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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-09-2019, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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Need help - how to handle puppy, is this dominance?

I tried to post for help a few days ago. Wasn't sure whether to post in the training area or the puppy area; I tried to post in the puppy area but don't know if it just takes awhile before the first post gets approved, if there was a problem with my post, or if it got lost somehow.

I could really use some help urgently though, and I know that I can post under introductions, so here goes...

I have had Pippin 2 weeks, he is 10 weeks old today. Sometimes when he is feeling playful, he runs up and growls a little at me or my husband. It sounds like a cute little playful growl, and we didn't take it seriously. A week ago, he growled at a small child, but it had a much different tone than when he growls at us. It was very quiet, lower, and more intense, and sounded threatening. The child was very calm and wasn't doing anything to him. He has since growled threateningly at a teenager passing by, and two other children, all were extremely calm and behaving appropriately. He also snarled at my husband a week ago, when DH went to pet him while I was holding Pippin. (I immediately set him on the ground and ignored him.)

Sometimes he gently mouths our hands, fingers, etc., and I understand that puppies teethe and mouth things, and so I just casually offer him an alternative. But...other times he bites us more aggressively and tears at our clothes. I tried doing a little puppy yelp, like I was told to do with our previous puppies, but it only worked for a few times and then he ignored it. When I set limits like removing him from chewing something inappropriate and giving him an alternative (i.e. he tries to tear a hole in the upholstery, or yank out my eyebrow, so I say "no" and block him/move him and give him a chew toy) he lunges at me with his teeth. It has the definite feel of a challenge. He continues to try to chew the inappropriate thing, and continues to lunge at me. When I tell him no and block him again, he becomes more and more forceful. He does the same thing when I don't allow him in the living room.

I know Havanese are supposed to be sensitive dogs and you're not supposed to be harsh with them, but I also know that you can't let dominance go unchecked or it will lead to huge problems. What's the best way to help my little guy learn good manners? Being firm but gentle doesn't seem to be doing the trick. Last night, he bit my back and yanked my hair, and I'd reached my limit and yelled "Ouch!" in his face - he came around front, licked my face, and snuggled peacefully. Even that didn't work today, it didn't even seem to phase him. It seems like he is a stubborn fellow. I don't know what to do.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-09-2019, 05:46 PM
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Ten weeks old? Time for Puppy Kindergarten with an experienced trainer. Mouthing everything is not unusual as a puppy, but aggressive behavior needs to be nipped in the bud.

I'm not so sure his growling is a sign of dominance (but it could be). I think it could be more a sign of stress or fear or needs attention. A good experienced trainer, working one on one, will be more helpful than I can be.

Keep us posted, we can all learn from your experience.

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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 12:21 AM
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I completely agree with Ricky's Popi - puppy kindergarten ASAP - and if you can't yet (because he hasn't had all his shots) the I would consult with a trainer/ behaviorist.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 11:52 AM
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I recommend seeking a trainer. Here's an article I wrote for Havanese Breed Magazine

What the hell is dumbinance you may ask ? Just to be different, I thought I would give this dead horse topic of DOMINANCE
another name. Yep, this topic has been beaten down like no other in the realm of dog training. It is a topic that raises the
hackles on many dog enthusiasts who want to put their horse in the race. I use the term dumb in the literal sense... " lacking the human power of speech " . And in the spirit of light heartedness, I will use this to mean ... our dogs lacking the power of speech.

Oh ,if only our dogs could speak to us. I think they would be would be begging us for more than just their treats. They
would be begging us to forget about the preconceived idea that they are out to take over our way of life, our home and our
desire to be boss. They would be asking us, where in dog's green earth did you get the idea that I Want to challenge you for
authority? Why do you think that when I jump up on you , that I'm trying to be pushy, when I simply want to say hello ,I'm
glad you're home? Yes our dogs would have lots of questions for us. I think they would be pleading questions ,when in their
view , we are totally misinterpreting their motives.
So what is this thing called dominance? Some people believe that most behavioural issues with dogs can be related to
some sort of social hierarchy. And I think this is where the whole issue has gone wrong. Dominance in dogs does exist but it
is an infrequent and misinterpreted behaviour. People would define dominance as "control or command over others.” In another
note dominance is defined as a relationship between individual animals that is established by force/aggression and
submission, to determine who has priority access to multiple resources such as food, preferred resting spots, and mates
(Bernstein 1981; Drews 1993).

