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Teenage Chauvinism

by Ben
(Ottawa, Canada)

Hi There!

I have a 6month old male Sheepadoodle (he's about 50lbs now). While normally, he's an angel inside, over the last 3weeks we've noticed what we think is a little 'alpha' coming out of him. Most recently, at the dog park, we've noticed that he'll 'target' smaller or more submissive female dogs (and sometimes male), and show his dominance.

Some typical behaviors are him chasing and nipping at the dogs (if they squeal or yelp, he backs off, and then comes back); and jumping on some dogs, despite them showing submission by laying on their backs, exposing their belly. These behaviors happen both on and off leash. Of course, it's easier to pull him back while he's on leash than it is when he's off leash in the dog park and a new unsuspecting dog enters.

Sometimes, we think that we confuse the nipping at other dogs with play, as he plays rough. Some dogs will give it back to him and they play rough together for a while. But other times, especially with smaller dogs, they don't want to engage with this behavior, but he doesn't get it. He just keeps going and going; trying to engage with them.

I'm wondering what we can do about this behavior? I get that it's natural for dogs to quickly establish a pecking order, but it's also concerning that when a dog easily submits, or is smaller and younger than him, he continues to push to show, what we at least believe is, his dominance.

Any tips and advice would help.


Hi Ben, Firstly I'm so sorry that I only just was notified of your question, seems to have been a glitch when the invitation was set up and your question is the only one that actually got through to me, finally. Apologies!

As for your question, there may be several factors at play here. Your puppy has some herding dog in him (I'm assuming Olde English Sheepdog) and this could be part of what triggers him to chase, and nip at, smaller dogs particularly.

Also, at 6 months, your pup is entering the adolescent stage, where pups can often become bratty, disobedient, pushy, obstinate.... you know, teenage behavior! This page can give you more insight on this stage, and how to handle it's challenges.. Adolescent Puppy Behavior. This pushiness and 'alpha' type behavior is classic and is probably in part being fueled by his age and the fact that he's becoming less of a baby, and is feeling the urge to act like a big boy.

While understanding the motivation for his behavior is important, figuring out how to handle it is equally so.

If you haven't already enrolled your pup in group obedience training I'd strongly suggest doing just that. Not a Petsmart course, but something at a training school with certified and experienced dog trainers. This is a must for all puppies really. Even though your pup is now about 9 months old, he can still get started. Maybe a basic obedience rather than a puppy class, but it would hugely beneficial for both of you.

It's not just the puppies who learn at training classes, the owners are also able to ask questions, practice and work on problem areas or behaviors, and interact with other dog owners. Your pup will learn basic commands, and also get very important socialization experience with other pups, in a controlled setting where you get can hands-on help with issues.

Your boy has to learn when he's being too pushy, and some other dogs will help him learn this by pushing back, others won't and it's a learning curve requiring time and patience to help him 'get it'. I'd suggest trying to let the dogs work it out themselves first (unless one or the other is clearly afraid or getting aggressive), sometimes puppy play can look rough to us when in fact it is normal for them. However, if the other puppy or dog is overwhelmed, scared or getting snappy, then Tell your pup 'Enough' and remove him from the situation and take him elsewhere by himself to calm down. Once he is calm he can go back to play. You need to repeat this each time he gets himself into that predicament, and over time he'll get it. He'll realize that when he gets too push the fun gets stopped. But it won't necessarily be a lightbulb moment! You'll need to be patient and consistent.

Again, apologies for the delay in responding. Hopefully I have the form working correctly now! I hope some of this has been helpful, if delayed, and wish you all the best of luck.

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