Growing upto become an Adult
At around 6 months old, most dogs reach an awkward adolescent stage (although Large breeds this can occur at 14-24 months). Everything you taught your dog seems to be forgotten: he won’t come when you call or even think of obeying the commands “sit” or “down”.
During this time the young dog is attempting to assert his rank, just to see whether he can get to be the boss. At this stage you will probably need to do a lot of obedience training to put your young dog in his place. Indeed, it also makes sense to do some obedience training with an adult dog from time to time. Praise is very important and even an older dog should be congratulated when they do something right.
A dog expects a hierarchy within the family similar to that he would experience in a pack. So don’t allow him to get away with too much. You should suppress even the first signs of aggression with suitable measures as soon as they manifest themselves. Although it might be very cute to watch your puppy aggressively defend his bone – this sort of behaviour may be difficult to cure once he’s several months old, and might even be dangerous if you have a big dog.
No dog is naturally aggressive. A dog which acts aggressively against humans has not profited from important training measures during the first months of his life. For example, you should only feed your dog when you have already eaten and you should avoid giving him anything from your own plate. In the pack the highest ranking dog will only let others eat when he himself is satisfied. Thus, when your dog gets his food before you eat, he will think he’s the boss.
Try taking your puppy’s bowl away some times when he’s eating, or encourage him to give up chewing bones or playthings as well without complaining. If he growls or even wants to bite, you have to react rigorously. Put your dog into “place” or lay him on his side. Hold him down gently with your hand over his neck. Only when your puppy surrenders and relaxes (this can take several minutes in the beginning) should you let go. Speak comforting to him during this time. This dominant soothing, as it is called, can be used any time when he is misbehaving, for example, when he lifts his lips, or growls whilst being groomed. This method of discipline wont hurt your dog if carried out correctly. Indeed it is similar to the behaviour a higher ranking dog in the pack would show to put a younger dog in his place. Let the puppy get up only when you think it is right – even if he begins to struggle.
Gripping the dogs mouth with your hand is also a gesture of dominance among dogs and serves to strengthen your position. It must be clear to all members of the family, that the dog is the last one in the family hierarchy. In order to quell your puppy’s first ambitions to climb up in hierarchy he should be forbidden to sit on the sofa for example, or to sleep in the bed, unless you explicitly allow him to do so.
How to be a pack leader
Did you know that adorable bundle of fur you share your home with is actually a descendent of the wolf? And while you may marvel at his human-like behavior, deep within your dog’s psyche are instincts he has retained from those wild ancestors.
Wolves live by rules and have a social structure called a pack. In each pack, the leader who is dominant over all pack members is called the “alpha.” This is the wolf that makes the decisions, the leader that must be obeyed. In your family “pack” YOU must be the alpha.
The good news is, your dog needs and wants you to be the alpha. He wants the security of knowing his place and what’s expected of him. If you don’t provide that leadership, your dog may take over the role himself—and that can lead to aggressive behavior.
5 Ways to Be Leader of the Pack:
Acting like an alpha doesn’t involve force or intimidation. It just requires you to control the activities that are important to your dog.
- Start with obedience training. Obedience classes teach you and your family the proper way to train your dog. This includes learning how to enforce commands and how to gain—and keep—your dog’s respect.
- Stick to a strict feeding schedule. Feed your dog two or three times a day—after you and your family have eaten if possible. Have your dog do a short sit-stay for meals. That way you communicate that you are in charge of the food and feeding times.
- Always walk through doorways ahead of your dog. If your dog always goes ahead of you, put on his leash and open the door. When he rushes ahead, pull him back and tell him “No. Wait.” Have him sit-stay. Then, walk through the doorway and give him the “come” command.
- Control your dog’s sleeping areas. If you allow your dog on the couch and bed, he has to understand that you are in control of these sleeping areas. So if you give the command “Off,” your dog should immediately jump off the bed or couch. If your dog doesn’t respond, he should immediately be removed from the furniture and placed on the floor.
- Control the games you play with your dog. If your dog “demands” that you throw his ball whenever you’re on the phone by barking at you, turn your back and ignore him. Attending to any unwanted behavior, like barking, can actually reinforce the behavior by causing him to believe that barking is effective in getting your attention when you’re on the phone. You can play ball later when it’s on your terms.
Above all, be calm, assertive, and consistent with the boundaries you set for your dog. Just as a child looks to his parents for guidance and limits, your dog looks to you. So don’t feel like a meanie for enforcing strict rules—do so knowing that it instinctively makes your dog feel more comfortable.