5mo old pup being a aggressive toward my 5 year old son

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jmariec's picture
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We have a 5 mo old Dobe. Got him at 8 weeks and been training from day one. He's in obedience classes and we have read a great many books/articles on training and raising a good dog. We are very consistant and have tried to make sure we especially socialize and keep him around people and children often. We have a 5 year old little boy. Dutch is especially submissive to my husband and is the perfect dog when he's around for the most part. We have also made sure we pet him while eating/chewing a bone etc. to keep him from being food aggressive. Dutch is extrememly food motivated and gets PLENTY to eat.

Around 3 months old this started to be a problem, Dutch began growling at us if we touched him while he ate his food or a bone, most aggressively at our son. No biting though. This has gotten to be a pretty big problem, being if I'm even cooking at the counter and my son comes up and hugs the dog or touches him he will growl and bear his teeth at him. The trainer has told us to take a bone/chew away if he growls or let my son or I hold it while he chews; also to have my son palm feed him his food to establish my son as a caregiver to the dog. This has helped a little but still worried as the other day Dutch actually snapped and snarled at my son and then at me when I repremanded him, to which he landed himself in the kennel for a few hours to cool off. 

Dutch is a great dog other than this issue and some potty accidents still. He's lovable, protective and loyal. Also great with strangers once he's sniffed them a bit. 

The trainer and others have informed me that Dutch is entering his adolesence stage and he will begin testing his boundries and becoming more bold. We've had no problems with repeating that behavior since and as I said the palm feeding seems to be working. I'm wanting to get some feedback from others as I feel this is a breed specifit issue, and can't be generalized necessarily by someone who just trains every Tom, Dick and Harry type of dog. Needless to say, Dutch will be out the door if he continues to behave that way towards my son. We don't want that...please help if you can. 

Lori's picture
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I would suggest a new trainer.  I was actually reading about this very thign the other day.  I leanred that very dog gets closer to biting by degrees,  the first is often pushing them around physically,  then maybe a growl or bark,  then the snap in the air as a warning,  and when nothing is done to correct any of that the next thing naturally is for the dog to actually put is mouth on someone.  Not necessarily bite down but teeth touching skin,   again if nothing happens their confidence is built up and maybe the next time it will be an actual bite. 

 

It's a progression they go through seeing how far they can get.  When he growled the first time at his food he was telling you to back off.   If you had stopped it there it probably wouldn't have went further, but you didn't and he's moved on because he knows he can - he's already gotten too far, go find a trainer that specializes in this and put a stop to it now. 

 

Adolesence or not Rocky has never ever once growled, or snapped at anyone for any reason.  I've said before in many threads like this.  No dog of mine will ever growl at me, period!   I don't care whether they are eating, sleeping, peeing, walking, have their fav toy, never is it in any way ok to growl at their people.

Dennis Miller's picture
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Ditto Lori.  I would try this jmarieac; put a six foot leash on him.the next time you feed him, when he first starts to eat, give him the command to sit and use the leash if necessary to put him in a sit. count to 30 and replace the food all the while he is sitting. No sit no food.  give the command ok and let him eat.  Repeat this 3 or 4 times at every meal every day.  He needs to learn that he has food, and he eats, because you say so, no other reason.  I would work on this and forget about the petting while eating, at least for now.  Hope it helps.

LaBellaVita's picture
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My Doberman has never growled at me either, so I'm at loss.

I'm sure Dutch, see's your son as another litter mate and thats understandable, but for him to be growling/snapping at you and your son. No way!!!

Dutch, will test his boundaries (what kid doesn't) but this seems more than that.

He's still young, and not that you can't teach an old dog new tricks,but habits are hard to break!!  I would NIP this one in the butt quick, before it becomes one.

I would defeinatley seek some advice from your current trainer, other trainers, maybe even call your vet, maybe he/she can lead you in the right direction, search through the forums and check out some websites.

Good luck and I hope you find something/someone that can help you guys out..