Twenty-five years ago what is termed as traditional dog training was typically the norm for most dog training methods.
At the heart of this type of training was the dominance theory which basically implied that dominance was the basis for most
dog behavioural problems. It consisted of prong and pinch collars , lots of corrections and generally a heavy handed, take
charge method of operation. Alpha rolls ,scruff shakes and coercive methods were used to show the dog who was boss and many
methods incorporated the use of flooding which was basically forcing a dog to face its fears. In the past two decades ,
behavioural science started to emerge, which strongly showed that the whole philosophy behind treating dogs like wolves was
flawed from the beginning. Studies revealed that wolves do not force subordinates onto their back. Rather subordinates
offer the posture as a sign of deference. Behaviourists agree that studies on the process of domestication and on canine
communication are making it more and more clear that a dog is not a wolf. While social hierarchies do exist between like
species, they are not related to aggression in the way it was thought in the past. Studies into canine behaviour have found
that dogs, while sharing some characteristics with the wolf, have many more significant differences. The romantic idea that
we have a domesticated wolf in our family has been engrained and therefore been maintained to this day.
The status of one dog over another is predictable. in other words, one dog may be the first to take possession of a
bone , but will defer to the other dog when it comes to choice of toys. Dogs that display aggression are not displaying
dominance, but rather anxiety-based behaviours. One of the biggest side affects of thinking our dogs are trying to dominate us is that it creates an adversarial relationship between the owner and their dog. The myth in the “dominance theory,” such as not letting a dog to sleep on the bed, or eat first, or go through doorways first, has no basis on whether or not the dog
will look to the owner for guidance. Many playful, and fearful gestures are misinterpreted as being aggressive, or dominant in nature.
Dr Rachel Casey, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Bristol University, said: “The blanket
assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people and other dogs is frankly ridiculous. It
hugely underestimates the complex communicative and learning abilities of dogs. It also leads to the use of coercive training
techniques, which compromise welfare, and actually cause problem behaviours" . "The cause of most behavioural problems is
miscommunication and not dominance issues. Most behavioural issues can be solved by owners learning how to teach a dog what it is they want, and by using the science of classical and operant conditioning. . Although dominance is correctly a property of relationships, it has been misused to describe a personality type trait of individual dogs, and When used correctly to
describe a relationship between 2 individuals, it tends to be misapplied as a motivation for social interactions. Some dogs
are more assertive than others and try harder to control resources. Dogs that are submissive easily give up the valued
resource or don't attempt to control it in the first place.
The assumption in the old "dominance theory" that since wolves are the ancestors of dogs, the two species will form
similar social structures. The dog has changed considerably from its ancestral species since it has become domesticated and
the studies of feral dogs show that the social structure of feral dogs is completely different. For example, mating is
unrestricted in feral dogs and although appeasement behaviours do occur, it is both within family groups, and between
individuals of different groups, suggesting a general function of diffusing conflict, rather than being a specific
‘submission’ behaviour to maintain group hierarchical structures. Studies of feral dogs tend to suggest, therefore, that
domestication has significantly altered the social behaviour of dogs from their ancestral species. In free living groups,
feral dogs do not form structured packs, and there is no restriction of breeding, and hence no apparently hierarchy structure based on a single breeding pair and their offspring as is found in wolves. When domestic dogs were given free roam in the environment the interactions suggested that these dogs had a learnt pattern of behaviour with each other, which may or may not vary between different situations, but which could not be combined into any overall group. The domestic dog is not a pack animal in the true sense of the word.
Individual dogs can be bold or shy and that is true in all species. In shy individuals, behaviour that does not meet
our expectations is likely to be also marked with fear and in bold individuals behaviour is likely to be unrestrained. Most
dogs’ behaviour will be a combination of these two extremes. That complexity is increased because our dogs no longer live in
