is my 12 week old staffie dominant or "just a puppy"
by Emma cox
hi, my name is Emma and I have a 12 week old staffy bitch called sasha.
She is lovely but when she is playing with me and she gets too ruff and I try to get her to stop she begins to growl at me and then barks at me. It is not a problem now however I am frightened that this behaviour may mean she is going to be too dominant for me and attack me when she is older.
I spend time with her and she can sit and is now really good at telling me she needs the toilet and I try to engage her with learning new skills like lay, come etc and she is really fantastic apart from this one problem. I would be really grateful if you could also suggest games to play with sasha that she will find stimulating but will not promote aggressive behaviour.
kind regards emma and sasha
This is pretty common puppy behavior, but you definitely want to correct her firmly (but lovingly) any time that she growls or barks at you.
When she does that she is trying to assert her authority over yours, and that is NOT allowed.
Staffys are wonderful dogs, very loving, intelligent and loyal, but they do tend to 'play rough', with other dogs and with people. They are very strong for their size and have a high pain tolerance, they can also tend to be a bit 'bossy'.
It sounds as though you're already forming a good bond with Sasha, and that she loves and respects you (that is evident in the fact that you've been successful training her, and that you love her and want what's best for her). This behavior you're seeing now doesn't mean that she will be too 'alpha' for you, and definitely doesn't mean that she will ever 'attack' you. You just need to make sure that she knows that you're 'the boss', not her.
You can help her learn this by making sure that you have her 'earn' everything... for example, ask her to 'sit' before you give her food, a treat, put on her leash etc. etc. Don't let her run through doors before you have gone through, or block doorways or hallways by lying across them. Don't allow her to sit up on the furniture with you, or on your bed and so on. This isn't always necessary with a pup who is submissive or timid, but with one who wants to test the limits it's important. Enrolling her in a dog obedience class would also be very helpful.
In terms of games to play with her, stick to things like 'fetch' or 'frisbee' and avoid anything that involves a tug-of-war type play. This is a no-no with strong, dominant breeds and can lead to 'power struggles' and even snapping. Teach her the 'leave it' (or words to that effect) command, so that when you tell her to 'leave it', she will drop any object she is holding or playing with. This is a very important command.
Staffys are one of the breeds that can really do well at dog agility. They're fast and athletic and intelligent. If you can find a dog agility class near you I'd recommend giving it a try (make sure she's had all her puppy shots before enrolling her in any obedience or agility classes though. You don't want to put stress on her growing joints and bones though, so rely on expert advice as to what she can do at this age. The trainers or teacher will fill you in. Check out my Dog Agility Enthusiast page for more information. You could even set up a small 'agility course' in your own back yard for her to use up her energy on.
Anyway, hope this helps some. Just be patient and loving and firm with Sasha and I'm sure she will grow up to be a wonderful dog and a great companion for you. Best of luck with her.