to use it. It's not rocket science but it's also not “strap a collar on a dog and shock his balls off.” I did a DVD on how to use an e-collar last year. I use a Dogtra 1700 on my personal dog. There are less expensive collars but I don’t believe there is a better collar on the market.

So you now have the material background information to deal with what comes up. I am not trying to push products – I don’t need to do that. Take advantage of my free eBooks, my podcasts, and web discussion board.


Dear Ed,

Our family is in a terrible position and we have a very difficult decision to make. We have a 5 year old Wheaton terrier, Reilly, that is a sweet and very loving dog with our family. We have 5 children ranging from 9-19 and she has been incredibly docile with them. She was the tiny one in her litter and very scared of her siblings. In retrospect we should have known that this could become a problem. She has a very weak stomach and requires special food. We tried to board her twice but the resulting bouts of diarrhea put an end to that. She is petrified of loud sounds and even runs to her room (a small gated mud room) when I call the children to dinner. She doesn't like any roughness and we have to send her to her room if my husband and son wrestle because she gets too upset running around them and barking. With us she is completely calm and loving and so well behaved. She doesn't chew anything, doesn't go to the bathroom in the house, and is intelligent enough to have different behaviors that she'll perform with each of the children. She's so peaceful that you wouldn't even know she's around except that she loves to cuddle. However, she turns into a maniac when anyone comes to the front door and charges the door barking and growling. When I get to the door and tell her to go to her room, she does. She has bitten at the ankles of guests (always from behind) but has never broken their skin - she grabs their pants. We now put her away when we have company. She is horrible with almost all other dogs. She ran out when just a puppy and attacked the daschund next door and punctured the skin on his ear so we NEVER let her out without being on a leash. Unfortunately, just last month she broke free from my husbands grip (she's so calm so much of the time that you forget how quickly she can change) and she attacked the dog next door again. Thankfully, my husband got her before she bit it. It just seems that lately that she has become more scared and unpredictable. We walk her at least two miles a day to keep her well exercised, but we have to make sure that we are on guard at all times because sometimes she'll just pass people and dogs and sometimes she goes nuts. Last week she was so spooked by the wind or the shadows that she laid down and we had to just about drag her. It was very weird. It has always been a case of knowing that there are problems, but knowing that within our walls she's a great pet. Unfortunately, 5 years of small stuff came to a head last week when she attacked a lady while we were walking. Our children are home schooled and so we went for our walk in the middle of the morning when no one was around. Reilly had used the bathroom and I handed her leash to my 9 year old son while I threw the bag in the trash can (a horrible decision). A lady came around the corner and Reilly beelined it for her dragging my son and bit the woman in the thigh. She is now being quarantined for 10 days. The whole situation was horrendous. We all feel responsible. The lady was very kind, but we realize just how fortunate we are that it wasn't worse. We are deciding what we need to do when her 10 days of quarantine are up. We are in a neighborhood with children at the door all day and my husband's business is in the house so we have deliveries all day. I would love to send her to training and be hopeful for her future, but we're afraid that even with intense training, nothing's 100% guaranteed. I don't want her to hurt anyone else, I don't want her to live in a crate all day, and I don't want to take the chance of losing our home and the business that supports so many other families because we kept what's now known as a dangerous dog even though we love her dearly. My in-laws want to take her because they don't want us to put her to sleep. I'm just wondering if that will be too much stress on an already nervous dog and whether going through training will be enough for a dog like Reilly. What do you think?



I hate the be the bearer of bad news but this is 100% a owner problem and not a dog problem. It’s a perfect example of owners who don’t understand pack behavior, who don’t become pack leaders and who don’t train their dog properly.

Sorry but I don’t have time for the sweet talk.

Your dog has weak nerves, these are easy dogs to train – properly train with corrections. They want to find the comfortable place to be – when they show unwarranted aggression they need firm corrections EVERY TIME !!! They need to learn to respect their pack leader's position on aggression more than they fear the ghosts in their head.

Your family has allowed this dog to become a pain in the rear – you have allowed bad behavior and you have not properly trained this dog. I have written a great deal on pack structure - My web site has a large number of FREE eBooks that I have written.

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

I also recommend that you read the article I recently wrote titled THE THEORY OF CORRECTIONS IN DOG TRAINING.

While obedience training is not the solution to all behavioral issue it most defiantly is part of the solution for every single behavioral problem.

