I’m The Bully at My House

I’m the bully at my house, and I actually mean that in a good way.

I was thinking the other day after someone asked me why their dog has become so aggressive and won’t let anyone come in the home or come near them while they are out with him.

Their dog is the bully in their house.

Let me Explain

I think about it in terms of the playground bully.  You know the playground bully that takes the weak kids lunch or lunch money but in return he defends that kid from the other bullies?

Well, I’m not taking my dog’s lunch money 😉 but my dogs do trust me that I have their backs.

My dogs also know that I am pretty capable of taking care of myself.

Instead of my dogs having an overwhelming desire to defend me, they expect to be defended by me!

It is my job to take care of myself and them.

This thought process keeps them from being overly protective of me with people or other dogs.

Doesn’t Everyone Want a Protective Dog?

So doesn’t everyone want a protective dog?  A dog that will attack an intruder, an attacker, or anyone that would do their owners harm?

Yes, yes, most people do want a protective dog.

The problem is that people get wrapped up in rewarding what seems like protective behavior but can be the product of fear.

The dog then learns to put on aggressive, yet somewhat fearful displays toward other people and other dogs because not only does it keep these things away, they are often praised, petted and rewarded by their owners for doing such.

But many of these dogs are not overly confident with themselves or their behaviors, they are hiding fear behind these aggressive displays.

Defensive behavior (snarling, growling, barking, hackling and lunging) is often a result of the dog being fearful of the stimulus (like a person or a dog).

And, sometimes these dogs can get out of control with their aggression; especially when an unknowing owner is rewarding and praising it.

They may even escalate these fearful or aggressive behaviors to the point of an attack or a bite because their owner has rewarded the defensive aggressive behaviors.

Let Me Paint a Better Picture

Depositphotos_13984091_xsSo in order for you to better understand what I mean, let me paint a better picture for you.

The owner of (let’s just say a Doberman Pinscher) a Doberman puppy that is 9 months old is upset because the dog doesn’t “protect” the house or bark at people who come to the door.

So one day, as the mailman drops off the mail in his winter coat and hat, the dog hackles, growls, backs up and barks lightly as he stares out the window.

His owners lavishly praise, and pet him.  They may even give him a tasty treat for finally “protecting” the house.

This tells the dog that his fearful display of aggressive behavior is desired by the owner, and the dog sees that his behavior chased off the mailman (even though it didn’t… the mailman left simply because his work at the home was done, not because he saw or could even hear the beginning of this behavior).

So each day thereafter the dog escalates his behavior, more growling, barking, hackling and lunging at the window; and all of these behaviors are warmly received and rewarded by the owner.

And although the dog is still showing defensive/fearful behaviors (growling and hackling are often signs of fear and stress) his confidence is built a little bit each time he successfully shows these behaviors and the mailman leaves.

After a few months, the mailman needs to deliver a package and so he knocks on the door.

The dog intensifies his displays of aggression, leaping up at the door and trying to scare the mailman away as he has in the past.  But this time it is not seeming to work.  No matter what the dog does, the mailman stands there not retreating and waiting to deliver the package.

Now the owner is a little nervous.  The dog’s behavior has gotten out of hand.  He needs to accept the package and doesn’t want the dog to be aggressive.

4 VkxBXzY4MDkuanBnBut it is too late: the dog has been continuously rewarded for these aggressive displays.

So as the dog’s owner opens the dog to take and sign for the package; the dog (completely dismayed that the mailman has not run away) feels compelled to push out, bite the mailman and force his retreat with more aggression.

And, so he slips out and bites the mailman.

As soon as the bite has occurred the dog is terrified, let’s go and retreats into the home where he is seemingly scared and inconsolable; as is the owner who is terrified and now has to deal with animal control and the police department.

A dangerous dog status; if not worse is around the corner.

Now the owner wants a dog that can be safe around people.

AH HA!

In my opinion we should all strive for a dog that can be safe around people right from the beginning.

That is not to say that you can force a dog that doesn’t like people to enjoy petting and interaction with them but you can give them the tools to contain their anxiety and show acceptable behaviors.

When I had a dog that didn’t like people; he was always on a leash and on a command when people were near.