their original ways as scavengers. They have been transposed through selective breeding for specific purposes such as herding
hunting and guarding. Through selective breeding we have created dogs whose emotional balance depends on being able to
fulfil their desire to exhibit these inherited predispositions, at least to some degree. And it this diversion to perform
things deeply rooted in their nature that conflicts with the ideas we have for them being pets.
One quick look into multi-dog households quite often shows that “dominance” of one dog over another is not absolute.
There generally is no one dog that always controls all situations all the time. It appears that resources, not instinct,
dictates this behaviour we call “dominance". On a given day, your “food dominant” dog may not be hungry and will not push to
the front to maintain his “alpha” position in the “pack.” It seems the social dynamics of dogs are much more fluid and based
on access to resources, rather than any sort of hard-wired need for a position in a perceived social hierarchy system.
Most interactions we assume to be competitive are not always. We can play tug with our dogs and encourage them to
relinquish a toy on cue. Sometimes dogs can play tug with another dog and it can become competitive . In this case it is
deemed as a sign of dominance. Quite often though the toy is returned to the other without any challenge. So in this context
it proves to be insignificant and more of a play motive than anything. Most dogs are predisposed to taking a subordinate role
to humans. They have learned that we do indeed control all resources important to them and therefore are not motivated to
challenge us for these priorities. Dominance is a description of a relationship between two members of the same species,
not a personality of an individual. If two individuals want the same object , one individual would be described as “dominant”
if he gets the object all of the time.That's how ethologists define it. What’s often not understood, is that it is context
dependent.One individual might get the bone every time, but the other might get the sleeping place. Motivation and context
is everything, and behaviour in one context doesn't necessarily predict behaviour in another.
. Dogs are conspecific. That means they can only truly pack up with their own kind. Us pretending we can act like or try
to resemble them is preposterous. Being a "pack leader" is the call of those who really are only fooling themselves. Being a
benevolent trainer is what we should be trying to strive for.
Why does the dominance theory still survive even though we have new science and understanding to refute it? We, as a
species, are very concerned with who is winning and who is over or under who. Social dominance makes for a colourful story and humans are very story oriented. It is dramatic and also a lot easier for some to understand than the simple principles of learning. The whole wolf in the home vision is romantic and enticing. It is sexy and offers more drama than science. And in the last decade in particular has the excitement of television to resurrect it from the downward trend that was evolving. It is easy to see why people are fond of the concepts of “pack” and “dominance” in relation to dogs. A pack means we’re all part of the same group. “Dominance” explains our relative positions in that pack.And in this pack, they either dominate us or we dominate them. To be “alpha”, with all its powers, is what shows you are in command. This is a harmful meme. It prevents many owners understanding their dogs, causes unnecessary aversive training methods to be used for both and is perpetuated by
well-meaning but uninformed dog trainers around the world. It has a staying power that only we can change. It erodes our
dog's trust in us and brings on all the negative effects that come from an adversarial relationship.
"An accurate understanding of normal dog behaviour is at odds with the idea that dogs struggle for dominance.
•Dominance is a traditional ethological concept that pertains to an individual's ability—generally under controlled
conditions—to maintain or regulate access to some resource. It is a description of the regularities of winning or losing
staged contests over those resources. It is not to be confused with status and, in fact, does not need to confer priority of
access to resources.
•In situations in which the concept of dominance has been used with regard to status, it is important to realize that it is
not defined as aggression on the part of the "dominant" animal but rather as the withdrawal of the "subordinate."
•The behaviour of the relatively lower status individuals, not the relatively higher ranking one, is what determines the
relative hierarchical rank.
•Rank itself is contextually relative. Truly high-ranking animals are tolerant of lower-ranking ones.
•Dominance displays infrequently lead to actual combat. Instead, combat ensues when these displays are not effective." Karen
L. Overall, MA, VMD, PhD, DACVB, CAAB