Keep us posted :)

 

Joined: 2012-05-10

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It sounds like a food aggression issue to me. I think all the above information is good, but add some more things. like:

Have your son touch all his dog food first before the dog eats it. Including treats & bones. The theory behind this is that the pack leader establishes dominance by eating first, so when you have him put his sent on the food it will let the dog know he has been there first. He is more dominate. I would also follow what Dennis said. Once the dog is doing it correctly, then have your son instruct him to sit & wait & give the food ( supervised)

What you should look up is dominant behaviour and aggression. I would also make him wait until your family has eaten before you feed him, because the dominant pack leader eats first. Make sure he walks behind you. goes in doors after you ect.

When you prepare your food, keep him out of the kitchen. He should learn that he needs to be invited into that space by you or your son. Claiming your boundaries.

I'm going through all the steps with our new adopted dobie to help him understand where he belongs in our family, however I have had to do this with other rescue pets and it turned out fine. We are lucky because it appears this isn't a problem with Kayos.

I have created what I call safe zones in my home and yard for my children. These zones are where the dog may not go. When we adopted Kayos, we didn't know much about him and we wanted our children to have areas where we did not have to supervise them with the dog ( we picked areas hard to supervise like up stairs, bedrooms), it also acts as a shield or safe place they can retreat to for the children. It has helped us big time. Kayos is a well trained, behaved boy, however he did not understand how to play with his human children, so he would jump up and mouth the children. He would get so excited it was hard to stop him, so the kids would give him the "off" Command and retreat to the safe zone (It is important this zone is not used for teasing) when he calmed down they would come back out and interact with him. We also started training with the children to change the behaviour of the dog.  Our safe zone is the indoor unit, which works with our inviable fence brand. As our dog improves with his training, the play is more gentle and the children are able to command him with out using a safe zone.  They just stop playing when he jumps, or mouths and walk away.

My boys are older 8 yrs & 10yrs, however I still think a 5 yr old is old enough to attend training classes and learn to. I have my trainer work with my boys as well as me. I want the dog to respect us all and be managed by all family members. We would like to at some point leave the dog with the children unsupervised and feel it is important to see they can handle any situation to.

jmariec's picture
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@Lori

We have never 'tolerated' Dutch growling, it's met with consequenses of many kinds, taking his food away, having his muzzle smacked  and being put immediately in his kennel. I'm in the process of talking with another trainer about options and behavior advice. Thanks. 

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@LaBellaVita

Thanks. I am very much on the search for help/info. As I said in every other aspect Dutch is a wonderful dog, and great with my son. My son has been palm feeding dutch his meals and this is seeming to help. We haven't had any growling for a few days so we'll see how it goes. 

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@Everythingisjustchaos

Thanks so much for taking the time to give your advise. My son is already, as I said to someone else, palm feeding Dutch his meals for a few days now, which seems to have helped but I haven't done that with the treats. Also my son does scoop his food, and make him sit and stay, then gives the release command before Dutch gets to eat. We will try the safe zones idea...that seems like it would be good for Dutch. I had a feeling it was just a dominance issue with my son, being another male in the house and as Dutch is very submissive to my husband Dutch is trying to establish that over my son. 

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@Dennis Miller

Thanks. I haven't seen anything like what you're saying to do before so we will try it. 

LaBellaVita's picture
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How's Dutch doing with your son?

it sounds like you are doing everything right - keep at it and be persistent.... this too shall pass. 

glengate's picture
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Honestly, I would stop playing with the dog's food and just let him eat it already.  It's no wonder he feels he has to protect it if people are playing games with it and him while he's trying to fulfull a life necessity - eating.  It could be you're actually creating this problem, not curbing it.  Wouldn't you get protective of your food if someone were trying to take it from you or stop you from eating it or interrupting you?  Personally, I think a puppy/dog should be given a safe place to eat and given time to do so in peace.   Your child should not be interrupting him.  I have no problem with the concept of the child filling the dish, making puppy sit before serving it and then just back off and let the poor dog eat. 

I'm conflicted about growling over the bone, because again, it's his bone, you gave it to him and it's your child that should be leaving Dutch alone while he's trying to chew it.   It wouldn't be appropriate for Dutch to try to take your child's toy while he's trying to play with it, why is it ok for the child to take Dutch's bone?  Nevertheless, there is a book out there about resource guarding called "Mine" that you might want to look into.  I'm sorry I don't remember the author - it might be Jean Donaldson but can't swear to it. 