He trusted ME his “playground BULLY” to keep people from wanting to pet his adorable furry face.  And, I never did.  I always kept him safe and people at bay because I knew he would go into a fit of anxiety if someone reached to pet him.

As his bully, I used whatever means necessary to make sure this didn’t happen.  At first I was kind and gentle and asked people to leave him alone… eventually if I needed to I escalated with some hostility and an aggressive body stance.

You see it is better for people to think I am unkind than it is to deal with animals control and the police.

And, by me showing my dog I am competent of taking care of myself he doesn’t worry about defending himself or me, he then can concentrate on building his confidence with the things that bother him.

But I Know There are a Few of You

Who would guess this handsome guy was a serial killer? Thanks mirror.co.uk for the photo

Who would guess this handsome guys was a serial killer?
Thanks mirror.co.uk for the photo

But I know there are a few of you who still want that “protective dog”, the one that spews fire at the sound of a pin drop or at the sight of a “bad guy”.

But the problem is… your dog doesn’t have the rational skills to know who the “bad guy” is.  Is it the guy with the Mohawk, the guy with tattoos, the teenage girl, the mail man, or the guy in a business suit that comes to your door?

I think Ted Bundy taught us all that we can’t tell, who is a serial killer just by looking.  Do you really expect your dog to know?

Google “handsome serial killers” and you will be amazed!

I Have Dogs That Bite

All You Need is a Barker

All You Need is a Barker

I have dogs that bite on command.  And, I pray, pray, pray that they will NEVER bite anyone when it is not on a training field and expected!

I don’t recommend this type of training for many people, because it is so hard to attain, and it is such a liability.   Only after several months or years of training can you expect to call your dog off or out on someone who is fighting or yelling or making threatening gestures.

And, my dogs don’t actively protect me because they trust that I can handle myself.

I am no shrinking violet and they know that!  I take care of a would be attacker until I need their help… not the other way around.

There is nothing mousey or needy about me in their minds; so they aren’t always in “protect mom” mode.

You must exude confidence to a dog that has a tendency to want to over protect.  Allow that dog to see you can take care of yourself and squash any attempt by them to take over a situation they feel uncomfortable in!

My dogs gain confidence as they see me conquer things that might bother them.  They gain confidence in me and then in themselves.

If I squealed in fear every time something or someone startled or scared me; my dogs would be full of anxiety and undoubtedly overly aggressive/protective; then they would bite and I would be forced to euthanize them.

You Know What Does Work as Effectively

Teach your dog to bark on command for more on that click here.

A dog that you can give a small hand signal to, who goes crazy barking will always scare a would-be thief or bad guy off.  No one wants to have to deal with an aggressive dog AND subdue a person.

So all of my dogs throughout time have always had a small hand signal to make them bark.  That doesn’t mean they know they are barking AT the person (again this is bad… we don’t want our dog making choices about people), I want a dog that just barks!

Controlling your dog’s bark is important in so many ways!

Want to Alleviate These Problems?

  • Don’t encourage your dog to bark at people or when he is or you are nervous.
  • Teach him to bark on command.
  • Shush him or tell him to be quiet if his default is to bark at people or dogs (but know that his bark tells you he is not comfortable with them so don’t force interaction.)
  • Step up and be a leader in his life.
  • Take over when he feels scared or nervous, but don’t coddle and coo to him; instead use commands that he knows to help him think about something else this builds his confidence.
  • Make sure he thinks you are his bully or better yet… his superhero and you will have a happy well adjusted dog that with the show of a hand signal will bark his head off!  No one with any kind of self preservation will bother someone with a barking dog, even if it is a chihuahua because barking makes people notice.

And, he will still be friendly!  BONUS!!!

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Comments

  1. Thank you this. We adopted a chichaua, and he is highly aggressive and has bitten already. He was 2 1/2 when he came to us. He barks at kids and the UPS trucks constantly. Is there more I can do. Our grandson will be here very soon, and I fear a lot.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Keep him on a leash or in a crate and consult a veterinary behaviorist so that no one gets bitten

    [Reply]

  2. faye hale says:

    I have a male aussie 5years old who we got when he was 8 weeks old he has always been fearful and aggressive, He charges other dogs while barking and when he get,s up to the dog he is charging he runs past them and comes back to me,also he does not let other dogs near him I have 3 other dogs and he gets along fine with them he is very smart and tries to please I don’t know how to handle his type of aggression Help

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    He needs to stay on leash and not be let off. Letting him off leash is a liability and it is not doing him any kind of service. Being aggressive and as you say fearful is his way of pleading with you that he doesn’t want to be put in that situation.

