Dog Training World Forums Aggression Problems Fear Aggression Attacks small dogs and snapped at my daughter Reply To: Attacks small dogs and snapped at my daughter

  • Michael D’Abruzzo

    November 3, 2016 at 12:48 pm


    Wow, thank you for such detailed information it really helps everyone to troubleshoot and you are certainly on the right track.  Great advice from Sharon too.

    Since this is a support site for foundation style dog training I do like to point out the value of understanding the very bottom layers of the “pyramid” to have more success on the higher levels.  One of the first things is to understand what is “normal” behavior for dogs in general, certain “breeds” and even “lines within a breed” and of coures which is normal for the individual dog so that you work a plan that goes with mother nature and not against it.

    How are things looking in the leadership department?

    That being said I want to point out that dogs and breeds of dogs are different for a reason, mostly to make them successful at their original tasks.  So for sure you do not want to have expectations from Kaia that would be expected of a Golden Retriever for instance.

    I love the acronym SWFD btw, it really made me chuckle lol and of course once we identified this as a problem the first thing to do is to manage the situation so that it cannot happen.  Regardless of the reason for attacking them which could be for a variety of reasons it ultimately will be dealt with the same way at first… control through true obedience.  Afterward, we can deal with perception changes as to how she feels about being in the presence of one.

    The more concerning behavior which is far more serious than you may know is the biting incident on your daughter.  No one was there to see it happen but it sounds like “skipping steps in the aggression cycle” as far as not growling or air snapping before a bite and decent bite inhibition once she decided to bite.  That being said, dogs are capable of more warnings before it gets to this point between growling, air snaps, and then a bite.  A bite to the face like that is a cookie cutter discipline bite.  It is explainable which is good and the exact reason we never have children or people seek out to pet dogs that are resting..especially of the breeds that are designed to be more dominant by nature.  Dobermans have one of the smallest gene pools of many of the “pure breed” dogs and what is sort of cool about that is that they do many of the same behaviors.  This works to the advantage of those that need a dog for a certain task but it also can have disadvantages with certain things such as diseases like Van Willebrands that would be almost impossible to rid from the breed without outcrossing to others.  Doberman’s are one of the few breeds that were specifically designed for protection and guard work and because of that you will see a tendency for temperament traits that were needed for that task to be hard wired into some of the lines.  Working as a trainer for about 20 years for sure I get the most reports of face bites and other bites with very little warning for dominance related issues coming from Dobermans more than any other breed, especially if connected to the working lines.   Last week I had two calls for the same things and even the trainer, Earl, you see in some of the videos owned a Doberman that bit his girlfriend in the face for being near her while she slept, and then she curled back up as if nothing happened.  My own best friend has reconstructive surgery on his face as a child after getting bit in the face by a Doberman he was petting.  So what I am saying is that working line Dobermans are not normally the safest choice for children and it is considered “normal behavior” for many of them to bite quick with little warning for interactions involving dominance.  Second offenses are generally worse.

    That being said, after the Dobermans became notorious for aggression in the 70’s (which was the same reason that made them great dogs for their purpose), a lot of breeders did a lot of work to make more docile pet versions of the breed, and I have trained many that were basically lambs because of this.  Unfortunately, some of these owners wanted the Doberman for its ability to protect and show aggression but I told them they basically had Golden Retrievers in Doberman clothing.  This is obviously not what you have and that is the first thing that must be understood or else their will be more bites.  Kaia for sure is showing behaviors more typical of the older working lines.  You can EXPECT to see the ability to show more pronounced aggression between 2 and 3 years of age and she should NEVER be considered a dog that can be left unsupervised around children.  I would also never have any outside children attempt to pet her.  This may not be what you want to hear, but if I did not tell you this I would not be doing my job.  In todays doggie park world we see a lot of working line dogs set up for failure when put in situations that are not natural for a normally pack orientated animal.  Remember, that as she matures she doesn’t necessarily need dog parks to be content and it can potentially become a source of stress for her when new dogs are introduced into the mix that she doesn’t have established relationships with.   Certain breeds of dogs were meant to be arrested in a more juvenile state and remain more goofy and submissive by nature to serve tasks that involve retrieving and being non-aggressive such as most the sporting breeds.  These dogs generally don’t have such extreme temperament changes as they get older.  Other dogs mature, like we do, and don’t necessarily want another grown adult they don’t know jumping all over them.  I do not wrestle with the other children’s dads when I take my son to the playground for instance..

    This is what I would suggest as a starting plan:

    • Place Kaia’s resting places away from normal foot traffic in the house.  Make it a religion to your children to stay clear of her when she is resting and to NEVER pet her when she is resting.  We can work on exercises afterward to make their approach a positive perception.
    • Teach the children to never ever hug or kiss her.  This is just as strong a trigger for a face bite as disturbing her during rest.
    • Dogs generally do not see children as “dominant” no matter what exercises you teach the kids even though they can have positive associations with children and will even do obedience to a degree with children that make it a pleasant experience.  They either are extremely tolerant of children or they are not.  This is mostly genetic.  What you CAN teach Kaia is the adults in the household do hold the leadership position and do not tolerate aggression toward their “pups”.  This can be worked on but will do NOTHING for a dog unsupervised around the children.  Part of this plan being successful is Kaia trusting you will do the discipline for her.  You must understand when she wants to be left alone and never expect her to be in unfair situations.
    • DO train Kaia to enjoy wearing a comfortable training muzzle.  Without one it will be difficult to do training around the children or the SWFDs when she is off-leash.  It can certainly be fazed out when she proves to be reliable.  A muzzle can be a dogs best friends and they much rather wear a cage and then be stuck in one because they failed in a situation.  Every dog in my group classes wear them for off-leash training since it is all working breeds. I would have been out of business a long time ago if I didn’t follow this practice.  Even if a dog is 99 percent good, that 100th day where the dog makes a mistake can cost the dog its life where it could have been a simple bump with a muzzle and the start of a training plan to address the new problem.

    I hope this post doesn’t discourage you.  My first job is to make sure that any unwanted bite is the LAST bite.  Tighten things up and management plans can be less restrictive eventually as owners, children, and dogs get wiser and understand each other better.