The fact is this is a solvable problem, I can't tell you if you have the ability to learn what needs to be done and then to do it. For your dog's sake I hope you do the right thing.


The problem in a nutshell is aggression towards people. I need to decide how to try to handle it, or return the dog to the breeder.

About a month ago my wife and I adopted a 2 year old female bouvier. She is the 3rd bouvier we have owned, all from the same breeder, all adopted as adults. This dog was originally in a home with 3 other bouviers, and reportedly had developed aggression towards the other dogs which is why the original owner gave her up. She reportedly had never exhibited any aggression towards people.

She went from her original owner to the breeder, who had her for about 3 weeks and decided that she would be a good fit for our home. We met the dog and liked her, and we were around the dog for two days at a dog show. She met many strangers and was always appropriate, but on the timid side. So we decided to take her.

At our house she was initially shy but accepting of strangers. Then, she began being aggressive towards them. By this I mean that on lead she would explode, barking and snarling and pulling against the pinch collar trying to get at them. I had enrolled her in obedience class, and she did fine the first two classes. At the end of the third class she exploded at one of the instructors. At the start of the fourth class another instructor came within 15 feet and she exploded.

An interesting thing to me about this behavior is that it often is a “delayed reaction,” That is, the dog lets someone into her space with no initial reaction, and then after a couple of minutes blows up.

We got together with the breeder and a trainer friend of his, and they observed the behavior. The breeder was quite surprised at the ferocity. They think that the dog is confused about her role in the pack, and is trying to be the alpha. They think that if my wife and I better establish the pack order, the problem will go away. Admittedly we were doing some wrong things (evident from reading your www site), but we were also doing some right things as this is not the first adult bouvier we have taken in and neither of our other dogs ever did anything like this.

We respect the breeder but we also realize that he may be not completely objective in evaluating one of his own dogs.

So, the questions are:

1) Does this sound like an alpha issue to you, and if so which of your instructional materials are going to probably be most helpful to us?

2) What is your (admittedly a guess) opinion of the prognosis here? Meaning do you think that at best this would end up being like the dogs you describe as handler-biters, e.g. saved from euthanasia but always under tight security, or instead that this dog might end up being “safe” with guests in the house?

Thanks a lot!



I have owned tough dangerous dogs my entire adult life (I am 59) I have owned dogs that were truly dangerous dogs. I have never had an accident with these dogs because I train these dogs, they respect me and I control the environment.

I would never allow a dog like this to be loose in an area where I had strangers. That would be like allowing a 12 year old to play with a loaded pistol.

So the question comes down to you. Are you willing to control this dog? Are you willing to establish leadership? My guess is this is fear aggression and not dominance. But even still, a fear bite hurts just as bad as a dominance bite.

A dog like this needs to be severely corrected for every instance of unwarranted aggression. Read the article I wrote on THE THEORY OF CORRECTIONS IN DOG TRAINING. Your dog's correction needs to be one it remembers the next time it decides to act stupid. I can't tell you if you can do this. I don’t know you.

I can tell you that I would train this dog with a remote collar and a muzzle if it were my dog.

I also think that you don’t really understand normal dog training, I don’t mean this as a insult, just a fact. If you did you would not be writing me. So with that said you need to educate yourself if you plan on keeping this dog. I have excellent FREE eBooks on my web site – read them. Also here are some DVDs to help:

Basic Dog Obedience

Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs

Remote Collar Training for the Pet Owner

So in closing, only you can answer your questions. I have the answers but I don’t know how much work you are willing to put into this.


I purchased a cocker spaniel for my three children this past Christmas. I read many articles about socializing, selecting the right dog, and training. I typed in family pet on the Internet and found cocker spaniel. I had many conversations with the breeder and asked all the recommended questions. He was black and tan with white markings. Everyone who saw him wanted to pet him and told us how beautiful he was. My children have been asking for a dog for a long time (10 year-old and twin 9 year-olds). Rio, our cocker spaniel stole our hearts. We were going to bring him everywhere, until he bit our vet and growled at other dogs within two weeks of bringing him home. He was two months old. We began puppy training and basic training. We sought the help of a dog behavior expert. We began socializing him off leash and soon was able to socialize with small to medium dogs on leash. He had snipped at my children for different reasons, but never broke skin (should that even matter)? He had bite or snapped at two vets, the behavior expert, my children, my mother and recently growled and broke the skin twice with me. I put him to sleep today and feel so guilty, but would feel worse when he hurt someone. Notice I didn't say if, but when. I want to thank you for understanding our pain with this difficult decision, because others make me feel like a careless owner. I spent 90% of my day with Rio and loved him. This was not a careless decision.