    Instead step up for him and become his bully. Don’t allow other dogs near him, and teach him coping techniques like biofeedback (you can search for that article on the left hand side of this page in the search bar), eye contact and focus and obedience.

    [Reply]

  3. Shannon says:

    We adopted a 1.5 year old male Jack Russell/Beagle mix. Barks at any noise while he is in the backyard and any time he hears the front door open. He also barks and lunges at guests in our home. I put him in the laundry room as soon as this happens. I take him for runs with my son and we stop to let my son play at the playground. I tie him up at a distance from the playground because I am afraid of a child wanting to pet him. I have had to run over and stop a child from going over to him. They see a small, cute doggie, and let’s be honest, kids don’t know to NOT go up to any dog to pet him/her. I am pretty sure he would nip/bite the child and not willing to risk it. When you say, “My dogs gain confidence as they see me conquer things that might bother them” can you give me some examples of that so I can try it? Also, you say “use commands that he knows to help him think about something else this builds his confidence” – so when we are at the playground, for example, if someone comes up to talk to me should I have him “sit”, “lay down”, etc? I have tried this but he is so focused on the person that it’s like he doesn’t even hear me! He’s overcome a lot in the 2 months we’ve had him, but a fear of people/children is still a big issue. Grandparents are coming to visit in 3 months and I feel bad about having to leave him in the backyard or crate during a 7 day visit.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would never tie a dog that I thought might be aggressive to a tree.

    If you aren’t watching or if someone doesn’t listen to you and he bites are your liable and people sue people for everything they have.

    My dogs gain confidence as they watch me not be bothered. If gun fire goes off, I ignore it.

    If my dog is afraid of a plastic bag, I pick it up and rustle it around so my dog can see, I’m not scared and it is not bothering me.

    Also I give them things to do like lay down or sit, or do push ups which is sit and down in sequence. And, I get lots of eye contact and focus.

    if he can’t focus on you then you are too close and perhaps he is not trained well enough. Dogs learn first at home and must be 95% reliable with the behavior at home before we can expect them to go somewhere else and perform the behavior.

    and, with scared dogs sometimes we need to slowly desensitize them to their fears.

    [Reply]

  4. carleen says:

    thank you for using the Doberman in your comments, as I have 2; 1 she is 6 yrs and a male 6 months. I’m wondering how to keep my female from wanting all of the attention almost all of the time. If we aren’t constantly watching she lashes out at him. Let me explain the she is 70 lbs and he is 72 lbs now. Any suggestions?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Set up rules and stick to them.

    Make sure that she is getting one on one time so that you are meeting her needs. And, then if she acts possessive then make her do a down stay on a dog bed or somewhere so that she learns to control herself in a constructive way.

    [Reply]

  5. Marilyn Dickson says:

    Hello. I hope you can help us. We picked up a puppy sitting in the middle of the road, couldn’t find the owner, so brought her home. She is now 3 years old. A few months ago she began posturing aggressively in front of my husband as he is sitting in his chair. He is 84, has symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. She will tense up, tail straight out, baring her teeth and growling at him. Has never gone beyond this posturing, but the veterinarian says she is really on the attack and may bite him at some point. He suggested putting her at a junk yard as a guard dog!!!!!! Very unacceptable to me and my husband as she has never spent a night outside in her life. Lately she has also tried this behavior with me, however, I have been able to stop it, but not when she is at my husband. It takes a few minutes then, and I think she just doesn’t hear me. After this behavior she will run in circles chasing her tail, growling. Then she will go to her bed when i tell her to, and stay there. She comes when I call her, sits, lays down and does stay. What type of training can I do to stop the aggressive and the chasing the tail? I appreciate you. Marilyn

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I am seriously worried for you both. I can’t see the dog or the behaviors so I can’t in good conscious give you advice.

    It is time to find a veterinary behaviorist to witness the behavior and help you both. http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/recommend-veterinary-behaviorist-dog-trainer/

    [Reply]

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