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@LaBellaVita

Thanks for asking. It's going a little better. We're still working on things and trying to be patient, consitant and maintane a postive attitude about this...I'll keep you all posted. :)

 

@glengate

I understand your point. Our outlook on the situation is this. Anything we provide for Dutch to eat/chew/enjoy is given to him because we allow it. This is the perspective of most things we have read, and things we have learned from our trainer. Also our son is to be respected and looked to as Alpha over Dutch in our house. After all, our son is a human being, and Dutch is a dog. Having a child in the house we want to teach Dutch that it is never acceptable to growl or act aggressive in any way toward our child. So if Dutch growls we will take the precautions to teach Dutch weather it's physical discipline or showing Dutch that every piece of food is given to him by one of the 'alphas' (my son) in the 'pack' of our home then that's what we will do. We don't want to take a chance of, with ignoring the problem, one day my son decides to give Dutch a pat while eating and he gets his face ripped off. We also definantly want to avoid that happening with a stranger or one of my son's friends that's visiting that doesn't know our dog, a potential lawsuit and euthanization of Dutch, I believe is far worse than him having to learn to not growl at people when eating. We value our son a lot more than our dog. We will def look into the book though. Any resource is appreciated. 

glengate's picture
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However, growling is a warning and if you're trying to squelch that, you risk elevating the situation to biting without a warning.  Right now, it could be that Dutch is trying to tell you he's uncomfortable with the situation.  I understand your points, but the dog's comfort level must be considered as well. 

This "alpha" business drives me crazy.  If you're an alpha, you don't have to make constant displays of it.  If you're alpha, you're alpha.  You don't have to announce it constantly and show it constantly, you just ARE.  Most dogs are not alpha dogs, most dogs don't try to be alpha dogs, most dogs are not comfortable with that position and try to avoid it.  Yet, people have decided that dogs are trying to run everything and they seem to be desperately trying to avoid something that isn't even happening.  He's 5 months old, it's very unlikely to be aggression but rather some kind of discomfort.

If you give him the food, great, you gave him the food.  You don't have to drive the point home again and again and again during the same meal.  Yes, you gave it to him, but others are saying "take it away", "hold it", stop him, make him sit, interrupt him, do this, do that.  I say you gave it to him, now let him have it.  And pay attention to a growl.  Rather than try to stop it, you've got to understand it.  Maybe you need a behaviourist to witness the situation and advise, rather than a trainer trying to just stop it. 

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Again I see all your points as very valid. We want to understand where Dutch is coming from and what the problem really is. Something happened today that made us think it is indeed a, 'alpha' problem with our son. (btw...I hate that label and all the hub-bub about that as well...)

We were going for a walk, usually I have just been working on letting Dutch walk...as long as he doesn't pull the leash he's fine and I let him walk about 3 feet in front of us, also when our son walkes in front of Dutch,  he would always pull, so I made my son walk next to me behind Dutch, to make the walk easier. 

Tonight we decided to let our son and I walk in front of Dutch and really work on the heel command. As my son and I walked in front of Dutch he completely started acting like a fool of a dog. Desperately pulling the leash, eyes on my son. The further we got in front of Dutch the more Dutch fought and pulled the leash, eyes on my son. A block long walk took 1/2 hour to get through. I'm thinking we need to really enforce this and work with Dutch and this may help establish our son as a person to be respected in the house by Dutch, alpha issue or not. 

Thanks again for your input. We love Dutch to pieces and desperately just want him to be a great fit for our family. The loyalty and protectiveness he already displays at a young age is something we value very much in him. 

Joined: 2012-05-10

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Sorry it took me so long to check in on things... It sounds like you are trying hard. I totally agree with creating a respect of the HUMANS. I do believe that what you are experiencing is dominant behaviour, and your son is viewed as a litter / pack mate in your house because you as the leader cares for each puppy / little boy. It seems to me one of the issues you addressed was taking place in the kitchen, when you are preparing dinner....your dinner...Human food. So we are saying it is ok to guard your food Dutch and it's ok to guard our food or are we trying to say it's not ok to guard food at all, Because sometimes our food....is your food too and just because we know the difference, does Dutch.