You did the right thing. Cockers have a reputation for this kind of behavior. It's very common and people don’t talk about it enough.


I have question on whether the pup I have may be at risk of being a fear biter. The dog is a five-month-old Shar Pei male, that we have had since he was 16 weeks. The mother was outgoing, father was more standoffish, but friendly to strangers at the dog show with the owner present. The pup was/is shy, and it has taken about 6 weeks since he has been with us to approach us with a wagging tale, but still reluctant to be petting on the head and neck (backs off), but more agreeable for pets under the neck and chest (less dominant approach). He is friendly to other dogs he meets (even if they are not friendly to him), and walks on a lead without fear of traffic noise. He will pull on the lead if he passes to close to strangers.

I have taken him to the vets, and to friends who have children. I don’t let them gang up on him, and he will sit quietly in their living room with the lead still on him if they are a few feet away. One child next to him was OK for a pet, no snapping. When I got him six weeks ago, you would never get him in a house or near a group of kids, and would snap at them then.

When I stopped by my neighbors with three adults, and they approached them, he pulled on the lead and snapped, but then settled down, and would allow one of them to pet him.

When delivery people come, he will bark for a few minutes, and then walk around the delivery trailer, and without much fuss, but keep a few feet away from them.

The in-laws came for a visit on the weekend, he was reluctant to go into the house when they were there, but after two days would follow behind them and sniff them with his tail wagging (but not allow any pets).

The vet has some concerns that as he gets older, he could still be a problem, as most dogs 5 months old are a lot more social, puppies are normally everybody’s friend. He is not really that social with me. I would not let him loose on an open field, not sure if I would get him back. I can still play with balls and stuffed toys on a string with him.

When he comes in at night, he prefers to sleep next to an open door. I will close it later, and then he settles down somewhere else in the house.

The breeder will still take him back up to the age of 6 months. Is this dog going to have a chance of being mentally sound and safe even with training?


Take this dog back to the breeder. It is an accident waiting to happen. The dog has serious temperament faults and when it is 18 to 24 months old it will be a dangerous dog. It WILL BE a fear biter. It only needs to mature a little more and the problems will begin.


I got Patton from a breeder when she was 11 weeks old and she was delightful - friendly to all. She went to stores with me and played at the dog park. She would go to manhattan and stay with my daughter and son in law and I would visit and she was the same - went into restaurants, stores, etc. When she turned 8 months old and was spayed, the world changed. She became very aggressive to all strangers - and she despises children. (She is fine with dogs off the leash still.) We have a very good trainer who agrees that she cannot be off the leash even with an E collar since once she is distracted, nothing stops her but pure brute strength. She is still lovable and affectionate with me, the trainer or whenever my daughter comes to visit, but to all else, she is growling and nipping. I am having her checked for thyroid problems, but based on reading your articles, I am wondering if you think she falls into the "fearful biter" category and needs to be put down - even though this did not start until she was 8 months old. Thank you for your advice.



Whenever I hear of personality changes like this, I suspect a possible rabies vaccine reaction.  It’s something vets won’t tell you about, and I feel that it happens much more than any of us hear about.. Has your dog been vaccinated for rabies?  If so, do you remember what age she was?  Was she vaccinated at the same time as her spay? I believe that vaccines cause many more behavioral problems than most people realize.

Regardless of the cause of her aggression, 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.

This DVD is 3 ½ hours long. 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.

I would absolutely disagree with your trainer about the ecollar.   If used properly, it is one of the best tools out there.  I would not put a dog down, until I tried everything in my power to help this dog fit in to my life. 

With issues like this I always recommend that people train their dog with a remote collar.

When people hear ELECTRIC COLLAR they always quiver and shake because there has been such bad publicity on these training collars.

The fact is today’s collars are 1000 times better than those I bought 25 years ago.

We produced a training DVD in the fall of 2005 titled ELECTRIC COLLAR TRAINING FOR THE PET OWNER. In this DVD Ed teaches people how to handle the foundation training and then how to use the collar.

Many trainers, especially hunting dog trainers and even some professional dog trainers use “escape training” when they train with remote collars. This is where they stimulate the dog, give it a command and then teach the dog how to turn the stimulation OFF by doing what’s told. 

