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Early signs of alpha
  • After the initial period of being overwhelmed when I brought Joey home, he has become a crazy, playful, outgoing little guy. After watching him carefully for the past few weeks, I'm now starting to wonder if I'm seeing some of the early signs of dominance behaviors. Here are some of the things I've noticed...

    • When we approach people on leash, it takes me minutes to get him to sit behind me. Every time we take two steps forward, he lunges excitedly again. I repeat the sitting exercise, and then move forward. When we get within five feet or so, I can't get him to stay behind me anymore.

    • He always greets other dogs (and me on occasion) by jumping up and pawing at their face or back. Most times he's growling while doing so. I'm torn between trying to discourage this behavior and letting other dogs (that I know won't tear him limb from limb) discipline him for it.

    • He has started charging at Lucy and body checking her (unprovoked from what I can tell). This seems to have picked up noticeably since Lucy hasn't been feeling well, so maybe I can attribute this to him sensing weakness?

    Do these things sound like something to be nervous about? Or are they still just puppy playfulness that he'll grow out of? I don't think it is aggressive, just dominant, but I'm no expert.
  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 2242
    The first one I would say is pure puppy... not necessarily dominance.

    The second one sounds kinda bad to me, the growling, I would let some dogs correct him for that - or correct him yourself. That type of thing could get him hurt if he doesn't learn not to do it.

    The third is a tossup, it could just be him starting to position himself in the pack, I'm pretty sure he will be above Lucy from what I have read in your posts.

    Might want to try daycare or something where he can learn how to play with other dogs [other than Lucy].

    that's my thoughts.

  • hondruhondru
    Posts: 529
    Sounds like regular puppy stuff to me, but I agree with Brad that it's probably a good idea to start socializing him. Eventually, puppy behaviours become unacceptable to other dogs, but puppies don't learn to outgrow those behaviours unless they get a chance to socialize with other dogs.
    -Heidi, with Rakka (shikoku) and Sosuke (kai ken)
  • LeonbergerLeonberger
    Posts: 3580
    I agree with Brad on the first and third.
    The second, I think you might be right (and Brad too). Kuma does something a similar but without the growling. And if the other dogs don't try to escape from that, or I don't correct him, he'll eventually start humping them.
  • brandon_wbrandon_w
    Posts: 3433
    I think the third thing is Joey just trying to get Lucy to play. When she was feeling better I'm sure they played a lot more, Joey just wants his play buddy back and is trying to entice her with a him check.
  • We've done quite a bit of socialization with him so far. He's had regular playdates, gets time to run around with the neighborhood dogs at least once a week. And now that he's fully vaccinated, we've been going to the dog park on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I don't have the money for daycare right now. Lucy's biopsy took all of my disposable income to pay for and I need to keep some money around in case other health events come up.

    It is the second behavior that worries me the most. I'm scared that, like you guys said, he is going to try to paw the wrong dog and get attacked. Some of my neighbors get upset when their dogs growl or nip at him for doing that, so I try to convince them that their dogs are wholly within their rights to correct him like that.

    Anyway, thanks for the advice.
  • tsukitsunetsukitsune
    Posts: 6468
    The first, I agree, is a total puppy thing.
    The second, it took one dog to really snarl, get vocal and roll Tsuki to get her to start greeting dogs calmly sniffing from the side. I think she was about 5 months old when that behavior was corrected! My husband almost layed an egg in terror but we let it play out and she learned a valuable lesson that day! He'll get there! I think a lot of the time in a social situation where it would be a really good thing to let dogs interact together naturally, most owners just do not understand the body language, I'm a victim, I don't know a lot, but I know enough that some dog, especially pup, behavior is considered rude and an adult dog (or dogs) need to harmlessly correct it so they know how to behave. Maybe when Lucy is feeling better she'll lay the smack down!
    The last, when a pup lives with a dog and they get that burst of 'gotta do something fun' energy - he might just be trying to really rile up Lucy!

    I'm glad they have a dad that cares so much! :)
    Post edited by tsukitsune at 2008-05-15 11:43:01
  • diggahdiggah
    Posts: 105
    I agree with tsukitsune, our pup tends to treat her bigger brother more like a litter-mate; and she still does obnoxious things to him that she knows would land her in hot water in the dog park. Context is everything when you're looking at behaviors.

    As far as the Dave's comments about the neighbor's concerns, I have to add something. It is true that dogs teach other dogs the rules of engagement, and it is also true that occasionally a dog will be called upon to "play teacher" so to speak. But it is also important to remember that some dogs (and their owners) don’t want certain behaviors to be enforced. I’ve had Mochi get aggressive at some basically good natured (albeit big, dumb, and slobbering) pups. The owners are very understanding, and they encourage the odd nip at the jowls; but I don’t want anything to do with it. Yes, their dog will learn that not everybody wants to play, but my dog will also learn that if something annoys him, and he snaps at it; it may very well go away and leave him alone.

    I think all the owners in these forums have had the “Oh, don’t worry, my dog just wants to play” encounter, so I know I’m preaching to the choir. Still, it bears repeating that in choosing the animals that you want to interact with your pup; you also have to consider the fact that another animal’s behaviors are being shaped through these interactions as well. And for that reason it is important to respect the judgment of the other dog’s owners. I don’t mean any offense to Dave, I’m sure he understands this; but sometimes I come across folks who don’t understand this and it can be very trying at times.
  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 2242
    Dave - Have you ever tried a "puppy hold" on Joey before?