I'm not trying to open up an argument here... But I strongly feel it is right to expect your pet to respect you. I'm speaking form experience. I had a bitting dog. I trained my children to keep away. Yes she bit them. a little nibble at first, then a blood gusher... still, I trained the kids... her food... her chair... she growls... back away. Our kids were well trained, but when someone else kids came over, not good. She moved to adults and guess what.. we quit playing keep away when she went to heaven at 15yrs. 10 bitten kids, and 2 adults. Oh and 1 vet. We got to keep her because, bitting family doesn't count and she was a little dog with a little bite.

Will I do it again....NEVER! I now know how to see a dog with dominant behaviour because I won't go through it again. It's a lot of work, but when you love them it is worth it. I went to training, to train myself so I would never let a dog be dominant in my house.

Have you fixed him yet... it helps! And talk to your vet about this issue, they may have options for you.

Keep trying, good luck.

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Well, here's my thoughts on things.  I don't follow any of the alpha logic, I think most things that people do to establish themselves as alpha are silly and not needed.  If you want your dog to respect you, show him respect, be fair, consistent, and react to things accordingly.  My opinion is taking food away from a dog to try to make him respect you is counterproductive...  You're not establishing yourself as alpha, you're establishing yourself as someone who acts irrationally, (because they dog doesn't know why you're taking his food, he just knows your taking his food) and I kinda think it's a bully thing to do.  This will often create a dog that is not a good eater, because they are confused, and the think at any moment their food may be taken from them for seemingly no reason.

 

I would also tend to agree with what Glengate says, in the sense that you have to look at why the dog is growling, and that's the only way to try to correct the problem.  When EXACTLY does the dog growl, what EXACTLY triggers it, when does it stop, etc.

I think one of the most overlooked parts of working with a dog is marking behaviors.  It is simple to do, the dog understands instantly, and there's no confusion.  If you can isolate, and mark the behavior, then you can work on changing the behavior.  But, if you can't mark the behavior, it becomes much harder and more tedious to correct.

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Thanks so much for the comments, and taking the time to respond. Dutch is doing much better this last week or so. We have been making sure our son is being placed in situations where Dutch has to respect him and let him lead on a walk, go in the door first. It may be silly (and it is to me, seeing as I again don't really buy into the whole 'alpha' thing and just tend to think a dog is a dog, very smart but maybe doesn't take that behavior to the extreme that people think they do). That seems to have really helped too. 

We've stopped messing with his food for the most part....our son will give him a light tap on the lower back and tell him, "good boy" after our son has fed him. We all will take turns just giving him a pat when he eats or sitting by him for a few minutes, when he has a bone or chew.

Dutch has been fixed about a month ago, and over the last couple weeks I've really noticed a mellowing of Dutch's personality and some of the annoying behaviors he was exhibiting. I know he's also entering his adolescence stage so not sure if that has anything to do with our newfound mature dobe...

We just got to a place of let's lay off the making such a big deal out of meal time for Dutch, just be relaxed about it. Also per the trainers suggestion, Dutch just goes in his kennel or outside when I cook, that way we just avoid the problem with the human food all together, which has made for more stress free meal times for our family.

Looking forward to more and more positive behaviors and fun times with Dutch.

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I just finished reading the entire thread here, and all I can say is - WOW!

Jmar, I totally agree with your perspective on this.

I may be late, but here's my two cents, anyway. 

NOTE: I am NO professional [by any means], but I have managed to raise a well-behaved, well-trained, very well-mannered Doberman.

(1) I really love my dog, but he does NOT run my household - and his needs and comforts are NOT equal to or greater than those of my children.

It seems like some folks' priorities could use some re-examination as it relates to the role of human versus household PET. I know we all love our dogs and consider them to be part of the family. However, I honestly find all these excuses being made for a dog growling and snapping at the hands that feed him to be outrageous. It is NOT okay - END of story.

I've trained my Dobe to sit and freeze while his food is prepared; he is only to move an inch once it has been offered to him by the proper voice command. If he EVER threatened me with a growl or snap at any time for any reason, I would match his threat and then some [and he knows it]. 

(2) Obedience and appropriate behavior isn't an option for my dog. Structure FIRST, then AFFECTON. 

The cool thing about having a dog is that you can expect him/er to obey and behave in the manner in which you have trained them [if you are consistent]. If you have a dog who bites, is out of control or unpredictable, it takes all the fun out of enjoying your pet. 

(3) A Strong Dog Calls for Strong Discipline!

