Handling Dominance Aggression in Dogs

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By Dr.Sophia Yin, DVM, CAAB, M.S. Animal Science (1966-2014)


Do you have a dog that you think has dominance aggression? A dog who’s confident and aggressive over many types of resources? As the top dog, he’s outgoing and rarely shows fear postures or what one might call “apologetic” behavior. One moment, he’s as charming as a Casanova on a first date. The next minute, he’s throwing more barks and bites than Mike Tyson at a pre-fight press conference. If so, read on.

Note: For the actual definition of dominance, go to the ” dominance controversy” at  https://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/

In animal behavior, dominance is defined as a relationship between individuals that is established through force, aggression and submission in order to establish priority access to all desired resources (food, the opposite sex, preferred resting spots, etc). A relationship is not established until one animal consistently defers to another.

Dominance aggression would be the aggression that the higher ranking individual exhibits towards the lower ranking ones in order to “keep the lower ranking one in it’s place.”


How can a dog become so unpredictable and bossy?

This high and mighty behavior starts in puppyhood when the pooch is treated like a prince. He gets praise and petting for his slightest deeds and free food delivered on request like room service at the Hyatt. Then he wins tons of toys without even trying and the best human beds and couches to rest his bum. Most dogs who live the high-life just become spoiled brats.

But for some dogs with a more aggressive personality, this life without leadership or predictable and consistent rules creates a furry monster who aggressively claims ownership to any resource – food, toys, sleeping places, access to attention – that he wants. This fighting over multiple types of valued resources is called dominance aggression by behaviorists who study social hierarchies. And a dominance-submissive relationship between individuals exists only when one individual consistently backs down. In essence, some Fidos claim the household to be under their aggressive dictatorship.

In reality,  dogs who are aggressive to family members RARELY actually have dominance aggression. What they generally have are situations where they guard multiple resources out of fear. For instance, you may have allowed them on the bed and then been shocked when they also decided to sleep on the couch. In your surprise you react angrily or indignantly approach them in an accusatory tone, ” Get off!” instead of calling them off in an instructive manner and then rewarding the more desirable behavior. Some dogs will “get off” when asked the first time. Others switch to the same reaction mode that you just exhibited. They go into a defense that escalates as you do because they are just reacting rather than thinking of another option out of the situation. Over time, the dog’s reaction in these situations may become worse because he’s learned to expect conflict in these situations and to react sooner and sooner.

There are inklings that this type of situation has caused your dog to be aggressive over multiple types of resources. For one, the dog does not have a confident personality, rather he may even act very needy around you. Secondly you may often see body postures of fear and anxiety in the conflict situations—cowering, head low, licking lips, averting gaze and more. (Refer to Low Stress Handling® Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats chapter 1 to see the signs of fear in dogs).

Luckily, regardless of whether the aggression is fueled by fear or your dog is truly high ranked (which is rare) our treatment is the same and it does not involve force.

How To End Rover’s Reign Using Your Brain Rather Than Your Brawn

You might think that, like wolves in a pack, baboons in a troop, or lions in a pride, the way to take charge of a dominant-aggressive dog is by calm, assertive force or even violence. The problem is that with animals, their reign is often short-lived, lasting only as long as they have the physical strength to prevail. Similarly with humans, only the strongest, most skilled members of the household can win physical altercations, leaving the majority of members to fend for themselves. Furthermore, such a butting of heads can temporarily suppress the aggression while making the underlying emotional state much worse. Since emotions guide behavior, the dog may outwardly hide his resentment when he’s not strong enough to fight, all-the-while seething inside. Then, when he can’t contain it anymore, he bites. Luckily because we humans have bigger brains, we can swiftly carry out a non-violent, long-lasting coup while changing Bowser’s entire attitude. Our carefully executed plan will help us with those rare dogs who are truly trying to vie for highest rank, as well as those who are reacting out of fear and have just not been taught more appropriate safe behaviors.

First Keep Yourself Safe

Avoid all situations that trigger a battle. This is a war of wills where you supposedly outsmart your less cerebral companion. If furniture is one of the resources Fido guards, then all human furniture is off bounds. Deny access to the room containing the cherished chair, barricade the bed with uncomfortable books or booby trap it with the electostatically charged Scatmat. Or just keep Rover on leash so you can pull him right off. Just be sure to do it in a ho-hum manner. For instance, nonchalantly take the leash and walk away unemotionally. Then reward him with a treat for following you off.

Next Take Control of All Important Resources

This includes food, furniture, toys, and anything else Rover likes including petting, praise, and playtime. Instead of his controlling these items, you’ll ration these resources as selectively as the Seinfeld Soup Nazi. Also control Rover’s freedom of movement by putting him on leash. For the next several days or week, he should be attached to you or tethered to a tie down in the house whenever people are at home with him. This will keep him from getting into situations that get him into trouble and provide you with a lot of opportunities to reward the desired behaviors.

Now, teach the ruling Rover to Say Please by Sitting Patiently to get what he wants. When Rover’s ravenous, let him see that you have a treat so that he knows what he can earn and then hold the food in your hand. At first he’ll wonder why the delay; usually, you deliver on demand. Just stand silently and stationary and when he finally sits, give him the treat before he has a chance to get up. Next, move a few steps and repeat this exercise. Practice this 10 or 20 times in row, and Rover’s light bulb is sure to stay lit.

Now Apply the Automatic Sit to Everything Rover Wants

From here on, Rover must automatically say please for everything he wants instead of automatically taking it for free. Wait for him to sit and look at you politely before tossing his toy, letting him out the door, or giving him a treat. Put his dog bowl in storage and make him earn each kibble of food and pat on the head by performing this and other behaviors that he knows. The goal is that he learns that this is just how his world now works. It has order and predictability. When he wants something, he doesn’t have to worry about guarding it. He’ll get what he wants when he sits politely and looks to you for permission. This program where he learns to say please by sitting, automatically, for everything he wants and he learns that sitting and patiently focusing on you is the only way he gets what he wants, is my version of the Learn to Earn Program. It teaches self-control, impulse control, and to look to humans for guidance and is a good foundation program for any dog who is anxious, aggressive, or lacks focus and attention.

handling dominance aggression

Train Rover to Enjoy All Handling Procedures He Dislikes

For instance, if Fido growls and snaps when you handle his feet, work first on touching his feet or legs in a way where he barely responds, and pair this touching with treats. In order to make it clear that touching the feet equals tasty treats, only touch the feet while Fido’s getting treats and stop touching the feet as soon as he finishes the treat. When he consistently allows this level of handling then increase the intensity by, for instance, squeezing the toes, or holding the toenail trimmers near his feet. The goal is that at each step he ignores the handling and is only focused on the food. By only going to the next step of handling when he’s non-reactive at the current level, Rover can improve quickly, even over just several days to a week.



The best source for training dogs to love to be handled is Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats (Book and DVD)

The Attitude Change Can Be Fast

At first these changes are a challenge for owners. They want to pet the pooch when he pushes his way into their laps instead of ignoring him until he’s polite. Or they accidentally let him barrel by to get out the door rather than waiting for him to drop his derriere and look to them for direction. By bearing down and making all the changes at once, though, you make the message black and white. You’re telling him that you can set rules and be both predictable and consistent, so he should trust YOU to guide him instead of making his own rules.  Once Rover gets the rules you’ve conveyed to him through your actions, the weight of trying to be in charge or wondering how he should react will be lifted off his shoulders. Furthermore, once asking politely is Rover’s new habit, you’ll only reward him when you decide he should have the reward. That way you remain the one in control, but you’re doing so in a predictable and non-threatening way that helps him understand what you want and strengthens your relationship.