I don’t agree with “escape training”. I don’t think its fair to the dog. He is being stimulated before he is even asked to do something. In my opinion this is ass end backward.

Rather I believe in using the collar to reinforce a voice correction. In other words, I always tell my dog “NO” before I correct him. I give him the opportunity to change his behavior. My goal is to always teach my dog to follow my voice command. 

If you read the article titled THE THEORY OF CORRECTIONS IN DOG TRAINING you will understand how to approach corrections. In the DVD Ed simply applies that philosophy to remote collar training.

The article explains how to determine the level of correction to use on each dog. This varies according to the temperament and drive of the dog along with the level of distraction it’s currently facing at that moment in time.

This DVD shows how to determine what level of stimulation to use on your dog. That’s important.

In this DVD we never used a level higher than a medium and most of the time it was on the low settings for every dog we trained.

We use a Dogtra 1700 on our personal dogs. This is about a $300.00 (plus shipping collar).

There are other good collars for less money. I recommend staying with DOGTRA, INNOTEK and TRI-TRONICS.  Other companies sell cheaper collars but in the remote collar business you get what you pay for.

I hope this helps.



My name is Jennifer, I have been reading your site top to bottom over the last few weeks and have found a lot of great information. I was hoping to get some help on which video/book you think would be helpful for myself and our 1yr old neapolitan mastiff "Bella."

We have had Bella since she was a pup and had a "horse accident" at 12 weeks old. The horse stepped on her toe and damaged a growth plate. She's had two surgeries at 12 weeks and 16 weeks. --- This really hindered my ability to get her out and "socialize" her. Over the past month she seems to have gotten very aggressive towards strangers and any newcomers. She's fine with some strangers and growls and sometimes will snap if another stranger approaches her too quickly or tries to pet her.  We recently started a Puppy class at Petsmart and the trainer had kneeled down next to her to grab her paw and she snapped.  Bella knows the basics of sit, down, stay, come. But definitely needs more work with it.

I really want her to be a life-long family dog but we will not tolerate a dog that will be so unpredictable with strangers.  She's great with our family and our kids (2,5,12 yrs). Has never showed any type of aggression towards us, only  strangers. I do know being protective and weary of strangers is bred into these dogs but our older dog 8yrs is fine with strangers or people coming and going.

Any help or advice you can give us would be greatly appreciated! I really like your training ideas and hope it can help us with Bella.



The best course of action for Bella is to NOT put her in situations where strangers make her so uncomfortable.  As her leader, you need for her to know you will keep her safe and by letting strangers in her space she feels trapped and cornered.

Many people find that once they start telling people to not touch or approach their dogs, the dogs become more confident because they KNOW you are not going to let outsiders do anything to them.

Please read this article about becoming an effective pack leader.

This article was written for people like yourself, people who have great intentions but not enough knowledge of pack structure. There are links within the article that will take you to other articles on my web site.

I would recommend our DVD on Basic Dog Obedience and our new DVD on Pack Structure.

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 the web site you will find out why we are not  fans of taking an untrained dog or a dog with confidence issues to obedience classes like those at Petsmart. 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 the DVD you will see that our customers feel the same way.

I also recommend that you read the recently written article  titled THE THEORY OF CORRECTIONS IN DOG TRAINING.

While obedience training is not the solution to all behavioral issue it most definitely is part of the solution for every single behavioral problem.

I hope this helps.




Thank you for the information. I will definitely order the videos. I have one other question if you didn't mind to give your input.  Should I still take Bella out places around other people (without letting them pet or come too close) to keep socializing her?  Also, is there any dog trainers in the Sacramento area that use the "Leerburg" ideas. It seems like every trainer near us(that I've found) is more into positive clicker training, etc.
Thank you again for your info!! I really appreciate the help! Your web site. has already helped us a lot!



I think it’s important to take her out to places, as long as you know her boundaries and don’t let anyone get in her “bubble.” (if you know what I mean)  I tell people to ignore my dogs, not to even look at them. For some reason, this is nearly impossible for some folks but if you explain “my dog is in special training, please don’t approach or look at her”  most people will cooperate. You have to be aware of your surroundings so you can head off situations before they can happen.

There’s really nothing wrong with clicker stuff, but for problems like you are having it needs to be in conjunction with strong leadership and controlling her environment as much as possible.

Ed’s article on markers (clicker training) may interest you.  It’s a great way to teach your dog, and strengthen your relationship.