So when we decide to take off our alpha hats, what are we to do? Our first goal should be to communicate clearly with
our dogs. Dogs learn how to react to our cues by being rewarded for behaviours that we favour. We need to avoid circumstances that conflict with our dogs natural tendencies, and unnecessarily rewarding behaviours that we don't want. The good news is that desensitisation and (classical conditioning) that gradually helps the dog overcome fear and positive reinforcement (Operant conditioning) that rewards good behaviour are much more effective, and you get a bonus. Not only does your dog’s behaviour improve, but his view towards a whole range of things that he encounters in life does too.

“The dominance panacea is so out of proportion that entire schools of training are based on the premise that if you can
just exert adequate dominance over the dog, everything else will fall into place. Not only does it mean that incredible
amounts of abuse are going to be perpetrated against any given dog, probably exacerbating problems like unreliable recalls
and biting, but the real issues, like well-executed conditioning and the provision of an adequate environment, are going to
go unaddressed, resulting in a still-untrained dog, perpetuating the pointless dominance program. None of this is to say that
dogs aren’t one of those species whose social life appears to lend itself to beloved hierarchy constructs. But, they also see
well at night, and no one is proposing retinal surgery to address their non-compliance or biting behaviour. Pack theory is
simply not the most elegant model for explaining or, especially, for treating problems like disobedience, misbehaviour or
aggression. People who use aversives to train with a dominance model in mind would get a better result with less wear and
tear on the dog by using aversives with a more thorough understanding of learning theory, or, better yet, forgoing aversives
altogether and going with the other tools in the learning theory tool box. The dominance concept is simply unnecessary.”
? Jean Donaldson, The Culture Clash: A Revolutionary New Way to Understanding the Relationship Between Humans and Domestic
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 01:39 PM
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Absolutely agree with advice to quickly engage an experienced trainer. This is not typical Havanese behavior at this age. You will read many threads here where people are figuring out how to deal with some average puppy behavior that involves nipping at your feet, crazy zooming behavior, but rarely do people ask about aggressive growling. A good trainer will work with you on techniques, i.e. like short timeouts, to move the pup in the right direction. Also, a trainer can help you with understanding that this little baby isn’t being stubborn or taking on other human characteristics. Most dogs and puppies want to learn the rules ... puppies take some time to learn how to behave properly and it takes patience and guidance from someone without the pressures a new owner might feel.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 04:12 PM
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Puppies will nip. Which is a good thing. This gives us the opportunity to teach them how to not nip. I would not say that your pup is being aggressive without seeing the behaviors for myself. I would also say that it is not "rare" for puppies to show aggression , Havs included. I agree , dogs are not "stubborn" as that is a human characteristic. Dogs also do not know right from wrong , they only know that things are safe. not safe rewarding or not rewarding They are not interested in pleasing us. Puppy classes can be also helpful, and you do not need to wait for your pup to get all of their shots before going to class. here is info on this and here
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Last edited by davetgabby; 05-10-2019 at 04:17 PM.
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-10-2019, 08:10 PM
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Your breeder should be able to help you with this. I would like to meet the puppy. Puppies this age often give a little growl to other dogs, and people, but the growl that I'm thinking about is just a, "Be careful, I'm just a puppy" growl, but I can't tell anything about exactly what he's doing by your post.

Forget "dominance". It plays no part in training a Havanese.