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64 responses to “Handling Dominance Aggression in Dogs

  1. Dr. Yin,
    Although I know that dominance aggression is often the diagnosis when a dog is controlling resources, I have often thought this is a misnomer; it sems to me that in order to share a hierarchy, two individuals ought to be the same species. Could you comment about dogs and humans being on the same hierarchy? We don’t after all worry about being alpha to our cats or pet rats; why do we do this with dogs?
    Sue Alexander CPDT CDBC

    Dogs in the Park

    Guelph, Ontario


    1. we actually worry about being aplha over cats, as long as their needs are not met. as long as their needs are met, their dominance is out of concern

      1. If you could please explain how best to train a labrador(8years old ) to not attack other dogs when walking on a leash. jack is a loving black lab and has always walked in the park since a you g pup. He has always had the habit of rushing up to other dogs in the vicinity. He always used to seem happy to visit with other dogs but lately there is more barking and a more aggressive body stance involved. The other dogs owners get nervous and we feel embarrassed and threaten to not walk Jack anymore. My husband believes that whipping him with the leash right away is the best method to deter him from that behavior. I hope there is a gentler way.

        1. Hi, I work for CattleDog Publishing, the owner of this site, and I also raise and rescue dogs of a specific type that are often reactive to other dogs. Tell your husband to stop now. That is not the best way and can lead to the dog becoming a fear biter, among other things. Whipping a dog is abuse in pretty much every state. Our “reactive dog” DVD https://store.lowstresshandling.com/product/dog-aggression-from-fearful-reactive-hyperactive-to-focused-happy-calm/ has tools for you that will help. I had a giant breed dog that looked at small dogs as food and some of the techniques in the DVD are the same that I used for her.

        2. Whipping a dog constitutes abuse. Have you contacted a trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement training; if not, I encourage you both to do so now. Have him calmly sit before meeting other dogs; reward this behavior with his favorite treats.

    2. Dogs are pack animals for whom rank matters very much. Cats and rats don’t have the same hierarchical social structure.

      1. This is not true at all and is a statement based on a theory that has long since been debunked – by it’s own writer!

    3. Hello guys please help .
      My dog just doesn’t listen to anyone else but me .. off lately i am staying with my bf . N he attacks him .mAny a times till i dnt shw up .. one min he is good 2 min he attacks how do i get them both to work this out

  2. Thanks for the question Sue. First, I don’t think dominance aggression is common at all in dogs (with relation to humans). I think that even when they are aggressive over many types of resources with humans that they are more often acting defensively and have been given no other option regarding what they should do (e.g. Human instruction “Get off the bed!”; dog gets defensive, especially if they are already a fearful dog vs “Come when called off the bed and you’ll receive a reward possibly on a variable schedule of reinforcement.”
    So now to your question. I agree that a lot of people believe that you can’t have interspecies dominance aggression. but the definition of dominance is that it’s a relationship between individuals that’s established through force, aggression and submission in order to obtain priority access to resources—mates (or preferred friends), food, shelter, etc. In nature, this pertains only to a individuals of a given species because individuals generally only form social groups with individuals of their own species. However, when humans put multiple species in groups a heirarchy often does form. For instance if you raise lambs and kids (goats) together they may form a hierarchy or consistent rank order between individuals.
    On another note, a recent paper by Bradshaw found that dogs don’t have clear-cut heirarchies the way wolves do and agonistic relationships could be better described by what is called Resource-holding potential.
    Based on the definition of dominance, I don’t think mixed people/dog social groups have the same rigid hierarchies that wolves do either. I know that although all dogs that come to my house must learn to be well-behaved, but because I do not establish this good behavior (and priority access to everything I want) by using force or threat of force, I am not dominant over my dogs:-). But I am the leader who can guide them to do what I want.

  3. Oops. one more thing. I posted the article with this title because many people search online for articles on dominance aggression. So, even though what they are seeing is not really dominance aggression, I wanted people who have dogs that they think are dominant aggression to use appropriate behavior modification techniques:-).

  4. Dr. Yin,
    Now I’m confused. You added: “I posted the article with this title because many people search online for articles on dominance aggression. So, even though what they are seeing is not really dominance aggression….”
    Is the “dominance aggression” you are defining in the original entry actually what you mean by “dominance aggression”? (I know people have all sorts of personal definitions for it.) I’m not familiar with every professional/academic definition out there, but the one I’m most familiar with, Dr. Karen Overall’s, is rather different. Dr. Overall says it has nothing to do with dominance, and she uses the “priority access to preferred resources” definition of dominance. OTOH, your definition does seem to refer to the “priority access….” definition.
    Can I invite you to discuss this definition morass a bit? I would love for someone to wave the magic wand and tell us one useful definition for once and for all. I know, I’m dreaming. At this point I virtually never assess it partly because the definition issue is so thorny.
    Greta Kaplan, CPDT, CDBC

    Companion Animal Solutions


  5. ok I added something to clarify at the bottom of the blog because I didn’t really define dominance in this article. . I just allude to the definition. The actual definition and info are on my dominance controversy page “www.Askdryin.com/dominance.php. And I have an entire chapter on dominance in Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats.”
    The actual animal behavior definition of dominance is:
    In animal behavior, dominance is defined as a relationship between individuals that is established through force, aggression and submission in order to establish priority access to all desired resources (food, the opposite sex, preferred resting spots, etc). A relationship is not established until one animal consistently defers to another.
    Based on this definition, dominance aggression would be the aggression that the higher ranking individual exhibits towards the lower ranking ones in order to “keep the lower ranking on in it’s place.” Animals can also have aggression in order to try to change rank (these are called dominance fights–for instance at wolf park in indiana where there are mixed wolf packs and individuals can’t disperse the way they might in the wild, wolves occasionally have very serious fights for rank, called dominance fights. Wolves are usually separated before these occur). In either case (dominance fight OR high ranking animal putting lower ranking one in it’s place), the fighters look confident, not fearful. For a lot of the cases that we used to routinely call dominance aggression because the dog exhibits aggression over multiple types of resources (e.g. not just food or resting spots) it turns out the dogs are exhibiting fear postures instead of confidence. This fear posture may be before or after the incident and not right as it’s occurring. That’s on reason we don’t think that all of these cases we used to call dominance aggression are actually dominance aggression.
    We also used to call any resource guarding dominance aggression–but now we call aggression over individual types of resources good possession aggression or toy possession aggression. I really have not seen many dogs that I think are truly dominant aggressive. Many actually have a history of being fearful in many situations!
    does that clear things up?

