Lover or Fighter?

Clearly A LoverDear Bo,

Suddenly mommy is worried because I have become very aggressive and I attack my brothers and sister when they go by mom or dad. I will even attack and bite them. Last week I even bit mom (although not on purpose) when she was trying to break up the fight.

I am the alpha male here but I just don’t know what happened and mommy is worried.



Dear Norton,

Being alpha male has its benefits but you need to know where to draw the line.

I understand we all have momentary lapses of judgement. For instance, last night my mother was laying on the couch watching TV. Lo and behold what do I see but a package of mini sausages at the end of the couch. While my mother wasn’t paying attention, I reached up to grab one of ‘em. I put my purdy mouth around the biggest one in the bunch and bit down. The next thing I know my mother is hopping up and down yelling at me. Apparently the sausage was her big toe…and when I say big toe, I mean freakishly big toe. Anyway, we all make mistakes, especially if you have glaucoma setting in, but it sounds like you’ve taken it to the next level.

Your behavior clearly indicates you, my dear friend Norton, believe that only you should have access to your toys, specifically your mother and father. This just won’t do. In fact your actions could seriously jeopardize your relationship with them. They need to step up and show you who the real alpha dog is. Although I don’t like them, I’d recommend calling in the Cairn Busters or any local dog trainer for that matter. If steps aren’t taken to reel in your abusive behavior now, it will continue to get worse.

Here’s some advice I found out there in cyberspace with a dog who’s parents are having the same problem.

Post By Oberhund (Guest Post) (05/06/2008)

You have a serious problem here and it’s only a matter of time before your dog bites a human and then you are ordered to euthanize her.

I am a dog trainer, and I see this problem a lot. First off, you need to educate yourself about pack order and canine body language. (Stanley Coren is a respected author on this to get you started.) You (and others in your pack) are giving her signals that she is the pack leader, and as the pack leader, she is merely correcting behaviour that she sees as being out of line. She’s acting as any dominant dog will.

I’ll give you some tips to get you started in communicating consistent messages to your dog.

You need to let her know that she is NOT the pack leader. You (and all other humans) are above her in the pack order. Let the dogs sort it out between them with you standing by to correct aggressive and other behaviours you will not tolerate.

Begin by understanding this basic concept: The pack leader is in control of all of the resources. This includes food, toys, treats, the best places to sit and sleep, playtime, access to outside, the direction and pace of a walk, etc. All resources. Remember this.

Here are some helpful tips:

1) DO NOT free feed. (free feed means to leave food in dish and refill when empty.) Feed your dog at times YOU decide and leave the dish on the floor for 10 minutes. Anything not eaten by then is picked up and she’ll have to wait until the next feeding time. You are not starving her. You are merely communicating to her that YOU are the leader in control of the food — how much and when — not the magical bowl on the floor that refills itself whenever it’s empty. If you already feed her this way, good.

2) Insist she says please before getting any resource (see above) by making her sit first. Sit before you feed her. Sit before a treat, toy, a pet, etc. Sit is the please and thank you in the dog world.

3) Do not let her sleep on the bed with humans. The pack leader gets the best place to sleep. She’s already showing that she is dominant, so you need to be clear and consistent in your messages to her. Don’t confuse her by letting her sleep on the bed. This may be hard if she’s used to it, but be firm. If you are consistent with all the other messages you send her, then she’ll resist this change less. Also, don’t let her on the couch when humans are sitting on it. She’ll see herself as an equal. You aren’t being mean. Get her a nice blanket or a cushy dog bed. That will be her bed to sit and sleep on. Make it enticing by giving her treats and toys there.

4) Remove any toys laying around the house and keep them in a box that humans have access to but not the dogs. Then give her a toy (after she sits). One toy. You are not taking away her toys; you are just controlling her access to them. Then, when you want to put the toy away to clean up or to exchange it, have a treat in your hand and trade her a treat for the toy. You’ll be rewarding her for giving up the toy. NOTE: if she doesn’t want to give up the toy, then make sure you have something awesome to trade with. It can be a walk or a favourite game instead of a treat. Just something to get her give up that toy. You don’t want to lose this battle.

5) The walk is very important to establishing pack order and the exercise is good for her mind. You need to do this right, though, or you’ll be sending her mixed messages. YOU are the one in control of the direction and the pace of the walk. Begin when you hook up the leash. Make sure she sits and holds it on her own. If she breaks the sit, stop attaching the leash, make sure she sits, and try again. Be patient and don’t let her boss you around. She’ll get what she wants when she gives you the behaviour you want. VERY IMPORTANT: when exiting the house, make sure all people exit BEFORE the dog. In the canine world, leaders and higher members exit and lead, with the lower members in the pack following. It’s best to also put her in a sit/stay and then when you command her to exit let her exit. But don’t let her exit before you. Again, if she breaks the stay and exits before a person and/or before you’ve given the command, stop, take her back in (along with anyone in the pack she exited before) and do it again and again until she gets it right. No need for treats. The reward is the walk. When walking, if she pulls, stop, call her to you, and walk backward until she comes to your side, of her own accord. You’ll know this because the leash will get slack. When this happens, praise her and continue in the direction she was heading. This will result in a lot of back and forth, but she’ll get it quickly if you are consistent. If you let her pull on the leash, she’ll think she’s walking you and that is NOT what you want.

You don’t have a bad dog. You have a dominant dog and she’s taken over the leadership role because the pack members have let her. She’ll probably always try to move up in rank, so you have to be consistent and firm with the rules. Never break them because she’ll just take it to the next level.

I hope this helps. Again, educate yourself and try to use positive-reinforcement training methods rather than punishment-based. You never want to have a physical altercation with your dog. All aggression should be forbidden, including human aggression to dogs. CAUTION: you may find some trainers recommending the alpha roll with your dog. This is where they tell you to take your dog and roll her on her back. Do not do this. This is how the alpha dog will correct another dog, and if the dog resists, there will be biting. This is how they handle it. You do not want your dog to think it’s okay to have a physical altercation with a human. If your dog challenges you, you will be bitten. Maybe not the first time, but sometime.

If you can strive to be more like Ed Norton in The Honeymooners rather than Ed Norton in Fight Club, your life will get better in no time. Trust me, life is better when your perceived as dopey and fun loving rather than Mike Tyson’s training partner.

Much luck,



Got something to say?