Final Response:

Cindy, worked perfectly. I took my kids and Bella to the park with the intention of letting nobody pet her or get in her bubble. She was perfect! Not one bark, growl, etc. We'll keep on working. Thanks you again!!




I have an 11month old GSD. She has not yet been spayed…I am waiting for her to go through one heat. She is a bit shy and I spent a lot of time when she was very young having her meet and play with other dogs and I introduced her to lots of people. I would stand out in front of stores and ask folks to pet her and I would take her on walks where I knew there would be lots of people and activity. She is very gentle with my granddaughters and she is very sensitive to a correction. A firm but soft no will do the trick. There are a few dogs her age that she has play dates with and all was going very well. But I have recently noticed that she is growling during her play at times especially when she really gets worked up or there is a toy involved. I also noticed that she growled at one of her playmates that came up to me while she was there. I make a point of petting her friends and she has seemed fine with this in the past. My question is about continuing her socialization. I have been told I should stop the play because these other dogs are not part of her pack and she is maturing. I question this because I thought socialization was a life time activity? I do not want to put any dog or person at risk. In addition to her training, what is the best way to keep her socialized with other dogs?

Even with all the people socialization, there are certain people she will bark at…generally tall men. Any suggestions on how to deal with this?

One last thing…I would love to get a cat. I have rescued several of them and the GSD has a barking fit so I have placed them in other homes. I thought having her around a cat would help her to adjust but it does not seem to work that way. Any suggestions?

Thank you for your time,


Socialization is a lifelong endeavor, BUT socialization doesn’t mean letting people touch your dog, or other dogs play with her. This is a huge misconception.

Dogs are pack animals and you are her pack.

We don’t let our dogs play with dogs or even interact with dogs that are not in our family pack. There is no reason for her to play with other dogs.  I also don’t want my dogs to be seeking out strangers for treats or petting, I want my dogs to be aloof, indifferent and neutral to people. I would not force a dog that is unsure about people to get close enough to take treats, in many cases this only makes the nervousness about people worse.

I would suggest our groundwork program for your dog, and our Pack Structure DVD.

Once your dog realizes you aren’t going to put her in a situation that she is not comfortable with, you may be surprised that she becomes much more relaxed around people she doesn’t know.

I like Cesar Milan’s mantra “no touch, no talk, no eye contact”…. This is what you need to be telling people that are around your dog, instead of “give her a treat.”

Here is an article about introducing dogs into homes with cats, you can get the general idea of how to introduce them.


Hi, I apologize if this is not a type of question that you deal with directly. I became interested in "UKC dog sport" and also Schutzhund about 2 years ago I attended meetings, met a lot of people and decided on a Malinois. I was then introduced to Laekenois. I settled on a Laekenois who is great. She is now 17 months old super high prey drive and very smart willing to learn and do almost anything I ask but she is very fearful especially of people. I have spent a lot of time and effort getting her over this but it doesn't seem to be working. One trainer advises that I continue with the bite work claiming that it builds confidence. I can see how it may but I do not want to make a fearful dog a biting fearful dog who's reaction to fear is to bite. What are your thoughts on this? She does everything with me but simply refuses to allow strangers to touch her at all often tucking tail in new situations especially around children. She is very fearful of fast moving children.

Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.



Some dogs just don't like to be touched or approached by people or dogs that are outside their family pack. I don't believe that dogs like this should be expected to allow this. They should know we will protect them and that they are not allowed to show aggression. It's usually dogs with weak or thinner nerves that behave this way, but through management and training they can be desensitized.

I would continue to train her, especially in obedience. Dogs like this take great comfort in routine and knowing what to expect. It gives them confidence.

Be a strong pack leader, don't force her to come close to people she isn't comfortable with, don't allow people to stare at her or touch her or get too close. Many times dogs like this will begin to relax when they realize you aren't going to put them in uncomfortable situations. If she likes the ball or tug (which I would guess she does from your description) use her drive to work her around things she isn't comfortable with, always making sure you let her come away feeling really good about it. Don't put her too close to things that make her go out of drive. If she starts to look unsure, put more distance between the 2 of you and whatever it is that she is worried about.

I hope this helps.



I have purchased several of your videos and 4 heating pads, all of which I appreciate.  I am a breeder of Field line Labrador retrievers.  Your site and products are listed on our recommendations we give to new pup owners.