    1. I have a male Akita and he is very calm and quiet. He does bark at strangers, but only at home. I had to take him to a soccer game because I didn’t have time to drop him home and he used extreme patience while kids were kicking balls around him and prompting him to chase. I kept him close but so many people were impressed. He is almost 2yrs old. He does live in the house. Few episodes. 1st one one my 5 yr niece when I wasn’t watching tried tO take his tennis ball. They were playing but he reached for it. Noah( my Akita) looked like he scratched him or nipped him.there was just like a little scratch on his face. He came running to me Noah just stood there looking like he was confused. I put him outside because my nephew was shreaking and I didn’t know if that would be a trigger. When I let him back in I reintroduced them and they were fine. So I thought it was just grabbing the ball. Ok.
      So Noah ate some food I left on the table one day. He waited until I left the room. Then one day I looked over and he was on the couch next to me playing with his ball. Both situation I’ve reacted the same but his response is the same and that’s what made me goggle. Both times I say no no Noah. I may tap him on his bottom. As soon as I say no he usually just lowers his head, eyes look a little red to me. He kinda just freezes. So he wouldn’t move off the couch and I think it was my approach which was the opposite of ho-hum. So I did not move in because he was just frozen but wouldn’t really move. I went to the door and opened it because that means time to eat and he went out it. I closed it. So he obviously is going to get bigger and I need to know he will listen but the whole head lowering to me he senses an unfavorable situation but doesn’t know how to react. When he ate the food I grabbed him by the collar and put him out the back door…. but I’m sure I heard a short growl or bark which I know is not good. Nothing happened but again his barks are warnings. He was trained by the breeder so he is house broken. Usually he follows me around even when the kids are home. My son does most of the feeding and walking and is his playmate. So when he doesn’t listen to a command like come or stay…. and he is very good with that. He stayed on his mat for 3 hrs when I had company until I said come. But when he doesn’t listen and he just lowers his head and has puppy dog eyes but still doesn’t move the silence is too quiet. Ok I’m ready… am I instigating or causing so close call situations?

  6. As a dog handler/trainer in the Prison Service in the uk, we have to source our dogs from any where we can. Unfortunatly we haven’t got our own breeding programme and get most of our dogs from rescue centres or the general public. As our requirements mean we have to have confident bold dogs ( I am talking German sheperds) some of the dogs we get have what we like to call an “attitude problem.” Because our dogs are trained to bite the last thing we want are dogs that turn on the handler. As a young inexperianced handler I got bit quite badly by my own dog. He was two years old when I got him and had ” Attitude” Since then all my dogs have been subject to “Role Reversal” as practiced by John Fisher. coupled with Clicker Training my dogs have been obedient and have the willingness to work, without the fear of them coming back at me. I think this combination can work wonders and as most dogs were breed to work , it gives the dog something to do and concentrate on.

  7. Hi Dr.Yin,

    I’ve read quite a bit about dominance and status seeking behavior and my dogs behavior still confuses me.My three year old cattle dog x who I adopted last year used to go to the dog park and while she was definitly bossy (liked to control the play) her style of play was appropriate and she was not over the top or agressive. However, while she loves to play hard with young playful dogs like herself, and is always gentle with small dogs and puppies she reacts very negatively to submissive dogs (who are not small dogs/puppies)
    For example, if a dog she meets happens to go belly up or “scream” (ex:high yipping like a puppy) it drives her wild and she will pin them. She has a fairly good recall and I’ve been able to get her attention in distracting situations before (ex:chasing deer, when I can see she’s overwhelmed,or when the other dog is agressive) but when she is going after a submissive dog she goes to a different world and I cannot get her attention. After the fight she also seems almost happy and undisturbed so I actually thinks she find these situations “fun’ “exciting” and even a “game” This has happened several times and I stopped going to the dog park about 6 monthes ago because of these reactions (and won’t be going back) and have worked with a trainer. Just to clarify, while she pins these dogs she has never injured or drawn blood from another dog and seems to have good bite inhabition and not use her teeth,
    I have had several trainers remark that she is”dominant” but if this is the case than why is she better with assertive dogs and even agressive dogs than submissive ones? With dogs she likes she is not overly status seeking and will along them to bowl her over but even when meeting a more submissive dog on leash she has a desire to pin them.

  8. Good question.
    The normal response of an animal in an established social system is to back off once another animal has said “uncle.” In fact submissive responses are defined in animal behavior as those designed to turn off aggression. Dogs that attack other dogs who yip and show submissive postures have one of several issue:
    a) not fully learned appropriate social responses

    b) have little self control/emotional control in high arousal situations–e.g frequently singletons are like this. As a pup they never learned that they should back down. (http://askdryin.com/blog/2009/07/04/is-hand-reared-rottie-pup-destined-to-be-aggressive/ and also watch video on the movies page: peggy sue comes)

    c) The yipping or submissive behavior triggers prey drive. e.g. the high squealing is like injured prey. And even if the other dog does not scream, the body posture in association with the screams in the past can now trigger the same response.
    If you ever go to the dog park you’ll notice that if one dog yips and a dog fight ensues dogs in the area rush in to join. These are dogs just reacting to the situation. They yips/fights make them overly aroused and they go into reaction mode regardless of any rank relationship they may have with the dogs that are fighting. For instance I remember when I had a roommate with a silly doberman and a cute dachshund and a chihuahua mix. Once the dachshund and chihua hua were in a low level scuffle and the doberman got excited, wasn’t sure what to do so just jumped in a bit the dachshund. She did not know what she was doing at all, and it wasn’t rank related (if there was any rank in that house, she would have been the lowest). She was just reacting because she was overaroused. others do so specifically because they are both overly aroused and in predator mode.

  9. Thank you for response, I appreciate your insight into my question.
    I think its important that you mention that not all dog-dog aggression is related to dominance, I agree that dominance (in her case) has little to do with her behaviour than many would think….she just doesn’t have the ability to control herself and has inappropriate reactions. However, another “label” that has been used to describe her behaviour is “fear aggressive” and I also think that’s inappropriate, she doesn’t seem to show any signs of fear. I am very interested in better understanding why my dog does the thing she does, because I can’t help her unless I understand the root of the problem, but it’s nice to get an answer that does not rely on categories and realize that not all of her behaviour can be completely and rationally theorized.
    Unfortunately because I got her when she was over a year old I don’t know the response to many of those questions but I definitely agree she is a dog with a high arousal (she is part cattle dog and it took a lot of training to get her to stop biting heels when she is excited).
    Because I have a dog who is unpredictable she will not be offleash, but I have been doing lots of work with her on impulse control (learn to leave it, sit-stay, down-stay, and ensuring she says please by sitting whenever she wants something). However, it seems like a double edged sword, because I don’t trust her with other dogs she only has two that I trust her with offleash (in a secure area) and as a result has become much more dog-dog aggressive. On leash she has learned to sit and look and me and remain in a heel while the other dog passes but she still lunges at other dogs who approach her offleash(she is on) or if they get too close (on leash). I’ve met several trainers that have just advised me never to let her meet other dogs but its not a)practical (because where I live I constantly run into offleash dogs) and also what if she gets loose one day? This situation has never happened but if it does I don’t want my dog to attack the nearest dog and b) she actually likes other dogs, once she has gotten to know a dog she loves to play with them and be close to them and she is becoming worse with other dogs as she gets less opportunity to play with them. Because I have restricted her access to dogs, she is also more stressed around them, I want her to be more comfortable.
    Do you have any tips to teach her more impulse control or have better responses to a dog she doesn’t like? For instance, I can accept that I don’t have a go-lucky dog who loves every dog she meets and that she will meet some dogs she doesn’t like. However, while a bark or growl would be (more) appropriate I need to teach her that lunging/pinning another dog is not appropriate.