These aren't miniture Poodles. Dobermans are large, powerful, sometimes stubborn and aggressive animals. They aren't for owners who make excuses for them, ignore their disobediance, cower out at their threats, and tolerate their misbehavior. You're doing the right thing by recognizing that Dutch's growling and snapping behavior is NOT to be accepted. When he gets bold and aggressive, it's critical that someone in the household be able to take him all the way back to ground zero immediately [meaning TOTAL submission].

Although I do believe it's important do your homework to better understand your pet, if I've got a dog SNAPPING at my CHILD, my first thought isn't scheduling him for the next appointment with the family shrink. My reaction would be to firmly grip his snout and give him a deep, bellowing, "NO!" <------ At the very least.

(4) Bottom Line

Dutch needs to understand with absolute clarity that it is NEVER, EVER an acceptable behavior to snap, growl or bite a human hand in the household and that he is expected to obey every member of the family, every time. If he respects your husband, wait until he is around to witness the behavior. Maybe the problem is that Dutch sees your husband as his leader and not you or your son [happens all the time in families].  

Best of luck.

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About a week after I got Jade she snarled at me when I went to get her up off the couch. She had been sleeping. I immediately grabbed her by the collar, pulled her off the couch, made her sit and then down all with a firm NO! She complied and after the fuss was over it was time for bed. All was well for a few weeks and she did it again one night, this time she had been up on our bed snuggling and sleeping next to my husband. Again, I didn't tolerate it. Firmly off the bed she went, into a down and a firm reprimand. I also realized I had been giving her wayyy too much affection and not enough discipline. So I made adjustments in our daily interactions. I have not had any problems since. Also, from day one I have made her sit and wait while I prepare her food. She cannot eat until I say "OK". She is very treat and food motivated and scarfs her food down within minutes. I think if I had let her get away with those early tests she would have kept pushing it. She still is the type of dog that takes a mile if you give an inch so I keep that in mind always. 

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I had and sometimes still have an issue with Ben grumbling at his food bowl, he has growled a couple of times but for the most part it is a grumble. What I am working on is:

The out right growl - he has to back away from the food bowl and the bowl gets removed and he has to go back through his routine of sitting across the kitchen, waiting and then gets released to finish his food.

The grumble is usually because the chihuahua has finished eating first and has run UNDER Ben to see if he dropped something, so the chihuahua gets called away and Ben is fine. Now we try to slowly feed Pepe so that Ben has a chance to eat without interference from the little dog, if Ben has meds in his food at the time the chi is crated while Ben eats and then he gets fed when Ben is done.

Ben is very food motivated and treat motivated so when he is allowed to eat treats which currently he is not per vet instructions, I typically use that treat motivation to my advantage and I will ask Ben to sit and wait at his food bowl and then I pick up the bowl and ADD a yummy treat to it and back down the bowl goes, this way he learns that when I go to pick up the bowl it means "yayayaya something even better than food" so he gets happy about having his bowl tampered with, he is beginning to take that in great stride from me, but not my husband, since he not home enough when Ben grumbles and my husband says "hey" Ben sometimes turns and still grumbles under his breath like a kid getting in the last word and as my husband approaches to just get closer to Ben, Ben will get a bit louder at which point it's time for a re-run of manners. Ben only gets the treat thing when he is quiet and comfortable with someone close to the bowl.

Where Ben is fed is key too. Our kitchen is not laid out where any of our dogs can eat without being in a spot that at some point a human may need to get to the cabinet next to them or some such, we have placed Ben in the most open area but that still puts him at a doorway to the dining room so we must be able to move past him and when need be move his huge butt out of the way in order to pass by him and that all must be done safely so this is a work in progress. Ben will not snap he is just not happy about touches or closeness while eating, but I insist that this be done cause there have been times as silly as it sounds when the cat has taken a toy up on the kitchen counter and then flips it up in the air and over into ben's dish, since he eats EVERYTHING in his bowl we MUST be able to snatch that toy before he eats it, so we are working on "drop it" then "leave it" these are things that Ben knows but he has a hard time with the self control to actually DO the command when there is food involved. Because he loves his food so much it's taking him a long time to do his commands that he knows meaning that we are working with him and reminding daily of what is expected.

I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor as ours has and is an ongoing project that is lasting way longer than we wanted.....

