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How does one curb mild dominance aggression in an 8 month old puppy? We practice NLIF and have done so since he was 5 months old. He's usually pretty compliant with me, but when he gets "zoomy", good luck trying to get him to NOT steal things off of shelves or bounce off of the furniture or barrel straight into our legs or leap up and NIP our arms! He also doesn't respect my mother as much as myself, so with her these episodes are quite a bit worse. We're trying to train it out of him, but I just wanted to ask, is this just a phase? And what's the best ways to deal with it?

Also, a small question on food aggression; we can't give him any rawhide/knuckle bones/marrow bones, because when we need to take it, he will snarl and back away with it. I don't want to get bitten, so we've eliminated these altogether until we're certain we can train this tendency out of him with such treats. However, he is also slightly food aggressive with his food. What we do is we tell him to sit by where his bowl is set down, we put his bowl down, put his food into his bowl, tell him to "leave it" (which he does beautifully), and then "take it". He eats like a dog starved, and if I put my hand near his nose he will growl a little bit. I will tell him ENOUGH and he will stop, and I will continue petting him. Honestly I could put my hand IN his bowl when I tell him to "take it" an he'll eat just fine, but if I take it out and try to put it in his bowl again, he's growling. I just wanted to know if we're going down the right track with this, he's been growling less but at a very slowed rate since we've started this routine. Can this sort of aggression ever be eliminated?
 

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For your first question, I'd advise more exercise for your dog. Some dogs just need more than you think. Niko gets a six mile walk/run in the AM, two hours of free play in the mid-day, and an hour walk in the evening. He's very well-behaved in the house and has never gotten the zoomies (in the house). Now with your dog, you may need to do even more than that. Also don't forget mental stimulation. Challenge him to figure out new things, be it new treat puzzle toys, or new commands/tricks.

It's great that you are doing NILIF, if it makes you feel any better, I suspect your dog would be even more difficult if you had not done that.

When you need to take a high value treat or toy, remember to trade up. Meaning if he's got a yummy bone, trade him for it with a piece of steak or something. Then give it right back to him, so he knows that you taking it away doesn't mean it's gone forever. Then trade it again. Teach him "drop it" with something not so high value. Always give it back to your dog after rewarding him for doing the drop it. Gradually increase the value of the item you are using during drop it, and also increase the value of the reward when he does drop it. Eventually you should be able to use the drop it command on those high value items. Over time you can use the drop it command and not return the item, but give a hefty reward.

Personally, I leave my dogs alone when they eat. I stand right there, keeping the bowl still with my feet, but I don't put my hands on them or anything like that. I don't have much experience with food aggression, so maybe someone else can help you better with that.
 

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When we went to puppy classes, my trainer told us one way to prevent or deal with food aggression was, instead of just putting your hand by his bowl, drop something really good into it (a piece of hot dog or something like that), every time, so that he begins to associate a hand by his dish with something good being added, not something being taken away.
 

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You should add NLIY, nothing in life is yours (his).

You need to pin (alpha roll) your dog ASAP.
Who's the boss, anyway? Your dog should NEVER growl at you, it should not enter his mind.
At 8 months you have a big dog with a puppy's brain and he is beginning to assert himself.
You can't allow him to dictate to you for ANYTHING.
 

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You should add NLIY, nothing in life is yours (his).

You need to pin (alpha roll) your dog ASAP.
Who's the boss, anyway? Your dog should NEVER growl at you, it should not enter his mind.
At 8 months you have a big dog with a puppy's brain and he is beginning to assert himself.
You can't allow him to dictate to you for ANYTHING.
With all due respect, I must disagree with the need for alpha rolling. For one, its merits as a training tool are debatable, and secondly, if done in such a way that the dog feels frightened or threatened, it can be extremely dangerous to the person doing it, not to mention the effect it has on the trust between dog and owner. I do agree with your statement that the dog is beginning to assert himself and test his limits. This is where all the hard work in training you did when he was young and compliant comes in to play. Continue to be consistent with the rules, be firm but fair.
 

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Definitely don't "alpha roll" him.

For the zoomies and stealing things - he's not being "dominant", he's being an 8 month old puppy. How much exercise does he get? Do you provide him with plenty food puzzle type chew toys (such as stuffed Kongs or Busy Buddies) as an outlet for chewing?