I have spent quite a bit of time on your site but still have a question about a how to rehab an extremely shy dog.  We have a female, Trixi, that was attacked as a pup by another female which was in season.  After this attack, I found your site from which along with your videos has taught us so much.  We have taken Trixi out weekly since September.  She’s OK at parks or parking lots but petrified in pet stores or when a stranger comes to our house.  She literally shakes, pupils dilate, she won’t accept food, etc.  My brother who is a dog lover, just visited, laid on the floor for over a half hour rubbing and petting her before she stopped shaking and it took 45 min before she would take food.  This gal has tremendous Field Champion and hunt titled lines and is sweet with us and our children. She’s very quick to learn at home and obedience is great at home although I cannot handle her without a prong collar when out and about.  I hate the thought of getting rid of her or not breeding her.  Is there help or hope for her?

Thank you,


Dogs like this have an elevated pack drive. They crave and need to have strong leadership. Many people misunderstand their rolls are a pack leader and I am sorry to tell you but you fall into this category.

Pack animals often don’t readily accept new members. A wolf pack is a perfect example. Many times members will kill a single adult wolf that comes into their territory.

In your case your dog was traumatized. Your dog needs you to keep strangers and strange dogs away from you. She needs to believe that you will do this. Right now she does not believe this because you continually put her in a situation where you allow strangers to touch and interact. Read the article I wrote titled WHO PETS MY DOG - My web site has a large number of FREE eBooks that I have written. Go to the main directory for eBooks

You need to step to the line and stop people and other animals from coming near this dog. You need to let him see you do this. Once she has confidence in the fact that EVERY TIME you will step to the line the dog will begin to relax.

I will guarantee you that if you came to our home and tried to pet Cindy’s 6 month old Mal pup she would warn you once and then show you the door the second time – and he is the toughest little shit I have ever seen.

People confuse “CONTACT” with socializing. Socializing means taking your dog out and letting him experience the world. It doesn’t mean taking him out and letting non-pack members pet him or taking him out to meet and greet other dogs. Dogs don’t need that – they need a strong family pack with rules and limitations.

Now – can some people get by with being shitty pack leaders – absolutely. The character of their dogs carries them through this. Your dog cannot.

Fact is when dogs like this gain confidence in YOU they respond very well to training – especially low level remote collar training. They always want to be in a safe place. They ALWAYS want to do the right thing. So when pack structure is established and understood – and the training is 100% clear and understood they respond.


Mr. Frawley,

I sincerely hope this email reaches you. I have been an avid reader of your web site. and have purchased some of your material in the past. I have a problem. I am a dog trainer of six years, I have experience dealing mainly with working dogs. Sled dogs, some entry level sport, and personal pets. My problem lies with a female Malinois I own from an irreputable breeder from Oklahoma. I have raised this dog as of 5 weeks of age, the dog is now approximately 16 months old. Early developmental stages were good, however she has been well traveled. At one year old an inexperienced airport employee decided to reach into her vari-kennel, after a ride down the escalator and she bit. Since then she has turned into the most unexplainable case of fear aggression I have ever seen. She hates strangers, no one can enter my home, as of today she has come at me 6 or 7 times purely out of fear. Now let me start by saying, I am very dominant over my dogs and in training styles, but not so that I am inexperienced enough to deal with a fear aggression case. Her nerves are not allowing her to overcome any sort of stress. I took it as dominance (food aggression, the whole nine) when she was much younger, and we have since overcome those issues. Today, and since the "Situation" Fear aggression is full blown. I am at my wits end! Please any advice? I can always go into more detail, but any no hassle help would be good.....Would hate to do the inevitable. Thank you for your time.



Mals often times have very strong pack drives. This means they don’t buddy up to non-strangers. You need to support this by not allowing anyone near here. You’re the pack leader – its your job to protect pack members and make them feel safe. Read the eBook I wrote on WHO PETS MY DOG.

You also need to teach the dog that unwarranted aggression is not tolerated.

In regard to her going after you. If the dog is not dominant they normally don’t do this unless they feel threatened. The dog did not understand what you wanted and expected. This happens with correct training.

Run this dog through the pack structure program in my DVD Establish Pack Structure With the Family Pet. Don’t vary from it. You don’t know enough to improvise (sorry but it’s the truth) This dog needs STRUCTURE – so it know what you want at every moment.

Also change the way you train. Learn to train with markers. These kinds of dogs respond to this.

