My rottie has behavior issues
(Los Angeles county)
Hello my husband and I have a 1 1/2 year old Rottie. He's never been trained. Just Sit, down and stay. He's a good dog, but I think he has a dominance problem.
He is very submissive to my husband and my 17 year old son. He does have the tendency to push the envelope with me. I am firm, with him, but sometimes he just wants to play and his play is jumping on me. I feel that is very disrespectful. He won't do it with my husband around, but will do it when i'm alone.
He also has a problem with any stranger. He doesn't lunge or bite, but he has trust issues with strangers. When my husband walks him, he doesn't have a problem with other dogs, he's usually very curious, if someone gets close to him he is fine, he just smells them. He does have a problem if someone comes close to him at home, or if someone tries to touch him, he immediately tries to jump on them, almost like hold on to them.
I understand that when a dog tries to hug your leg, or something to that effect, it reflects dominance or aggression. So as you can imagine I avoid him being alone around strangers. He also has a barking problem. My neighbor has 4 dogs. When they come out, he barks like crazy, he starts whimpering, and just barks. They have never met or been around each other, so I'm wondering if they meet will his behavior change? There are other dogs other neighbors have on the other side, but he doesn't react to them the same way.
I'm hesitant to take him to trainer, because I just don't know if he's too old to be trained. I didn't socialize him when he was pup because I was told that he needed to get all his shots, and by the time that occurred, he was a huge 6 month old rottie, and these behavior where already peaking.
Can you give me some advise on how to go about this? Also can I crate him at this age also? I never have.
Wow, lots of questions... I will do my best to answer them all, but apologies if I miss anything!
First of all, it sounds as though your Rottie has a basically sound temperament, but is going through the very challenging adolescent stage. His behavior is very normal for that period of development, but he also has some additional issues which are likely due to a lack of training and socialization.
The good news is that he is still a pup and plenty young enough to learn more appropriate behavior. I would strongly recommend that you get him enrolled in a basic obedience class with a professional dog obedience trainer. Do pick one who is familiar with large, guardian breeds and who only trains with positive reinforcement (ie uses praise/treats and rewards appropriate behaviors rather than using punishment). Some trainers still maintain an 'old school' attitude to this type of breed and train too harshly, which is counter-productive.
You are right that his behavior towards you is a dominant one, he is the equivalent of a human teenager right now and he's trying to find his place in your family. He is pushing the boundaries and testing the limits - normal behavior. However, you need to make sure he understands that YOU are superior to him in terms of authority. He already recognizes your husband and son as being higher up the pecking order than he is, so you're the 'weakest link' as it were.
In order to show him that you are in charge I'd recommend making sure that you are responsible for feeding, walking, grooming and training him from now on (and until he's more mature and has accepted your authority completely). Dogs respect whoever controls the resources of life and the biggest one of these if food.
Make him 'earn' everything from meals to walks, toys and playtimes. You can do this by asking him to 'sit' and making sure he obeys before putting down his food bowl, giving him a toy, or taking him for a walk. I'd also recommend hand-feeding him at least one meal a day for the next few weeks. It shows him very directly that you are his superior and also helps to build a bond between you. There is advice about doing this on my Dog Food Aggression page. It would be a good idea to follow ALL the tips on that page too and make sure that your pup is totally accepting of you around his foodbowl/toys etc.
His attitude around strangers and other dogs is also pretty normal for a pup who hasn't been socialized much. He's unsure of himself and what is expected of him, plus he's got his natural guarding instincts that are immature and confusing to him. He needs guidance from you and your family as you are his pack leaders. The more calm and confident you all are the better behaved he will be.
At this point it's important for you all to get some professional help to learn how to handle his insecurities and behavior, as he is relying on you to lead him. It's much easier to do this with hands-on help and advice, than it is to just read about it. A professional trainer will give you all the input you need and help with specific issues that exist, or may arise later on.
At 1 1/2 years old your Rottie is just a pup and he will be a much happier and better behaved adult if he gets the proper guidance and training now. THAT will make you all happier and less stressed so it's a win-win situation.
Hope this has helped, I wish you all lots of luck.