Resource guarding (the food aggression) is a very common dog behavior and is not a sign of dominance or anything other than a dog who wants to keep a high value item. It is a behavior you can and should work to modify though. This outlines a pretty good protocol for modifying resource guarding:
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You should add NLIY, nothing in life is yours (his).

You need to pin (alpha roll) your dog ASAP.
Who's the boss, anyway? Your dog should NEVER growl at you, it should not enter his mind.
At 8 months you have a big dog with a puppy's brain and he is beginning to assert himself.
You can't allow him to dictate to you for ANYTHING.
UGH! This advice is coming out of the stone ages of dog training. Kind of like you should beat your kid if they forget to take their shoes off and get mud on the carpet. The dog is a PUPPY. If you treat him using the advice above you are likely to cause more behavioral problems and although he may fear you, he will not respect or trust you. If you train a growl out of dog you may very well end up with a dog who bites without warning. There are so many other ways to train that are far more effective and not dangerous for the dog or the handler.


To the OP: You need to step up your leadership role with your puppy. Try to get away from applying labels (like aggression and dominance) to normal puppy behavior. I agree with increasing exercise, real attention and short training sessions and using NILIF.

Work on establishing yourself and others in your household as consistent, kind and fair leaders. As mentioned above, dropping delicious things in his bowl while he's eating or trading up while he's eating something he likes (so trade sandwich meat or real chicken for the bone) will create a positive association with you around his stuff. And he'll know he doesn't have to be afraid of you taking something away from him so he'll have no reason to guard it.

Just a quick story: When I adopted Rafi he would jump in my face and snap when he got excited. When we went for a walk he would grab the leash and pull me down the street and all over the place. He would go nuts when he saw other dogs. All of those behaviors were gone within 3 months and replaced with really nice manners. Part of that was getting him adequate exercise (1.5 to 2 hours/day), incorporating training into every aspect of his daily routine and redirecting him to acceptable behaviors (like grabbing a toy when he got excited). I set limits for him and was fair and consistent and we had (and still have) lots of fun.
 

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I agree with the above about the QAlpha roll - unless you reslly know what you are doing and/or if you do it to the wrong dog, you could find yourself in a real jam. Doesn't sound like a 9 mo puppy wouldreally need such treatment anyway.

the "zoomies" are perfectly normal it seems for a GSD puppy. In fact our 3 yo GSD does still shows the behavior once in a while and we generally let him run around (unless he gets the urge inside the house!) and then on one of his circles we will give him a "Sit" command and he will usually sit and it is over.

the food aggression to me is a LOT worse potential problem- this behavior is something I will not tolerate at all in any of past GSD's and have never had a problem as we address it from the time we get the puppy home. To teach the pup to not have FG - we would reach down and just take the food bowl or toy or chew bone away from him, hold it for afew seconds and then return it to him or even just hold the Bully stick while he chews the other end. We never had to use the "trade up" option of taking it away and giving him a better thing but i can see that working also.

That is the behavior that I would work on first with your pup - because it is obviously potentially a very dangerous one for anybody around him while he is eating or chewing.
 

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I agree with most of everyone here. Timber doesnt have any food aggression, but I also practice what the OP's suggested. When Timber eats, I slowely drop yummy bits of food in his bowl. I dont really do it anymore, but if he tried to growl at me or one of my kids while eating, I'd start doing it again as a reminder.

As far as the alpha roll is conerned....you'll get plenty comments public or private. But Im not here to debate whats right or wrong.
I just know that it does NOT work with Timber. It may be just fine for some, but NOT for us. It really frustrates him and then he tries to bite back at me as soon as I think he is calm and I let go of him.

And for the zoomies and aggression....That sounds like puppy to me. I thought it was aggression from Timber at first too. That or him being defiant trying to show me who's boss.
Somebody just recently suggested to me when they found out that I walk Timber 2-3 miles a day, that why walk, walk, walk? Spend good time throwing balls and toys. It wears out the energy really quick. Its worked really well for us so far. I dont have a fenced in yard, but we do have a pretty decent sized hallway. I grab a basket full of his toys, stand at one end of the hall and start tossing. He brings most of them back, but some stay at the other end too.
Timber is much more well behaved when he's pooped, but definetly not perfect. Haaa...far from it.
 