  10. Yes. Most dog-dog aggression is actually not dominance based–most dogs when meeting are not trying to establish high rank (just like most people who meet are not trying to establish high rank either). Most commonly I see interdog aggression (with dogs who are not that familiar) due to fear or related to poor social skills (leading to uncertainty/anxiety/fear upon greeting) or poor social skills leading one dog to greet to exuberantly and others to become defensively aggressive which causes the social “retard” to then learn to fight dogs he meets. and then there’s teh case of the dog that goes into predatory mode. So there are multiple causes.
    It’s really not that important to know the cause although it can be useful to know the triggers. Regardless of the cause the general approach will be the same. Train dog to engage in fun behaviors where he/she focuses on you–heeling, sit games, etc (I will have some of these up in detail on my online education section of my web page under the puppy training course–maybe in a few months). The trick is that you must be able to have the dog focuse on you at all times at the distance at which you are working–and not feel she has to focus on the other dogs.
    then, once you have this type of control, you actually seek out dogs that you can work around. I follow dogs on walks at the distance where I can keep the dogs’ i’m working with focused on me and having FUN. They must be having fun so that they associate the other dogs/situation with good things. Once I get overall reactivity down I can also introduce to certain dogs. You can find examples on my youtube page (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=superbark1&search_type=&aq=f). Watch Podee’s aggression and Molly movie.
    I use the gentle leader so that I can better control the dogs so that they don’t “wig out”. Once I can keep them calm I can then reward for calm focused behavior so that they learn something good in that situation. I find the training much easier and safer with the GL head collar than without but I don’t have any good videos up of how to train the technique.
    I also find that australian cattledogs do really well with these techniques. They are already motivated to work and want to do what you want if you’re fun enough. I’m working on a photo-illustrated book right now that actually does show a lot of the techniques in great detail as if teaching a sport. It shows how little differences in movement can create a big difference in how interested and focused the dog is on the handler. I’m sure I’ll have a press release out when that books finally gets done:-). In the meantime the closest I can come to showing you HOW to do the techniques will be with the puppy training online ed course. I do the same exercises with adult dogs, the only difference is that in the puppy training course I show the exercise on puppies (primarily and ACD puppy).

  11. Thank you for your helpful response.
    Your right about cattle dogs, my dog is super super focused which can be excellent when she is focused on me and my training but not so good if she chooses to focus on another dog because she becomes very fixated and it’s hard to regain her focus.
    My main problem right now is that I am expecting too much, too quickly from her. Over the past few monthes she has been conditioned to realize that dogs=look at me for treats, but she still has a limit to how close to another dog she can be while doing this. She has far fewer reactions than she used too but needs to learn that dogs in closer proximity to her are also a good thing. This step (moving closer to other dogs) has been the hardest, it is definitly outside her comfort zone (being closer) and is something that will need lots of work. I use her kibble for training (which she works for…and loves to do so!) but have higher value rollover treats for when I am getting her to look at me and not other dogs.
    Because I live in an urban setting (so narrow sidewalks and not a lot of space to work with) and offleash dogs in any greenspace/open area/woods available (even when these areas are clearly marked as “must leash”) it has been a major obstacle to keep her out of situations (dogs running up to her or jumping on her) that she is not yet ready for. I have been trying to get out of these emergency situations as quickly and calmly as possible but she’s had a few incidents which have caused setbacks, it’s not ideal but I guess this is just the reality I am working with. If I can’t get out of the situation I try my best to use my body and not let her make eye contact…once Jersey makes eye contact with another dog it is much more difficult to get her to focus on me.
    Watching your videos I need to increase my movement to keep her interested. Much of our work around other dogs is much too stationary and she is probably getting bored. Its a fine line with her though because of her high arousal level I have to keep my voice calm and my praise subdued or she tends to get overexcited and lose focus..so I can’t be TOO exciting.I usually start her walk in my yard or room and practice playing games to look at me and move in exciting ways so when we get outside and around other dogs she’s already focused but I need to create more excitement in our walks. My dog and I BOTH need to learn to have more fun on walks (while keeping her focused)– I look forward to the addition of some of these attention games in coming months on your webpage!
    Regarding gentle leaders, I used a halti on her for over a year. However, she constantly had an irritated eye which made it very uncomfable to wear the halti. She also has a shorter snout and is not very good in the heat so the halti wasn’t good for that either. I have not been using it the past few monthes and have worked on her leash skills and have a waist-leash (hands free). I feel like I am in control with the waist-leash (which also has a handle near the front in case I really need to gain control of her). Though where I work I generally recommend people use halti’s/GL’s in my situation I think she has done better without it.
    Very true (regarding causes of behaviour)…I think I just like to research and knowing as much as possible about anything I’m doing..including my dog and sometimes can get hung up on all the labels/catergories/theories.
    Thanks again for your comments and I look forward to your new publications!

  12. Express thanks you for your obliging reply. Your correct concerning cattle dogs, my dog is wonderful super focused which can be outstanding when she is listening carefully on me and my preparation but not so high-quality if she chooses to center on another dog since she becomes very obsessed and it’s firm to recover her center.

  13. Hi Canuckcattledog,

    Just a quick note of empathy. We and our rescued border collie have gone through much of the same thing as you and your dog. He is much better with a great deal of work on his training and also, in his case, with some anti-anxiety medication that greatly reduced his overall baseline anxiety level.

    I don’t know if Sophia would agree with me on this but our experience with our dog was not that lack of contact with other dogs was making the situation worse. It seemed to me that our dog’s problems became more severe as he went through teenager and reached maturity.

    He was adopted at about 1 year of age and for the first six months or so he routinely went to dog parks and had no serious problems. He wasn’t very confident but it was manifested mainly as occasionally humping another dog. But as time went on and he got older, his behavior at the dog park gradually became less and less appropriate. He started identifying dogs he didn’t like and he would snarf at them. It wasn’t every dog or even most dogs but particular ones and once he decided he didn’t like them, that was it. He couldn’t be around them.

    His dog park behavior steadily declined as he approached 2 years of age and his overall anxiety level seemed to be rising at home as well. His last trip to the dog park, he was being hassled a bit by one of a pair of dogs – just a socially awkward dog. But our dog responded by pinning that dog’s very old and arthritic mate who had not harassed him or even paid much attention to him at all.

    So that put an end to dog parks. But it was more like the end result of a building level of fear and anxiety with him. And since avoiding dogs and dog parks and working on his skills, he pays much less attention to other dogs than he used to.

    So I just wanted to mentione that it seems at least possible to me – and I know Sophia will tell me if I’m way off base – that it isn’t necessarily avoiding contact with other dogs that has made your dog more reactive to other dogs.

    We use the Gentle Leader collar whenever he’s in situation where he will be around other people and other dogs (he has bitten). We tried a Halti and our dog hated that. But he is okay with the GL.

    Off-leash dogs are really the only situation now that I fear. Like a lot of dogs, our dog is extremely anxious when he’s leashed and the other dog is not – no escape route! Even just pulling the leash shorter can make him react to another dog. So we rely very heavily on refocusing him on activities and us around other dogs.

    And we do whatever we can to avoid areas where they are likely to be offleash. Which means, actually, that we don’t frequent a lot of parks. Our dog happens to like campuses, which are places where, in the back corners, there are almost never offleash dogs. And, if you’re lucky, there are squirrels and bunnies! So when he needs some long-lead freedom to explore, we take him to places like that and he has a blast. Otherwise, he’s on the Gentle Leader.

    You’re obviously working very hard for you dog – I know that will make a huge difference. smile

  14. I have a question. 3 of my 4 dogs have been together now for almost 4 years and all at once my German Shepherd mix has started jumping on my Jack Russell/Beagle mix and has about killed her twice before could get them seperated. Does this sound like dominance aggression or not. I am about to the end of my rope I have already started looking for someone to take the shepherd mix as she is the big dog and the one we have had shortest amount of time, I hate to do this. Also the Jack Russell mix has not been Spayed where the rest of the dogs have been spayed and neutered, which only have one male dog and 3 females.