With this said I hesitate to tell you this but fear based dogs respond to remote collar training (AFTER PACK STRUCTURE and AFTER MARKER TRAINING) Learn to work with LOW LEVEL stimulation. This low level work is important. If you work at the YELP level your making a mistake.

And you don’t use it for someone coming into your home. You teach the dog to go to the crate under high distraction – with markers. When people comes the dog knows its safe in the house – it knows YOU NEVER ALLOW PEOPLE NEAR THE CRATE because you’re the pack leader and it knows YOU NEVER allow people near enough to touch – you never allow people to give eye contact – you never allow people to try and give the dog a command.




My name is Lena. I have been reading your site about dog aggression. I have a 1 year old large munsterlander, who shows way too many signs of aggression. When he was six months, he nipped our friends young son. He was alright, but it greatly concerned us. Ever since then, we have been trying to destroy those signs of aggression, but it has been difficult. He is a baby to everyone in our family. He has never shown aggression to any of us. We can steal his food, mess around with him, scold him, wake him up, or whatever and he never growls or anything. For this reason, I feel that our dog, Radar, may not be dominance aggressive. I think he is more fear or territorial aggressive. But he has never been abused by anyone, and doesn't really show any signs of being fearful, but more insecure and nervous. The people he is most aggressive to is children. Especially children who come into our home. On walks, any adults he sees, he is fine and friendly with them, and the same goes for dogs. But if we are just standing on the street and a child walks by, not even towards us, he may start growling. This confuses me greatly. Other times he can say hi to children and be perfectly good. The biggest problem is in our home. When kids come over, even as old as 14 or 15, our dog grows very weary of them. He will slink around and has a nervous, distrusting look in his eyes. This scares us all very much. But sometimes, some kids will come over and he will be perfectly fine and normal. But if he is started, he can growl and snap, or if he is approached or bothered. Sometimes, when kids come into our house, and he does not realize they are there for a while, he will bark and growl and get very aggressive when he realizes they are in our home. Also, it seems like at night, he is most untrustworthy. It is his unpredictable and inconsistent behavior that worries us. He is extremely sweet to us, but still can be a handful. He has a lot of energy and is a big dog. When we are gone, he will chew up shoes or steal things off the counter. This behavior, however, is not as big as a concern to us as that of his aggression. We have a dog behaviorist working with us, and he seems to know what he is talking about. But his aggression, none the less is a huge scare.

As of now, we are working to ensure that we are dominant. We also have strangers shower him with treats when they come over (he is a very skinny, but big boy). When anyone comes to our house, we will send him to his "spot" in the separate room where he can see everyone but is undisturbed. He stays there for 5-10 min. and is then released and given treats. If he misbehaves, we grab him firmly and scold him loudly, then throw him out the door and leave him outside for a little.

We LOVE our dog to death, but his aggression is awful, especially when our other dog is SO well behaved. We are more that willing to do anything it takes to fix this problem. Any advice would be wonderful!

Thank you so much.



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

I would STOP having people that make him worried give him treats. This is one of the worst things you can do. Many times fearful dogs just want their owners to protect them and keep non pack members away from them.  In my experience these dogs can learn to be neutral to strangers, if handled correctly. Having a stranger or person that makes your dog uncomfortable get close to your dog to give them a treat goes against everything your dog needs from you as a pack leader.

Also letting your dog interact with strangers, and then taking him by the scruff, getting loud with him and putting him outside when he breaks your rules (which he probably doesn’t understand) will do nothing except make him more worried when strangers are present. Dogs don’t understand what we expect of them automatically, they need to be shown with clear and consistent handling. By doing this, you may actually be making him worse and more worried.

I will make some recommendations for articles and videos that I feel could help you out along with working with a qualified trainer.

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

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

I believe that this DVD could really help you also. 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. These DVDs are not meant to be watched one time. The fact is anyone who needs this information needs to watch it many times because every time they watch it they will pick up new ideas.

I hope this helps.




My 6 month old chihuahua has a very annoying habit and I am hoping you can help me teach him not to do. When I first got him at 12 weeks old, he was perfectly fine around everyone, but one day about a week later out of the blue he just started to get extremely afraid of my dad. He will not sit in the same room as my father and he will pace around the house watching to see were he is.  If my father gets up and walks into another room, my dog will start to bark and run upstairs and hide in my room. He is so afraid that if I hold him and my father pets him, he willl urinate on me! I have no clue what to do about this problem. It is not like he is afraid of men in general because I have a brother and we always have visitors and he never barks at them. Sometimes he is better than others and will come into the room with my father in it and other times he is just so scared that he runs to my room and stays in there barking. If you could help me try to diagnose this problem or figure out how to fix it I would be very appreciative. 

