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Alpha Puppy?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Wilson is a 10 week old German Shepherd, and I adore him! He has been in our family about 3 weeks, and in most ways is settling in pretty well. Housebreaking and crate training are going well, and generally he is doing a great job of being a puppy. I know German Shepherds tend toward a dominant personality, and I chose that intentionally to fit our busy, sometimes chaotic household. We have 3 boys (ages 8-15) with autism, and a timid pet would be miserable. I am an experienced pet owner, and in no way timid myself. Just needed to throw that in there. I have had puppies before, but not shepherds; shepherds before, but not as puppies.


I am seeing the very beginnings of aggression I think, and need to nip it in the proverbial bud. Wilson talks back - if he is corrected, say for chewing my chair leg, he barks and snaps before I can offer a substitute chew toy. While I prepare his meal, he would jump on  me to get it if he wasn't restrained, and even so he barks and lunges. He is not food aggressive; I have practiced removing and replacing the food dish while he is eating. He constantly bothers our tired old (smaller) dog, wanting to play, and pays no attention when she growls, barks, and snaps. It is hard to pet him because he usually turns his head to bite your hand. Just playful mouthing in this case, but it hurts!


This is just a glimpse of his personality. In between this sort of stuff, he is a sweetheart, and so darn cute. But I know none of this will be cute at 100 pounds and need help sorting it out now.

post #2 of 7

first of all forget all of the alpha, dominance BS. It is extremely outdated and based on faulty science. It sounds to me like he is being a bratty puppy, think of him as a 2 year old, they talk back and do all sorts of bad things! The important thing to do is to have boundries and enforce them with consistency. He will learn them! Ian dunbar's puppy books are really great!


This is a great article for teaching bite inhibition



Here are some really great articles on rearing a pup clicker style


post #3 of 7

I agree that this is more normal puppy behavior than dominant behavior. We had wonderful luck with our pup teaching him what TO do instead of what not to do (just like with our kids). Praise him when he is acting appropriately; ignore him when he is not - for example, before you give him his food dish, turn your back on him until he is sitting quietly (or at least not jumping on you, for starters).


I also believe that dogs come in different personality types, including dominant and passive. Our Corgi was very dominant, and tried very hard to rule the roost in our house. We worked very hard to convince him otherwise - but he was about a year old before he accepted me as his boss. He was a wonderful dog, but he would have been obnoxious if we had not been firm with him. In the dog's mind, the pecking order in our house was me, my son, the dog, my other son, and DH at the bottom of the heap (because the dog could always get DH to do what the dog wanted).


Our current Corgi is completely different - he is perfectly happy to be at the bottom of the pile.

post #4 of 7

dogs dont see a pecking order like you would get out of cesar millan or similar dominance and alpha type trainers. "Dominance" in pack order is very fluid and alpha dogs are the one who control the resources (you... by default). Some dogs are more stubborn then others, and more pushy, but it isnt dominance. Enforce your rules and set boundries. I would recommend looking up NILIF or Nothing in life is free. It is a great program to enforce boundries.



post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the thoughtful replies and great links. I spent all day yesterday reading about doggie stuff,(between cooking and eating a turkey, of course) and was thrilled to come back today to find more.


I am going to try the feeding in a chewtoy bit - it really makes sense on several levels. I am also pleased to read the more philosophical pages. A couple years ago, my DD and I raised Guide Dog puppies - an extremely structured and authoritarian program. I was planning to duplicate it because the dogs turned out fantastically trained for their amazing job, but I sort of forgot that every other dog I have ever raised has also turned out fantastic for their job as companion, specifically in my home. My earlier style with dogs is almost like my unschooling style with my kids. Although we have never had a formal training session, Rosie, my 10 YO little mutt, is housebroken, does generally what I ask of her, never chews anything she shouldn't, and is a delight to live with.


When I wrote the original post, I think I was feeling the conflict between my natural style with puppies and the Dominance Theory. Thanks for leading me back - this is much more comfortable for me.

post #6 of 7

sounds like you know what you're doing! im personally a very positive focused trainer, i use clicker training for my dogs and it works beautifully.

Good luck with your pup, and pictures would be a great thing! (puppies are way too cute)

post #7 of 7

I second what starrlamia said.  Have you looked up NILIF (nothing in life is free?)  That was my first instinct in solving your problems.  One of my dogs was a roudy pup and that worked really well for us and I was super thankful that it was suggested to me.  She still pushes her boundries at 5yo but she certainly doesn't ever get what she wants by being pushy, she learned she needs to work for what she wants.  A lot of dogs need that in their lives. 

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