  15. Hi Dr Yin,
    Looking forward to seeing you and Sarah in a couple weeks.
    I don’t see the big deal over dominance. Dominance is dominance, it comes in many different packages. Some will say its not a personality characteristic, for dogs in general no, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be for a particular individual; as you said it depends on consistency. Cross species is the same thing. Dominance has nothing to do with species. A person can have a dominant relationship with a dog. TV personalities promote it regularly. A dog certainly could be dominant. I met a dog once who really cared about no one or anything but himself. He wanted it, he took it and that was that. Eventually he was euthanized. I think the biggest problem with dominance is that some people have abused it to describe pack hierarchy in dogs and in wolves. Being the dominant figure in a crowd, pack, what ever doesn’t mean the figure has to not allow any other figure access to this or that, it just means ultimately it is their choice if they deam it necessary.

    I think one of the biggest problems in animal training, especially dogs is that so many people take all aggression for dominance aggression when that is as you say extremely rare.

    If I read you right, the treatment is the same. I think there are dominant dogs that were born that way; they are bullies. I don’t think that is treatable. I tell people, if you meat a real dominant dog, the odds are pretty slim, he won’t chase you barking, he has no need to scare you away, he has no fear. Have you seen what I am talking about? Not the spoiled brat you have described here.


    1. Jerry, you need to read the definition of dominance again, probably a few times. It is clear from your comments you still don’t understand what it is. It is not a personality characteristic. It does not “come in many forms”. “Dominant” dogs are not born that way because dominance is established in a relationship with another animal (dog). And there is treatment for a dog that guards resources from its human family member (or other family members) by threatening and/or aggression. You can discover this in Dr. Yin’s considerable resources.

  16. Hi Natalie,

    Thanks for your empathy!
    I actually wrote that post almost two years ago and since then we’ve had many improvements.

    My cattledog x is again in group obedience and able to walk calmly by other dogs. She has a great emergency U-Turn when we do run into rude dogs. We’ve added clicker trainer in and trained her to look at other dogs and then look back at us for a click (and treat).Her hackles are no longer up at the sight of other dogs..at one point she was able to look away from other dogs and look at us but was clearly stressed and hyper-vigilant. Since allowing her to look at the dog and then look back at us she has gotten much more relaxed.We walk by lunging and barking dogs and she barely bats an eye.

    We also play lots of focus games and have trained a reliable hand-touch..all tools which keep things exciting for her and help to keep her (and US!) relaxed around other dogs.

    I understand your pain about off-leash dogs. My dog has good bite inhibition and is mostly noise and hot air but off-leash dogs are still a big source of stress for us.Off-leash dogs jumping on her or getting in her face are still a problem and she will never enjoy meeting numerous novel dogs but we’ve accepted this and try our best to minimize these situations.

    College and university campuses are also a favorite place to visit for us! Lots of grass, trees and smells and away from traffic and not full of off-leash dogs. We also take her downtown and to other locations with lots of people and few dogs (she LOVES people and craves human attention). Like you Natalie, we have stopped trying to go to most parks…even one’s with strict leash laws there are just to many off-leash and out of control dogs. We live in a very very busy urban center so this makes finding any sort of non-sidewalk walking area difficult.

    Good luck with your dog..it sounds like you’ve been working really hard as well!


  17. I don’t know quite how to phrase this, but I would like to talk a bit about humping. One always seems to see humping defined as dominance – yet three week old puppies play hump each other fairly indiscriminately,e.g. small pups hump big pups, bossy pups hump other pups and get humped in turn.
    Our old JRT Dodger humped every new dog he met (and he was long neutered). He speed-humped Weimaraners (love that colour) at the dog park at a 25mph clip. He recently died at the age of 14, and he was the least dominant Jack I have ever encountered (we do JRT rescue so we encounter a LOT of Jacks). He was extremely unreactive – if a dog scrimmage broke out, Dodger would always be found doing something incredibly interesting (to him) behind a shrub as far away as possible from the action. He let small puppies crawl all over him, and he left weaker senior dogs alone (did not hump either category). All of his happy humping seemed directed towards getting the humpee to chase him and play – once a dog started playing with him or running with him, he stopped humping and never humped that particular dog again. So I think Dodger figured out somewhere along the way that humping irritates most adult dogs just enough to goad them into chasing him, which for him was the best kind of play possible. Once a dog played (properly, in his opinion), the humping did not manifest itself. If a new dog would play with him right from the start, he never humped that dog. Dodger was THE guy I took with me for seven years to shelters to assess dog to dog aggression in Jacks needing to come in to rescue – he never met a dog he didn’t like, and not a single dog we met ever disliked him either – he had an amazing effect on really cranky dogs. So I have decided that humping has its place as an ice-breaker for some dogs. Obsessive humping is not appropriate – but not all humping is either ‘bad’ or ‘dominant’. I think we tend to get too emotional about humping, and that is because we are people and it embarrasses us when our dogs hump (in public). smile

  18. Hi Dr. Yin,

    You stated in an earlier post that, “On another note, a recent paper by Bradshaw found that dogs don’t have clear-cut heirarchies the way wolves do and agonistic relationships could be better described by what is called Resource-holding potential.”

    Would you mind, please, giving the full citation? I would like to access it for future reference and I am having trouble locating it.
    Melissa R. Hartley
    Canine Behavior Consultant, Sindar Kennel, LLC
    President, Weimaraner Rescue of SC

  19. We have two dogs. The older one is an 18 lb male Silky and the younger one is a 40 lb female Lab . They were both gotten from a shelter at the same time. We have had them for approx 2.5 yrs. They play together very well and are both obedient. The Lab is extremely hyper. They both bark at anything or anyone who comes near the house. The Silky is very aggressive toward strangers and and occasionally nips. The problem: 90% of the time they get along well but occasionally the Lab will attack the Silky and the Silky will submit but it the Lab does not stop and has injured the Silky to the point of needing stitches. She always attacks his head I read your response and was dismayed at the thought of having to give away the Lab. She is the first dog I have ever owned although I have taken care of others animals (wife, children) for the past 40 years. (I am 65). Any suggestions? I am taking her to the vet for a checkup this weekend and plan to ask her as well.

  20. Thank you so much for the video of how to handle a dog aggression during a nails treatments , can you please show me a video of how to handle a Rottweiler for the same situation?

    1. I’m sorry, we don’t have video of a Rottweiler. You can read Dr. Yin’s writings on counterconditioning and handling here on the blog or you can purchase the Handling Moving & Restraining DVD 2 or Counterconditioning & Desensitization DVD, for more on this subject.
      Hope that helps!

  21. What do you do when all he wants to do is bite the leash? We couldnt even last 30 mins. He will eventually chew through it. I gave him toys when he sat nice, which he doesn’t have a problem doing. But he has a super short attention span, and is just to hyoer and spazzy to stay tethered to a leash and I’m at my wits end.
    He is 5 months and has shown signs of aggression since about two months. He bites a lot in a bossy way, like if you enter his safe place (under the couch), sometimes he’ll growl if you approach him with a toy (not always), if you try to tell him to get down from funiture or move him, if you pick him up when he doesn’t want to be, and sometimes just randomly seeming. He isnt afraid at all, definitely a very brave dog where nothing affects him. He just seems to always want to be in control and nothing I do eases these behaviors.