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First. It's probably not dominance aggression. He's probably just out of his mind crazy with energy. When my puppies get the "zoomies" we go outside until it passes. They would also redirect on me to either try and get me to play or because I was convenient for the compulsion they had at the moment to put their mouth on ANYTHING. I would also advocate a good deal more exercise. And walks probably won't do it. He needs to run. 2 ball or a flirt pole is a good way to start. Or swim. Swimming's a nice way to exhaust a puppy.

Regarding food. Don't take anything from him. It's not really fair once you've given it. You start constantly taking things from your puppy and you end up with a resource guarder because they're just waiting for you to snatch something. It makes meal time tense. He may be naturally possessive, but he has to learn that you near his things only means more things, not less.

I follow a pretty strict trade routine with my dogs on things like bones or treats. I might want it...but you my lovely dog can have this lovely piece of hamburger! Or Cheese! Or whatever thrills you. If they get ahold of a sock or some underwear from the laundry, paper from the garbage, and don't want to let it go...well I certainly don't chase them around trying to get it. That makes it into some kind of game for them. I'll try to trade them for it or I'll just wait until lose interest. It's usually sort of my bad if they get something I don't want them to have because I left it where they could get it.

I also start by feeding my dogs by hand. I start by standing holding the food bowl, I wait for sit and eye contact and then give a small handful of food. I will do this for probably 1/2 to 3/4 of the meal and then give the remainder of the food in the bowl and just walk away. I do NOT stand and hover over my dog with the bowl. Once he's done, I come back give a higher value treat and take the bowl away. I progress to sitting on a chair and then to right on the floor with the bowl in my lap. Dog does not get the bowl until I give it to him, but once I do, I leave until he is done. He needs to have trust and confidence that I am not going to mess with his food. And then on the off chance that one day I do need to mess with his food he will let me because we've built up that level of trust.

And No. Don't alpha roll your puppy.
 

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I tend to agree with increasing the amount of exercise- 5 mo olds have boundless energy that they don't know what to do with and need to get tired. Frisbees have become our prey of choice, then a hike in the woods, but I know most people don't have that kind of access. I'd also try clicker training some simple tricks, it really gets their attention and wears them out. I also agree with leaving him alone while he eats, but standing next to the bowl, that's what I usually do simply because I'm making dinner at the time. But I also have hand-fed when I felt like it, just so they know...
A prong collar has worked wonders for getting their attention and focus, but 5 mos is a bit young for that, maybe next month. Can't help you with the alpha roll thing- I think I'd end up laughing and tickling and get very spitty
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I don't ever plan to Alpha Roll my dog-- I've heard a lot of awful things about it, and it just seems like a weird and senseless thing to do. I do however plan to exercise him more; we don't have a fenced in yard, but we have a fenced in concrete pool area where he can run, even over the top of the pool cover (that thing can hold a small car). I also plan on taking him on jogs with me, and see if that wears him out too. Now that I think of it, it just makes sense, and I'm glad it's not really aggression! The food thing though; I am sort of culprit of hovering over him while he eats, not on purpose mind you. So I should stop this, maybe feed him by hand? I seem to be getting mixed messages here on what to do.
 

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Sometimes we just need other people's perspectives in order to change our way of thinking or they way we normally do things. :) Humans ARE prone to getting stuck in a rut!
Im glad your seeing some new and different things to do with your dog. Im sure he'll enjoy the change of scenery.
You should however be able to hover, touch, stroke, pet, jump around, have a party...whatever...around your dog while he's eating. Ive had the thought too, that Timber may like some privacy while he's eating. But on the other hand, I like knowing and find comfort in doing whatever I need to or the kids need to no matter what Timber is doing. Even if its eating.
I say just do what OP's have told you here. Feed some from the bowl, then give the rest. Practice slowly adding treats to the bowl while he's eating and so on. GSD's are smart and quick learners. He should pick up what your trying to do pretty quickly. Your goal is that you want him to know that the food comes from YOU and NOT the bowl.
 
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