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@Randevyn

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I COMPLETELY agree with all you said. It's nice to hear from someone who is really on the same page and understands what you are meaning. I especially love your point #3. :)

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@talisin

Dutch is extremely treat and food motivated as well. Someone brought to our attention recently that because Dutch was the runt of the litter that may have something to do with his behavior toward our son who he may see as a 'litter-mate' with his food. I thought this was a great point seeing as Dutch is so great with our son in every other aspect of our days. 

Also our little 'endeavor' is lasting much longer than we thought or wanted as well....Do puppies really not get out of the 'adolescence' stage until 2 years old?!? Yikes!!

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@Tinks65

Thanks so much for your comment. :)

I completely know what you mean by, the "take a mile if you give an inch" thing. That is so Dutch! We're working diligently and making progress...we'll see how it goes. 

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With a male it will be at least 2 years old - Rocky was just over 2 when we started noticing many changes in him.   Calmer in general and less excitable,  he's no longer ever crated, he is really on his way to being a great dog now but it took a good 2 years and a lot of attention, training and exercise to get there...keep working on it and be firm with him.  He'll get it eventually.  

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I am going through this exact same thing with my rescued Dobe male vs my 10 year old son right now I have the best trainer in Calgary working with him and we have only been working with him for 1 week now my Dog Ruger lunges at my son, barks, gorwls and has even gave a warning bite "no blood" so this is why we called in the trainer here are the first things you need to do.

 

1. Make sure he knows that his is the lowest member of your pack. Your Dog thinks he can control your son and you need to make sure that your son can do whatever he wants without having to worry about the dog.

2. NEVER leave them alone together becuase something bad WILL happen.

3. Keep a leash on him at all times so if he focuses on your son, barks, growls etc you give a quick correction with the leash ONLY do not talk to your dog, yell or touch him all corrections should only be done by leash.

4. Include your son on things that the dog will view him in a good way for example let your son feed the dog, trow the ball, anything the dog enjoys let your son be part of it that way he will learn to respect your son.

5. NEVER let your dog get away with this behavior he needs to be corrected everytime in order for this to work.

6. Seek out a proffessional trainer when a dog has aggression towards humans it spells disaster espessially when it comes to young children you need to get him assesed and started in something asap for the safety of your son and your dog.

I wish you all the best of luck and have fun!

 

If you want more info on what method of training Ruger is in feel free to look at this website

http://www.konfidentkanines.com/

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ALSO NEVER EVER HIT YOUR DOG IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM NOR YELL SCREAM OR PUT HIM DOWN THIS WILL ONLY MAKE HIM NOT TRUST YOU AND SHOW HIM THAT ITS OK FOR YOU TO BE AGGRESSIVE SO WHY CANT HE IT WILL ONLY DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD.

@Randevyn: Very well said and I agree with everything you said. I feel the same way

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@Randevyn - Well said and great advice.

@jmariec - We've had the same problem with our 1 yo doberman being aggressive toward our 6yo son. We rescued her and have had her just over 3 weeks. We started obedience training and behavior correction this past Saturday. The trainer is having us keep a tight, thin choke with a 10'' leash on her at all times (inside or outside) when she is around us and not on her leash. This allows us to catch her and correct her behavior quickly. She wears her normal collar in her crate or when she's outside by herself.

The trainer told us the correction of aggressive behavior had to be a higher level of the behavior itself. If the behavior was at a level 8 the correction needs to be at a 12 or 15. If not, you are just teaching your dog how to be more aggressive.  You have to correct the behavior even if you have to chase your dog down to give the correction.

Hope that helps.

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Thanks a lot everyone. This has all been such a relief and help. Just knowing there are others out there dealing with the same stuff, also that dobes are such a distinct personality dog, the general rule doesn't always apply to them I don't think. It's been such a blessing getting feedback from others. 

 

@csikes

Good to know. We might have to try that although we feel things have improved greatly. Dutch has (unfortunately for him) had to learn the hard way with some things in the last few weeks but seems to be doing much better. Still testing his boundries, as puppies will, but really seems to have a better idea of knowing his place. 

We were thinking of getting a second dobe, from a rescue in a few months, but my gosh I think one dobe is all we might be able to handle!! 

Thanks for your feedback!!