  22. We rescued a shelter dog four years ago this year her name Pepper; she is a mix Pit, Akita, German shepherd we were told; she has been a good dog up until lately bit our son’s fixed puppy a golden retriever now seven months; and also in the mix of rescued animals two kittens; Lucy has been with us since last summer; kittens since last September; all getting to know each other with some resistance with Pepper re the kittens but they don’t seem to bother her now as when we first got them; Lucy a different story…pepper has been very tolerant of this puppy always in peppers face licking her and wanting to play…I watch them as best I can and listen for aggression noise; yesterday heard a yelp, it was Lucy Pepper had bit her on the side of her rib cage; Pepper has always growled at Lucy her way of saying leave me alone…but noticing more teeth when she does this the last couple weeks; I thought prior to this bite that Pepper accepted Lucy as possible a substitute mom but I really don’t know…reading some posts here I think she feels maybe left out or just doesn’t want to be bothered by Lucy…maybe both; I have no monies to get any training for either dog I do what I can by educating myself on matters…would like your opinion as to curtail this situation and not have another biting incident. Thank you

    1. Oh I am there sista! I am along that path up ahead of you. It got worse. Little guy starts holding his ground . Thought he would kill old man( actually his sure) now instead of submitting litt’ll e one is all” let me at him”. Now I have a mess.

  23. I have a young intact male dog who I recently adopted. He’s still intact but hoping to get him neutered soon. He recently has been getting more aggressive towards my husband and I. He came from a family that let him sleep on the furniture, and they never took his toys away. I trained him that furniture is off limits using your technique of positive reinforcement, which worked great! However my dog is now aggressive over anything he deems as “his” and nothing seems to do the trick. I’ve tried diverting his attention, and then rewarding his good behavior, but he continues to growl and if I move in any direction he snarls and lunges. I’ve tried a harsh tone and that doesn’t work. He recently bit my husband. I’m at my wits end on what to do with the dog. Any suggestions?

  24. I am 5 months pregnant and my small poodle mix has become aggressive towards me. At first I just noticed an increase in needyness. He constantly wanted to be pressed up against me and in my face and would just stare at me and beg for attention. He usually prefers my husbands attention so at first I indulged him and gave him the extra attention but it seemed like the more i gave him the more he expected it and I started pushing him away because it’s getting closer to time for me to he the baby and I don’t want him to be jumps in my lap and doing these things while I am holding and feeding the baby and now he has been acting out. He often ignores me when I take him outside, he does not listen when I tell him to move out of my spot or get off the bed and huffs when he does finally move and this has never been an issue before, when I cuddle with my husband he tries to get in the middle of us, he ignores my commands in general for the most part, I keep going into the kitchen when he knows he is not allowed and just yesterday he pooped in the floor when we went to a doctor’s appointment even though we took him outside for 20 minutes before hand. The only other time he has ever done this is when i first started working a full time job and was upset at being left alone. When I got on to him for pooping in the floor, I went to pick him up and put him outside and he started growling and showing teeth and even snapped at my hand. He has always been aggressive and territorial about food and treats but even then he has never tried to bite me or my husband. We got him as an adult from the shelter 3 years ago and he has always been well behaved and friendly. I’m not sure why exactly he has started acting this way and am very unsure how to properly deal with it. Is he getting jealous because he senses the baby? I can’t think of anything else that could be triggering these changes. How do I deal with it? I don’t want to get rid of him but I don’t want him to continue this behaviour when the baby is here. I’m very worried that he might bite the baby or knock him out of my arms trying to get in my face like he does when I cuddle with my husband. What can I do?

  25. I’m a college student commuting to school from home; six months ago my parents and I adopted an approximately two year old female black lab mix. She was found severely injured and if not for the work of a dedicated vet would have lost a paw. She’s generally very good with people…except me. She seems to see me as a competitor for my parent’s attention and will growl, snarl or simply get up and walk away when I approach her. She’ll normally run to my parent (usually my father) whenever I try to pet her. Is she scared of me? I’m concerned it seems fromy over enthusiastic attempts at petting and cuddling when she first arrived, but it hasn’t improved whatsoever. Her behavior will get better after several days of being left alone with me, but reverts as soon as my parents return. I’m on campus for long stretches at a time and can’t be her primary caretaker like that for more than a few days. It’s heartbreaking that I’m the one person in the family she’s rejected like this and nothing seems to work. (We’ve even followed bad advice and been harsh with her to try to prevent it. This probably made it worse and will need correcting.)
    She’s also very difficult to manage on walks when she encounters other dogs. Barking, lunging and even attacking a poodle when she slipped her harness are typical if we don’t take measures to avoid them. Small dogs with high pitched barks and poodles in particular seem to bother her. We suspect there maybe something in her past that makes being around other dogs, especially poodles, a major source of anxiety for her. She has shown she can socialize with other dogs she has gotten to know in very controlled environments, but can’t seem to do while on the leash or when encountering another dog for first time.
    We have had her evaluated by a behavior specialist, but my parents declined following up. They didn’t seem to think it would be helpful and by all appearances seem content to ignore the issue. (The cost and two hour drive minimum to a licensed professional is the likely cause of this.) I am sick to death of this and want to re-home her, but they also refuse to do that as she was most likely previously abandoned before or shortly after her injury. Any advice, even if it is just to convince them to go to an expert is welcome.

  26. Hello Dr. Yin,

    I’ve been having a terrible time finding articles dealing with aggression in rescued adult dogs. It’s really not helping that I don’t know for certain what I am looking for. I want to point out that I am NOT a new dog owner, I just have a new dog.

    I have a 2.5 un-neutered (not for long!) rescue lab. He is a big boy, and while I’ve identified certain resource guarding behaviours, this new one has me stumped, and worried. My apologies if this seems disjointed and out of order.

    Just a bit of background – we’ve had an extremely stressful time the last 4 weeks, with a series of large disasters, plus a very large show I had to work at.
    The dog came to me about 3.5 weeks ago. his former owner mentioned he made some “challenges” to her father, but it came to naught. She had the dog for only a few months, when another dog moved into her home and the dogs were getting into terrible fights.

    My 18 year old son came home tonight with a haircut. He immediately showered and put on freshly washed clothes. I mention this because he no longer looks like himself, and didn’t smell like himself, either, so I wonder if that contributed.

    We also just brought home a “new” second-hand sofa. Before this night, Dex was never allowed on the furniture. Not really not allowed (our other dog has free reign), he just wasn’t in his old home, so he never even tried here.
    Tonight he decided to hop up. I thought nothing of it.

    Until my son (freshly shorn & washed), went to sit down and discovered our older dog had peed (she has incontinence issues sometimes), so he yelled (we are a noisy bunch), but made no move to strike, because we do not hit our dogs.

    Dex immediately went into defensive mode, and started guarding the sofa. And then it trailed into other areas, when I pulled his collar to allow my son to get away, he made no move to warn me off at all. Our house has a door for every room, thank goodness, it is easy to escape.

    But now he will not let my son near him. Or near our other dog, who is responding with justifiable confusion, and some protective behaviours.

    1. Hi Kirstin,

      Unfortunately, Dr. Yin passed away over 2 years ago so can’t answer the question. What would be the best is if you can find a Vet Behaviorist to talk this over with. However, having been involved in Giant Breed Rescue for many decades, from my experience it sounds like a classic fear issue more than a resource guarding one, though he may be doing both. With all the changes and stresses, being up on the couch for the first time then getting startled by what is pretty close to a “strange” man, it appears to me that he has become “afraid” of your son and is looking to protect everyone and everything from him. Don’t count on the neutering to change that btw. I would take a look at this DVD https://drsophiayin.com/product/dog-aggression-from-fearful-reactive-hyperactive-to-focused-happy-calm/ and try some of the exercises Dr. Yin talks about. Good luck and let us know how he is doing.

  27. My dog is perfectly fine and friendly and even calm when I’m with him but sometimes he just starts biting, and nipping at me. Sometimes it’s even a bit scary since he’s 110+ lbs. What am I doing wrong? What can I do to get him to calm down? I’ve tried restraining him with my hands until he calms down but sometimes he just doesn’t calm down.

