Cheryl May's Questions and Answers

Dog Biting and Out of Control

Q. We have an almost two year old Cocker Spaniel... he's a wonderful, loving, affectionate dog, but he if he doesn't want to do something he growls and snaps. He has now bitten my husband twice and the word is he gets one more chance and if that doesn't fly we have to give him away.

I went through a basic training course with a trainer that came to the house. I have a seven year old daughter and both she and my husband play pretty rough with the dog. My husband has a strong voice and can get him to listen. He listens to me but with other distractions not as well. There is a whole barking and jumping and vocal ceremony when my husband comes home from work and he jumps all over, but then it lasts about 5 minutes and its over.

The most recent situation was my husband called him several times and it seemed as though Thor ignored him completely and chose to stay with me. Well when my husband raised his voice, Thor got scared and ran under the table. When my husband went to get him Thor decided to snap. We punished him and the previouse trainer said to even hang him with the choker chain for a few seconds, which I did for correction.

We all really love the dog and want desperately for Thor to be a part of our family, but the snapping, growling, etc., isn't going to fly. The alpha rollover I know is good but how do we get him from under the table and do this or is there some way we can please change this behavior???

None of us want to get rid of him because we love him but this behavior cannot go on. - D.B.

A. You have some serious problems -- unfortunately more than we can solve via e-mail. You have been given some very bad advice -- hanging the dog by a choke chain and using the Alpha roll will not help and will actually make the situation worse.

Job Michael Evans, who first recommended the Alpha roll, later wrote that he regretted ever giving that advice and the Monks of New Skete have taken it out of their most recent book. It's a good way to get yourself bitten in the face.

Check out my book review page on the Web. Anything by Patricia McConnell is good, especially Cautious Canine. Also, Brenda Aloff's aggression book is wonderful.

You need to deal with this via management until you get it under control. Put a leash on the dog when it is in the house so that you can stop any action by stepping on the leash.

Contact your local dog club and see if you can locate any trainers who use operant conditioning and kind methods.

Stop the rough play! Read my article on "How to be the Leader Your Dog Needs." Work basic obedience -- sits, downs, recalls -- for treats -- and randomize the treats -- don't give one every time.

Put the dog in a kennel/crate when your husband comes home from work -- or have the dog on a leash. Your husband should greet the dog calmly -- not in an excited way.

You cannot solve aggression problems with harsh methods.

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