The puppy is the boss
January 7, 2010 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Made a lot of mistakes with the puppy, and now he acts dominant and jealous. What can I do to correct the problems?

My family has never had a puppy before, only adult dogs and cats. In August we brought home a four week old puppy (we thought he was six weeks); a chihuahua-toy fox terrier mix. Now he is almost six months old. We already had a four year old dog and a five year old cat. The mixture has not been exactly pleasant, and I'm worried about exacerbating the problems.

The puppy is very dominant. He jumps on the cat and tackles the cat. If I so much as pet the other dog, he runs up to us jumping and nips at the other dog. It doesn't seem to me that he is angry because this is how he "plays" with the other animals all the time. I've seen him get angry when I oppose him in some way and he barks at me. Even when he is licking and showing affection, he likes to put both paws up on the shoulders and push the person down (I no longer allow this to happen to me).

He constantly likes to run around and frolic. He doesn't seem very anxious about anything (with the possible exception of affection shown toward the other dog). He doesn't like to be alone at any time, although that basically means so long as he can see someone he will be content playing or sleeping or whatever.

I don't like that he seems to see himself as the boss of everyone and entitled to the affection and attention of everyone (this includes perfect strangers that he encounters). He tires the family out, with the playing and whatnot. Some of this I attribute to him being young, but there are some behaviors that I am worried about in the future.
posted by Danila to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does he get enough exercise? Terriers are very high-energy dogs, and if they don't get enough exercise, their behavior rapidly goes south. How much exercise? Well, my folks had a (non-toy) fox terrier, and in its younger years, it would happily spend hours a day under a tree jumping up towards where it could see squirrels. (It looked like some sort of doggy bodybuilder, and actually scratched all the bark off of its favorite side of the tree!)
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:26 PM on January 7, 2010

One of the reasons pups should stay with their litter until they are at least 8 weeks of age is that it's during this developmental period that they learn the doggie "rules of the road" (ex: "it's fun to bite my littermate's ear and make him squeal...but HEY dagnabbit it hurts when he bites my ear!!").

At 6 months of age he is not too young to get into an obedience class. Find a local club or trainer and get started with obedience training a.s.a.p! Be perfectly honest with your trainer about the difficulties you are experiencing and let them help you with dominance exercises. YOU should be the boss and dole out the affection and attention on your terms (not his).

It's not too late, you can gain control over the little tyrant (grin) and have a peaceful pet-filled home. Good Luck!
posted by labwench at 4:35 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I heard of "grounding" a dog.
So even tho you don't plan on it being this way forever EVERYTHING he gets he has to sit and obey for before he receives/does it. But you should tell him calmly and firmly.
His food dish gets put down? He must calmly sit and stay before you put it down.
Don't let him up on the couch or bed (or if you do let him up) he must sit first.
Getting to go outside? Sit patiently. Waiting to go out a door is also great for safety so the dog never jumps out a car, etc.
He gets a toy, etc ... you get the idea.
That being said without proper exercise training wont work. A dog needs a LOT of exercise. During the first 3-4 years of my labs life I was in the BEST shape of my life. Only for a dog would I go jogging on a snowy trail in the pitch dark at 6pm with a headlamp.
A proper gate (I found) works wonders. With behaviors that weren't acceptable (or I asked him to stop and he didn't) I calmly said no (immediately after the behavior) and put him on the other side of the gate for a couple moments.
I HAD to do it with the bedroom because he wanted to play at night. All I had to say was "I'll put you out" and the shenanagins stopped.
Training very similar to this resulted in my lab NEVER getting up on my bed or couch without sadly staring at me first until I said come on get up (and I let him up EVERY single time). He was a good boy.
posted by beccaj at 4:41 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

The fun part about 6 months is that it's about when doggy adolescence begins, and teenage dogs are assholes. Puppies have that cute thing going as a survival mechanism, but then they get all spindly and funny-looking and get an attitude. So, really, he could have ended up this way no matter what you did.

Now is a great time for puppy kindergarten, PetSmart's fine if you've got weekend days free. It's just a little toe in the water, a reminder of who has thumbs and who doesn't, and should give you the groundwork to build up on your own or you can continue on with classes if you like.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:04 PM on January 7, 2010

beccaj's "grounding" method seems similar to what I've heard called the "Nothing In Life is Free" (NILIF) training method. You can find some decent resources by googling that phrase.
posted by chiababe at 5:18 PM on January 7, 2010

This behavior may have little to do with you and more to do with the dog's personality.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:11 PM on January 7, 2010

I've never had a small breed of dogs, but I've read enough about them in books and on sites like this and this to know that they crave a lot of attention and can be one-person dogs (meaning they will become jealous if you show attention to anyone else). I've read that they're high-energy (usually not recommended for families with small children) and require stimulation or they can become hard to handle. Most of them (so I've read) can become anxious when their owner is not in sight.

Nthing obedience training for your puppy.
posted by patheral at 6:35 PM on January 7, 2010

Don't let your dog get away with bad behavior simply because he's small. As a big dog owner, it irritates the crap out of me that small dogs frequently are allowed to jump on people, nip, bark and show other dominate behavior because their owners don't properly train them or think the behavior is cute in little dogs. If you wouldn't accept the behavior from my dog, who weighed about 65 lbs at 6 months, then don't accept it from your little dog and get him to a class.
posted by onhazier at 6:50 PM on January 7, 2010

Seconding labwench. Puppies get a "puppy pass" from mature dogs (my delightful Manchester terrier used to let the border collie puppy get away with all kinds of things, but that stopped when the border got grown up) and some tolerant cats will do the same. Your pup will come up against The Rules pretty soon now.

Socializing a dog is a good thing to do as well - make the pup -sit- and -observe- life without moving around.
posted by jet_silver at 10:49 PM on January 7, 2010

Best answer: I'm a dog trainer with 20 years experience training working dogs in Search and Rescue, scent tracking etc.

First you need to train yourself to treat him as a dog and not feel bad by treating him like one.
Remember, dogs are pack animals and are most comfortable when they know their place, if they don't he'll try to establish domomance over you and everyone else in the family.

The first thing to do is start with some basic training: Sit, stay, down is a good start.
At his age I'd put no more than 30 minutes a day into it, but as with any 6 month old consistancy is the key. You'll need to do this at least twice a day every day or at least every other day.
When you do this you will be aserting domonance over him and he'll start listening better with the other problems.
What will make things worse is if you do the no, no, no, no thing and then don't mean it. That's just telling him that he can push you and when you give in he'll think he's won!
You have to be the Alpha in the house or that terrior of yours will become a terror.

Remember, be the ALPHA and make him mind. He'll love you for it and he'll respect you too. You'll both get along much better when he knows his place.... my2cents
posted by RENNER8592 at 12:59 AM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you can find a trainer or a club and work with people who can interact with you and your dog, that would be a nice way to implement RENNER8592's excellent suggestions. If nothing else, look for a meet-up group for small dogs or maybe just dogs.

Having people who know dogs see you and your dog together is very helpful.

With a dog, especially a small dog, you need to keep in mind that a dog who does not behave is not a safe dog. In your case, what I'd be worried about is an overly concerned parent hurting your small dog when he launches himself at a toddler. And small dogs are harder to see when they run into the street.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:17 PM on January 9, 2010

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