  28. My 11 and 1/2 yr. old maltese. was never really trained right because i didnt know how important it was. However she was always sweet and we didnt have dominance issues. When she as 11 she started barking at night for long periods of time, and want me to open the door to the patio which she had always enjoyed laying on. When i got fustrated enough i would open the door and let her out onto an enclosed patio, eventually she was barking at nothing and when i called her in she would lunge on me and bite in rapid succession. Leaving me bruised all over. Her doctor said it was dominance aggression. because i spoiled her. I never got a diagnosis, she had to be put down, but i feel it was neurological or she never would have become that way at night and then be sweet during the day. she had low thyroid , and probably dementia with sundowning. I didnt notice her other symtoms of falling and circleing until later, when I thought back. I feel that even if there was dominance aggression mixed in the problem was neurological. she had never bitten me and listened most of the time before this happened. she let kids hug her. i held her. all the time. I would appreciate some feeback

    1. Speaking neurologically, I suspect your diagnosis was close. She may also have been having seizures, partial not generalized so she might have looked conscious but actually had diminished consciousness, the walking in circles and not responding. She may also have had a period of confusion after the seizure if in fact that was what was happening. I agree with the dementia with sundowning and honestly I agree with your compassionate decision to euthanize her. Her and your quality of life was deteriorating rapidly. My regrets for your difficult time, try to remember her as she was when she was herself. And try to find a new dog when you are ready, you sound as though you are a wonderful dog owner.

  29. I adopted a male bulldog almost a year ago. He’s allegedly 6 yrs. old. He’s fairly well trained and will sit and stay on command and will only eat when I give the okay. He has no problems when he meets other animals and completely ignores them. He’s not food aggressive but is toy.. and that could mean anything that he’s got in his mouth… aggressive. But.. he goes after us if we tell him no. He recently put his paws on my husbands lap while my husband was eating and my husband told him ‘down’… and our dog bit him repeatedly drawing blood. He’s bitten me when I walked past him in the hallway. This dog does not like to be told no, or commanded to stop when he’s got his mind on something. If something falls to the floor, he’ll bite us if we go to pick it up unless he has a chance to see what it is. He goes for us if we tell him to get off the sofa. He will hump my leg and get extremely aggressive when i try to get him off to the point where I have to grab a sofa cushion to put in front of me so he won’t be able to reach me. The longer we have him, the more secure and protective of his environment he becomes. He doesn’t like kids in the pool or people mowing lawns but now he’s trying to dig under the fence to get to the neighbors kids or their lawn people. He doesn’t respond to any commands when he’s in that zone and won’t come when called. Do you think there’s anything that can stop that behavior or will I have to euthanize him? I’m afraid he’s going to bite someone.

  30. I adopted my 4 year old dog Jack (German Shepard Mix) from the shelter when he was 6 months old, and from the very beginning he’s been a dominant, aggressive, stubborn bully with other dogs and people. He doesn’t try to bite, it’s not that type of aggression, but he does challenge authority, bully’s other dogs, and is just all around stubborn. I don’t use punishment unless it’s absolutely necessary because I know it’s just his nature. I have tried reward training with little results. I’ve just adapted to his behavior and made it work. We have now adopted another pup, 8 month old Black Mouth Cur named Sasha. She’s sweet as can be and has a personality completely opposite of Jack’s aggressive, challenging nature. Jack of course is asserting himself as the dominant dog which I knew would happen, but I’m worried Sasha could mimic his behavior and her sweet nature could be morphed… Can that happen? And how best can I handle feeding times? Playing time? Any interaction with Sasha means Jack interferes and steals the toys, guards the food, etc. Jack is a fun loving, social dog and they play well, but all the while making sure he’s the dominant male of our entire family. Tips? Thank you!

  31. I’m looking for a bit of clarity about my 15 month old JRT X chihuahua cross (He looks like a little German shepherd X dachshund!!) as I just can’t figure him out!
    We got him at 11 month old. He’s had 4 previous owners. He’s never been in a shelter/dogs home, he’s just been sold each and every time.
    When we first got him he humped out arms and chewed on our ears. We put this down to feeling anxious and trying to gain a bit of confidence by trying to move up the rankings in his new pack??
    He sleeps at the bottom of the bed and gets pretty spoiled in general, but he’s always asked to sit, etc for everything he gets from us. He isn’t possessive about his food, toys, bed or anything else, but he’s obsessed with licking my partners face. He likes to stand on his chest and lick his face, then sit the back of his head on the pillow. Is he trying to claim leadership because he’s feeling anxious /unsure about our leadership abilities?
    He still play bites my partners hand pretty hard and no amount of saying OUCH, ignoring him, putting him in time out, is working.
    We had him neutered 5 weeks after having him, which I’m now thinking wasn’t the greatest idea, because he’s started barking at EVERYONE he counters. That’s in our home or on his walks. He darts out at cars, bikes, vans, cyclists with his tail high curled over touching his back (huge fluffy tail!) He’s become a nightmare to walk -we’ve started taking him to the park on a 8 metre retractable leash, for most his walks.
    We tried taking him to obedience classes, but he was petrified. His tail was curled under, he was crouched down and he was trembling. The same think happened when I tried taking him on a walk through town – no barking, no confident tail held high!
    He’s got endless energy even though he’s walked every couple of hours for 20 min to an hour each time and plays with puzzle toys, hide-and-seek, etc, he still has (nervous??) energy. He digs frantically at the bed, which I’ve read releaves stress?
    Since day one he’s shown his teeth (no growling) and does a gentle air snap, when he wants something – Usually to lick our face, or go for a walk. Nothing we’ve tried has made this any better.
    If you could PLEASE give us some advice as what to do, we’d be more grateful than you’ll ever know. :'( My partner and I have been through SO much and we don’t have the strength to cope with anything else.
    I lost my wonderful Yorkie 3 years ago and I’m still grieving for him, which doesn’t help. We love our new little fur baby so much and we don’t want to give up on him like everyone else.
    Basically, we really need to know why he’s doing the behaviours I mentioned above? How we can help him? Will his behaviour get better as he gets older and, what worries us the most, will he become aggressive with us?
    I know that’s impossible to say. :'(
    Sorry if this msg is a bit chaotic, it’s 5am and I’m unable to sleep for fear of making the situation worse with a gorgeous, much loved, little boy.
    I really hope you can offer us some advice.
    I look forward to your reply.

  32. Dr.Yin,
    I have a 4 year old German Shepherd/Pit mix whose aggression has gotten significantly worse. It started with biting the calves of strangers (including a child) when they were not looking, but he has just bitten a family member in the face for kissing him while laying on the couch. However, he has never showed aggression toward me even for kissing. He knows all basic commands – sit, stay, lay, etc. and will do them for anyone. Would it be better to have a stranger train him? Do you have any other suggestions?

    1. Hi Summer, Unfortunately, Dr. Yin passed away several years ago and we are not currently set up to give training advice. Having said that, the issue with your dog biting is “kissing” a dog is a very bad idea. Owners can often get away with it but putting a face, especially that of someone not the owner, right in a dog’s face is very uncomfortable for them and can trigger a reaction as you saw. I would recommend that you consult with a Veterinary Behaviorist to see if there are any underlying issues behind the biting. There are a few in Alabama such as Veterinary Behavior Consultants of Alabama. Good luck.

  33. My dog attacked me while trying to break up a fight between he and my small dog. He has shown some aggression in the past but this time sent me to the ER. We have a new baby in home and it’s concerning to me. He has dominance issues and yes we have spoiled him for 6 years. In your experience is this behavior a red flag of more to come?