I do not recommend a puppy class in this case. You never know what you're going to get with these.
Get help from someone who understands these dogs, and that should be your breeder first.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the helpful replies. Maybe dominance isn't the right word or concept, but I do know from experience that not all dogs are the same. One of my Cavaliers, Panda, was such an easy dog who wanted to please. We trained her ourselves without any help and she was always great. Typical Cavalier. Garth was a difficult dog, which is out of character for a Cavalier. Breeder called him "mischievous." I tried 3 different trainers and a few purchased programs, but never made much headway. The positive-reinforcement method, which worked so beautifully for Panda, was the biggest waste of money for Garth. One trainer used harsher methods which would have traumatized Panda, but they just rolled off Garth's back. He was a tough dog. They worked better than the positive-reinforcement, but still not well enough. I'm hearing y'all say that he can't be stubborn, but it seemed to me that I never gained his respect, so he didn't feel like he needed to listen. Is that a possibility? I was never able to take him anywhere, because of all his barking, rowdiness, marking his territory everywhere (including on the neighbor's cat!) etc. I could take Panda out by herself and she was great, but if I had the two of them together, she would follow his lead in bad behavior toward other dogs. He was a really loving dog, and was never aggressive - just "dominant" or whatever is the more correct way to describe this, but Garth was in charge of Garth. I always wonder if I could have done something differently early on. Maybe that gives you all a glimpse of the bias I'm coming with; I don't want to make the same mistakes with Pippin. I am also the type to err on the cautious side, too lenient rather than too harsh.

I have an update, and follow-up questions. Good news - Pippin had a chance to play with another dog yesterday, and I observed the exact same lunging behavior he does at me (when I try to correct or redirect him) in the context of play with puppy bows and rolling on his back. So I hope I can infer that he is not being aggressive when I correct him. but misinterpreting my corrections as an invitation to rough house? The snarling at my husband has not recurred since that one time over a week ago, and coincided with a tummy ache. If there is a puppy warning growl, like Tom King says - thanks Tom! - then it's possible that all the signs have an easy explanation and my fears are unfounded. (He has NOT growled at more children than he has growled at.) I do have a follow-up appointment with the breeder on Thursday, so we can see how it goes and get her take on it, and have a call in to a possible dog trainer.

Davetgabby, thanks for the awesome links about biting; the followup article to one of your links, "teaching bite inhibition," gives me a good plan for dealing with this. Thanks for mentioning the vaccination/puppy class issue - I looked for classes, and found two that don't require the COMPLETE set of vaccines before enrollment, but they do require Bordatella. My breeder is against the Bordatella vaccine, which was my introduction to that controversy. So he has not received that one, nor is he scheduled to.

Followup questions:

1) There were conflicting opinions about puppy classes, pros and cons?
2) Should I get him vaccinated for Bordatella?
3) How to find a good trainer? After Garth, I know a few people NOT to use...
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 07:46 PM
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I have heard, on more than a few occasions about small breed puppies, being traumatized in some puppy classes. Often, there are new dog owners there with large breed puppies, and some of them think it's really cute that their puppy thinks that your little puppy is a toy. No small breed puppy thinks that an out of control, large puppy has anything to do with being cute.

I have heard of some really good puppy classes, with good trainers, so I don't mean to say that all puppy classes are not good, but it only takes one scary experience to effect a small breed puppy's outlook on life.

So puppy classes can be good, but choose wisely.

Just going by your posts, I would say a more controlled environment would be good. Ideally, it would be a place, like ours, that has a pack of Havanese used to helping raise puppies. The only place I know that would be, would be a breeder.

You also need to realize that it's not just about training the puppy, but also about training you. Everything you do, and don't do, is always training the puppy. If you feel anxiety, the puppy feels anxiety. If you want a calm, confident puppy, you have to be calm, and confident. Not just think you're appearing calm, and confident, but Be calm, and confident.

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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 08:34 PM
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With regard to the question about vaccination, this is a hot topic and everyone has their opinion and I hope I do not get my head bit off. My opinion is that the fewer vaccinations your dog gets, the greater your chances of having a healthy dog with a strong immune system and the less chance the dog will wind up with an autoimmune disease or lifelong allergies. I especially would not risk damaging my dogs immune system for a bordatella vaccine which is sort of like protecting your dog from a common cold.
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