Thank you,


It sounds like your dog is insecure and feels nervous. His barking will dissipate if you give him more feelings of security and protection. He needs structure and to feel safe in your ability to be his leader. Many times people with small dogs don’t realize that it’s every bit as important to the emotional well being of a Chihuahua as it is to a German Shepherd.  For starters, don’t let other people put him in the position that he feels cornered (like holding him and allowing people to pet him).

I’d get a size appropriate crate for this dog and I’d start with our Groundwork program. Pack Structure for the Family Pet is the video that picks up where the article leaves off.

Insecure or fearful dogs especially benefit from having rules in place that are consistent. The behaviors you see now (the barking and running away) will escalate as your dog matures and dogs like this many times become fear biters.

I’d also recommend you do some reading on the website about fearful dogs and pack structure

Here are some links to get you started

I would direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the website for any additional questions you may have. If you type in your key words it will guide you to articles, Q & A’s and posts on our forum. 

I hope this helps.



Dear Cindy,

I have a 5 year old female GSD who has always been fearful aggressive, terrified of every one (except my mom and me), noises, and objects. If she can't run away from some one then she will bite them. When someone is in the house she will either hide in bedroom or hide behind me. I've had a 12 and 10.5 year old before her and now a 9 month old who never had this problem. I'm very experienced in training dogs, non-professionally, but do not know how to fix her to make her be more comfortable around people/noises.  I tried experienced trainers, different methods I knew of, and vet tried stress pills but nothing works. I got her from a breeder I knew nothing about. The breeder said she had the mom out in a field for us not to see. She said the mom is suspicious of people. My mom, vet, and I noticed within the first few days how afraid she was. I called breeder to get information. She said she is probably just suspicious like her mom and I didn't know what I was talking about or doing. That there's no such thing of a fearful aggressive dog. Vet, others and I think it has to be genetic. Is there anything I can do to make her relax and comfortable? 



Hi Amber,

Dogs that are fearful crave structure, routine and leadership. This type of dog should be under your physical control at all times, so she doesn’t get scared and decide to make decisions that could get her into trouble.

Here is a Q & A that I answered some time ago, you may find the advice helpful.

Start with our groundwork program and Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

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

Cindy Rhodes


Hi Ed:

I was hoping you could give me some insight on my GSD's behavior.

A little background on Rio: I adopted her after she was abandoned at the boarding stable where I have my horse. At first she was dog reactive and would always bark at dogs while we were on a walk or if close to us, after taking her to training she has not had problems with barking at other dogs on our walks. I have had her for about a year now (she is about 2) and have taken her to training. There I was taught how to correctly correct her with a prong collar and she has responded well. However, about 6 months ago, she has become either protective of the house or scared about people coming to the house. With my roommates, boyfriend, and parents coming she is fine. If a friend she doesn't know comes to the house and knocks she will run to the door and bark furiously. When she sees the person, she will stop barking sniff then start barking right in front of them. Also, if she sees them in the hallway or in the house, she will run up and bark at them again even if she has already seen them 5 minutes ago. It makes for a nervous situation. I have tried working with her by doing a recall and having her down-stay. I am debating about buying your Tri-tronics Bark collar. Do you have any suggestions for additional training? Such as a hard correction using my prong collar?

Thank you,


It sounds like your dog is unsure/fearful. By using a prong collar in this situation you are basically going to make her MORE afraid. In a dog’s mind "new people = corrections." You will actually make her worse if you correct her for unsureness.

I would keep her on a leash all the time, even in the house. I would not let her interact with people, she needs to stay with you in a controlled manner.

You can read this to get our definition of socializing. Even though she’s an adult now, the info is still good.

you need to be a strong leader for her, let her know through consistent handling that you won’t tolerate her behavior and at the same time, tell visitors to ignore her completely. Don’t look at her, talk to her or try to pet her. Pretend she’s not there. I think you’ll be surprised at how much more relaxed she will become if she understands that there are rules for her and that you are completely in charge of the situation.

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

You can also go to this link and type “fear” into the search box, we have so videos there about fearful dogs/pups.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

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