Growling and Snaping at my daughter

by Barbara
(New Jersey)

We adopted a 1 1/2 year old Rottie about 5 weeks ago, we named him Shane. He is a great dog, he goes back and forth to work with my husband each day were he is able to run 2-3 miles a day. He comes home and is tired.

My 20 year old daughter can command him to hug her and all is well, however, when my 14 year old commands him the same way, he walk away from her. The other night, we tried to get him to jump up and hug her and after a bit, he did. We were praising him when he growled and snapped at her hand (no skin break-only a red mark and bump). I looked at him, and very firmly told him "NO" as I walked him to his crate. He went in the crate and remained there for ten min.

I think that this whole situation was my fault and not Shanes, because we pushed the relationship. Now, she is afraid of him and I know he must sense it, which is a big concern because he might use it to bully her again. How can I fix this problem?

I read one of your articles where you suggest not letting the dog on the bed, furniture, etc. We had just let him on the bed for the first time a couple days before this incident. I am wondering if he now feels that he should be the one in charge over my daughter the 14 year old?






Hi Barbara
Although I can understand why Shane's behavior has you all concerned, from what you describe I think it's something that you can handle fairly easily and I wouldn't over-react at this point.

You've only had your Rottie for a few weeks, and he's almost full grown, so it's definitely going to take him some time to adjust to his new home and people and to figure out exactly where he fits in the 'pack'. Predictably he's trying to put himself just above the youngest family member and this is normal.

I'm not sure if you know much of his previous history, but again from what you describe he seems to have a good temperament and personality and is responsive and obedient, plus generally good with other people and new places. This is all excellent.

With an older pup or adult dog the adjustment period is longer than with a puppy due to their advanced development, and you may notice more changes in him as the weeks pass because he will keep 'testing the waters' - this isn't a bad thing and as long as you provide consistent, loving discipline and hold fast to the house rules he will benefit by increasing in self-confidence and will feel loved and secure.

I'd recommend keeping him at floor level and no allowing him to sit up on the beds/sofas etc., I doubt that this is what triggered his behavior with your 14 year old, but it can give a dog a false sense of importance. Although your daughter is now (understandably) nervous around Shane, it's important that she overcomes that as he will feel it, but won't understand why she's anxious - and that will make him anxious and more likely to be 'skittish'.

Encourage her to hand-feed Shane one meal per day... this means literally feed him his kibble either in the palm of her hand or one piece at a time. Also involve her in walking, grooming and training... and try to make all of these positive experiences with lots of treats and praise from her.

Do make him work for everything he gets - such as meals, toys, walks, playtime - by asking him to 'sit' or 'down' or 'shake' etc. before he gets it. Don't force Shane to go beyond what he's comfortable with in terms of showing affection, as that could make a small problem turn into a larger one.

Once your Rottie figures out that your daughter is in charge of 'his' resources (ie food, treats, toys, games, etc.) and that he has to obey her in order to enjoy those resources, things will change. It takes time to build a relationship and bond, but so far Shane has shown that he's willing to fit in and wants to be part of your family, you just have to help him find his place.

Enrolling him in a basic obedience class at a local dog obedience school would be a really good move and I think it would help everyone. Maybe your 14 year old could take him and this would help them to bond. Having a 'hands on' professional trainer to help with problems or issues that arrive is also a huge help and the socialization will be good for Shane.

Rottweilers rarely get second chances at a loving home and I really hope that Shane finds his place in yours permanently. Hope this helps, best of luck with it all.

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Feb 07, 2012
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Agree but Disagree NEW
by: Christopher Bayhi

While I agree with the above, I do not agree with the order of the steps.

Have the 14 tear old daughter participate in the formal obedience training, ALWAYS with an adult present. She should also spend quality informal time with the dog such as playing fetch or something else that would bond them together WITH AN ADULT WATCHING.

Since this was an adopted dog, there’s no telling what type of socialization he has had, what type of owners he had or what type of children or other pets he’s been exposed to. Could be that he was raised with a rather young child and an older (14 to 17 year old child). The younger child could have been gentle but the older child could have been mean to him. This could be in his memory and he is overly protective of himself when it comes to teenagers.

Once basic obedience is mastered, ONLY THEN would I go one to more advanced training like feeding from the hand. If she tries to hand feed him too soon and she’s still worried, the dog will pick up on this and may show signs of food aggressiveness. This will just worsen the problem.

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