  • Diggah: You make an excellent point. I agree with you completely. I didn't, however, share the entire story. I was thinking of two dogs in particular when I made that comment. A Bichon and a BC that are owned by two of my neighbors. Both are older and both allow Joey to be crazy with them for a little while. They then progress through the warning signs. First avoidance, then teethe showing, then growling, and finally they'll tackle him or nip at him. The owners are fine with the behavior until the tackle or nip. I understand they might not want to reinforce that behavior, but I also feel its good for Joey to get put in his place by dogs that show the appropriate warning sings. Ultimately though, its up to them, like you said.

    Brad: Nope. What's a "puppy hold"?
  • kwyldkwyld
    Posts: 506
    No advice Dave, just a little tidbit of info regarding a "dominant" or "alpha" dog. My behaviorist says if a male dog lifts it's leg to urinate every time, and does not squat it is truely an alpha personality. Sorry, kinda off subject though.
  • Well, Joey is quite four months old yet so he still squats. Time will tell I guess. :-)
  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 2242
    A puppy hold is kinda like an alpha roll but w/o the overly physical aspect.

    Take Joey and sit down on a chair with his back pressed against your chest, so he is facing away from you. Then put your pointer finger and you thumb, from you right hand, one each side of his jaw [where his jaw starts]. Use your other hand to pet him or play w/ his feet [w/e].

    You don't have to apply any pressure on his jaw or press him hard against you - that is really the point... to be gentle.

    If he is more dominant he will spaz out and make all kinds of noises... wiggle like a fish.. just generally spaz out. Don't let him down till he calms, once he stops fighting it count to three and then let him go.

    That's an easy way to temperament test him... We can do that to Loa all day, we try it with Kona or when Ahi was a pup and they FREAK out. you would think we were killing them.

    *You really don't want to do a puppy hold past 6 months of age.

    Here is an example of me doing it on Woofy:


  • Woofy? You didn't tell us you added to your pack again! ;-)

    Thanks for the explanation. I have been practicing something similar with him twice a day. I haven't been putting my hand under his jaw like that...I'll have to give that a try. He's gotten much better, he used to squirm and squeal like I was killing him (the first time I did it he actually expressed his anal glands on me, EEEEEEEWWWWWW). After a week or so he learned to calm down. Then, it took another week or so for me to be able to play with his feet in that position without him freaking out. Now, his behavior when I hold him like that is largely dependent on his mood. If he's playful when I pick him up, he'll squirm but won't make much noise. If he's tired, he's basically compliant, but definitely tense.
  • ddowdemersddowdemers
    Posts: 670
    I think Woofy likes it!
  • Ok, tried the puppy hold on Joey before our evening walk....Not so much. He was a pretty unhappy camper for the first minute or so. When he finally relaxed I rolled him over on his tummy and snuggled for a few minutes. He was much happier.
  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 2242
    yea, that is what i thought... i think you may have a pretty dominant boy there.


    Woofy is Jen's wolf... we have wolf - did I not tell you? Woofy is very submissive. lol

  • LeonbergerLeonberger
    Posts: 3580
    There was a battery of tests to assess temperament on puppies. I don't remember the name, I think it was something like Carter or Gardner, not sure. I'll check the books at home later. It consists of 6or7 tests kind of like the puppy hold. One of them is to hod the puppy from under the sternum and hold him a few inches from the ground and take note of his reaction. The results of the seven tests combined gave you an idea of temperament. I'll look into it later when I get home and then post something more objective...
  • RomiRomi
    Posts: 2722
    Sounds interesting Rui, I'd love to know what the tests consist of.

    Dave - you need to get more video! I don't think i've seen joey and lucy on video except for when they first met and when lucy was licking your bald spot :P

    Ninja doesn't mind the puppy hold at all, he actually seems to enjoy it. Portia on the other hand never in her life liked it. She would squirm and try to get on her feet as fast as possible. Its kind of interesting how dogs are so different. Ninja is very submissive to us, but pretty dominant with portia. Portia likes to test us to the limit but submits to us when enough is enough, but she is pretty submissive to ninja most of the time.
  • LeonbergerLeonberger
    Posts: 3580
    My memory isn't what it used to be :-)
    The is called the Campbell test and not Gardner or Carter.
    Anyway, it is made of 5 tests (and not 6 or 7) that should be done at 7(I knew there was a seven somewhere!) weeks, by a perfect stranger for the puppy in a quiet place without distractions (often the future owner), so not helpful at all here.

    The only thing that might help a bit is that the test sees a puppy that struggles for a bit but then settles as a balanced/submissive dog, if that result is the one that happens the most through out the test.
  • Thanks for checking into it Rui. I think I've actually heard about the test before. Does it include doing thing like holding them on their back, and calling them from across the room, and putting them up on a box to see how they find their way down?
  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 2242
    There is also the Volhard Puppy Aptitude and Conformation Test:

    The Volhard Puppy Aptitude and Conformation Test

  • Thanks Brad, that's interesting. Do you know at what age that is supposed to be administered?
  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 2242
    I know some breeders do those tests as early as 8 weeks and as late as 4 months - it depends on the breed and how fast they mature - you probably missed the boat for Joey using this test... but I really don't know for sure.

  • LeonbergerLeonberger
    Posts: 3580
    Dave - You're welcome. If I remember what I read this morning, the Campbell consists of a test where you call the puppy form across a room/enclosed space; a dominance test (alpha roll); a social dominance test, "trapping" the puppy's head between your hands, like you're petting him while applying some pressure on the throat. Nothing much, of course; an elevation dominance test where you pick the puppy up from under the sternum; and walking away to see how the puppy follows you (and if he follows you).

    All of these are rated from DD to SS, passing D and S, in a grading from very dominant to very submissive. Adding the 5 results will give you an idea of how dominant the puppy is.
  • LeonbergerLeonberger
    Posts: 3580
    That's very interesting Brad! It's more complete that the Campbell.
  • Thanks Rui. I guess I'll just have to rely on my instincts with Joey. :-)

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