  34. My pup is alright with meeting humans, although he gets dominant around other dogs especially smaller breeds then plays too roughly with them. He starting to listen more when we correct him, we’ve also kept consistent on his feeding, grooming, and playing training. Although I want to be extra careful if ever there are more techniques I can learn on how to manage this situation?

  35. This describes what our dogs to the tee. He’s a rescue that wasn’t house broken. We used a crate to house train him or we thought we did. Now he gets extremely aggressive when he has done sonething wrong and gets caught doing it. Like peeing or pooping on the floor. He goes to his crate, but hes snaling and growling the whole way. Once hes in, (and goes in himself) he immediately turns to bite. You have to hold the door shut with you foot to latch it. Give him an hour or two and he’s back to sweet lovable dog until something happens again.
    I completely understand now where we have gone wrong. My question is will it help to get him neutered or will that make it worse? We red to get him neutered, but I don’t want make his aggression worse.

  36. I think my dog is being pushy and dominant. When I walk down the hallway, he will trot past me. In doing so, he bumps hard against my leg. I am afraid that one day I will fall down when he does this.

    1. That’s not likely dominance, just eagerness to get places with you coupled with lack of body awareness. If this is an issue, only move around with him on a leash for a bit and work on not bumping you.

  37. We adopted a rescue- 6month old boxer/hound-from the SPCA- at first listened to both husband and myself- took him to private one on one lessons. He was great at commands and friendly towards all – adults and children- friendly toward all dogs as well– We are retired- he is mostly w/husband in mornings and the rest of the day with both of us- except on Sat when only with me for a few hours- we “learned” the treats for doing” – He is now demonstrating aggression toward both of us- barking, snarling, nipping more and more toward me-especially me- and outside running toward me and nipping and pulling at me- (we have a large yard) only sometimes with my husband who is definitely “alpha” and mostly listens to commands by him- even though he started out equal listening to both of us. I am now afraid of him and yet I am torn as to what to do.I ell him sit- he barks- I tell him whatever- he barks and assumes aggressive position sometimes lunges- hasn’t bitten (yet) but does “puppy nips” outside that because of his “breeds” leaves marks- not hard enough to draw blood- but still hurts. We’ve already spent a lot of money on him- he’s not even 11 months old and “everyone” says he’ll outgrow it- he’s a “teenager”- that’s all we hear. but he’s a bigger dog- and even a little aggression is making me sad and leery that he will bite hard. You respond- yet you don’t give answers or suggestions of what to do- Should I turn him in? Frankly I love him-He’s beautiful and used to be sweet but now he’s scaring me… We’ve tried the “leash” sometimes he’s too fast to get it on him but even if I do- he doesn’t listen to me like he does my husband and not always then either. we don’t approve of shock. WHat kind of tests would a vet do and would it be costly to see if it’s “fixable”?

  38. My 4 year old cocker spaniel has started to dominate younger dogs, especially if they run up to him, we play together in the park and doesn’t like other dogs coming up to him spoiling our game and he tells them. It very upsetting to the other owner and embarrassing to me is there anything I can do to stop him

  39. My new landlord has a dog that growls & snaps even when one is just walking by. Have observed dog come off sofa and go after the dog sitter. Now the owner wants me to walk dog when they want to go on trips (NOT PART OF THE RENTAL). Recently, owner kept texting me to try to take dog out as they were going to be gone – the dog has, without any provocation, growled & snapped multiple times. This is older rescued dog from what I’m told but this IS NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY. Excuses abound – dog misses its companions, perhaps missing puppies from previous litters (Unknown). Owner keeps urging me to sit next to dog even when dog gets snappy and then tells dog “it will be okay”. Having owned animals for over 40 years I know this dog, sooner or later, will bite someone. Very unpredictable, no guidance or training provided (just lies on sofa all day, owner takes out in a.m. & p.m.), no kind of training & says can’t afford behavior training but can afford to go off on trips. This is beyond ridiculous and I sure don’t want to be a casualty. Furthermore, it is unknown what kind of previous bite history this dog may have had. IMHO I think this is a disaster waiting to happen when least expected & without any provocation.

  40. My Daughter has a 12 year old Miniature poodle/Jack Russel cross. She has had the dog since it was first weaned. It has always been very bossy and will not tolerate other dogs no matter what size. It also barks frequently often for no reason. My Daughter has separated from her husband and has a new partner who currently has the dog. Her new partner has an alsation (friendly) and she would dearly like to have her dog with her but she immediately attacks the bigger dog when she brings them together. Is there any hope here and can you give any advice as to what my Daughter can do?

  41. Hi,
    I have a 10 month old German Shorthaired Pointer and we have an electric fence for him. He knows the boundaries very well & hasn’t gotten out, but when I’m out in the yard & try to put a leash on him he starts attacking and biting me and growling. It seems like there’s nothing that snaps him out of it except when we spray him with a squirt of water. It just happened when he was barking at another dog that was walking by in front of the house so he was already worked up about that, and I was trying to leash him. He hasn’t shown any aggression to other dogs ever and has gone to dog parks and doggy daycare. It’s like he has dominance aggression over his freedom of the yard. He is fine when I put the leash on inside the house. He also will start attacking occasionally but not all the time when I’m playing fetch with him & he drops the ball & I reach down to grab it while he’s standing over it as if to say I own this. Do you have tips on how to train him out of this?

  42. I have two dogs a 4 year old mastiff X and a 13 month old Old English Buldogge. Just recently (2-3 months, just before the Bulldogged started her first heat), they have become terribly toy aggressive. If the Mastiff has something the Bulldogge want it’s a huge fight. I understand they are establishing dominance, but one of them is going to get very hurt. I have taken away toys and only let them have them when I can separate them. Last night the mastiff had a rock that the other one wanted and the fight was on. Suggestions please? The don’t fight over food and play very well.

  43. La agresión territorial puede ocurrir a lo largo de la frontera patrullada regularmente por el perro o en los límites de la propiedad de su dueño. El comportamiento territorial por lo general aparece en perros cuando tienen entre 1 y 3 años de edad.

  44. I’ve only had my dog for a short while, he’s only 2 but he’s been having some issues with our older dog. The young one is an Elkhound while our old boy is an akbash. When I let them inside the house together buck (the young one), his fur sticks up and he growls at our old dog. Its starting to get worse, at first it was only attention but now it’s over food bowls and beds, treats. It’s almost like he’s scared of him because as soon as the ol boy comes through the door, buck starts side eyeing him and growling. I’ve been reading all these things and trying different things but I just don’t know what to do. They’ve fought a couple of times but no blood, I fear if this continues something bad will happen.

  45. I guess my handling of my puppy has gone for a toss as I seem to have done all the wrong things: giving him all comforts like a cozy mattress bedding out of affection, toys, and too much attention and also some unwanted freedom. So where he was pretty okay till about 2 months (I got him at one month as they were getting stolen), everything seems to be going in the opposite direction recently (he just turned 3 months). He does not obey commands, and is too dominating and has started growling and demanding. Will the above solutions work at this stage, like if I take away all resources of comfort I have given him and start afresh? Please guide and help as I am very anxious, all the more so as I did not get him from a breeder but he was a stray from a litter of 8 (2 males, 6 females) Breed: Indie. So i guess he has a more independent mindset by instinct.

  46. Dog owners! If you have a behavioral issue with your dog, DO NOT expect to get a behavior consult and training advice from a comment off of a blog post. Hire a professional trainer who is certified. It’s not an easy fix in a paragraph there are many factors that play into dog training. Read up on Victoria Stilwell or Karen Pryor to name a couple.

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